The Grateful Dead have never made a habit of disturbing, much less challenging, their audience. So if their Jerry Garcia, working solo, refuses to budge from slumberland on "Run for the Roses," who's to complain?
Maybe it's just as well that he clings to his endearingly sleepy vocals: The one time he tries to exert himself on this album, during Clyde McPhatter's emotional choker "Without Love," the results are laughable. Garcia can capture the gentle way of an Elizabeth Cotten blues, but he's inept at this sort of brassy Memphis gut-grabber: B.B. King he ain't.
Still, Garcia is elsewhere surrounded by typically vague Robert Hunter lyrics ("You've got the do-re, I've got the me," he sings on the title track) as well as a couple of nice and lazy cover versions: John Kahn's pop-funk arrangement of McCartney and Lennon's "I Saw Her Standing There"; and a Clapton-cum-reggae treatment of Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door." There are enough extended guitar passages to keep Deadheads satisfied while leaving just about anyone else wondering what the lack of excitement on this album is all about. ON RECORD, ON STAGE THE ALBUM JERRY GARCIA BAND -- Run for the Roses (Arista AL9603). THE CONCERT JERRY GARCIA BAND, Saturday at 8 at Ritchie Coliseum, University of Maryland.