This disc was a happy byproduct of the Grateful Dead re-signing with Warner Bros. It was mutually beneficial for Bob Weir (guitar/vocals) as well as Mickey Hart (percussion) and his criminally overlooked debut long-player, Rolling Thunder (1972). Jerry Garcia's (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, pedal steel guitar, bass, piano, organ, samples, vocals) simply titled Garcia (1972) is arguably the most solo of all these projects, as only he and the Grateful Dead's Billy Kreutzmann (percussion) contribute instrumentally. That said, Robert Hunter's lyrics should not be underestimated as all six of his co-compositions became staples in the Dead's live songbook for the remainder of their concert career. The infusion of new material can be attributed to the lack of any Dead-related releases since Workingman's Dead (1970) over 14 months earlier. Although Garcia is the primary musician on the ten tracks, he has given each arrangement a wholly unique persona. These range from straight-ahead blues-based rock & roll ("Sugaree") to the avant-garde ("Late for Supper"). Within those extremes are discerning renditions and solid performances of stone gems such as the noir folkie "Loser" as well as the lilting balladry of "Bird Song" and the cyclical psychedelia of "The Wheel," the latter of which features some of the finest pedal steel guitar work to have come from Garcia's brief infatuation with the twangy instrument. He brings an intimacy to the affective love song "To Lay Me Down" that was rarely equalled by the Grateful Dead. His prowess as an emotive pianist can be heard throughout not only that cut, but also on the trippy medley consisting of the previously mentioned "Late for Supper," "Spidergawd," and "Eep Hour." Ever the self-effacing artist, at the time of release the guitarist overtly downplayed the album as "overindulgent." Time has rendered that assessment utterly false, as Garcia is nothing short of a full-bodied artistic expression from one of rock & roll's most multi-faceted musicians. Both initiated Deadheads as well as enthusiasts of the burgeoning early-'70s singer/songwriter movement will find much to cherish on this recording as Garcia redefines his immense talents and seemingly undiluted musical potential.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer