Saturday, April 14, 2012

Run For The Roses: Celebrating The Music Of Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter And The Jerry Garcia Band (2012) CD Review


On December 3, 2011 a benefit concert was held at The Fillmore in San Francisco. Titled Run for the Roses, this show celebrated the music of Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter and the Jerry Garcia Band. The concert, which benefited the Rex Foundation, featured three sets of music. Tim Bluhm, Greg Loiacono, Nicki Bluhm, Dan Eisenberg and Scott Thunes performed an acoustic opening set of Grateful Dead music. That was followed by Greg Anton, Sunshine Garcia Becker, John Kadlecik, Melvin Seals and Mike Sugar performing a Jerry Garcia Band tribute set. The third set was performed by The Everyone Orchestra, which as you might guess was all of the musicians from the earlier sets, with the additions of Tim Carbone, Katy Gaughan and John Morgan Kimock.

A good portion of the music performed that night (approximately two hours' worth) is now available on a 2-CD set titled Run For The Roses.

Acoustic Set

This collection starts with a nice, slow sweet acoustic version of "Bird Song." This version features some nice harmonies, and sounds almost like a lullaby, which works especially well on a line like "sleep in the stars." It's a really good rendition, with a nice, subdued jam. This song originally appeared on Jerry Garcia's first solo album, titled simply Garcia.

This CD's rendition of "Tennessee Jed" has an interesting and cool mix of acoustic guitar with electric organ. The line "Drink all day and rock all night" gets a predictable reaction from the crowd.

There is a slow, easy-going rendition of "Brown-Eyed Women." The way it's sung, with the vocals at the front of the mix, really highlights the story, the characters (which I always liked). For those who aren't familiar with the song, here is a taste of the lyrics: "Delilah Jones was the mother of twins/Two times over, and the rest were sins/Raised eight boys, only I turned bad/I didn't get the lickings that the other ones had." I really love this song, and this is one of the best renditions I've heard.

"Brokedown Palace" is a song off of my favorite album of all time, American Beauty (1970). This is one of the most beautiful songs the Grateful Dead ever performed, and these guys do a great job with it. Apparently, this was the last song of the acoustic set, for at the end they say, "Thank you very much. Enjoy your evening. We'll see you guys in a little while."

Second Set

The second set, though known as the Jerry Garcia Band tribute set, features two original songs (with lyrics by Robert Hunter), as well as a somewhat messy version of "Alabama Getaway," a Grateful Dead tune. So it's not strictly a set of Jerry Garcia Band material.

The first track is "Run For The Roses," the title track from Jerry Garcia's 1982 studio release. This is a pretty good version. And of course it's great to hear Melvin Seals, who played keyboards in the Jerry Garcia Band.

As I mentioned, this set includes two original songs, with music by Greg Anton and John Kadlecik, and lyrics by Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. The first of those is "Give Me The Business." This band definitely gives it a Grateful Dead feel, interpreting the song in a way that Garcia might have if he'd tackled it. Here is a taste of the lyrics: "Remember what I told you/Not so many years ago/Over in the doorway underneath the mistletoe/A kiss is not a promise/Just the interest on a smile/The only thing important is a certain sense of style."

The second original song is title "American Spring." This one doesn't feel like a Grateful Dead song, and, perhaps at least partly for that reason, is less interesting to me.

Those are followed by two songs that Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia had no part in writing, but which the Jerry Garcia Band often played in concert: "That's What Love Will Make You Do" and "Tangled Up In Blue." Melvin Seals is really prominent on these tracks, and that helps make them two of the collection's best.

"That's What Love Will Make You Do" was written by Eddie Marion, James Banks, and Henderson Thigpen, and was included Jerry Garcia's Don't Let Go (2001) and Let It Rock (2009). You can hear the audience sing along with this one.

