On Black Friday / Record Store Day this year I made an impulse purchase...
But seriously, I wasn't even thinking about buying the Record Store Day reissue of Jerry Garcia's third solo album called Reflections.
I don't know why. Blame it on post election burn out, perhaps.
I guess I didn't fully process the significance of the reissue until that day in the store when I saw a few remaining copies there on the shelf at Amoeba Records and the promise on the hype sticker that it was a very limited edition run on "tie dye" purple vinyl.
Then I flashed back to something I'd read about the reissue, that it was a handle-with-care type production. Indeed, here is some information from the official Jerry Garcia estate website about the reissue:
"The Reflections vinyl re-issue features audio re-mastered for release by Fred Kevorkian with lacquers cut by Ron McMaster at Capitol Studios and vinyl pressed by Quality Record Pressings. A purple tie-dye edition is pressed in a limited edition of 3,500 with individually numbered foil-stamped packaging and will be available exclusively at your local independent record store during Record Store Day's Black Friday 2016 event. A 180-gram black vinyl edition will be offered via Garcia Family Provisions."
And then... I remembered how much I enjoyed the Garcia estate's reissue of Jerry's second album called Compliments of Garcia (which I reviewed here on Audiophilereview in the fall of 2015 and which you can click through here to re-read).
And then... I saw that the price was a very reasonable $20 list...
So I bought it!
And... I'm not disappointed!
Most importantly, it sounds much better than my original pressing from the mid-70s!
Some perspective may help you, Dear Readers, fully appreciate this latter point...
You see, in the mid 1970s, America was still quite embroiled in the oil crisis -- gas was being rationed and such. And as crude oil is a key ingredient in making the vinyl from which the records were pressed, quality suffered for many labels in that period.
The proliferation of bad record pressings was indeed one of the reasons I started seeking out original LPs, turning me from simply a budding music fan into a bonafide "record collector" learning about label variants, reissues, promotional copies and so on. Even on our modest home stereo system of the day, I could hear the difference between the original pressings and the newer reissues of albums from Beatles to Zappa.
I do remember some collectors (and even some of the sales people) I met at local record stores speculating that vinyl was being recycled or that other corners were being cut to make the records cheaper somehow.
An additional reality is that the record company which was manufacturing (and distributing) the Grateful Dead's mid-70s post-Warner Brothers / pre-Arista releases was not particularly known for the highest quality pressings. I've always found domestically made United Artists' albums from that period to be generally quite noisy. And indeed, all the UA-pressed Jerry Garcia and Grateful Dead related releases I have owned have had some sort of noise going on in the grooves.
So a nice new clean pressing of this album is a breath of fresh air.
Reflections is also quite a bit more than "just" a Jerry solo record. Half of Reflections is played by The Grateful Dead, songs which became staples of their live shows for years to come: "It Must Have Been The Roses," "Comes A Time," "They Love Each Other" and "Might As Well."
The other songs are played by The Jerry Garcia Band of the period, then featuring the great Ron Tutt (from Elvis Presley's band) on drums and stellar guests like Larry Knechtel on Piano -- yes, the same Larry Knectel from The Wrecking Crew who played on everything from Phil Spector's Wall of Sound recordings of the early 1960s to Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Waters." English session great Nicky Hopkins is on this too!
A fine pedigree runs throughout the music on Reflections and it sounds pretty splendid on this sweet reissue.
If you can't find the purple editions, you can still get standard black vinyl pressings which, for some of you who aren't fans of colored vinyl to begin with, may well be the more appealing purchase.
At risk of getting a bit reflective myself, in closing I offer you a personal thought about this album...
Reflections contains one of my all time favorite Jerry Garcia songs, "Mission In The Rain," a tune that became my own little soundtrack (if you will) for those lonely times I've indeed wandered around San Francisco's Mission district on rainy days and nights.
"There's some satisfaction
In the San Francisco rain
No matter what comes down
The mission always looks the same
Someone called my name
You know I turned around to see
It was midnight in the mission
And the bells were not for me"
Come again, walking along
In the mission in the rain"
Yes. Reflections and hope. Thank you Jerry.