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Keystone Companions: The Complete Fantasy Recordings Of Merl Saunders and Jerry Garcia
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Keystone Companions: The Complete 1973 Fantasy Recordings
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Recorded live at Berkeley, CA's Keystone club in 1973, this deluxe, 180-gram vinyl collection captures the musical friendship of keyboardist Merl Saunders and the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia. 24 tracks - spanning blues, Motown, Rockabilly and more - cover the legendary, two-night set in chronological order, and are presented on 6 LPs. A booklet features never-before seen photos by Annie Leibovitz, plus liner notes by Grateful Dead expert David Gans. Also includes a collectible poster.
- Product Dimensions : 13.03 x 12.91 x 1.54 inches; 5.12 Pounds
- Manufacturer : Fantasy
- Date First Available : August 26, 2016
- Label : Fantasy
- ASIN : B01L22Y7XU
- Number of discs : 6
- Best Sellers Rank: #127,205 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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The Grateful Dead had such a unique sound that I imagine it was hard for individual members of the band to really break off and do something new within the context of the group. Sure, they would add a blues song here or there, and Bobby was able to incorporate his cowboy songs and "Looks Like Rain" ballads, but these different styles didn't separate themselves from the Dead, they became apart of their standard repertoire. Dead Heads came to love the diversity of music they would hear on any given night, and the band's sound continued to grow. Phil, Jerry, and Bobby were committed to their band, but what if they wanted to do something really different? . . .
The solution to this problem would lie in side-projects. The boys could keep wowing crowds with the Dead, but whenever they got a musical itch to experiment outside of their normal cohorts, they formed bands and did projects while the Dead weren't touring or recording. Bobby released his first solo album, Ace, and later pulled together a couple of bands, the Kingfish and Midnights. Phil and Ned Lagin created electronica and synth music in '74 - '75. Jerry formed the JGB (I will delve more deeply into this in a second). Mickey Hart even released a solo album, Rolling Thunder, while he was taking a break from the Dead. The cool thing was, everybody supported (for the most part) and helped each other on their first few respective solo albums. It was as if each member of the band said, "it's okay, do your own thing for a bit." Members of the Dead could branch out and play around with a little jazz, country, or reggae, but they didn't have to break up the band in order to do so. Creative needs that were not satisfied by the Dead, were indulged in small clubs and theaters, thick with smoke and energy.
The Jerry Garcia Band began sometime in 1970 when Jerry, John Kahn, Bill Vit, and Howard Whales got together for Monday night jam sessions. They played far-out space jazz, and their Garcia/Whales albums are a must-listen. Jerry developed a friendship with Merl Saunders around this same time, and Merl added B-3 organ to the Skull and Roses album on "Playin' in the Band," "Wharf Rat," and "Bertha." Soon, Jerry and Merl started playing together, with Kahn and Vitt (mostly). There are some great tapes from 1971-72 that circulate on bt(dot)etree(dot)org that reveal Jerry stretching out and getting in the groove. The JGB retained the jams and exploration that Dead Heads love, but they were always a little more funky, a little more soulful, and a little more blues-oriented than the dead would be. They also played more covers than they did originals at their shows. Merl brought in jazz standards and Broadway tunes, and Jerry really loved the chance he got to do something really different. He fell in love with the JGB, and even considered leaving the Dead altogether in 1972 to play with his new project full-time. Luckily, this was not to be, but Jerry always made time to go on tour with his side project. I wouldn't be without either band.
This Keystone Companions set represents the best of early JGB. If you have been hesitant to branch away from the Dead before, do yourself a favor and give this set a try. The Keystone, a little club in SF, was a perfect setting for their intimate performances. The first time you hear "Keepers," you will be hooked. JGB's music is a little different from the Dead's, but don't let this put you off. Once you hear those shimmering guitar solos cut through the organ, drums, and bass, you will know you are in the right place.
The sound quality of this set is top notch, and the performances are amazing. 1973 was a great year for Jerry's playing, and he really shines through here. Merl is a keyboardist extraordinaire, and a young John Kahn shows why Jerry kept him on as his JGB bassist from 1970-1995, the only member of the band to stay on for its entire lifespan.
