Garcia Live Volume Six delivers a three disc complete concert from July 5, 1973 at The Lion’s Share in San Anselmo, CA. From the opening notes, this recording sounds like a loose jam session at a local neighborhood bar and that feeling continues here for nearly three hours. Thanks to this Betty Cantor-Jackson recording, we’re quickly transported back to that small room with Jerry leading the world’s best cover band through a catalog of Motown hits, Elvis covers, show tunes, and improv jazzy-funk instrumentals. What’s even more mind-blowing, is that when you consider this gig in the context of Grateful Dead history, this little venue 20 miles south of San Francisco held around 200 guests and three weeks later Jerry was playing in front of 500,000 with the Dead at Watkins Glen.
If there’s any critique here, it’s that the first set never really takes off. There are a handful of extended jams and flashes of energy, but the band leaves some meat on the bones as they feel each other out and find their groove. Thanks to the legendary Live At Keystone albums and a handful of soundboard recordings floating around, I’ve been fortunate enough to listen to several 1973 Jerry and Merl shows to compare this one to. This is a fine first set. It just sounds more like a jam session from a 1972 Jerry side project than what we’re used to hearing from 1973. Highlights include Merl grunting throughout most of the jams in that Brother Jack McDuff style and Jerry bringing some real passionate vocals to The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down to close out the first set.
The second set kicks off with I Second That Emotion, reminding us that Jerry singing Motown is as sweet as apple pie. There’s an unidentified trumpet player present during this set, but he’s a little off-mic at first. By My Funny Valentine, the trumpet gets into the mix and adds a nice layer to the sound, when it could easily become a distraction. This is some late-night, smoky club stuff right here. It’s followed by some dirty funk in the form of Finders Keepers and then those twangy rockabilly Garcia vocal inflections shine on Money Honey. Then Jerry slows things down with Like A Road, providing a second set tear-jerker that had me calling my mother to tell her I love her. They get back into the loose groove with Merl’s Tune, as John Kahn keeps things chugging along. You can hear Jerry smiling though his solos becasue he’s in his element, playing music with friends at a local neighborhood nightclub. The improvisational jamming continues for another half-hour before they bring the set to a close with a version of How Sweet It Is, that’s short, but heartfelt. It’s like a sign of Jerry’s appreciation to the crowd for coming to see his new little band.
Whether you’re a seasoned Jerry Band veteran, or a newbie looking to go deeper into Jerry’s live catalog, Garcia Live Volume Six is one to check out. This show might not offer the deepest space or most intense fanning, but it’s definitely worth listening to and appreciating as an intimate night together with our old pals, Jerry and Merl.