Jul 31, 2012

1971: Hooteroll Review

Howard Wales & Jerry Garcia
Douglas 5

I just found out last Friday that Jerry Garcia buys his comics from the same little shop in Mill Valley that I purchase mine at. As I was searching through some old Marvels, looking for a few that I'd missed last summer, John (the cat that runs Village Music) strolled in and lazily noted that he's been selling more comics than records lately (which didn't overly surprise me) and then off-the-cuffly remarked that he'd just sold ninety dollars worth of old EC's to Jerry Garcia a couple of days ago. Which did surprise me.
So where is Garcia getting all the bread from (for ninety bucks you get six or seven EC's)? From all that he's been doing lately. The recent New Riders of the Purple Sage disc didn't count for much; it seemed to me to suffer from a musical lifelessness and from John Dawson's mostly uninspired vocals - Garcia plays some pedal-steel and banjo on this one. Maybe next time they should be recorded live. However, Garcia's also-recent outing with keyboard man Howard Wales is an unqualified success.
Wales has been around for a while - I believe he was the original piano-player for Commander Cody, but I could be wrong - and it really matters little as far as this record goes. With more-than-able assistance from Garcia, a couple of drummers, Ken Balzall's trumpet with Martin Fierro's saxophone (another fellow who has also been around a while), Wales delivers one of the most expert and exciting rock cum folk cum jazz albums of the year.
Pass over BS&T, the Nice and Emerson Lake & Palmer, and steer toward the instrumental magic of Hooteroll - to my jaded ears it is packed with all the streamlined rigor and abandon that all those old Robbie Basho and John Fahey Takoma albums were full of. Whether it's the super-charged intensity of a "South Side Strut" or a "DC-502" or the laying-low, mandala qualities of a "One A.M. Approach" or "Da Bird Song," Wales, Garcia and companions (who is Doris Dynamite?) prove that there definitely is something worth listening to before the just-around-the-corner massive Christmas releases are upon us once more. "A Trip To What Next," and the elusive "Up From the Desert" are also rewarding - "A Trip" particularly demonstrates the volatile rock organ prowess of Mr. Wales.
Back to the comics. There are probably a hell of a lot more EC's that Jerry would like to have - how about a Volume Two of Wales' compositions, entitled Jazzerock or whatever, to pay for them.

(by Gary von Tersch, from Rolling Stone, November 11 1971)


  1. Hooteroll was released in September 1971 - the same month as the Dead's live album.

    The recording dates for Hooteroll are a subject of intense interest on some blogs:

    We have several indications (including a statement from Garcia) that they'd finished recording in late 1970, but Blair Jackson has found studio sessions stretching into summer '71. (For mixing/overdubs?)
    So it's a murky, protracted tale - fitting for a story with characters like the elusive Wales and the shady Doris Dynamite...

    There's even a mystery in the song titles. I don't have the original LP, but while many sources list "Da Birg Song," others (like this review) name it "Da Bird Song." When did this confusion start?

    Tellingly, the reviewer doesn't know there is also a solo Garcia album soon to be released (with a real "Bird Song" on it).

  2. Looking for Doris Dynamite. Mom was friendly with her in the 70s. Would like to reconnect them.