Jerry Jams For Rex is a new compilation of live recordings by various bands related to the jam rock scene and influenced by the Grateful Dead. It features several previously unreleased tracks, and it benefits the Rex Foundation, a non-profit charitable organization.
This CD comes out fifteen years after Jerry Garcia's death on August 9, 1995. Two of the tracks on this album were recorded on Jerry's birthday, and one - the last - was recorded on the third anniversary of his passing.
Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers
The album opens with Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers covering "Lady With A Fan." Bruce Hornsby is of course intimately connected to the Grateful Dead. He opened for the Grateful Dead in the summer of 1990, and then a few months later had joined the band. "Lady With A Fan" is the first section of "Terrapin Station." It's so interesting to hear Bruce sing lead on this song. He definitely has his own take on it.
The String Cheese Incident
"Eyes Of The World" was always a favorite to see performed live. And The String Cheese Incident does an excellent version of it. And at thirteen minutes, the band certainly doesn't skimp at all on the jamming. This is a pretty version, harkening back to versions of this song from the 1970s. Yes, it's that good. That's partly due to the piano, but also to this version's loose, jazzy feel.
They sing, "Sometimes the songs that we sing are just songs of our own" rather than "songs that we hear." This track was recorded on Jerry Garcia's birthday in 2001.
Railroad Earth does a good version of "Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo," though the repeated "Mississippi uptown" is a bit clunky and off-putting. The fiddle is beautiful, and the mandolin is nice.
The Black Crowes' version of "Sugaree" has two well structured guitar solos that build in intensity. This is the second of the tracks recorded on Jerry Garcia's birthday - this one in 2006.
"Goin' Down The Road Feeling Bad" is the only song on the compilation whose music was not written by Jerry Garcia. It's not an original Grateful Dead song, and so perhaps an odd choice for this compilation. This song is most often attributed to Woody Guthrie. That being said, this version by Moonalice is really good. It has a nice country rock feel, particularly in the guitar part.
Yonder Mountain String Band
Yonder Mountain String Band does an excellent cover of "Reuben And Cherise," a song that originally appeared on Jerry Garcia's album Cats Under The Stars. (The Grateful Dead didn't perform it until 1991.) This is one of Jerry Garcia's prettiest songs, and Yonder Mountain does a great job with it.This was recorded at their show on New Year's Eve, 2009, and has Darol Anger sitting in on fiddle.
The Waybacks do a very cool version of "Dupree's Diamond Blues." There is a nice instrumental introduction before the lyrics start. This version reminds one of just how wonderful this song is. And then it speeds up toward the end, with a phenomenal instrumental section. It's one of the best tracks on this compilation.
"Cream Puff War" may be the most interesting choice of songs for this compilation, because Jerry Garcia wrote the lyrics to this one, as well as the music. In the hands of Widespread Panic, it becomes a real rock number (though perhaps a bit messy right at the end).
"Mountains Of The Moon" is a strange trippy gem from the Grateful Dead's Aoxomoxoa album. Keller & The Keels turn it into a brighter folk tune, and it works.
Hot Buttered Rum
"Cumberland Blues" is one of the Grateful Dead's most fun songs, and Hot Buttered Rum capitalized on its fun elements. This version has great energy and a near-manic pace. Just wow, wow, wow. And be aware that this track is one of the three available only as a download, not on the CD.
The version of "Stella Blue" by Steve Kimock Crazy Engine is an instrumental. It starts off slow and mellow, and then that great high-pitched guitar comes in early to create the structure and heart of the song. "Stella Blue" is perhaps an odd choice to do as an instrumental, as the lyrics by Robert Hunter are among the best for any Grateful Dead song. Still, this is a beautiful version.
The album concludes with a version of "Terrapin Station" done by Phish on August 9, 1998 (the third anniversary of Jerry Garcia's death). From the very first notes, as the crowd recognizes the song, there are wild cheers. After Jerry's death, a lot of folks jumped onto the Phish tour, so it's easy to imagine how moving this performance must have been for those in attendance. "Terrapin Station" is one of the Dead's most interesting and beloved songs.
Phish does a faithful rendition of the song. They did mess up on the lyrics, however, singing, "We pay the seller off in gold" instead of "the teller." This was the first time Phish ever performed the song.
This compilation is a benefit for the Rex Foundation. The Rex Foundation was established in 1983 as a non-profit charitable organization by members of the Grateful Dead and their friends. The Rex Foundation enabled the Grateful Dead to provide community support to creative endeavors in the arts, sciences, and education.
CD Track List
- Lady With A Fan - Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers
- Eyes Of The World - The String Cheese Incident
- Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo - Railroad Earth
- Sugaree - The Black Crowes
- Goin' Down The Road Feeling Bad - Moonalice
- Reuben And Cherise - Yonder Mountain String Band
- Dupree's Diamond Blues - The Waybacks
- Cream Puff War - Widespread Panic
- Mountains Of The Moon - Keller & The Keels
- Cumberland Blues - Hot Buttered Rum
- Stella Blue - Steve Kimock Crazy Engine
- Terrapin Station - Phish
Three of those tracks are available only on the download version, and not on the CD. Those tracks are tracks 5, 10 and 11. Jerry Jams For Rex was released on August 10, 2010. The CD is available at nugs.net.
(Note: I originally posted this review on August 13, 2010.)