Let It Rock: The Jerry Garcia Collection, Vol. 2: Jerry Garcia Band, Keystone Berkeley '75
been looking forward to a live concert release with Nicky Hopkins. It's
here! Let It Rock: The Jerry Garcia Collection, Vol. 2: Jerry Garcia Band, Keystone Berkeley '75.
That's a long title. There
have been numerous comments that the sound quality of this release is
excellent. It sure is! It's really good, taken from 16 track
source tape, given plangent processing treatment, and some Jeffrey
Norman mastering magic.
the first Garcia solo band under the name Jerry Garcia Band,
previously he was in solo projects like Saunders / Garcia, Old in
the Way among others. Then in 1975, The Jerry Garcia Band is
conceived, a four piece ensemble, the always present John Kahn on bass, Ron Tutt on drums, and Nicky
Hopkins on piano.
Hopkins is a well known session player who's contributions help make
the Rolling Stones albums so good. He's also played on the first two
Jeff Beck albums that featured Rod Stewart and Ron Wood, played on
portions of Who's Next, to name some of my favorites. Then
across the pond in the Bay Area, he played on some Jefferson
Airplane releases, and was a member of Quicksilver Messenger
Service. Rocksoff.org has a very good list of Hopkins's credits. http://rocksoff.org/nicky-sessions.htm
the band discussion is about Nicky Hopkins, but I'd like to make a
shout out for Ron Tutt. The liner notes make mention of Elvis' TCB
(Taking Care of Business) band of which Tutt was an original member
of, under the leadership of James
Burton. The TCB Band also backed some of my favorite County Rock albums, Gram Parsons two solo
albums as well as Emmylou Harris' early albums. From this release,
give a listen to the
"Let's Spend the Night Together" to hear Ron Tutt at his
played on most of the studio album Compliments
of Garcia, as well as the portion of Reflections
that Hopkins played on. Tutt stayed on board for the first part of
the Garcia Band that featured Keith and
Donna. He also played with Saunders and Garcia in the Legion
of Mary, Tutt replaced drummer Paul Humphrey.
is taken from November 17, and 18, 1975, at the Keystone Berkeley. It
is sequenced like two sets. Not all of the music was salvable for
release, below we posted the set lists from
the two evenings. Plus two Dylan songs, "Tough Mama" and
"Positively 4th Street" from these shows were
released on Garcia
catalog doesn't venture in as many styles as other Garcia electric
side bands as they don't indulge into jazz or gospel. Instead, they
stick to a rock and blues format. In my opinion, this is the best
display of Jerry playing blues music, Hopkins seems to bring this
side of his playing out quite nicely. Several of the songs performed
by this band were on Garcia's 1974 release Compliments
of Garcia, and 1975's Reflections.
The first disc starts and ends with straight ahead rock n' roll, delivered up quite impressively, and both songs are true highlights. First up is the title track, "Let it Rock," a Chuck Berry cover. This rendition is sensational and it is easy to see why they titled the
release after it. It gives the listener a good indication of the looseness
of this line-up where Jerry and Nicky take turns with seemingly
endless solos. Garcia gives his strings a real bending on this
track. The version of "Tore Up" is on par to expectations, punchy and upbeat, melodic yet fiery, rambling, but interesting. I love the
way Garcia takes hold of the end of Hopkins solo to finish off the instrumental.
The version of "Friend of the Devil," seems to have a tempo a bit too
fast for my liking.
It is not as quite as quick as the early live versions, but faster than the latter era editions. It starts out with John Kahn's
descending bass run and the rest of the band slowly come on. I would've have thought Jerry would start it out. After a second
and third listen, my mind isn't changed. I'll take a Grateful Dead version from the late or 70's early 80's, the folk based studio version from American Beauty, or a Garcia Grisman version ahead of this one.
A version of "It's Too
Late" displays some heart felt vocals and emotional blues. Nicky Hopkins adds one of his songs called "Pig's Boogie." It's a basic blues pattern, nothing too exciting.
"Sitting Here in Limbo" displays a great sense of melody, weather
from Jerry's voice, his guitar phrasing, or Hopkins piano fills. Jerry played this song in different solo bands, the version from
Don't Let Go Donna is the lead singer, while his band with Melvin Seals, the background vocalists add to those
versions. Come to think of it, it's on some Garcia Saunders line-ups
and Garcia Grisman. Amongst them all, I really took a liking to this
The disc closes with a version of "(I'm A) Road Runner" that is just as impressive as "Let it Rock."
A fantastic first disc, can the second disc match it? First
up is "Sugaree," and while very well played, it doesn't
top the other highlights or match the Grateful Dead versions on
either of the last two releases, Winterland
Complete: June 1977 or Road
Trips Vol. 3 No. 1 from December 28, 1979. The next two
songs are excellent, especially "I'll Take a
Melody," which while lengthy it is not boring. Hopkins plays a
solo number called "Lady Sleeps." Another cover that is
perfectly suited to this band and is a great listen is "Ain't
No Use," a traditional blues number.
with what is this Garcia Band's line-up jam number,
"Let's Spend the Night Together" and "Edward, The Mad
Shirt Grinder." The former is nearly 20 minutes and offers
quite a bit of exploration, while the latter song is a Hopkins instrumental,
yielding further exploration.
closing thoughts. One of the best aspects of the release is the clarity and strength of Jerry's
voice. Sometimes the song structure seems to ramble and is a bit too
loose, but that's the nature of this line-up. While this band may not be as tight as
the Garcia band with Keith and Donna, and they don't have the sweetness
of the female
voice, this is some really good, must hear music. As for the
sound quality, it is outstanding. I couldn't say it is the absolute
best sounding live Garcia Band release, but it probably is. I did play the four
releases with Keith recently and this is easily superior to them
sonically and some of them sound really good.
the cover songs seem to be stronger than the originals (Garcia and Hopkins, both have
three). I'm a big
fan of the combination of the pairing of a guitar and
this release is a fine display of two great soloists backed by a
great rhythm section. In the end, the following songs are if not
definite versions are top shelf.
Let It Rock
Sitting In Limbo
(I’m A) Road Runner
I’ll Take A Melody
Ain’t No Use
Let’s Spend The Night Together
Edward, The Mad Shirt Grinder
I'm on my
fourth listen and it sounds better each time. This release will take
awhile before it goes on the shelf.
by Barry Small©
enjoyed this release we highly recommend Compliments
of Garcia, and Reflections . Better
yet, get the Garcia Band box set, All
Good Things so you can enjoy the extra disc included in the
box entitled Outtakes, Jams, Alternates.