Listeners to this four-CD installment in the Pure Jerry series are treated to two complete shows from Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland on September 1 and 2, 1989. The lineup heard here was the longest running incarnation of the Jerry Garcia Band with John Kahn (bass), Melvin Seals (organ), David Kemper (drums), Jackie LaBranch (vocals) and Gloria Jones. By the late '80s Garcia and company had matured from the smaller intimacy of concert bars and theater-sized venues to easily filling sheds [read: amphitheaters]. The boost in popularity could possibly be attributed to the level of musicianship that audiences were consistently treated to. In fact, the consensus among seasoned Deadheads and Garcia aficionados was that his work outside the increasingly cumbersome Grateful Dead scene was often better and more inspired. Pure Jerry: Merriweather Post Pavilion: September 1 & 2, 1989 (2005) offers nearly four hours of evidence to support their claims. In the context of his own outfit, Garcia had complete artistic control over the set lists. As the tracks reveal, he was liberated to draw from his own favorite R&B ("That's What Love Will Make You Do") reggae ("Stop That Train" and "The Harder They Come"), folk ("Mississippi Moon,") as well as blues ("Think") numbers. The arrangements/reinventions of classic rock & roll are perhaps his most significant contribution, as they reveal something more of the artist. The heartfelt cover of Van Morrison's "And It Stoned Me," or the Bob Dylan tunes "Tangled Up in Blue," "Knocking on Heaven's Door,""Simple Twist of Fate" and an emotively peaking "Forever Young" are framed in the originals, yet are taken far beyond their predecessors thanks to the player's intuitive reactions. There are moments of sheer bliss as Garcia and Seals tussle and trade licks during "Don't Let Go," "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" and the overhaul of Allen Toussaint's "I'll Take a Melody" opening up the second evening's festivities. Of course no Garcia Band set would be complete without a few choice nuggets culled from his own songbook of co-compositions with Robert Hunter. Surprisingly, and perhaps intentionally, there is very little crossover material from the Grateful Dead's copious back catalog. Both units played "Deal" and the previously mentioned "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" with some degree of regularity, while "They Love Each Other" popped up with considerably less frequency. Other standouts include "Like a Road Leading Home" -- an obscure cut from Albert King's recommended Lovejoy (1971) album -- "Evangeline" from los Lobos and either one of the renditions of Bruce Cockburn's "Waiting for a Miracle," as it's just like Uncle Jerry to offer us a choice.
Share this page