Jerry Garcia - All Good Things: Jerry Garcia Studio Sessions

Jerry Garcia
All Good Things: Jerry Garcia Studio Sessions

(Rhino)

Part Four: Cats under the Stars

First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2004, Volume 11, #9

Written by John Metzger

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Jerry Garcia - Cats under the Stars

Jerry Garcia Band
Cats under the Stars

(Rhino)

Two years after the release of Reflections, Jerry Garcia returned with another delectable dish of music, and this time, he succeeded in keeping the Jerry Garcia Band intact for the duration of the recording sessions by replacing ailing keyboard player Nicky Hopkins with his Grateful Dead colleagues Keith and Donna Godchaux. Although Cats under the Stars surprisingly would prove to be a commercial disappointment, its vibrant, gospel-hued sound, its inspired performances, and its magnificent, Robert Hunter-penned lyrics made it quite the worthwhile endeavor — one that far and away exceeded much of the Grateful Dead’s studio work from the era. Yet, it also wasn’t a perfect effort, especially considering that, in hindsight, the collection now feels somewhat dated by the synthesized mush that seeped into many of its arrangements. Still, the melodies were indelible, Garcia’s vocals expressed the passion inherent in the devotional material to which he was listening at the time, and his guitar accompaniments crisply distilled his fiery improvisations into economical, studio-friendly fare. From the genteel Palm Sunday to the mournful Down Home, from the perky retelling of Orpheus’ tale in Rubin and Cherise to the cautionary Gomorrah, Garcia fused gospel and folk in a manner that allowed him to use original compositions to place his own stamp upon the Carter Family’s glorious heritage.

Seven bonus tracks are featured on the recently remastered rendition of Cats under the Stars, though the most notable of these are the selections plucked from an abandoned recording session in 1976. Indeed, Dorsey Burnette’s Magnificent Sanctuary Band was turned into an easy-going R&B shuffle; The Mighty Clouds of Joy’s Mighty High reached for transcendence and nearly found it within the tune’s funky refrains; the lively swing of Smokey Robinson’s The Way You Do the Things You Do embraced a perfectly soulful space, even if its final guitar solo tended to ramble rather than soar; and Jesse Stone’s Don’t Let Go received an epic treatment similar to its many concert counterparts, one that poked and prodded its way along an extended, rapturous groove. The remaining trio of songs (I’ll Be with Thee, Palm Sunday, and Down Home) are less intriguing and largely feel like filler, but taken in total, the extras offer a revealing examination of what Garcia’s interests were as he guided his own ensemble around the fringes of his work with the Grateful Dead. starstarstar ½

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This is the fourth installment of a six-part series, which will
examine
All Good Things: Jerry Garcia Studio Sessions album
by album. The entire set is rated:
starstarstarstar

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All Good Things: Jerry Garcia Studio Sessions

Part One: Garcia

Part Two: Compliments

Part Three: Reflections

Part Five: Run for the Roses

Part Six: Outtakes, Jams, Alternates

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Cats under the Stars [Remastered & Expanded] is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!

All Good Things: Jerry Garcia Studio Sessions [Remastered & Expanded] is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!

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Ratings

1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!

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Copyright © 2004 The Music Box