Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Jerry Garcia Band: “Midnight Moonlight… Live” (2015) CD Review

Midnight Moonlight … Live contains nearly the entire show that the Jerry Garcia Band performed on March 7, 1982 (my tenth birthday) in San Jose. It’s missing just one song from the first set – “Valerie,” which was played after “Catfish John.” That might be due a glitch in the source material. I’ve listened to this version of “Valerie” online, and there is a weird moment in the recording. Still, I’d prefer to have the song, and it would certainly fit on the disc. At any rate, the band for this show includes Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann, as well as John Kahn, Melvin Seals, Jimmy Warren (yes, two keyboard players), Julie Stafford and Liz Stires. For the second set, Dave Torbert replaces John Kahn on bass. The liner notes include an interview with Jerry Garcia from 1982. By the way, a portion of this show was previously released on CD under the misleading title Palo Alto, California.

Jerry Garcia opens the show with “Sugaree,” and the CD gets right into the music. There is no crowd noise or tuning or anything at the beginning, which makes me wonder if we might actually be missing the very start of the song. It’s a pretty good rendition, with a high-energy, rockin’ jam. That’s followed by “Catfish John,” which also has a seriously good jam, this one maintaining a nice, fun groove, and featuring some wonderful stuff on keys. As the song ends, the sound quickly fades out, and then comes in again as the band starts “I Second That Emotion.” That’s because “Valerie” was played in between, but is missing from this disc. This rendition of “I Second That Emotion” is joyous and wonderful, a highlight of the first set. I mean, you can hear the band’s heart in every note. Weirdly, the disc quickly fades out at the end of this track also, and then comes in as the band starts “Tangled Up In Blue.” I’m not sure why we don’t hear the crowd noise between these tracks. My guess is that, because this is from a radio broadcast, maybe there were brief station identification breaks between songs. Anyway, this is a breezy rendition of “Tangled Up In Blue.”

The second disc contains the second set, and, like the first disc, when it starts, the band seems to already be playing. There is no crowd noise or tuning before “The Harder They Come,” which kicks off the second set. This is fun, fast-paced rendition. The band members seem to be enjoying themselves, and there is a lightness to their playing, like they’re dancing with their instruments. And I’m dancing around my apartment, totally digging this tune. And again there is a quick fade-out at the end of the song. I prefer live recordings where we hear every moment of the show, even if it’s just the audience shouting while the band decides what to play next. “The Harder They Come” is followed by “Mystery Train.” Man, the band is really cooking at this show. This is another fast-paced song to get you dancing, to get you grooving and keep you going. It is a total joy listening to this track. Jerry Garcia then does slow things down with “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” but this isn’t an entirely slow version. It has a reggae beat at times. Jerry’s guitar sounds beautiful, and they jam on this one for a while. The band then gets things rocking again with “Tore Up Over You” before concluding the show with “Midnight Moonlight.” “Midnight Moonlight” was written by Peter Rowan, and the first version I ever heard is that on the 1975 self-titled album by Old & In The Way. The rendition on this disc is quite good, and the backing vocalists really shine here. This is an excellent show. I only wish that the CD included the crowd noise between songs, and of course that “Valerie” were included too. But the sound is excellent, and the band is definitely on.

CD Track List

Disc One
  1. Sugaree
  2. Catfish John
  3. I Second That Emotion
  4. Tangled Up In Blue
Disc Two
  1. The Harder They Come
  2. Mystery Train
  3. Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
  4. Tore Up Over You
  5. Midnight Moonlight
Midnight Moonlight… Live was released on August 21, 2015 through Keyhole.

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