Home FAQ Links About Me Message Board Contact Me Home Image Map

The Band Song Reviews


Music From Big Pink (1968)

Read the full review:
Music From Big Pink

Tears of Rage A

This is a very beautiful song, and also a good example of this group's style. It takes a long while to get into, but once you do I think you'll find that they fit like a good pair of shoes. This is a lengthy and long-drawn-out number with a very thick and glorious atmosphere. We have a huge, pure organ playing in the background, a boorish bass thumping in big deep big globs. A harmonium manages to give it a somewhat nostalgic feel. All of this and a soulful performance makes this quite an enriching experience. This was a collaboration between Bob Dylan and Richard Manuel ... of course the songwriting is prime Dylan quality, and this musical group were of course some of the best professionals in the business.

To Kingdom Come B

This song is OK though not even remotely as endearing as the previous. The melody seems a little bit more forced. The drum is a little more pounding so I guess you can say this was a bit more upbeat. But really, this is another sluggish song ... though a good one. Members of this group trade off vocal duties in an almost conversational style, and that had an interesting effect! They give us a wonderful, melodic electric guitar solo in the final third.

In a Station A-

Ah, here's some great songwriting and Bob Dylan didn't help! They open this with a twinkly passage that sounds vaguely like classical music. What ensues is another rich song with some tremendously beautiful moments. The melody is sweet, and they choose some damn wonderful chords! A complaint I have is just that it seems to run out of steam toward the end... it gets a bit too predictable as opposed to the stellar beginning.

Caledonia Mission B

Here's a bluesy song that gives these guys another excuse to show off their instrumental chops. Despite the professionalism of this, this really isn't one of the more compelling songs. Of course that just means that it's very good! What gets me most of all is the instrumentation ... everything is perfect. There's a funny groaning singing noise in the middle of this that was an interesting touch ... it accentuated the harmonies.

The Weight A+

A lot of justice was done to this song over the years, and a lot of authoritative rags call it one of the best rock songs ever written. I'm willing to go along with that! However, according to some of the characters in High Fidelity, it looses cool points for having been featured in The Big Chill. I'm willing to go along with that, too! But don't let a dumb movie ruin the music for you. This is something that you're likely to listen to, and it'll grab your ear for the entire ride. Even if you think these guys are boring, chances are you're going to like that one. If you don't, then you probably suck. Style-wise, this isn't fundamentally different from these other songs ... it has a melody that resonates better. It's a mid-tempo song, of course with organic instrumentation. The drums sound really great pounding at just the right times. Geez, these guys were top-notch musicians.

We Can Talk A-

The melody is a bit blander, but the instrumentation and some inventiveness saved us from a potentially boring experience. It starts with an organ riff and some piano joining in the fun. A bouncing bass guitar comes in at just the right time to give it some body. This isn't their most compelling melodic feat, but it's certainly listenable. Just when things are starting to seem too repetitive, they completely change the pace into something more lighthearted and swinging. It's a bit sudden, but I like it ... the transitions worked well.

Long Black Veil B+

Definitely not one of the album's best melodies ... the non-chorus sounds like a regular, generic folk song. But listen to this instrumentation! That blaring tuba we can barely hear in the background was an extremely simple idea, but that's the sort of thing that makes a potentially bland song stick out. ... It's kind of silly just pointing out one instrument that's only playing one note ... Well, the other guys are in top form as well!

Chest Fever A

A brilliant organ solo that seems to reference Bach's iconic “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” opens this ... In fact, this is so awesome that this is absolutely required listen for anyone who's thinking about becoming a rock 'n' roll keyboardist. That organ sounds so evil!! It's kind of interesting, because I think the moments that don't feature the organ tend to drag a little bit. Although I still like it, and I couldn't bear to give anything with such an organ in it less than an A. We have some lighthearted piano piddling around, and they sing what's probably one of the album's better vocal melodies. (This is an interesting album, though ... I don't care as much about the vocal melodies as I do about hearing what the instrumentals are doing.) There's a little bit in the middle when they stop everything and they do a brief, lazy New Orleans jazz thing. It's probably the most Americana thing on here, though it seemed rather unnecessary.

