Merl Saunders, Jerry Garcia, John Kahn, Bill Vitt: Live At Keystone (1973)

Kronomyth 1.5: ORGANIC JERRY. Jerry Garcia jammed with two very different organ players, Howard Wales and Merl Saunders, during the early 1970s, with very different results. Hooteroll? was an experimental trip. Live At Keystone is a leisurely walk through the American songbook, from Bob Dylan (“Positively 4th Street”) to Rodgers and Hart (“My Funny Valentine”). Honestly, I find this to be one of the least interesting avenues in the Jerry Garcia journey. The recording mix is poor, the performances often perfunctory (in large part, it would seem, because the band was working out the arrangements as they played). There must be countless official bootlegs that will be of more interest to Garcia’s fans. In the 1980s, Fantasy split the original double album into two volumes and added an unreleased performance to each. (Perhaps because of better mixing, the two “new” tracks are noticeably better than the original 10 tracks, suggesting a return to the vaults may be in order.) While it’s always fun to hear Jerry thumb through Bob Dylan’s back pages, the band’s sleepy rendition of “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry” is a missed opportunity. Midlights (there really are no highlights) from the double-elpee set would include Jimmy Cliff’s “The Harder They Come” and the opening instrumental, “Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers” (credited simply as “Keepers” on the Volume II reissue). For that, you’ll need to sit through an 18-minute version of “My Funny Valentine” and an almost 10-minute version of The Byrd’s “It’s No Use” that sucks the life out of the original. Fantasy returned to the scene of the crime for a pair of Encores, which aren’t any more or less interesting than what made the first cut here.

Original 2LP Version
A1. Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers (Merl Saunders/John Kahn) (6:38)
A2. Positively 4th Street (Bob Dylan) (7:45)
A3. The Harder They Come (Jimmy Cliff) (6:20)
B1. It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry (Bob Dylan) (7:03)
B2. Space (Merl Saunders/Jerry Garcia/John Kahn/Bill Vitt) (3:53)
B3. It’s No Use (Gene Clark/Roger McGuinn) (9:34)
C1. That’s All Right, Mama (Arthur Crudup) (4:13)
C2. My Funny Valentine (Richard Rodgers/Lorenzo Hart) (18:06)
D1. Someday Baby (Lightnin’ Hopkins) (10:13)
D2. Like A Road (Don Nix/Dan Penn) (10:58)

Re-issued as Volume I
A1. Keepers (Merl Saunders/John Kahn) (6:38)
A2. Positively 4th Street (Bob Dylan) (7:45)
A3. The Harder They Come (Jimmy Cliff) (6:20)
B1. It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry (Bob Dylan) (7:03)
B2. Space (Merl Saunders/Jerry Garcia/John Kahn/Bill Vitt) (3:53)
B3. It’s No Use (Gene Clark/Roger McGuinn) (9:34)
7. Merl’s Tune (13:35)*

Re-issued as Volume II
1. That’s All Right, Mama
2. My Funny Valentine
3. Someday Baby
4. Like A Road Leading Home
5. Mystery Train*

* Bonus tracks on compact disc versions only.

The Players
Jerry Garcia (guitar, vocals), John Kahn (bass), Merl Saunders (keyboards), Bill Vitt (drums) with David Grisman (mandolin on A2). Produced by Merl Saunders, Jerry Garcia, John Kahn and Bill Vitt (“Merl’s Tune” and “Mystery Train” produced by Merl Saunders and John Kahn); recording engineered by Betty Cantor and Rex Jackson; “Merl’s Tune” and “Mystery Train” digitally remixed by Danny Kopelson.

The Pictures
Art direction and design by Tony Lane. Photos by Annie Liebovitz. Back cover photo by Steven Shames.

The Plastic
Released on 2LP in 1973 in the US (Fantasy, F-79002 with brown labels) and Japan (Fantasy, LFP-93121B) with gatefold cover. Re-issued on 2LP in the US (Fantasy, F-79002 with blue labels) and Japan (Fantasy, VIP-9531/2) with gatefold cover. Re-released on two separate elpees in 1989 in the US as Live At Keystone, Volume I (Fantasy, MPF-4535) and Live At Keystone, Volume II (Fantasy, MPF-4536). Volumes I & II re-released on two separate, expanded compact discs in 2000 in the US (Fantasy, FCD-7701/2). Volume I re-released on expanded super audio compact disc in 2004 in the US (Fantasy, 7326).

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