The only known collaboration between Jerry Garcia and Paul Butterfield meets the Jerry Garcia Band on Heads & Tails Vol. 1

The three track LP pairs the Jan. 19, 1972, version of “Save Mother Earth,” by Garcia, Merl Saunders and Butterfield on side 1 with JGB’s Feb. 5, 1988, performances of “Don’t Let Go” and “Think” on the flip. Listeners familiar with Garcia only through the Grateful Dead can expect an ear-opening listen. 

Clocking in at 17 minutes, “Save Mother Earth” is a funky, loose-but-tight instrumental with oodles of improv but zero noodling. Butterfield blows his harp like a man intimately familiar with the song he’d never played and when he and Garcia lock into some call-and-response action in the 13th minute, the lucky few in attendance must’ve been agog. 

This 51-year-old recording is higher quality than the 35-year-old pairing on side 2. But it’s the quality of the performances that make these tracks worthy of official release. Garcia is a mad scientist on the back end of “Don’t Let Go,” virtually screaming along to the melody he plays on his axe and coaxing the band into wild improvisational territory. 

And lest anyone “Think” Garcia was not a bonafide bluesman, the final track will quickly disabuse them if that notion. 

The LP is the first is a series of archival recordings from the back pages of Garcia’s repertoire designed to fit within the confines of a single vinyl record.