Heads & Tails: A New Live LP Series Coming November 3rd

The short version, if you just want to text somebody the good news, is that there’s going to be a new archival Jerry Garcia LP series on Round Records called Heads & Tails, designed to showcase exciting, unheard performances that each fit onto the single side of a record, paired with evocative and detailed album art that’s fun to swim inside. The series launches November 3rd, ready for advance ordering now from Garcia Family Provisions. Yes, it will be streaming, too. The longer version is that the new Heads & Tails series is the fun solution to a pair of very LP-sized (and Garcia-shaped) problems.

The late guitarist once spoke of developing a “record consciousness,” the skill set required to create music that could be communicated through a recording studio, pressed onto LP, and sold in stores. For Garcia and his many performing groups, it’s safe to say that stepping onto stage most nights of the week represented the absolute opposite of “record consciousness.”

Though Garcia oversaw his share of live albums, carefully picking the best takes from a number of shows, the idea of performing music that fit comfortably onto LP sides was usually pretty far from a concern. So now, some decades later, when listening to high-fidelity live shows on LP has become a new-fangled old-time pleasure, they don’t always add up how anybody might prefer. Jams spill over, timings don’t come out, and eventually you’re getting up from your beanbag every 10 minutes to flip the record. That’s the first problem.

The second problem comes from the bad surprises that sometimes accompany the thrilling surprises inside decades-old old tape boxes and prevent recordings from receiving a complete release on their own. Maybe there’s a reel flip that ruins a good jam or misses a song, a weird balance that knocks out part of a set from contention, or bad cuts at the head or tail of the tape, and there’s only a little bit of a show that’s deemed suitable for release. Hence, Heads & Tails built for those magical windows when record consciousness manifested for magical 18-to-22-minute stretches of well-caught tape.

The double A-sided single was a phenomenon that began in the late 1940s courtesy of Paul Williams (the R&B saxophonist, not the pop singer or rock writer) and Heads and Tails brings it into the new LP era. All sides are equal, just the jams, with the art designed to be completely flippable, too. Turn it backwards (and upside down) and it’s got a whole new cover.

The first dispatch comes on cloudy blue vinyl with art by Madalyn Stefanak, bringing music from 1988 and 1972 (or is that 1972 and 1988?). From January 19th, 1972 in San Anselmo comes a side-long “Save Mother Earth” with Merl Saunders and the original band that grew out of weekly jams at the Matrix, featuring guest Paul Butterfield on harmonica. And from February 5th, 1988 in Santa Rosa comes the classic Jerry Garcia Band lineup, laying into their jam standard “Don’t Let Go” and a version of “Think.” They’re two very different eras in Garcia’s music, slivers of accidental record consciousness connected in spirit and now by side-flip, as well, on a turntable near you.