King Biscuit Flower Hour: Greatest Hits Live

Kingfish

During the Grateful Dead's hiatus in the mid 70s, Jerry Garcia spent much of his time playing with the Jerry Garcia Band. Bob Weir did the same with Kingfish. With JGB, you pretty much got Jerry and a little Keith Godchaux thrown in for good measure. With Kingfish, you got the full monty -- Matthew Kelly blowing harp, playing guitar and singing, New Riders Of The Purple Sage bassist Dave Torbert holding down the fort, Robbie Hoddinott on guitar, Chris Herold on drums and Weir filling in the spaces where he could. Together, Kingfish played a leaner, more refined, rhythm and blues-based set than the Dead. To really appreciate their strength as a unit, the King Biscuit Flower Hour: Greatest Hits Live CD contains a spitfire show recorded at the Beacon Theatre in New York City on April 3, 1976.

Touring in support of their self-titled debut, Kingfish played a wild mix of tunes from the new album, plenty of covers and a rocking "One More Saturday Night," Weir's little gem from his deadly solo album Ace that would remain a surefire encore at any Dead show that happened to fall on a Saturday night. Their renditions of "Mystery Train," "Promised Land" and "Around And Around" is serviceable, but nothing to write home about. "I Hear You Knockin'," while an interesting choice, doesn't quite live up to Dave Edmund's version from four years earlier. Still, the band ably works through each track, showing determined dexterity and style on their own "Goodbye Yer Honor," "Jump For Joy," and the "Lazy Lightening/Supplication" suite, a frivolous piece that would turn up on Dead set lists for years to come. The remastered sound is commendable, even though the entire show didn't make the cut for this reissue. The 1996 expanded two-disc version -- the complete show with inferior sound quality -- is probably fetching a pretty penny on eBay these days. Feel free to get back to me on that.

~ Shawn Perry

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