Sequenced to resemble a single concert, but actually cobbled together from bits of three shows, GarciaLive Volume 17: NorCal ’76 paints the then-new-look Jerry Garcia Band in a kaleidoscope of technicolor hues. 

NorCal ’76 is culled from usable portions of tape from the band’s Nov. 7, 12 and 13, 1976, concerts, plus an “encore” of “Mighty High” from an unmarked reel.

Reassembled around Garcia, his Grateful Dead bandmates Keith (piano) and Donna Jean (vocals) Godchaux; his loyal bassist John Kahn; and Elvis Presley drummer Ron Tutt, this JGB was every bit as rejuvenated as the recently unretired Dead, who had taken a late-’74-mid-’76 breather.

In fine voice and fleet of fingers, Garcia converses in song with Donna Jean Godchaux and in music with her husband, Keith. Kahn and Tutt, meanwhile, are as forceful as a rhythm section can be without intruding; Kahn even takes a tasteful solo in Irving Berlin’s “Russian Lullaby.” 

Garcia knocks on the Dead’s door with “Friend of the Devil,” drops in on Old & in the Way on “Midnight Moonlight” and cedes lead vocals to Mrs. Godchaux on a wafting bit of Bob Marley’s “Stir it Up.” 

Keith Godchaux is in his prime, like a prodigious recitalist proficient in jazz, classical and rock. He sings some backgrounds on “The Way You Do the Things You Do” as serves as Garcia’s crucial foil on tracks such as “Catfish John,” “I’ll Take a Melody” and “Mystery Train,” during which he hints at “Cumberland Blues” repeatedly. 

This was the JGB at its most Dead-like.

NorCal ’76 is a gem.