Friday, November 13, 2009

Jerry Garcia Band with Nicky Hopkins- Let It Rock

With the possible exception of his work with David Grisman, this first iteration of The Jerry Garcia Band was totally unique because it is the only time he had a musical foil who matched his own peerless skill; That person was Nicky Hopkins. Garcia, like all stars, tended to play with people less accomplished than himself. This is not by design, but rather the natural reality that few were as good as him. In Nicky Hopkins he found another world-class player with whom to share the burden of soloing. Hopkins proved to be a short-lived (less than a year in the band) but potent dueling partner for Garcia. The shows Jerry did with Nicky Hopkins don’t sound like any other in his career due to the slow, baroque deliberateness of Hopkins’ playing. On each song Garcia generously opens the door widely for Hopkins to solo. Like Garcia’s own playing, Hopkins shows a wealth of influences and stylistic ability that at times is hilariously anglophile in comparison with Jerry’s more Americana leanings. The result is a concert where the musician’s sheer enjoyment of each other’s playing is clearly audible. For his part, Garcia is in fine voice, singing sweet and high on songs like “It’s Too Late,” a gorgeous “I’ll Take A Melody” and an extended “Ain’t No Use.” The highlight is the 19 minute version of The Rolling Stones' “Let’s Spend The Night Together” that takes a bunch of detours before landing and giving way to Hopkins' signature song “Edward The Mad Shirt Grinder” which he originally recorded as a member of Quicksilver Messenger Service. As Garcia plays a slide guitar part that is totally unlike his usual style, one can hear not only why this pairing was so interesting, but why it was doomed as well. There just wasn’t enough room for two stars of such definitive yet divergent styles of playing. -- Paul Epstein

1 comment:

Dan Province said...

I've been waiting for this release for many years-
I'm glad they finally unearthed the Garcia/Hopkins
tapes. Nicky Hopkins should be in the Rock & Roll
Hall of Fame as a sideman. Somebody should
do a biography/discography on his astounding