Jerry Garcia's fourth solo album was the first to be released under the collective title of the Jerry Garcia Band, although the change was primarily in name, as there was little alteration in the personnel between this disc and the non-Grateful Dead tracks from his previous studio effort, Reflections (1976). However, unlike his previous effort, Cats Under the Stars contains all new original material. Garcia's longtime collaborator and bassist, John Kahn, also serves up a pair of melodic contributions. These include the brief gospel-flavored interlude "Down Home," featuring some ingenious lead non-verbal vocalizations from Donna Jean Godchaux underneath an equally affective melody. Kahn also joins Robert Hunter on the slinky and slightly Caribbean-tinged "Love in the Afternoon." Once again Garcia and lyricist Hunter come up aces with some of their most poignant collaborative efforts. Chief among these is the bittersweet love triangle of "Rubin and Cherise." Drawing upon elements of mythology, Shakespeare, and even incorporating some rather Bob Dylan-esque phrasing, Hunter reveals one of his crowning lyrical achievements. The biblically derived "Gomorrah" recalls the same sympathetic and hapless humanity which likewise embodies compositions such as "Wharf Rat" and "Foolish Heart." The title track, "Cats Under the Stars," is a lilting, up-tempo rocker that was quickly adopted by Garcia fans and Deadheads to refer to the unspoken union connecting themselves with the band. Of arguably equal aesthetic pleasure is Anton Kelley's Egyptian-influenced cover artwork, which would become the subject of many a car window sticker and T-shirt. Many Deadheads and critics alike feel as if Cats Under the Stars is Garcia's best non-Dead effort, and sadly it would not be reprised on his final studio album to feature the Jerry Garcia Band, Run for the Roses.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer