Jerry Garcia Comes Alive

New series to offer live recordings from Dead guitarist

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The new Pure Jerry live album series launches this month and will give Grateful Dead fans a chance to hear some of the best of the 500-plus concerts that frontman Jerry Garcia performed away from the Dead. First up in the series is Theater 1839, San Francisco, July 29 and 30, 1977, a three-CD set capturing a Jerry Garcia Band that included late Dead keyboardist Keith Godchaux and his wife, singer Donna Godchaux, longtime Garcia bassist John Kahn and drummer Ron Tutt.

Pure Jerry is the second release by the late guitarist's estate to fully establish Garcia as an artist, and brand, separate from the Grateful Dead. Earlier this year, Rhino Records' six-CD box set, All Good Things, repackaged all of Garcia's solo records while clearing out the archives for unreleased treasures.

The first Pure Jerry release (available through jerrygarcia.com) includes three CDs of soundboard material from one of Garcia's best bands. "We spoke with some people that knew his shows historically," says Christopher Sabec, who works with the Garcia's estate and was executive producer on the project. "We knew we wanted a Bay area show and we knew we wanted this era. So, luckily, we didn't have to pour through hundreds of shows."

Sabec has been integral in trying to better establish Garcia's legacy away from the Dead. A year ago he oversaw the removal of Garcia's tapes from the Grateful Dead vault and began pouring through material that became the box set. Sabec says that All Good Things exhausted the hidden studio treasures -- "Most of the gems are on the box set," he says. "We wanted it to be everything, fully A to Z" -- which prompted the investigation into Garcia's live work, despite the fact that some of the tapes are decades old, and the ones that yielded the first Pure Jerry set were covered in what he describes as "a mysterious goo."

For future releases, an email address has been set up (purejerry@jerrygarcia.com), where fans can send comments about favorite shows, eras and bands. "We've already gotten a big response," Sabec says. "And as we start sifting through these, I think people will see that we're paying attention."

Plans currently call for three to four Pure Jerry albums to be released each year. As the guitarist toured with various collaborators as his Dead schedule allowed, there are numerous sounds and eras that the series can encompass. Pure Jerry also offers the opportunity to hear his cross-genre cover versions extended often to ten minutes. Among those covered on Theater 1839 are Jimmy Cliff ("The Harder They Come"), Bob Dylan ("Tangled Up in Blue"), the Band ("The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down"), Bob Marley ("Stir It Up"), Irving Berlin ("Russian Lullaby") and Smokey Robinson ("I Second That Emotion"). "There was such a variety and vitality in the ensembles he played with," Sabec says. "There's a four-piece rock band, a bluegrass band, solo, sometimes with backup singers doing a gospel thing. The goal we had in mind with Pure Jerry was to celebrate Jerry Garcia as an individual talent, as a guitarist and as a musician."

Track list for Theater 1839:

Disc One:

Mystery Train
Russian Lullaby
That's What Love Will Make You Do
Stir It Up
Simple Twist of Fate
The Way You Do the Things You Do
Catfish John

Disc Two:

Friend of the Devil
Don't Let Go
The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
They Love Each Other
I Second That Emotion
Let Me Roll It

Disc Three:

The Harder They Come
Gomorrah
Tore Up Over You
Tangled Up in Blue
My Sisters and Brothers