So pull up a chair, pour yourself a glass of wine, or eat a small piece of paper (~);-}
Jerry Band is about to go on stage.
The band featured Saunders on keyboards; Garcia, guitar and vocals; John Kahn, bass; and Bill Vitt, drums. Virtuoso David Grisman added mandolin to Bob Dylan's "Positively 4th Street." The mix of songs ranged from Saunders originals to covers of songs by Jimmy Cliff, Junior Parker, Holland-Dozier-Holland, Rodgers & Hart, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, Lightnin' Hopkins, Don Nix and Dan Penn and Dylan.
This four CD set documents this long lived musical friendship commencing back in 1970 when Saunders replaced Howard Wales at a weekly jam session at the Matrix in San Francisco. The two musicians learned from each other and over time grew a musical relationship that would last up to the time of Garcia's passing in 1995. Live at The Keystone was recorded in 1973 while The Dead were touring heavily.
In all the years of friendship and collaboration between the two, Merl only played with The Dead three times. I read, "Saunders told Garcia biographer Robert Greenfield that the Grateful Dead seemed somewhat threatened by the pair's musical alliance.
"This music is as exciting and satisfying 40 years later as it was on the day it was made."
"This deluxe four-disc package contains remastered versions of all the material from both those concerts presented in original running order. In restores the three-and-a-half-minute jam "Space" with the full, nearly 14-minute version, now entitled "Merl's Tune." In addition, there are six more previously unreleased selections. All are different takes of songs that were featured on the earlier sets, including "The Harder They Come," "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry," "My Funny Valentine," "Merl's Tune," "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)," and "Someday Baby."
They had a chemistry that you can hear and feel.The most important thing is the music. It's live and it's experimental, so sometimes the quality is not the best but much of this set is brilliant because of the spontaneous interplay between the two.
"If you're a Deadhead, you already know how great these shows were, and you probably have some of the earlier releases. You should still get this, for the extra hour of unreleased material and the better sound. If you're not a Deadhead, listen to some of the samples on Amazon; this music is very different from that of the Grateful Dead. If you don't like the Dead, you may find Jerry's solo work to be wonderful. This is a testament of a great guitarist playing the music he liked when he wanted to relax, at his peak, with a fine backing band."
"The band, in a bid to avoid the kind of attention that followed Garcia in his main job as guitarist in the Grateful Dead, didn't even have a name. It quickly becomes clear that the music was so good, the atmosphere so loose and the times so memorable in and of themselves that, well, they simply didn't need one."
This is smooth laid back 70's progressive jazz rock that everyone should appreciate. This is a fantastic package.
After finally taking the plunge, I'm just adding my tiny voice to the chorus of those praising this tremendous upgrade; the sound is much, much better- clearer; more distinction between instruments/vocals and a warmer, overall more present sound.
As for the music, well, I don't feel there is much to add to the other terrific, laudatory reviews except to concur. But I will suggest that the upgrade is definitely worth the very reasonable price.
The sturdy box comes with four card, folding CD slips, with cool photos of Merl and Jerry; a substantial booklet of liner-notes by David Gans with more great photos; a little replica of the promotional matchbook for the original LP (no matches; just small pages of blank paper inside); a release themed coaster; small badge bearing the names of the main two heroes in the Keystone Companions story and a poster bearing the event schedule of Keystone in July, '73.
I highly recommend this definitive edition of these two amazing concerts.
Top reviews from other countries
The Harder They Come
It Tales A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry*
It's Too Late
My Funny Valentine*
I Second That Emotion
It Ain't No Use
Positively 4th Street
How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You*
It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry
One Kind Of Favour
That's All Right Mama
The Harder They Come*
My Funny Valentine
Like A Road Leading Home
How Sweet It Is
* Previously unreleased
For those who bought the original albums, you have the benefit of 7 previously unreleased tracks, but most of all you have the crystal clear remastered recordings - so do purchase!
