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Published: 2007/10/26
by Mark Burnell

JamCam Chronicles: Jam Cruise 5


The latest in the JamCamDVD series contains no real surprises but has a veritable bumper crop of music to offer. The “second season” of this series is of a much higher level of technical quality than the first season, and while the discs have always contained a lot of really good music, these days they’re much easier on the eyes as well. And with over three hours of music on the first disc alone (there’s also a bonus disc with another two hours of performances and side features), this might well be the best edition yet.

I’ll get my one criticism out of the way first: the non musical segments are more plentiful and lengthier than ever— the “meet the crew” piece seems to go on forever, and these segments serve as de facto ad spots for Jam Cruise. Perhaps that’s the price the producers paid for the access to Jam Cruise in the first place, and for the music on display here, that’s a small price to pay. There’s one long song apiece from 17 bands on the main disc and more on the bonus disc, making this release a pretty damned good value.

All the music here is good stuff, but for the most part, it’s the funkier bands that really shine, properly matching the tropical route of the boat. Deep Banana Blackout drive the crowd crazy with “Breakfast at Volo’s” and make me wonder why they never made it bigger than they did (while the cynic in my head suggests it might be because they sang the words “deep,” “banana,” and “blackout” about 20 times in every song). Dirty Dozen Brass Band with George Porter Jr. play some very traditional NOLA music and have the fans lapping it up, while the New Mastersounds just might be the funkiest band on this ship, even though they apparently only draw a crowd of about 30 people on the outside deck. On the jamband side, Railroad Earth shine on a long, ferocious version of “Warhead Boogie,” and just-for-the-cruise supergroup The Sounds of San Francisco (consisting of members of ALO, Hot Buttered Rum, Tea Leaf Green, and more) dazzle on a terrific and slightly folksy “Turn on Your Lovelight.” Of course, the renowned collaborative nature of Jam Cruise is ably on display with a pair of unreleased Jeff Austin/Brendan Bayliss creations and a searing sit in with Galactic from Robert Walter.

The bonus disc contains 90 minutes of (mostly musical) footage deemed “technically not good enough” for the main disc, which translates to “sounds great but looks a little dark.” Thank goodness the extended footage of The Sounds of San Francisco has seen the light of day because to see these dozen or more musicians paying tribute to Jerry and nailing it in their own, unconventional way would have put a smile on the fat man’s face, methinks.

This series has proved itself over time to be simply the most accurate reflection of all that’s exciting in the jamband scene. With the advent of greater technology, this latest release only ups the ante. Long may the run of JamCam DVDs continue.

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