Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Jerry Garcia & John Kahn: “Santa Cruz Blues” (2017) CD Review

Okay, first I have to point out that they misspelled John Kahn’s name on the CD cover. That doesn’t give me a lot of confidence in the company putting out this release. This is another of those unofficial releases taken from radio broadcasts. On October 16, 1985, Jerry Garcia and John Kahn did two short shows at The Catalyst in Santa Cruz, California. Santa Cruz Blues contains almost both complete sets; it is missing just one song, “Rubin And Cherise,” which ended the early show. This disc was released once before, in 1997, with a different cover, and “Rubin And Cherise” was also missing from that one. Also, on that disc “Little Sadie” is listed as “Jericho.” And apparently these shows were also released on vinyl as Comin’ Up For Air, which is also lacking “Rubin And Cherise.”

I love acoustic Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia recordings, and so this disc is a treat. It’s just Jerry on guitar, and John on upright bass, and so has a loose and intimate feel. They kick off the early show with “Deep Elem Blues,” a song Jerry also did with the Grateful Dead (you can hear a good version on Reckoning). The version here is a bit messy, but still cool. They follow that with “Friend Of The Devil,” and it’s the slower version that the Dead did in concert. I love those moments when Jerry gets real quiet. “Little Sadie” follows, and is one of the highlights for me. The Grateful Dead did this song a few times in 1969, 1970 and 1980. Here it has the feel of being sung around a campfire, which works so well. And then I love Jerry’s delivery of Bob Dylan’s “She Belongs To Me.” Plus, that guitar part a few minutes in is excellent, making this track another of the disc’s highlights. Jerry sang this one with the Grateful Dead a few times in 1985. And “Jack-A-Roe” is a song the Dead played at the very last show I ever saw (in Portland, 1995). The version here is okay. But it’s followed by an excellent rendition of “Oh Babe, It Ain’t No Lie,” a song written by Elizabeth Cotten. And, with “Rubin And Cherise” missing, that’s the end of the early show.

The late show opens with “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” a song that Bob Weir sang with the Grateful Dead. Jerry gives it a delicious energy, particularly in the vocals, and there is also a delightful jam. “Someday everything is gonna be different/When I paint my masterpiece.” That’s followed by a good rendition of “I’ve Been All Around This World” (here titled “Been All Around This World”). This is a traditional song, but the back of the CD case erroneously indicates Jerry Garcia, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir as its writers. It’s great to hear an acoustic version of “Run For The Roses,” a song that the Jerry Garcia Band often did, and I dig what John Kahn does on bass here. Then the crowd gets excited when they start “Bird Song.” You might not think there’d be a lot of jamming on this version, what with only two guys playing, but you’d be wrong. This is actually a seriously good rendition of “Bird Song,” with them taking it in some interesting directions. And it’s nearly ten minutes long. That’s followed by a really nice take on “Gomorrah,” a song from Cats Under The Stars. But of course for me the best track is the one that concludes the show, “Ripple,” my all-time favorite song. I never got the chance to see Jerry sing this one in concert; I wish I’d been at that show in Landover in 1988. This song works beautifully every time, and the rendition on this disc has a sweet feel to it.

By the way, the sound of this recording is quite good, and though it is a radio broadcast, there are no interruptions or weird cuts.

CD Track List
  1. Deep Elem Blues
  2. Friend Of The Devil
  3. Little Sadie
  4. She Belongs To Me
  5. Jack-A-Roe
  6. Oh Babe, It Ain’t No Lie
  7. When I Paint My Masterpiece
  8. Been All Around This World
  9. Run For The Roses
  10. Bird Song
  11. Gomorrah
  12. Ripple
Santa Cruz Blues was released on February 10, 2017.

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