Rumored to be in the works for over a year before its release, the Jerry Garcia Band's Fall 1989: Long Island Sound, in a six-disc slipcased box on ATO, is actually more plentiful than the preceding fan buzz imagined it would be. Within are two complete shows by the group and opening duet act Bob Weir and bassist Rob Wasserman September 5 at the Hartford Civic Center, and the following evening at the Nassau Coliseum in New York. Taken together they provide irrefutable evidence of what fans already knew: that the JGB's flowering musical evolution peaked about this time, with the guitarist playing better than he had in years inside and outside the Grateful Dead. The box is set up with three discs devoted to each night. Discs one and four are devoted to the Weir/Wasserman opening sets; the rest reflect the two sets Garcia's band played each night. The Weir/Wasserman gigs are delightfully ragged -- Bob's guitar is slightly out of tune on half of the first night, especially on an otherwise moving version of "Looks Like Rain," but the performances are inspired nonetheless -- check "Throwing Stones" and "K.C. Moan" in Hartford and "When I Paint My Masterpiece," and "Easy to Slip" that gives way to a long Wasserman improv in New York. The bassist is the highlight in this duet; he uses a boundless and heartfelt creativity in each song, making Weir invest his voice fully in the lyrics. To be honest, save for hardcore Deadheads, these gigs need only be heard a couple of times, and are included more for historical than musical import. The Garcia Band sets, however, are positively electric, crackling with energy and an obvious awareness among all players that what is transpiring is special. There are too many highlights to list -- there isn't a lot of overlap in the performances -- only "The Harder They Come" (both versions are stunners), "Evangeline," and "Deal" are repeated. The Bob Dylan tunes -- "Forever Young" and "I Shall Be Released" -- are excellent, as are "Like a Road," "Deal," and a rarity of sorts: a killer performance of Delaney & Bonnie's "Lonesome and a Long Way from Home," which hadn't been played live by the group in six years. The New York show features great reads of Van Morrison's "And It Stoned Me," the Beatles' "Dear Prudence," Smokey Robinson's "I Second That Emotion," Holland-Dozier-Holland's "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)," and the Ray Charles' nugget, "That Lucky Old Sun." The sound throughout is thoroughly remastered from soundboard tapes and is crystalline. The booklet is nothing special -- there's a historical essay by Blair Jackson and memorabilia reproductions, but that's about it. It's clearly the music that matters. At this price point -- retailing for about five dollars a disc -- Fall 1989: Long Island Sound should prove irresistible for fans.