It’s no secret that Jerry Garcia enjoyed his side projects. They allowed him to take a break from the Grateful Dead and stretch his horizons even further.
This four-disc box-set Keystone Companions: The Complete 1973 Fantasy Recordings features Garcia, keyboardist Merl Saunders, bassist John Kahn, and drummer Bill Vitt performing a series of live sets at the fabled Keystone club in Berkeley, California, in July 1973. Much of the material here is well-known by serious fans of Garcia through Live at Keystone; however, this release makes a good thing even better. The sound, originally recorded by Betty Cantor and Rex Jackson, has been remastered and features crisp performances of songs that went on to became standards for the Jerry Garcia Band, as well as some previously unreleased material.
Spirited versions of Jimmy Cliff’s “The Harder they Come,” the Motown Classic “I Second that Emotion,” and Smokey Robinson’s “How Sweet It Is (To be Loved by You)” are presented prominently. Rare gems like Bob Dylan’sÂ “Positively 4th Street,” with David Grisman on electric mandolin, and the funky, all-instrumental “Merl’s Tune,” add depth to the collection. The set includes liner notes by Grateful Dead historian David Gans, as well as a vintage poster, a drink coaster, a button/pin and a “scratchbook” that replicates the original vinyl album’s promotional matchbooks.
If you’re looking for the sweet roots of the Jerry Garcia Band, look no further than Keystone Companions: The Complete 1973 Fantasy Recordings.
Keystone Companions: The Complete 1973 Fantasy Recordings is out now on Fantasy Records.