The next offering from the GarciaLive series is a May 20th show from 1990. It’s Volume 10 in the ongoing collection, with this two-disc set a full concert from a show in what would become a very important locale for Jerry in the latter part of his life: Hawaii. If three important criteria for a Garcia critique are guitar, voice, and enthusiasm this release scores very high marks across that trio.
Firstly, his guitar playing sounds and feels back on solid footing following the diabetic coma of 1986. Yes, the hyper-listener will find a note or two plucked less than 100 percent assuredly, but not for lack of effort or practice. By Spring of ’90 Garcia was playing a lot, and feeling well enough about it that the official 1991 live album, Jerry Garcia Band, was drawn from recordings around the same time-period as this one; as it should be, given that the band was settled in and hot, with the interplay between the guitarist and keyboardist Melvin Seals scorching. Drop in on “The Way You Do The Things You Do,” midway through the first set, and hear the two comp and vamp their way around the reggae-flecked soul classic for resounding confirmation. In fact, that cut represents a larger thematic umbrella that spreads over much of the cover-heavy songlist; one that highlights Garcia’s continuing and expanding affinity for reggae, intersecting it with gospel on “My Sisters and Brothers,” or Dylan and The Band’s respective classics, “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and “Tears of Rage.”
In voice, Jerry is affecting and free, melding nicely with harmony singers Gloria Jones and Jackie LaBranch, keeping true to the indelible melodies but with his trademark oaky timbre. As for enthusiasm, Garcia and his band are loose and loaded, like the music is wearing their smiles, making Garcia’s subsequent personal time enjoying the islands over the final years of his life a natural parallel to the performance rather than coincidence. All of this combined makes for an album that does everything it should in highlighting an effervescent and rejuvenating 1990 concert from the Jerry Garcia Band.