Merl Saunders & Jerry Garcia: Keystone Companions: The Complete 1973 Fantasy Recordings

Tony Sclafani on November 21, 2012


The big news about this four-CD box set is that it features seven previously unreleased performances from Jerry Garcia’s stint with Hammond organ master Mel Saunders at the Keystone club in Berkeley, Calif., on July 10-11, 1973. These gigs first saw light as a 1973 album, Live At Keystone, then on the 1998 CD with bonus cuts, Live At Keystone, Volumes 1 & 2. This new release configures the original recordings in the order in which the songs were performed and also offers vintage photos and liner notes by David Gans. The results are compelling. The spacious, remastered sound brings out the chemistry of the two main players as well as the interplay of the rhythm section, made up of bassist John Kahn and drummer Bill Vitt. New tracks include unreleased performances of songs previously heard on these sets. They include the Saunders/Kahn jam, “Keepers,” a jazzy, instrumental take on “My Funny Valentine,” Saunders’ “Merl’s Tune,” Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Someday Baby,” Jimmy Cliff’s “The Harder They Come,” and the Garcia-sung favorites “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry” and “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You).” Nothing too revelatory, but it’s nice to have it all in one place.

Artist: Merl Saunders & Jerry Garcia
Album: Keystone Companions: The Complete 1973 Fantasy Recordings