Lonesome Suzie B

This is a solid case for the prosecution for those who think The Band are boring. It's a sluggish ballad without an incredible amount of interest in the melody. The instrumentation is very good, as it is the standard, but it doesn't do anything special that we haven't heard plenty of times. Of course, it's a rich experience and these guys' fans have good reason to love this song, too.

This Wheel's on Fire A

It's the Ab-Fab theme song! This has always been one of my favorite songs from the album, though I've long suspected that was only because I'm such a fan of BBC comedies. But apart from that, I think this track has one of the most distinctive and catchiest melodies on the album as well as spritey instrumentation that tends to make it stand out. It starts out with a bubbly celesta sound, which plays a few interesting bits throughout. ... No real surprise, this was another Bob Dylan collaboration, which would explain why it's so catchy.

I Shall Be Released A+

A gorgeous song, and I don't think anyone would have wanted them to end the album with anything else. This one was written exclusively by Bob Dylan, and it's more proof that he was one of the finest songwriters in rock. It moves along slowly, and there's a light synthesizer sound playing in the background. (If that's not a synthesizer then they must've done something weird to that organ.) The melody is beautiful and the atmosphere is one of the most arresting bits of the whole album. Bravo!

BONUS TRACKS:

Yazoo Street Blues B+

Nothing special melodically... It's just the generic blues thing. But everyone who loves to hear what they can do with their instruments should hear this the first chance they get. That bass guitar sounds like it's bubbling ooze! This is much sloppier than anything from the regular, and that might be the reason that it's so fun. (I could see why some fans wouldn't like this ... relatively speaking, it sounds like a knock-off.)

Tears of Rage

Another take of the song. It's nice that they include these for the die-hard fans ... and you'd have to be one to comment on what makes this different from the original version. I'm a fan, but not enough of one, apparently!

Katie's Gone A-

Ah, now here's what makes listening to these bonus tracks particularly satisfying. Something that could have appeared in the regular album and shined with the rest of them. I don't like how that organ is mixed, so I'm left to assume that they lost faith in it ... or it just didn't make the cut. Who knows why ... it's a really beautiful song.

If I Lose B

Something that probably couldn't have appeared in the album. It's done in a hillbilly folk style that gives a lot of credence to their Americana label! ...Well, this is overly Americana anyway. Sometimes I hate listening to such music, but not when it's played so well. The piano is uncharacteristically twinkly (an inspired decision), and this generic melody seems very fresh. That drum sounds dull though...

Long Distance Operator B+

This is a more straight blues-song that I'd call semi-generic. Yeah, this is a Dylan song, but I guess not everything he wrote was an instant masterpiece! There is something interesting in that riff, though ... these guys could be so inventive that everything they did seemed so fresh. The drummer really redeems himself here ... all those fills he comes up with is amazing!

Lonesome Suzie

This is OK. We heard a different version of it in the regular album. The instrumentation is a little more sparse and the tempo is quicker. We also hear a sax more clearly.

Orange Juice Blues C+

Here's another generic blues song. The only instrumental accompaniment is a piano, which makes me think this was just the product of some guy who was warming up a bit before they started recording their material. (Although it was actually written by Richard Manuel ... and it probably took him an hour.) Well, it's not bad. There's no use in criticizing it, since it was graciously included as a bonus track.

Key to the Highway B-

Wow, these guys sure had a lot of non-album tracks under their belt. This one would have been fine in the album, but I think it might have dragged it down a bit. The melody is fine, but nothing remarkable ... and so is the instrumentation. I'm sure they would have polished it more on the album!

Ferdinand the Imposter C

This sounds tinny ... I don't know where this song came from. The melody isn't very good, but I like elements of the chord progression. They keyboards sound a little like it came from a carnival. I suppose fans might enjoy this ... but this sounds almost dismal to me. I'm sorry.


The Band (1969)

Read the full review:
The Band

Across the Great Divide A

One thing this album has immediately over Music From Big Pink is they open it with a little swing. It's about as admirable from the work in that album, plus it's a lot of fun. OK, it might not be a Dylan composition, but it's just as good. The melody is snappy and memorable, and it proves they did have some real melodic prowess after all. The instrumentation is lovely as always, though perhaps more simple than most of the stuff we heard earlier.... Eh, they didn't need anything more. It features a bouncy bass-line, danceable drums and a swinging horn section. It's quite good --- I think you'll like it.

