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Saunders, Merl & Jerry Garcia: Well-Matched, The Best Of

This ten track compilation of "cherry" jam was recorded during the collaborative years 1971 to 1974. "I Second That Emotion", from a studio radio broadcast in 1973, is the only previously unreleased track. Most of the others, are from the seminal double live release Live at Keystone , also in 1973.

During that 4 to 5 year period, and under Saunder's loose Art Tatum based jazz tutelage, Garcia reined in his free flowing solo style somewhat injecting some discipline and fire into his playing. The result was a Well-Matched collaboration indeed, resulting in this fiery, yet harmonic display of musical expression. Of the bounty of work Jerry created outside the confines of the Dead, (who were also arguably hitting their commercial peak during those early 70's) these jams and collaborations represent perhaps the very best. It was, to many at the time, a strange partnership indeed, but tracks like "Mystery Train", "After Midnight" and "The Harder They Come" show that the duo was ahead of its time in many respects. This one will appeal to all lovers of jam music with a spiritual bluesy jazz bent…and of course to every Dead head on the planet.

Track Listing:

1. Mystery Train
2. Lonely Avenue
3. Merl's Tune
4. Positively Fourth St.
5. After Midnight
6. Welcome To The Basement
8. Space
9. I Second That Emotion
10. The Harder They Come

Added: June 17th 2006
Reviewer: Mike Blackburn
Related Link: More Info
Hits: 3011
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Saunders, Merl & Jerry Garcia: Well-Matched, The Best Of
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-06-17 08:09:27
My Score:

Once you get past the very clever packaging on this release (imagine an oversized match book) you'll discover a fiery mix of jam, jazz, blues, psychedelia, rock, and soul from Jerry Garcia, Merl Saunders, and guests. Pulling the best tracks from the few albums that Garcia and Saunders recorded together, Well-Matched plays like one long epic jam, with the keyboard maestro adding plenty of color and tasty tones on his organ, piano, and synth for Garcia to play off of and let his guitar soar into the stratosphere. In fact, the guitar legend's playing is a bit more focused here than on many of the Grateful Dead recordings, as he leans more heavily towards his jazz and blues abilities than his trippy acid rock style that would be features on much of the Dead material from this time period, which was the early 70's.

There are plenty of extended workouts here, like the fast paced jazz-rocker "Mystery Train", close to 12-minutes of Garcia-led jams, and the smooth blues of "Lonely Avenue", featuring Saunders' beefy organ tones and funky electric piano as well as Garcia's searing blues solos. Other highlights include the burning fusion romp of "Merl's Tune" (with some great organ-guitar interplay), the funky boogie number "After Midnight", the spacey jams on "Welcome to the Basement" and "Space" (both of which have a certain Santana-meets-Lifetime-meets-The Grateful Dead feel), and the soaring soul of "I Second That Emotion".

Well-Matched is indeed a successfull pairing of two musicians who you wouldn't have thought would make for a "well-matched" collaboration, but it worked. Kudos to Concord Music Group for reissuing some of this material, which saw both Garcia and Saunders taking each other into uncharted waters and coming up with some great music together.

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