Grateful for More Jerry Garcia

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I'll be honest with you folks: I haven't played the 1974, seemingly-eponymously-titled, second Jerry Garcia album in ages.  I mean, like, ages. 

Also known to insiders as Compliments of Garcia due to the words written above his name on the original promotional copies, not sure why I have long felt such indifference to this album. 

AR-ComplementsDJCover225.jpgLike... really... I haven't played this album since college or shortly thereafter 30 years ago. When the Jerry Garcia CD boxed set came out a number of years ago -- All Good Things -- I think I skipped over this album and just checked out some of the bonus tracks.

What was my problem with it?  Maybe first and foremost is the fact that it doesn't quite sound like I might have expected a Jerry Garcia album to sound back in the day. This recording has more of a New Orleans flavor to it, with big punchy horn sections and deep reverb on Jerry's voice. Its very different than the sort of stripped down funky jams he was exploring on his many side projects to The Grateful Dead (side groups eventually named Legion of Mary, Reconstruction and then finally as simply The Jerry Garcia Band).  

Most significantly, Compliments of Garcia delivered a very different sound than his classic Live at Keystone album (with Merl Saunders) which came out a year earlier (on Fantasy Records) and was embraced by many a Dead Head (such as one of my older brothers who had it). 

Yet at the same time this music fits right in with the Keystone material and formed the core of future Jerry Garcia Band sets. 

Its just a more produced sound than one might have expected from Jerry Garcia at the time. Way more produced.

Time however is both healer and avenger...So the great thing about coming back to a reissue like this after all this time is that one can listen with fresh ears, and maybe, just maybe, this vintage music one overlooked might well knock you out.  

My musical knowledge has changed over time. My tastes have expanded over time. My appreciation for new and different sounds has increased a thousand-fold over time.  

So while at the time this came out I was hearing "sell out," what I am hearing now is a fine, well produced pop album with some funky twists, featuring a quite remarkable array of special guests.  

Now, you may be wondering why I am reviewing this in the first place now? I suspect by the time you are reading this it will already be September into October 2015. Well, earlier this year for some inexplicable reason, this album was reissued for Record Store Day by the Jerry Garcia estate on a special "limited edition" of 7,000 copies on 180-gram translucent green vinyl.  

7,000 isn't a very "limited" run, when you stop to think that they probably sold about that many back in the day. But, I digress...

I don't have any problem with the release, odd though it may seem for an RSD edition. What I did have trouble with was the price: the album was going for $25 and more in some outlets. 

AR-GarciaComplementsPlaying225.jpgNow while $25 seems on the high end of the average for many newer releases these days, its a bit high for an old album that is not exactly rare. Slip off your Birkenstocks for a bit and consider the perspective of an aging Dead Head -- moi, Dear Readers -- and life long record collector. Understand that this album, when it came out, was released on The Grateful Dead's own boutique subsidiary label called Round Records (at that time manufactured and distributed by United Artists Records). Like a lot of the albums on the band's own label (Grateful Dead Records), their marketing and distribution was rather iffy.... questionable even.  

It didn't help matters that just as they were getting their own label together and operational the band took a break from touring. Some fans had even thought they were splitting up as these various and sundry side projects from almost all the band members flooded the market -- Mickey Hart's Diga Rythm Band, Phil Lesh's Seastones, Keith & Donna's album, Jerry's Old and in the Way, etc.

From an audiophile perspective, a lot of these records that came out on the Dead's own label didn't sound particularly terrific. Some could sound decent, for sure: Wake of the Flood and Blues for Allah, especially.  The other albums were sounding a bit murky, the mixes sort of muted.  Also, America at that time was in the midst of a major Oil Crisis so vinyl quality was often low (oil is required to make the vinyl used for producing records). I still have some of those kinda noisy presssings. 

Take all that into consideration and soon you found a lot -- and I mean, a lot! -- of these records popping up in the bargain bins of record stores across the country. Thus it was very common to find Compliments of Garcia for $1.99 most places.  Brand new. Sealed.   

Over the years, its status as a collectible has grown a little bit -- it has a very pretty full color cover with embossed images of Garcia, his custom Alembic guitar and the birdies flying off into the sky behind him. 

But still, you could easily find a nice copy of this album used for $10 or so if you looked around. So, $25 for the reissue seemed a bit steep, especially for a common old album of this non-peak-period vintage. 

Well... surprise of surprises, something happened on Record Store Day this year:  Complements of Garcia didn't sell real well (at least from what I've seen out in the stores, where it is still commonly available).  

Deja Vu man, its a trip. 

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