I have absolutely loved this album since first getting it as a record in the 70's. It is the (along with the 2 other Keystone recordings) Garcia album that I keep coming back to over and over. Jerry's singing is as soulful as on any recording he ever made. His gitar playing during this period is a bit more sparse than during later periods, but is as emotional as it gets. Although "Space" and "merls tune" are a bit lacking compared to the Dead's jams, all the other songs are classics. On "It's too late" (my personal favorite) Jerry makes his gitar sing. Merl's keyboards complement Garcia very well. He gives Jerry the room to shine shine shine. If you buy only one Garcia album this is it. (Vol 2 and Keystone Encores rate a close 2nd and 3rd.)
OMG. I'm 52 and I didn't know. I've missed 30 years of listening to this! I've been a Dead fan since college in 1973, and I've got most of the Garcia Grisman stuff, but I never knew there was a funk/Dead collaboration (never mind funk/Dead/Reggae for "The Harder They Come". Thank goodness for the Amazon list that turned me on to this one. My pod has 8000 songs on it, but this is now on the top. Sorry not to offer a more sophisticated review, but if you are "of my generation" and you also missed this one, jump on it now. There is still time...
Get this. Get all of the Keystone releases. John Kahn is a fantastic bassist who provides an interesting contrast to the Dead's bass player, Phil Lesh. His playing helps bring out plenty of sweet lyrical magic from Jerry's guitar.
Absolutely magnificent. This series (vols.1&2 and encore) is musical heroin - I can't seem get it out of the car's CD player or removed from the ipod during my trail runs. If you're going to start anywhere with the Keystone/Pure Jerry releases, I'd reccomend this installment, just b/c I think it's unrivaled track-for-track (which may well be due to its relatively short playlist). It's hard to explain just how this ensemble of stellar talent (Merle...damn!) evokes new aspects of Jerry's play versus his work with the Dead - but there are depths of funk, soul, and blues that demand repetitive listening and, as with the GD, yield new discoveries with each replay. It's all too cool for my poor descriptive powers...just read the other reviews and then "add to cart"!
For those of you not familiar with this recording or of the Grateful Dead in general I would say take a shot and get this. Jerry Garcia was at the top of his game during this period and he was learning to move into more of a jazz territory with the help of Merl Saunders(and previously-Howard Wales). This trend starts to be more and more noticeable in the Dead of this period. On this album, these guys take some standards and really bring them into different, exciting territory with stellar musicianship. Jerry's vocals are strong as well with all the emotion and nuance one could hope for. Merl was a seasoned musician already when these performances were recorded with a varied background in many genres of music. I think he may have made Jerry tighter and more jazzy and Jerry may have helped Merl go "outside" and play more free-but whatever happened is classic stuff for the ages.