Grateful Dead fans have had a seemingly limitless appetite for live recordings of the band that was renowned for its long jam sessions. Rhino Records has been releasing Dead concert discs over the past year, as well as live discs by the late Dead leader Jerry Garcia. The latest release is The Jerry Garcia Collection, Vol. 1: Legion of Mary. The disc was recorded with Garcia's solo band, Legion of Mary, a jam session outfit that allowed Garcia to experiment with jazzy solos. Songs captured for this two-disc collection of standards such as "How Sweet It Is to Be Loved by You," "I Second That Emotion," and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," as well as Chuck Berry's "Let It Rock," and Elvis Presley's "Mystery Train." Except for some nagging microphone feedback, the sound quality of the sessions is very good, with plenty of organ, guitar and horn solos.

The "Austin City Limits" program has been recording and broadcasting live concerts on PBS for years, now. But over the past couple of years, the "Austin City Limits" phenomena has expanded to include a large outdoor music festival. Rhino Records has issued a CD of some of the performances from last year's fest, entitled Austin City Limits Music Festival 2004. Included are the recently reunited Pixies playing "Debaser," Dashboard Confessional performing "Hands Down" and Franz Ferdinand playing "Darts of Pleasure." Also included are tracks from Rachael Yamagata, Los Lonely Boys, The Neville Brothers, Shelby Lynne, Cake, Ben Harper and more.


Back Up Against The Wall Various Artists
Back Up Against The Wall
(Purple Pyramid/Cleopatra)

Pink Floyd's 1979 album The Wall is arguably the most ambitious, memorable progressive rock concept album of all time. Filled with enough angst and inferiority psychoses to keep Freud busy for a year, "The Wall" managed to plug in both difficult, frightening songs and a handful of mega hits into its double album narrative. It eventually went on to spawn a feature film, as well.

Recently, the members of the fellow British art rock band Yes staged a tribute to the album. It recruited members from progressive rock bands to re-create note-for-note the studio recording of "The Wall."

The guest list of singers and performers included Tony Levin and Adrian Belew (King Crimson), Geoff Downes and John Wetton (Asia), Steve Lukather and Jeff Porcaro (Toto), Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake and Palmer), Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Tommy Shaw (Styx) and Fee Waybill (The Tubes) among others.

All of the vocalists do a fine job of mimicking the accents and attacks of the original recording, although nobody captures the mania of Roger Waters' original.

So that leaves the question that must be asked of tribute albums. If this new recording doesn't expand or improve on the original, why do it? To achieve the title of "best Pink Floyd cover band in the world?"

While it's interesting to hear Tommy Shaw singing "Vera Lynn," or Yes's Chris Squire singing "Comfortably Numb," it sounds, ultimately, like an echo. "Back Up Against the Wall" is an interesting lark that will likely leave the listener smiling in nostalgia, and then hitting the stop button and reaching for the original Pink Floyd recording of The Wall.

At least, that's what I did.