Rag Mama Rag A+

This song not only has swing, but it has all that Americana that provides their reputation. I said that I didn't care the instrumentation was somewhat sparse in the previous track ... But after listening to this, maybe there was something missing after all. This song starts out with some life-worn fiddles to get us ready for this modern “hoe-down.” After that a conglomeration of ragtimey pianos, skiffley banjos, hopping electric bass and (my personal favorite touch) a bouncy tuba! This is so good that I'd wager it'd even appeal to people who claim to hate this sort of thing.

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down A+

The Muppet-voiced singer used to bother me a lot, but I don't mind so much anymore. This is one of their more well-known songs, and that's for very good reason. The melody is just about the richest they've ever composed... It sounds like country-western music, but better ... and I also like what they sing about in the lyrics. When I talk about how innovative these guys were with their arrangements, I mean you're going to have to get a load of that harmonica chorus they bring up a few times in the background. It's those seemingly simple things that win me over.

When You Awake A

Holy cotton piles. They hit another home run! I love reviewing albums like this, where every song is a great one. I almost considered lowering this rating, because it has a minor tendency to run out of steam at the end (a fact they apparently found out since they rather lazily faded it out at the end). But no. This is yet another rich song with a melody and atmosphere so good that it's impossible to ignore. The icing on the cake this time is the organ piddling in the background, which is terribly inspired.

Up on Cripple Creek A+

I went to Cripple Creek a few years ago, and I told the guys I was with that couldn't get this song out of my head! ... But Cripple Creek was a horrible place, and I had nothing better to do than think of this excellent Band song! As well-known as “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and “The Weight” are, they certainly don't have this one beat. That quasi-funk guitar combined with their signature, earthly sound went together like ethel and merman. Glorious! Plus, the melody is accessible to everyone and borrows the best elements out of country music. This is just about the most wonderful pop song that you can think of.

Whispering Pines A+

If this was a lesser album, I'd probably harbor an internal resentment toward the song that had the gall to follow-up something like “Cripple Creek.” But not here. This is one of the most beautiful ballads I've ever been fortunate enough to listen to. The atmosphere is absolutely something to behold and their harmonies are richer than ever. A thoughtful piano is playing tranquil chords, hypnotic acoustic guitars are being plucked and the organist piddles around ever-so-soothingly in the background. The singing is wonderful, too, matching the tone of the song perfectly. A very therapeutic song if you're feeling depressed. God, I love this.

Jemima Surrender A

This is such a well-programmed album... There's something wonderful about a ragtime number coming right after. This is a bold one, too, featuring some wicked licks from the 'lectric guitar. As you'd expect, we hear some excellent barroom piano in the background, and the melody is catchy as hell and even has a few unexpected turns. This could be the most rock 'n' rolling song of the whole disc, so you'll probably like it.

Rockin' Chair A

Now, they're giving us a laid-back song with a cowpoke melody, a finely strummed mandolin, and some of the prettiest harmonica that I've ever heard. The song is almost worth hearing just for that! ... And this melody is yet another great one from them. I only wish Neil Young could write songs of this amazing consistency.

Look Out Cleveland A-

Hah, here's a song that you might just not be able to take to heart. Of course, it's another excellent one. They seem to be combining '50s rock 'n' roll with their usual Americana sound. The drums and the piano seem a little too busy, and the melody, while hooky, is the least interesting of the album so far.

Jawbone B+

Uh oh. This song honestly doesn't do much for me. The melody is fine, but it never really takes off for me, and it seems like it's about a minute too long. The instrumentation isn't that great except I really like listening to that involved drumming! There's some innovative rhythms going on there. There's some nice electric guitar licks going on in the middle of this that I'm sure you'll like. It's still a good song, but it's not nearly as compelling as some of the others. (Hey, they didn't fade it out, at least ... there's a good ending here.)

The Unfaithful Servant B

Yeah, this is one of those albums that has a phenomenal first half and a weak second half. This song really doesn't do much for me. It's a ballad with an OK melody, but it's too sluggish for my taste. They don't make up for that with a gorgeous atmosphere like they did with “Whispering Pines.” Those horns they bring in do a few nice things here and there. Of course, it's not a bad listen and it deserves every ounce of that B, but it's just not compelling at all. Sad to say.