"Tangled Up In Blue" was, of course, written by Bob Dylan. Jerry Garcia certainly had his own spin on this song, and this band followed that interpretation, including the backing vocals, "tangled up in blue, tangled up in blue." However, like Bob Dylan often does, they screw around with the pronouns in the first several verses - sometimes it's "I," but more often "he" or "she." As far as the pronouns went, Jerry Garcia stuck pretty closely to Dylan's original version of the song, from Blood On The Tracks. There are a few changes in the lyrics, like "truck drivers' wives" instead of "carpenters' wives."

Third Set

Music from the third set includes two long jams. Matt Butler is listed as musical conductor for this set. I'm not quite sure how one conducts a jam, but no matter. The music is good.

The first jam, titled "Rex Jam," has a good groove. And even though it's a jam, there are vocals. They come in at approximately the six-minute mark, and are riffs on "And We Bid You Goodnight" - "Lay down my brothers, you'd better take your rest/Put your head on your savior's breast" - and "Run For The Roses - "We're gonna run for the roses." There is also a nice percussion section, but it is the section after that that is my favorite. And of course I absolutely love the violin (that's Tim Carbone, from Railroad Earth).

The second jam is titled "Conducted Jam." (Again, how does one conduct a jam?) John Morgan Kimock plays drums on this track. The jam starts with bass and drums, setting a cool groove. This is an interesting jam, as it keeps a somewhat slow, steady rhythm. That is, until a few minutes before the end, when there is a false ending, and then the audience is asked to sing a section. It gets a bit silly, and someone wonders aloud what Ken Kesey would think of this one. At the end of the track, there are band introductions.

Between those two jams is a really nice version of "Deal," a song Jerry Garcia played frequently, both with the Grateful Dead and at Jerry Garcia Band shows. "Deal" would often conclude the first set. And this collection of music ends with "My Sisters And Brothers," often a highlight of Jerry Garcia Band shows. This is a really good rendition of the tune, with a nice lead section on violin.

CD Track List
  1. Bird Song - Tim Bluhm, Greg Loiacono, Nicki Bluhm, Dan Eisenberg and Scott Thunes
  2. Tennessee Jed - Tim Bluhm, Greg Loiacono, Nicki Bluhm, Dan Eisenberg and Scott Thunes
  3. Brown-Eyed Women - Tim Bluhm, Greg Loiacono, Nicki Bluhm, Dan Eisenberg and Scott Thunes
  4. Brokedown Palace - Tim Bluhm, Greg Loiacono, Nicki Bluhm, Dan Eisenberg and Scott Thunes
  5. Run For The Roses - Greg Anton, Sunshine Becker, John Kadlecik, Melvin Seals, and Mike Sugar
  6. Give Me The Business - Greg Anton, Sunshine Becker, John Kadlecik, Melvin Seals, and Mike Sugar
  7. Mission In The Rain - Greg Anton, Sunshine Becker, John Kadlecik, Melvin Seals, and Mike Sugar
  8. Alabama Getaway - Greg Anton, Sunshine Becker, John Kadlecik, Melvin Seals, and Mike Sugar
  9. American Spring - Greg Anton, Sunshine Becker, John Kadlecik, Melvin Seals, and Mike Sugar
  10. That's What Love Will Make You Do - Greg Anton, Sunshine Becker, John Kadlecik, Melvin Seals, and Mike Sugar
  11. Tangled Up In Blue - Greg Anton, Sunshine Becker, John Kadlecik, Melvin Seals, and Mike Sugar
  12. Rex Jam - Everyone Orchestra
  13. Deal - Everyone Orchestra
  14. Conducted Jam - Everyone Orchestra
  15. My Sisters And Brothers - Everyone Orchestra
Run For The Roses: Celebrating The Music Of Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter And The Jerry Garcia Band was released on April 3, 2012, and is available as a download, as well as on CD.

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. The Rex Foundation was named after Rex Jackson, a Grateful Dead roadie and later road manager who died in 1976.

In 2010, a compilation titled Jerry Jams For Rex was released, and in 2011 Jerry Jams For Rex II was released. Both of those were also benefits for the Rex Foundation. The difference is that those were collections of live tracks from many different concerts, whereas the tracks on Run For The Roses are all from the same show.

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