1) Run for the Roses 2) I Saw Her Standing There 3) Without
Love 4) Midnight Getaway 5) Leave the Little Girl Alone 6)
Valerie 7) Knockin’ On Heaven’s
It has been said
that with the commercial failure of “Cats Under the Stars”
Jerry Garcia lost interest in making solo records in the studio. And this does
appear to be the case as “Run for the Roses” was made a full four years later and includes two outtakes
that date back to the “Compliments of Garcia” covers record in 1974.
Not only that, but Garcia continued to perform with his Jerry Garcia Band steadily for the next 13 years, but never
went into the studio to begin a new album during that time. Nevertheless, “Run
for the Roses” features the brilliant Merl Saunders on keyboards and actually has a few considerable efforts not
to be missed.
The album starts
off with the title track, which is a happy, head-swinging tune in the mold of “Touch of Grey” or “Cats
Under the Stars.” It is probably the most well known track here
(played over 300 times by Garcia through the years), and while it is not earth shattering or anything, it is a pleasant enough
tune overall. For the next track, try to imagine a slow version of Stevie Wonder’s
“Superstition” if you can. Now take that slow funky sounding
organ and transpose on top of it the Beatles classic “I Saw You Standing There” played at half speed with
Jerry Garcia’s double tracked voice singing. Strange? You better believe it. Interesting? Sure. Enjoyable? Well
that is the question. Typical of Garcia’s covers of classic rock songs,
it is too slow and lacks the jubilation of Lennon and McCartney’s original, but it is different and kinda cool.
Love” follows and was also an outtake from 1974. It features Jerry
trying to do a slow bluesy-gospely Etta James type song. Garcia just doesn’t
have the traditional voice to send this song over the top, but it is brilliant to hear him try. Remember when Aretha Franklin tried to fill in for Pavarotti on some opera song at the 1999 Grammies? She did it, and got all sorts of praise for even giving it a shot, but…well…it
wasn’t opera. Garcia’s performance on “Without Love”
is sort of like that. Most will probably call it filler, but I enjoy the song. “Midnight Getaway,” written by Garcia and Kahn with words by Robert
Hunter, is the album’s longest track at almost eight minutes. Never played
live by the Dead or otherwise, this is a lost gem. A story song about a
girl leaving her man in the middle of the night, it really is poignant and heartbreaking with relevant instrumentation from
Garcia and company.
the Little Girl Alone” is a fast paced rock song but is clearly a throwaway.
Garcia plays a nice solo on it, but there isn’t much of a song to really come through and grab you. The whole tune is just blah and is missing the usual charm that Garcia puts into his performances. But the following tune, “Valerie,” has everything “Leave
the Little Girl Alone” lacked: Emotion, mood, great lyrics and a fine
melody. This is a highlight and a really underrated Garcia/Hunter classic. A seven minute and forty seconds, tediously slow reggae version of “Knockin’
on Heaven’s Door” closes the album. The way the chorus is performed
sounds completely out of place and basically ruins this version of the Dylan classic.
All in all, this
is an imbalanced album. The three Hunter collaborated tunes “Run for
the Roses,” “Midnight Getaway,” and “Valerie” rule, but the rest of the record
is inconsistent. Still, do not pass over Garcia’s last solo studio album
despite the crazy tiger/dinosaur cover.