During the Grateful Dead's mid-'70s hiatus, Jerry Garcia kept busy with a myriad of projects -- including plenty of road work with the recently-formed Jerry Garcia Band. The seminal incarnation captured on this double-disc anthology include Garcia supported by John Kahn. Ronnie Tutt, and Nicky Hopkins. Hopkins' work as a British studio musician in the '60s gained him clout with many in the Bay Area psychedelic rock community. While his tenure with Garcia and company lasted less than six months, he had already become somewhat of a fixture on the scene, having done extensive stints with the Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship and Quicksilver Messenger Service. As is evidenced by the music heard here from a pair of consecutive shows -- November 17 and 18, 1975 at the Keystone Berkeley -- Hopkins supplied a remarkable soulfulness to the band's stage presence. Plus, as time and schedules permitted, the assembled musicians were also lending their talents to Garcia's third solo album Reflections (1976). And much of that same funky feel translated from the stage into the studio. The opener -- a refined 13-minute reworking of Chuck Berry's "Let It Rock" -- unleashes a loose and limber vibe. That certainly continues on the spirited R&B driving the update of Hank Ballard's "Tore Up Over You." The bandleader dips into the Grateful Dead's copious back catalog several times, including a midtempo reworking of "Friend of the Devil," as well as a spirited "Sugaree." The latter was initially released on the artist's self-titled solo debut, Garcia (1971). It joins "They Love Each Other" as one of the few Garcia/Robert Hunter originals -- not only to be featured in this package -- but to have been included in the JGB mid-'70s live repertoire. Hopkins brought a couple of instrumental treats with him. "Pig's Boogie" is a ripping ten-plus-minute instrumental jam. On the other side of the spectrum, "Lady Sleeps" is a soulful ballad stuffed with plenty of the interesting melodic diversions that Hopkins is best-known for. Garcia's affecting interpretation of Jimmy Cliff's "Sitting in Limbo" is then countered by an edgy no-nonsense overhaul of Jr. Walker &the All-Stars' "(I'm A) Roadrunner." "Ain't No Use" (aka "It's No Use") comes off moodier and slinkier when compared to Garcia and Merl Saunders take from Live at Keystone, Vol. 1 (1988) -- which was documented in the exact same venue two years earlier. The interplay between Kahn, Garcia, and Hopkins is given a perfect platform for further exploration as they trade off ideas throughout the cover of the Rolling Stones' "Let's Spend the Night Together." Their collective interaction and the direction that the song evolves into is merely hinted at on the version included on Garcia's Compliments (1974) album. Hopkins brought with him another surprise -- which fittingly concludes this compilation. From his ivory-tickling days in Quicksilver Messenger Service comes the high-spirited original "Edward, The Mad Shirt Grinder."
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2