King Harvest (Has Surely Come) A-

Much better! They bring back some of those funk guitars from “Cripple Creek” and they give us an upbeat rock 'n' roll ditty with plenty of hooks in the melody! This is an unusual song with a very unusual song structure, and it still manages to flow very well. Though it doesn't seem to really take off for me. I think you'll still like it, because it's fun in its own right. Some bits are upbeat and toe tapping ... and you might be compelled to do that, for all I know! Plus there are also some very good guitar licks ... They're minimal, of course, since no one in this band likes to show off.

BONUS TRACKS:

Get Up Jake B

They were wise to have kept this off the regular album, because the melody isn't too hooky. Had they put it on there, it would've been the worst song by far! But it's not a bad song, of course. It has a nice beat and and interesting groove. The vocal melody doesn't seem to especially fit with those instrumetnals.

The Rest of the Bonus Tracks

They give us different takes on “Rag Mama Rag,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” “Up on Cripple Creek,” “Whispering Pines,” “Jemima Surrender,” “King's Harvest (Has Surely Come).” Many of them show them starting up the song, but something happens so they have to start over. These aren't bad to sit through once or twice especially if you're a big fan of the album ... but I doubt you'll do it that much. It's something good for the fans, obviously.


Stage Fright (1970)

Read the full review:
Stage Fright

Strawberry Wine A-

Once the shock is over that they're not even trying to recapture anything they dished out so richly in The Band, I think we can fully enjoy this song. It's a brief, two minute rock song with a rollicking beat, cool running bass-line, some Chuck-Berry-esque electric guitar, and a particularly awesome person noodling around with an accordion. The melody isn't original, of course ... this is the typical blues melody ... but it's enjoyable. That accordion and bass is what keeps this from being a too-ordinary blues song. As I've said a billion times, these guys were some of the finest instrumentalists in the business... a fact that's even evident in these non-classic albums.

Sleeping B

I like this song although it's a bit bland and not too memorable. It starts out as a nice piano ballad with a formidable melody. A drum, an electric guitar come in a few times as the piano gets a bit more upbeat. This is an extremely respectable song, and it's extremely tasteful. Technically, this is wonderful playing, and they really know what they're doing. (Yup... there just went the patronizing comments.)

Time to Kill B+

It's not really any more memorable than the previous one, but this one has a danceable beat and some wonderful barroom piano going off in the background. So else what am I left to do? Their harmonies certainly have been better, and I'm sure if they weren't so generic, this would've been quite a great song. It's excellent as it stands, though. The mix is just right, though, with a running riff going off in the background with a bass to match, and some very excellent drumming. (Up and coming drummers should definitely take special note of this guy.)

Just Another Whistle Stop B-

Not bad... This is another upbeat track without much of an interesting melody, but it's well presented. It's the sort of song I can listen to politely and respect it without ever actually enjoying it. (Wow... how's that for you.) That electric guitar solo at the end is very good ... I guess they were turning themselves into a regular rock band... Not that they didn't have good electric guitars before...

All La Glory C+

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say this song is officially “boring.” I wouldn't call this a necessarily worse written song than the previous one, but it's a ballad so I can't nod my head politely to it. (That's pretty shallow, innit? And that's not all I have!) The melody is very dull, but certain aspects of the instrumentals keep the atmosphere well enough. That piddling accordion in the background is lovely ... and I don't know what weird instrument that's soloing around in the middle. I doubt anyone would have an unpleasant experience listening to this, but it's not too terribly moving.

The Shape I'm In B+

Here's yet another adequate song. This one's pretty likable, though. It features a pounding beat and some violent licks from an electric guitar. The vocals are very nice, especially the chorus, which features a cool, soulful duet. They change the textures every once in awhile, which keeps it fresh-sounding throughout. My only complaint about it comes toward the end, which features a pointless keyboard solo.

The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show A-

Now this is good. A bit of a music hall exercise with a characteristically bouncy piano and some swinging riffs from the electric guitar. The melody was good, though it doesn't do anything I haven't heard before. Who cares about that, though? They do what they do best here --- putting a fresh twist to well-established musical styles. Maybe this is too repetitive (certainly more repetitive than “The Shape I'm In”), but this is a lot more fun. You can hear a nice sax solo here.

