"Keystone Companions: The Complete 1973 Fantasy Recordings"
Merl Saunders and Jerry Garcia
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- With Jerry Garcia's 70th birthday just behind us, there are plenty of fans who just can't get enough of his guitar playing. For those folks, this four-disc set captures the initial collaboration between Garcia and Bay Area keyboardist Merle Saunders and all the tracks (some previously unreleased) recorded at Berkeley's Keystone Club July 10-11, 1973. The song selection ranges from standards like "Hi-Heel Sneakers," "The Harder They Come" and "Mystery Train," a rash of Dylan tunes, and one-offs like "I Second That Emotion" and "How Sweet It Is."The recordings are crystal clear, studio quality and wonderfully uncluttered. Someone (Saunders?) even managed to reign most of the jams in to reasonable lengths. Some of the more interesting tracks are a soulful take on "My Funny Valentine," which puts Garcia in a pleasantly different lexicon, Saunder's funky "Keepers" and Dan Penn's "Like A Road Leading Home." Garcia's vocals "are what they are," so no sense grousing about them. The box itself is beautifully done and includes informational notes and some swag (poster, button, matchbook and coaster).