[Review] Jerry Garcia Band: Cats Under The Stars (1978)

One of the better JGB albums featuring five new Garcia/Hunter songs.

Kronomyth 6.0: Goin’ down the road feline band.

Somewhere between Terrapin Station and Shakedown Street, Jerry Garcia and the Godchauxes found time to release a new album of material as the Jerry Garcia Band. Rounded out by some of Jerry’s regular sidemen (John Kahn, Merl Saunders, Ron Tutt) and featuring lyrics by Robert Hunter, Cats Under The Stars sounds a lot like those two Dead albums distilled down to their Garcia/Hunter and Godchaux songs.  It’s not on a par with the last Dead album, and may be at least partly responsible for the subpar Shakedown (to which Garcia contributed only three new tracks), but it’s still a solid addition to the Dead’s Arista output (a period not synonymous with the band’s best work, lest you take that as a hearty endorsement).

As for me, my heart tends to light up a little when I see the words Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter together, since the pair have been the source of much joy. “Rubin And Cherise,” “Gomorrah” and “Cats Under The Stars,” I’m happy to say, are right in line with what you’d expect from the Dead’s most enduring songwriting partnership. Although the album is a little light at eight tracks (including the short instrumental piece, “Down Home”), it makes up for it some with variety. The Kahn/Hunter reggae song, “Love In The Afternoon,” is one such surprise, Donna’s pretty pop song, “Rain,” another, and the airy “Palm Sunday” reveals that even Garcia and Hunter can still surprise us after all these years.

Without a proper producer, the arrangements occasionally unravel (Run For The Roses, by contrast, felt overproduced), and you won’t find the same piquant instrumental interplay on Stars that you do with the Dead. On your way from the station to the street, however, there’s no harm done if you look this one up.

Original LP Version

A1. Rubin And Cherise (Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter) (5:16)
A2. Love In The Afternoon (John Kahn/Robert Hunter) (4:08)
A3. Palm Sunday (Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter) (2:19)
A4. Cats Under The Stars (Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter) (5:27)
B1. Rhapsody In Red (John Kahn/Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter) (5:10)
B2. Rain (Donna Godchaux) (5:51)
B3. Down Home (John Kahn) (1:46)
B4. Gomorrah (Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter) (5:12)

CD reissue bonus tracks
9. Magnificent Sanctuary Band
10. I’ll Be With Thee
11. The Way You Do The Things You Do
12. Mighty High
13. Don’t Let Go
14. Down Home (rehearsal version)
15. Palm Sunday (alternate take)

Original 8-track version
A1. Love in the Afternoon
A2. Rain (part 1)
B1. Rain (part 2)
B2. Rubin and Cherise
B3. Palm Sunday
C1. Rhapsody in Red
C2. Cats Under the Stars (part 1)
D1. Cats Under the Stars (part 2)
D2. Down Home
D3. Gomorrah

The Players

Jerry Garcia (vocals, guitar), Donna Godchaux (vocals), Keith Godchaux (vocals, keyboards), John Kahn (basses, keyboards, guitars, orchestration), Merl Saunders (organ), Ron Tutt (drums, percussion) with Brian and Candy Godchaux (violins), Maria Muldaur (backup vocals on tracks 2 & 8) and Steve Schuster (flutes, clarinet, saxophone). Engineered by Betty Cantor-Jackson and Bob Matthews.

The Pictures

Cover art by Kelley/Mouse Studios.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track in April 1978* in the US and Canada (Arista, AB/AT8-4160), the UK (Arista, SPART-1053) and Japan (Arista, IES-81087) with lyrics innersleeve. (*First appeared in 4/1/78 issue of Billboard.) Reached #114 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on compact disc and cassette in the US (Arista, ARCD/AC-8535).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in 2000 in Japan (BMG, BVCM-37146).
  3. Re-released on expanded, HDCD remastered compact disc on April 12, 2005 in the US (Rhino, 79507) with 7 bonus tracks.
  4. Re-released on 180g yellow vinyl elpee in 2017 in the US (Round, JGFRR1017).

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