Daniel and the Sacred Harp B

That accordion introduction reminds me of a Commodore 64 video game start-up screen. It's a little bit muddled and mechanical. That pretty much sums it up. The subsequent song is yet another likable but ultimately shrug-worthy mid-tempo exercise. Is that being too dismissing of it? I'm sorry. The instrumentation is strange enough to be notable. Not only is there a Commodore-64-style accordion, but we have a complex drum beat that gives it texture. There's some hoe-down style violins playing in the middle that's sounding neither flashy nor subtle. And some slide guitar in the background also sounds excellent. They are able to impressively change around the textures in ways that few other bands have mastered. Listening to it a few times, I appreciate it more and more ... but I can't ever seem to take it to heart.

Stage Fright C+

A lot blander than usual, which is surprising since I would probably classify this as an upbeat piano-pop song. There is something really empty about their chord progression ... like they just chose boring chords instead of something that might have sounded richer. The melody does little for me. As usual, the instrumentals are bright and bold enough to make it worthwhile. I like listening to that piano as it starts off ... which makes me think it's going to turn into an epic, or something. The organ noodling around in the background is good (especially that distorted scaling thing it does at the end), and those drums are excellent. I can't say the subsequent song actually disappoints me everything flows well here and sounds intentional. Maybe that's one of the problems.

The Rumor C+

This one is so lackluster that I can't think of anything to say about it. Or maybe that's just because I'm lazy. Well, I listened to it a number of times, and it just offers me nothing special that I haven't been hearing all throughout this disc. There's some really nice electric guitar noodling this time, and this really funny wavy sound deep in the background. These are things you can appreciate if the overall song isn't boring enough to divert your attention to other things ... which is what usually happens when I listen to songs that are sorta dull. Respectably dull. This is certainly a lackluster closer.

BONUS TRACKS:

Daniel and the Sacred Harp (alternate take)

If you're interested, here is another version of the most exciting song on the planet.

Time to Kill (Glyn Johns mix)

I was thinking Glyn Johns was the woman who played Winifred Bank from Marry Poppins. But no. That was Glynnis Johns. Maybe it was her fraternal twin brother? He liked to hang out in recording studios and remixing songs. Not too bad. You can hear the drum a little better.

W.S. Walcott Medicine Show (Todd Rundgren mix)

Now it's clear this “Todd Rundgren” guy is going nowhere in the field of song production! (........oh Todd, you know I'm kidding........ right?)

Radio Commercial

Here's an advertisement for an album that you just bought. It's our way of saying “thank you.”


Cahoots (1971)

Read the full review:
Cahoots

Life is a Carnival A-

This is much funkier-sounding than even “On Cripple Creek.” It even comes with a horn-led groove and these deep, funky, wobbly guitars. Though there's something that separates it from a genuine funk song. The groove is perhaps too robotic and well-oiled. That makes it more unique than detracts from it, though.

When I Paint My Masterpiece B+

A country-western song with a European accordion. Only these guys could pull off something like that this well! I would have liked this more if the melody was more interesting or if the vocal delivery was changed a bit. (The Muppet-singer takes the vocals. Eh.) However, this is a pleasant experience even if it's not incredibly inspired.

Last of the Blacksmiths B-

Yikes! This is a big old clunky thing if there ever was one. They took care to instrument this well except for the drummer who doesn't sound nearly as involved as he used to. Neither the melody nor the chord progressions were interesting at all, and there's very little life in this. I give them points for the overall professionalism and that awesomely squeaky saxophone solo in the middle.

Where Do We Go From Here? C+

Similarly to the previous song, the instrumentation is far better than the melody and the harmonies. It sounds an awful lot like they were going for the same sort of style from The Band, but they just aren't connected with that “vibe” they used to be. It's well played and easy to listen to, but it's just not as substantive as it might have been. (That sudden ending was an idea that worked better than I would have expected.)

4% Pantomime C-

Surprisingly, this is sloppy, which isn't anything I would have expected to hear from them. They brought in Van Morrison for this, and I guess the two factions' style didn't mix. I like some of the evolving textures and some of the “pop” mentality (undoubtedly Morrison's contributions), but it's a real mess. The melody does nothing for me.

