Jerry Garcia / Jerry Garcia Band

Pure Jerry: Warner Theatre, March 18, 1978

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Sandwiched between two Grateful Dead tours in early 1978, Jerry Garcia (guitar/vocals) wasted no time in assembling the concurrent incarnation of the Jerry Garcia Band (JGB) for a two-month coast-to-coast excursion. The combo included Garcia, fellow Grateful Dead members Keith Godchaux (keyboards) and wife Donna Jean Godchaux (vocals), plus Maria Maldaur (vocals), John Kahn (bass), and Buzz Buchanan (drums). This two-disc package contains the early and late shows from Palm Sunday, March 18 at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C. The JGB are hitting on all cylinders, as if this were Garcia's primary focus, rather than a side project. Perhaps one of the reasons they're so solid is that they were fresh from creating Cats Under the Stars (1978), which has long been considered the JGB's finest studio endeavor. Among the highlights from that album are the laid-back and breezy "Love in the Afternoon," the biblical ballad "Gomorrah," the fun and slightly funky title track "Cats Under the Stars," and fittingly as the encore, "Palm Sunday." The sets are also peppered with selections from earlier Garcia releases. Prime examples are the bluesy cover of Little Milton's "That's What Love Will Make You Do" from Garcia (Compliments) (1974), the grooving buoyancy of "They Love Each Other," and the resounding Bay Area ode "Mission in the Rain" -- both off of the follow-up collection, Reflections (1976). The remainder are adeptly chosen and even more adroitly executed interpretations ranging from reggae-infused readings of Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" and Jimmy Cliff's anthem "The Harder They Come" to the rocket-fuelled "Mystery Train." The sound quality is pristine, especially for tapes that were the better part of three decades old before being digitally restored. If not for the meticulous efforts of original on-location audio engineer Betty Cantor-Jackson -- whose so-called "Betty boards" are among the best live recordings of the era -- archival anthologies like this one might not exist at all.

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