PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Jerry Garcia: The Jerry Garcia Collection Vol.1: Legion of Mary

Aaron Leitko

The fickle line that divides 'Essential Document' from 'Opportunistic Filler Release' is only a shade lighter than that which separates 'True Fan' from 'Layman'. Or in this case, Deadhead from dilettante.


Jerry Garcia

The Jerry Garcia Collection Vol.1: Legion of Mary

Label: Rhino
US Release Date: 2005-08-23
UK Release Date: 2005-09-12
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

The tricky thing about evaluating live albums is that their perceived value is often entirely dependent on how devoted a fan one is of the given band. The fickle line that divides "Essential Document" from "Opportunistic Filler Release" is only a shade lighter than that which separates "True Fan" from "Layman".

Or in this case, Deadhead from dilettante.

The Jerry Garcia Collection Vol.1: Legion of Mary documents several performances by the "jazz flavored" solo group that Garcia toured with while the Dead were on hiatus during the mid-'70s. Backed by organist Merl Saunders, bassist John Kahn, drummer Ron Tutt and Saxophonist Martin Fierro, Legion of Mary was conceived by Garcia to provide a performing environment with which he could escape from the pressures and musical limitations of his life with the Grateful Dead. The resulting material compiled here on two high-definition audio CDs reflects these intentions in a series of laid back extended jams that move quickly into the solos and stay there.

Looking to branch away from the strict folk rock curriculum of the Dead, Garcia kept the Legion of Mary set lists relatively clean of his own compositions, and nary a one is included on this CD. Instead the discs concentrate on the band's penchant for exploring styles that were relatively foreign to Garcia at the time. Although a few token country rockers make the cut, such as Dylan's "Tough Mama", the songs included here are mainly soul and R&B covers. Legion of Mary digs deep into classic tunes like Smokey Robinson's "I Second that Emotion" and Ray Charles' "Talking About You", soloing extensively and often drawing things out for ten minutes or more while everybody takes their turns in the spotlight.

But is it any good? Not really.

With the high-definition transfer perfectly portraying every string scrape and feedback squall, hardcore Jerry-ites will no doubt find much to love preserved on these discs. Yet anything less than the most passionate fans will just find themselves bored to tears.

Although "Tough Mama" starts the set off on a relatively strong note, fervor for the Legion of Mary quickly dies down as it becomes evident that every tune on the album is going to be performed at a jam-happy snails pace. Solos are mainly handed to Garcia who, despite several fine moments, tends to plumb the same territory on every pass. There's little to distinguish his musings on "I Second that Emotion" from his extended improvisations on "Let it Rock". When the cup finally gets passed to Fierro, the listener is subjected only to limp hits filtered through a wah-pedal, and watered down melodies so tame that they wouldn't sound out of place being played by the Saturday Night Live Band.

True-believer Deadheads will no doubt cry out to the contrary that these discs represents a vital period of Jerry Garcia's solo career, and proclaim the record to be filled with enlightened playing. For them perhaps it is. Yet like any number of Immaculate Virgins that appear miraculously pictured in any number of trees, flowers or potato chips, sometimes you have to be a true believer to see it.

3

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.