Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Jerry Garcia

  • Garcia [Warner Bros., 1972] B+
  • Garcia [Round, 1974] B-
  • Reflections [Round, 1976] B
  • Cats Under the Stars [Arista, 1978] C+

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Garcia [Warner Bros., 1972]
Side one sounds almost too pleasant and catchy, as if Garcia and Robert Hunter--the most consistent songwriters anywhere over the past couple of years--had settled a little too comfortably into the slow, traditional, blues-tinged country-rock groove the Dead have been digging recently. The payoff is "Sugaree" and "Deal," classics no future-rocker could come up with. And then--surprise!--the second side balances (surprisingly unpretentious) musique concrete experimentation against the groove. B+

Garcia [Round, 1974]
Garcia's willingness to strain his stringy pipes on muscular material may be a function of karmic complacency, but that doesn't mean he can't sing. His voice is as expressive as Lou Reed's or Donald Fagen's and more credible than Ry Cooder's or Robert Hunter's. The first side of this plumbs lyrics by Chuck Berry, Smokey Robinson, and Irving Berlin that you may never have noticed before, and Garcia's guitar spruces up the somewhat limp backing of the Marin County All-Stars. On side two, unfortunately, some other Marin County all-stars contribute songs that need another kind of plumbing. B-

Reflections [Round, 1976]
Though it's slow going, this is the first sign in years that Jerry and Robert can still write songs. I said songs, Robert, not lyrics. But sometimes, as Allen Toussaint might put it (and Jerry does), I'll take a melody. B

Cats Under the Stars [Arista, 1978]
There seem to be three good songs here until you listen to the lyric of "Rubin and Cherise." The other two, "Cats Under the Stars" and "Rhapsody in Red," are both about music. Come to think of it, so is "Rubin and Cherise." C+