For those who have not heard these two before, then you're in for a treat if you like Jerry in laid back mood. As may be seen from the track listing, a fair amount of ground is covered from standards to soul, R&B to Dylan, but always with the sweetest tone and playing. The rest of the band is made up of the ever present John Kahn with Bill Vitt on the drummer's stool.
The package included a 28 page booklet with plenty of photos and an excellent essay by David Gans (well it would be wouldn't it) written in June this year which tells the story of the relationship between Jerry and Merle which lasted many years as I'm sure most of you will know. In addition there's badge, a coaster, and a reproduction of the original "fantasy matches", but with paper inside (!!!). Each of the albums comes in a fold-out cardboard slip-case with the whole set in a clam-box. Just the type of packaging I like.
I awarded this box 4 stars as it would not be everyone's cup of coffee, but for anyone into the Dead, or Jerry, it has to be 5 and an essential purchase. A little fantasy never did anyone any harm so do yourself a favour and get this little gem!
1986, nach langjährigem Drogenmißbrauch (+ Diabetes), fiel Jerry Garcia für mehrere Tage ins Koma und verlor sein 'musikalisches Gedächtnis'. In dieser schweren Zeit war Merl Saunders sein wichtigster Freund und Mentor und verhalf ihm nach langer Zeit zu seiner Rückkehr auf die Bühne.
Die Aufnahmen der beiden hier vorliegenden Live-Abende präsentieren Jerry Garcia und Merl Saunders (+ Band) in bester Spiellaune. Das Repertoire umspannt einmal mehr Einflüsse von Blues, Rock, Rockabilly, Jazz, Funk, Broadway und Motown.
Die Songs erscheinen in der korrekten Reihenfolge der beiden Konzert-Abende.
7 Stücke waren bisher unveröffentlicht.
Die 4 CDs liegen sicher in einer festen, stabilen Box im CD-Format. Jede der vier CDs ist nochmals seperat in einem Digipak untergebracht. Das 28-seitige Booklet ist informativ, vor allem durch das Essay von David Gans sowie seltenen Fotos. Weitere Beilagen der Box: 1 Button, 1 Poster, 1 Bierdeckel sowie 1 Scratchbook.
Aus meiner Sicht: Uneingeschränkt empfehlenswert!
 Hi-Heel Sneakers (Robert Higgenbotham) [8:14]
 Keepers (Saunders-Kahn) [7:54] (*)
 The Harder They Come (Jimmy Cliff) [6:23]
 It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry (Bob Dylan) [6:21] (*)
 It's Too Late (She's Gone) (Chuck Willis) [7:47]
 My Funny Valentine (Rodgers-Hart) [18:14] (*)
 Mystery Train (Phillips-Parker) [11:37]
 I Second That Emotion (Robinson-Cleveland) [10:59]
 Someday Baby (Sam Hopkins) [10:15]
 Merl's Tune (Saunders-White) [13:34]
 It Ain't No Use (Bonds-Hollinger-Williams) [9:36]
 Positively 4th Street (Bob Dylan) [7:45]
 How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) (Holland-Dozier-Holland) [8:09] (*)
 It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry (Bob Dylan) [7:06]
 Keepers (Saunders-Kahn) [6:34]
 One Kind Favor (Blind Lemon Jefferson, arr. Garcia-Saunders-Kahn) [6:39]
 That's All Right, Mama (Arthur Crudup) [4:11]
 The Harder They Come (Jimmy Cliff) [10:09] (*)
 My Funny Valentine (Rodgers-Hart) [18:05]
 Money Honey (Jesse Stone) [8:21]
 Someday Baby (Sam Hopkins) [10:15] (*)
 Merl's Tune (Saunders-White) [12:21] (*)
 Like A Road Leading Home (Nix-Penn) [11:02]
 How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) (Holland-Dozier-Holland) [10:20]
>>>>> (*) = previously unreleased
Besetzung der Band:
Merl Saunders - keyboards
Jerry Garcia - guitar, vocals
John Kahn - bass
Bill Vitt - drums
David Grisman - mandolin (on "Positively 4th Street")
It's always fun listening to these two always with a great band helping them reach fantastic heights of positive musical energy!