Shoot Out in China Town B

Much better and cleaner. I even like the melody! That drum is playing as minimalist as possible, but that lends to the simplistic structure of this. Those guitar-led instrumental passages have a vague Eastern feel to them, which was a clever idea to match the song title. Bringing in those violins for the chorus was also excellent.

The Moon Struck One C+

A clunky old ballad. This is one example of where their instrumental horse sense leaves a little bit to be desired. It's very busy but not powerful enough. I like that flute synthesizer they have, but it rambles along with the usual piano and guitars. The texture it makes is more messy than appealing. And that drum doesn't help, moving along at a plodding pace. I mean, it's not bad, and I think the melody was pretty good.

Thinkin' Out Loud B-

I should mention that I'm not displeased with any of this album, but it's lacking total inspiration. I listen to this song, and the only thing I find myself paying attention to is that barroom piano. I should be paying more attention to the singing while letting that piano dazzle me semi-consciously. While the melody is fine for a country-western song, it's not that interesting.

Smoke Signal B

This sounds more like they were shooting for a radio hit, and they did turn out something appealing. They have a guitar/piano riff that's rather stiff but it's nonetheless memorable. That barroom piano is back as well as an electric guitar that plays the usual stuff. I like the song; I just wish it was more inspired.

Volcano A-

Much better than almost everything here. The atmosphere interests me so much that this is probably the closest thing they get to matching anything from their classic works. It's thick! The instrumentation might not be too exciting, but it's all very smartly played, which is what we've always come to expect from them! Bonus points for that juicy saxophone in the middle.

The River Hymn B+

Excellent! Why can't they write songs more like this? The melody might not be snappy and catchy, but it has plenty of charm. That chorus with that choir they bring in was an especially good idea, and it gives the song an extra boost atmosphere-wise. This song isn't that well put-together and by the end I become a bit disinterested in it. But I like its organic feel, overall.

BONUS TRACKS:

Endless Highway B

I like this song! It's an upbeat, ragtimey piano number. The melody is well-written though not particularly memorable. Another example where I tend to focus my attention on the piano, but ... well, that's a great piano.

When I Paint My Masterpiece (alternate take)

...Yup, this is an alternate take. It's a good one for fans, I guess, but average people won't care to study it.

Bessie Smith A-

Oooo, take a moment to listen to this if you have the version with bonus tracks. It's not an especially great composition, and the instrumentation even seems a little bit muddled. (It seems more of a sound quality issue than anything else.) We have two singers, one with a squeaky tenor's voice and another with a more snarling texture singing the same notes at the same time, which was a neat idea. That organ is going completely nuts, too, especially in the middle of it. Very cool.

Don't Do It B-

Not that interesting this time. This is more of a regular riff-rock thing with ties to R&B. That riff is too unconventional for real Motown stuff, but that's one of its best qualities! That clean drum sounds really great here. (Like the previous song, this is an “outtake” so it's muddled sounding.)

Radio Commercial

Yup... another advertisement for an album that you already bought. Er......... Is there anyone in the world who wants these? I mean, it doesn't hurt, but ...... does anyone want these?


Rock of Ages (1972)

Read the full review:
Rock of Ages

Intro

A lot of applause and talking about bringing out some cool horns, which we promptly hear warming up.

Don't Do It B

Band fans without the bonus track'd version of Cahoots would appreciate the addition of this song! Well, it's not bad. The melody is mediocre, but they sure know how to deliver that groove! They play live just like they do in the studio: nobody's aiming to show off. We can hear those horns blaring away unpretentiously. A relentlessly cool electric guitar solo that pops up twice made me up the rating a notch.

King Harvest (Has Surely Come) A

Wow! A considerable improvement over the studio version, which I felt was a bit stiff. They liven it up nicely here with some looser and less “conventional” instrumentals. The horn is being completely awesome playing parts that I wish to god was present in the original. That organ sounds is given a wobbly texture, which also helps improve the sound. They keep the original song's innovative rhythm-changes completely intact. The pace is smoother, and everything sounds more deliberate. Alas, they rehearsed!

