Anyone who thought Jerry Garcia was washed up by late 1993 need only to hear GarciaLive Volume 11 to recognize the error of their thinking.
Recorded Nov. 11, 1993, in Rhode Island on what turned out to be the Jerry Garcia Band’s final East Coast tour, this two-disc, full-concert set finds the Grateful Dead leader and his eponymous side group doing what they did best – playing a wide swath of American music with a few originals tossed in for fun – and doing it very well.
Given the late date, there are a couple of stumbles. The opening “Cats Under the Stars” is just off and seems – incorrectly – to bode ill for the show. Meanwhile, the closing cover of Peter Rowan’s “Midnight Moonlight” is so fast as to be sloppy.
But everything that comes in between on the 13-track, 130-minute set is shimmery gold.
Drummer David Kemper and keyboardist Melvin Seals are Garcia’s brightest co-stars here as the band offers up a couple of rarities to go with more typical fare.
On Van Morrison’s “He Ain’t Give You None,” the group weaves the song’s complex tempo changes with ease. And the Marveletts’ “The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game” is super-smooth in part due to backing vocalists Gloria Jones and Jaclyn LaBranch, who give both tracks – indeed the band’s entire repertoire – a shot of gospel flavor.
Oft-played numbers such as “Ain’t No Bread in the Breadbox” and “My Sisters and Brothers” are their typical, glee-inducing selves. And Garcia spices up a 16-minute “The Way You do the Things You Do” with ad-libbed vocals on the fade and keeps “Don’t Let Go” engaging across its 13-minute runtime by eschewing a space jam in favor of blues-rock soloing during the long instrumental break.
With the seemingly non-stop onslaught of archival Garcia and Grateful Dead releases pouring forth recently, it’s understandable that some of them must be ignored. GarciaLive Volume 11 mustn’t be.