Volume III, Issue II Summer 2004


With the recent "restructuring" of Warner Music Group (a corporate euphemism for "we fired everyone, yeee-haw!"), one wonders what's to be the ultimate fate of WMG-owned Rhino Records. For decades prior to its purchase by the megalo-corp, Rhino was the pre-eminent re-release label in the world, producing cross-licensed, career-encompassing, scintillatingly remastered, lovingly annotated single- and multi-disc anthologies on major and lesser-known artists from every musical genre and era under the sun. No one's ever done the boxed set biz better by quite a stretch, but with this shake-up and the music biz in general in a disheartening tailspin, you have to worry how much longer a Tiffany venture like Rhino can survive.

In this issue:

The Turbula Interview:

A living history of the blues
James Cotton on Sonny Boy Williamson II, Muddy Waters and the future of the blues
By Jim Trageser

Taj Mahal on the blues, rap and other cultural touchstones
By Buddy Seigal

Turbula Explorations:

Elvin burns on
Celebrating the shimmering, incandescent pulse of jazz
By Michael J. Williams

The lion in summer
Jazz trumpeter Roy Hargrove struggles to match early masterpieces
By Buddy Seigal

Last of the guitar gods
Johnny Winter still laying it down
By Buddy Seigal

Tom Shulte's reviews of non-mainstream music and culture

    August edition: News on the Prometheus Radio Project, Future of Music Coalition, low-power FM broadcasting, GarageBand.com; 'zine and DVD reviews; 25 CD reviews

    July edition: News on The Residents and Brian Woodbury, a concert review of Acid Mothers Temple, 2 DVD reviews, 26 CD reviews

    June edition: News on Mia Zapata's murder, Marijuana Policy Project, Pixies, The Hentchmen, John Frusciante and Dionysus Records; DVD roundup, 24 CD reviews


Rhino's latest release, the pre-putsch production "All Good Things: Jerry Garcia Studio Sessions," is a prime example of the type of exhaustive project that's hallmarked the company's oeuvre. Re-releasing the Grateful Dead frontman's solo studio albums, most of which have been out of print for years, with more than four hours worth of previously unreleased recordings and a 130-page booklet, it serves to remind that "Captain Trips" was much more than just the pilot of the world's most celebrated jam band.

I hadn't heard most of this material since it was originally released back in the '70s, and was pleasantly surprised by how well much of it has worn. Garcia's solo albums tended to be more concise and more experimental than his output with the Dead; shorter songs; choicely chosen covers by everyone from Irving Berlin to the Stones; often unusual instrumentation and a passel of originals sometimes as fine as his best work with the Dead ("Deal," Sugaree," "Might As Well," "It Must Have Been The Roses," "Palm Sunday" and "Rubin And Cherise" among them) combine to make the Garcia solo legacy worth a second listen and more.

To be sure, Garcia is an acquired taste, a love-him-or-loathe-him phenomenon, but I'm here to toss my hat squarely and proudly into the first of those rings. Some find his vocals thin and grating; I think they're oddly soulful and deeply pacifying. Some call out his guitar playing as anemic and noodling, I find it versatile and imaginative, emanating echoes of everything from bluegrass to jazz to acid rock, all in the course of a single solo.

True, Garcia's solo efforts tended to be hit-and-miss affairs, the weakest being 1982's pallid "Run For The Roses," while the apex here, to me, is the widely and unfairly panned "Compliments Of Garcia" from 1974, a gorgeous and consummately performed collection of eclectic covers which Garcia transmogrified into a deeply personal, moody song suite.

For the most part, though, I could have done without the unreleased bits (hey, there are reasons why this stuff didn't see the light of day when it was originally recorded). Of the 89 tunes included in this box, I could boil it down to less than half that number for a truly essential Garcia listening experience. Still, at the end of the day, "All Good Things" is a welcome addition to the music library, even if it might have been more aptly titled "Many Good Things Plus Lots Of Ephemera."

One just hopes we still have Rhino Records to kick around at this time next year, cuz excess beats the heck out of famine every time.

– Buddy Seigal
La Mesa, Calif.
May 2004

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