Caledonia Mission B

A rather non-riveting song with certain charming aspects in the instrumentation, which makes it a nonetheless enjoyable experience. The horns continue to do nice things, but the melody is just mediocre. (The original is easily one of the weakest parts.) We can hear the audience shouting out requests at the end ... dorks!

Get Up Jake B

Another song I didn't particularly care for. The sound is less crispy than the original version (found on the bonus tracks of The Band), but I don't have a preference for either version. Another song I can politely sit through without really getting engaged. (That said, that organ going off in all directions is quite cool.)

W.S. Walcott Medicine Show A-

Yay! This music hall track is one of the most enjoyable moments on Stage Fright, and none of that charisma was lost in this live version. The melody is catchy and the pace is snappy ... just how I like it! Putting forth an especially good showing are those horns that pepper it up. I like the sax solo better here, too. Awesome.

Stage Fright B

God bless the organ! All that inspired noodling throughout this track's entirety does nothing but improve the original song, which struck me as boring. I still find the melodic and harmonic qualities of it dull and the mid-tempo pace doesn't help matters. But the important thing is they've greatly improved the textures, which makes it much more fun to sit through this time.

Night They Drove Old Dixie Down A

I'm just going to throw it out there. I like the original version better. I usually love those trumpets, but they don't really sound so needed here. The vocal performance is less Muppet-like and more passionate, but I liked the original, more simple approach. It's a great song, don't get me wrong, and this version continues to be very bracing. Easily one of their greatest compositions and most beautiful, enduring melodies. (Geez... hearing this puts some of their less inspired melodies into perspective.)

Across the Great Divide A

Another redux song from their self-titled masterpiece. There is a more melodramatic approach to the opening, and they slow down the pace a bit for the subsequence song. The horns also sound not-that-needed, but I don't object to their presence. Despite it sounding more sluggish, “groove” is as addictive as ever.

This Wheels on Fire A-

The Ab Fab theme song! (I guess I don't need to bring up that every time I review this song ... but that's an inevitable happening, I guess.) I miss that sitar instrument, but they make up for that by having a noodly organ going off all over the place, and an added electric guitar solo. It was a solid composition to begin with. I don't find this as endearing as the original. It must have something to do with the missing sitar?

Rag Mama Rag A+

Holy catepillars... LISTEN TO THE BEGINNING! Have you heard anything with such a texture? It's so busy but everything is working perfectly with each other. That violin going off like a steaming kettle was really awesome there. The problem with increasing the instrumentals of an already-elaborate song is you run the risk of muddling the album up too much ... but everything they do works perfectly. Even that nutty piano solo they choose to end it with. I would have thought it would have been impossible to actually improve the original, but holy cow, this is an improvement! This is like a great painting!

The Weight A

Great song! I don't find it quite as endearing as the perfect original, but this much looser mode adopted here serves its purpose. It's laid-back, of course, (Annie must've taken a load off!) and we get to hear some instrumentalists noodling around where they couldn't originally. It's a respectable retread into one of their most classic tunes!

The Shape I'm In B+

I liked the original for sounding bouncy! This version is not only bouncy, but it's bubbly! I love soaking in that texture for awhile, but the songwriting isn't otherwise too terribly interesting. The melody has its strong points, but it's not that memorable. And despite the cool texture, it wouldn't have been against the law for them to change it from time to time. Thankfully, these mightily inspired instrumentalists think of tons of complicated things to give it spice!

Unfaithful Servant A-

Easily the most boring song from The Band, but I still think it's an excellent song! (Something slipped through the cracks and I only gave the studio version a B when it's clearly better than other Band songs I awarded the same and higher ratings.) Well, this is an endearing ballad with a catchy and likable melody. The trumpets do good here, helping lend the song a more sentimental atmosphere. This makes it a definite improvement over the original ... although that vocal performance was a bit over-the-top in spots.

Life is a Carnival A-

Definitely different sounding than the original, which seemed more like a weirdo, detached nerd-version of a funk song. This sounds more like a solid, normal song with busier and more flooded instrumentals. We're also missing that hand clap! The trumpets are still blaring away wonderfully while the other instruments are generally playing the same sort of thing ... except for the keyboards, which are noodling around in a non-funk fashion. I don't necessarily think this is a worse version, but my preference is to the cleaner and more intrinsically cool original.

