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If you wear tie-dye shirts with your leopard-skin pill-box hat, then guest reviewer Fumo Verde has the album for you

CD Review: Jerry Garcia – Garcia Plays Dylan

By guest reviewer Fumo Verde

As most of you can tell, I, Fumo Verde, am a Jerry freak, but what you might not know is that Bob Dylan is one of the many people, along with El Diablo, to whom I have pledged my soul, so when I got word that Garcia Plays Dylan was coming out, I immediately told El Bicho that I had to do the review. El Bicho is a good man. This is a two-CD set that has Jerry winding his voice through the tales of the legendary Dylan with accompaniments by The Jerry Garcia Band, Legion of Mary, and of course, the Grateful Dead.

Dylan’s words not only transcend generations but music genres and artists alike and Jerry was no exception. This set is comprised of songs sung by Jerry and played by the bands he roamed with over between the years of 1973 to 1995, which included Legion of Mary, The Jerry Garcia Band, who appear on most of the album’s selections, and obviously The Grateful Dead.

Disc One features The Garcia Band playing on five of the seven tracks. “Positively 4th Street”, that anti-establishment rant of the ‘60s is given a new form, a hard R&B touch that brings out the pain of loss and the hope of a new start. On “Simple Twist of Fate” and “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”, Jerry delivers a gut-wrenching outpouring of his soul as his voice takes you through the tales of love and impending death that Dylan first told us so many decades ago. “I Shall Be Released” and “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry”, a Garcia/Merl Saunders duet, are two tracks on Disc One that have more of a gospel air to them with the former offering more of a glimpse of hope to its story.

Disc One is dedicated to the darker side of Dylan, proven by the emotions of the stories told. On Fumo Verde’s scale of “Blue-ness”, this disc is deep, deep blue, and it’s not just the JGB droppin’ the blues on you. The Legion of Mary puts a haunting twist to “The Wicked Messenger”, allowing Jerry’s guitar to go off on trip of pain and sorrow.

Disc Two is split down the middle with the Garcia Band and the Dead each having four tracks, with the Dead tracks being more upbeat. While “When I Paint My Masterpiece” isn’t as dark as “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”, you can find yourself wandering down a dark path while your soul absorbs the blues that cry out from such a song as this, or, even a more haunting tale with “Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)” on which Dylan had brought to light the darker deeds of humanity. Both these songs have a sharp edge to them, whereas the songs played by the Dead have a lighter feel to them. “Visions of Johanna” has Jerry’s kind of highway blues, not trying to match Bob’s, just bringing it around in a different way, a more Deadish way as was done on “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”, which closes out Disc Two. That song recreates that way we all felt when leaving Dead shows, always wanting the jams to last forever. Jerry and the Dead weave Dylan’s message in that Grateful-jam fashion, and leaving the audience wailing for more.

These songs were all recorded at live shows and are previously unreleased. The cheers and enjoyment from the audience can be felt across time and space. How I wish I could have been there, at any of these shows, but alas, this set will have to do, and it certainly does. It’s a great set for a night of having friends over and just kicking back, making a few cocktails, rollin’ some of your own and enjoying Garcia Plays Dylan, a classic in its own right.

And if you don’t believe me that the words of Dylan are in the competent hands of Jerry, listen to what the man who inspired this collection has to say: “There’s no way to measure his greatness or magnitude as a person or as a player… He really had no equal…” Bob Dylan, after Jerry Garcia’s death in 1995

This is Fumo Verde……..Peace.

About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS

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