With Seeds, Surfdog Records reissues the first three studio albums by San Francisco jam band Tea Leaf Green, discs the group self-released during the first half of the 2000s. The self-titled debut album is a song-based collection dominated by singer/keyboard player Trevor Garrod, who sings in his light tenor of his love of the Bay Area and California in general, as well as making many references to the ingestion of intoxicants. This is party music, in other words, but the style, an eclectic mixture of '70s influences, is expressed in relatively tame and tentative playing. One noticeable antecedent is Spirit, and Garrod in particular has some of the jazz-rock fusion style of that band's keyboard player John Locke. There always seems to be a tension in the studio albums by a jam band between the playing of actual compositions and just playing, and on Tea Leaf Green's second album, Midnight on the Reservoir, the jamming wins out. The first three tracks, "Reservoir," "Sex in the '70s," and "Panspermic De-Evolution," last more than 24 minutes between them, and the last two are practically instrumentals, their lyrics consisting of little more than the titles chanted a few times. The band's proclaimed love of '70s music comes out in the playing, and such expected influences as the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Band are apparent. But Tea Leaf Green love a lot of '70s music, and here Garrod recalls not so much Locke as Joe Zawinul and Chick Corea when he's being jazzy and, when he and the band are moving in more of a pop
ock direction, Deodato and Edgar Winter. After they get through stretching out at the start of the disc, the players let Garrod contribute some real songs, and he takes things toward country-pop in numbers like "Moonshine" and "Papa's in the Backroom" that recall what Deadheads used to like to refer to as the Grateful Dead's "cowboy" mini-set of Bob Weir-sung songs such as "Me and My Uncle" and "Mama Tried." Sticking to the Dead influence, the album ends with the spacy instrumental "Sleepwalker." After Midnight on the Reservoir, Tea Leaf Green inevitably released their first live album, Friday June 6, 2003: Live at Slim's, San Francisco CA, which may have allowed them to get some more jamming out of their system, since the third studio album, Living in Between, which followed less than five months later, is again more of a song-based collection, albeit one that sounds far more confident than Tea Leaf Green. Seeds thus demonstrates the group's growth and development in its early years, providing later fans with a sense of where its more accomplished later music came from.