Monday, January 25, 2010

Live: Evangeline

Jerry Garcia Band: Evangeline


I only saw the Grateful Dead a handful of times, in the early '90s, and each time it was a a bit depressing. There was no fire to the music. One song rolled on after another, the band's speed seemingly stuck on "mid-tempo chug". Despite their well-deserved reputation for improvisation, there was a sense of inevitability about each concert: the fans expected a certain thing from the band and they gave it to them.

So hearing the double-live eponymous Jerry Garcia Band album that came out in 1991 was a revelation. Freed of the weight of the Dead's baggage, Jerry actually seems to be having fun. And the band (Melvin Seals on keyboards, John Kahn on bass, and David Kemper on drums) actually play some uptempo numbers. But even the slow songs are fantastic--Jerry's voice wringing every bit of emotion out of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down". The album is full of great covers (including no less than four Dylan songs). Yes, there is jamming (at 17:15, "Don't Let Go" rather wears out its welcome), but the album also includes a few concise, energetic performances, including a cover of Los Lobos' "Evangeline" that might even be a shade quicker than the original. It's fun, lively, and you can dance to it. This is the Jerry I want to remember.

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