Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Jerry Garcia 5: Reflections

As mentioned, the Dead as a unit were off the road, but all the members kept busy, in the studio and onstage, sometimes with each other. So it was that Jerry Garcia’s next solo album was an amalgam of sorts. Half was recorded with the current Jerry Garcia Band (which included Nicky Hopkins on keyboards, as well as Larry Knechtel in the studio), and the rest featured the Dead. Since each of the latter would make it to their setlists, Reflections shouldn’t be dismissed as a side project. Be warned, however: Donna Godchaux is prominent in the mix, in both bands.
The music alternates from one band to the other, but since the Dead tracks bookend the set, we’ll start there. “Might As Well” kicks off the proceedings, but don’t be fooled by the rollicking arrangement; this is predominantly a low-key set. The other tunes made their first album appearances after several years in progress: written solely by Robert Hunter, “It Must Have Been The Roses” was rescued from his first solo album; “They Love Each Other” was a perennial in 1973, but not as jaunty here; “Comes A Time” had been around as far back as 1971, and gains an expressive solo.
The “other” tracks aren’t as strong, with the clear exception of “Mission In The Rain”. The only Garcia/Hunter original here recorded by the solo band, it’s a keeper, from the mystery of the first verse to the delivery in the chorus. Unfortunately, “I’ll Take A Melody” is an Allan Toussaint song taken at a dirgey pace. “Tore Up Over You” is a Hank Ballard & The Midnighters song done well here, with lots of rolling piano from Nicky, whereas the country cover “Catfish John” was already in Jerry’s peripheral vision, having been part of the Old & In The Way repertoire.
Given the two distinct sources of the recordings, Reflections is sequenced very well, mostly alternating between bands. The bonuses include four further middling covers jammed in the studio by the JGB, along with a 16-minute Dead instrumental called “Orpheus”. This certainly supports the theory that the album was pieced together using earlier Dead sessions, coming off the high of the Blues For Allah experiments, to bolster what little the JGB was able to accomplish in the studio.
(Note: while we don’t normally append studio albums with this kind of info, it bears mentioning that two live collections from the vaults spotlight this lineup of the JGB, and especially because Nicky Hopkins is involved. They are listed below.)

Jerry Garcia Reflections (1976)—3
2004 expanded CD: same as 1976, plus 5 extra tracks
     Archival releases of same vintage:
     • Let It Rock: The Jerry Garcia Collection, Vol. 2 (2009)
     • Garcia Live Volume Five (2014)

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