This two-CD compilation is the first to specifically focus on Bob Weir (guitar/vocals), both as a co-founder of the Grateful Dead and on his own. While Deadheads typically run hot and cold when it comes to Weir's material, many will inevitably consider Weir Here: The Best of Bob Weir (2004) as essential, due to the incorporation of half a dozen previously unissued tracks ranging chronologically from "Me & Bobby McGee," circa March of 1972, through the informal rehearsal of Bob Dylan's "Masters of War" by RatDog. Weir's non-Dead career began while he was still very much a member of the band. The two volumes are respectively categorized as "studio" and "live." The former commences with over half of Weir's Ace LP from 1972, which in reality is a Grateful Dead album highlighting some of Weir's compositions that had already began surfacing in their repertoire. In particular, the well-jammed reading of "Playing in the Band" spotlights some stellar fretwork from Jerry Garcia (lead guitar). During the latter half of the 1970s, Kingfish became Weir's primary side project. They likewise continued in his absence for several more decades under the direction of Matthew Kelly (guitar/harmonica/vocals) and Barry Flast (guitar/keyboards/vocals). From their eponymous LP comes the coupling of "Lazy Lightning" and "Supplication," which the Dead would also adopt for a while after their touring sabbatical in late 1974 through mid-1976. Other seminal studio tracks include Weir's reading of the Lowell George ballad "Easy to Slip" and the lengthy "Two Djinn" from the post-Dead RatDog platter Evening Moods (2000). Unlike Garcia, Weir did not maintain a steady aggregate while the Grateful Dead were actively touring. Granted, exceptions exist, just not on the "live" portion of this title. In fact, ten of the 11 concert performances are by the Dead -- not that a majority of potential listeners will mind, especially (as referenced above) since five of those are available here for the first time. Seasoned enthusiasts and copious media traders will have inevitable favorites in addition to or in place of the offerings featured here. That said, "Estimated Prophet" (March 21, 1990), "Hell in a Bucket" (October 12, 1989), and their groovin' take on the calypso nugget "Man Smart, Woman Smarter" (June 4, 1989) are all exemplary in their depiction of Weir's ability to maneuver the Dead into some spirited spaces -- a fact often glossed over by all but the most fervent Deadheads. Incidentally, the sole non-Dead "Masters of War" hails from an undesignated date.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2