While the Grateful Dead will always be considered Jerry Garcia's primary outlet, the Jerry Garcia Band often proved the most musically satisfying of the two. Shining Star is a double-disc anthology featuring Garcia's other band, and is comprised entirely of cover tunes derived from concert recordings made between 1989 and 1993. The late '80s and early '90s were sporadic in terms of performance consistency for the Grateful Dead; however, "the Jerry band" -- as Deadheads refer to this aggregate -- proved to be vibrant, funky, and alarmingly agile. "Ain't No Bread in the Breadbox" is a textbook example. This inspiring four-way musical conversation allows Garcia the room to wield, as well as yield, his fluid fretwork in order to assemble an ideal congregational sound from the band. Especially tasty are the licks he trades with organist Melvin Seals. Also worthy of note is the sweet gospel blend provided by backing vocalists Jackie LaBranch and Gloria Jones. While all of the material Garcia chose to cover with "the Jerry band" was at the very least unique, tracks such as Irving Berlin's "Russian Lullaby" and the Smokey Robinson-penned "When the Hunter Gets Captured By the Game" rate as diverse in any comparison of 20th century popular music. What is more, Garcia and company are able to transform these pieces in a way that is unparalleled -- yoking them stylistically with respectful abandon. Garcia's longtime friend and occasional bandmate Peter Rowan contributes two compositions to this set, "Mississippi Moon" and "Midnight Moonlight," the former being among the finest works on this collection. Its drop-dead cadence blended with some truly psychedelic guitar playing more than compensates for the price of admission -- and continues to upon every subsequent visitation. Other highlights include a uniquely structured reading of Solomon Burke's "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love" and Bob Dylan's "Positively 4th Street."
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2