The Genetic Method A-

I haven't heard this song before! It's a noodly organ solo from keyboardist Garth Hudson that goes on for seven whole minutes. I can't imagine the organ sounding any drunker and I also can't imagine actually being more entertained by an organ solo than I am now. Keyboard fans especially got to get a load of this whole thing and worship its every breath. Sure, it drags a bit in spots, but for the most part it's interesting and utterly insane. (He starts playing “Auld Lang Syne” in the middle, which gets a response from the audience ... yeah, it was almost New Years.) This could have been trimmed a bit (especially the last few minutes) but all things considered this is one of the coolest keyboard solos ever in the world.

Chest Fever A

We don't get the same Bach-inspired organ introduction, and I guess that whole previous track was meant in lieu of that! (Well at the same time, I think some of us might have been organ'd-out!) Of course, the rest of this excellent song is completely intact with a few new textures thrown around for good measure. The beginning is more upbeat and danceable, but they slow things down a bit. The horns are playing the memorable riff instead of the organ, but the fact that the organist is piddling around wildly throughout makes up for it.

(I Don't Want To) Hang Up My Rock and Roll Shoes B+

The last song of the first disc! (...You mean there's still more to hear? ... Fortuntately I have enough caffeine to last me through the night.) This is a fairly straightforward R&B song with some non-straightforward improvisations from the usual characters. This is quite a spicy and rollicking interpretation! I haven't heard the original, though.

BONUS TRACKS:

Loving You is Sweeter Than Ever B

This entire second disc contains of bonus tracks. This is a cover of a Stevie Wonder co-composition with fellow Motown songwriter Ivy Jo Hunter. It might seem out of place for The Band to perform such a song! Well, it's not great, but it's not poor either. The instrumentation isn't nearly as involved as it was in previous tracks for some reason. I'm guessing this was less rehearsed than the others... but that's OK. I like the melody, and the vocalists do their best to deliver a soulful vocal performance.

I Shall Be Released A-

This was curiously untouched on the original album, and I wonder why covering this was omitted? Ah, I guess they didn't just want to make a “greatest hits live” album, and that's noble. The melody is as beautiful as ever, but that strained lead vocal performance is a tiny bit distracting. I also don't find this quite as arresting as the original ... but it's still a great song.

Up on Cripple Creek A

Their biggest hit of all time, and it wasn't included on the original album!! Well, they're making up for that now I suppose! It was tough to add something to the original, and they don't. It sounds less disciplined and the instrumentalists aren't doing anything too great. Of course the melody is catchy, and it is rather fun hearing more free-spirited takes on the vocal performances.

The Rumor C+

This is not one of the most inspired songs of their repertoire and I'm glad they chose to at least keep this off the original performance! This is a professional and tasteful song, but the melody isn't very notable at all, and the instrumentals are relatively run-of-the-mill.

Rockin' Chair B+

I love this song! One of the many greats from The Band with an endearing melody and sweet instrumental performances. But this is considerably inferior to the original, which had a much thicker and more distinguished atmosphere. Still, this is good.

Time to Kill B

A very distinguished live version of a distinguished studio track from Stage Fright. I can't say much more interesting about it other than it's very tastefully done, and it's great entertainment for anyone who enjoys this sort of organic rock music.

Down in the Flood A-

Yup, you can hear Bob Dylan sing this along with the following three tracks, and that's cool! It's like a mini-EP featuring Dylan! Of course Dylan's style was much looser and less refined than The Band's style, which explains why they sound less disciplined here. But that does help produce a vibe that can't be described as anything other than pleasing. The melody isn't especially good, but the delivery is nailed! It's based on a usual bluesy sequence.

When I Paint My Masterpiece A-

One of the greatest highlights from Cahoots was this Dylan-penned tune. It's cool to hear Dylan sing it, though. I'll admit to liking the original a little better even though I fear the only reason for that is it's more accessible. Oh... I'm not acting like a *real* rock fan, am I? ... Actually that isn't it. I love Dylan's vocal performances as much as anyone. The instrumentals in original were so finely crafted, which isn't the case with this free-form version. Also, I miss that European-tinged accordion!

Don't Ya Tell Henry B+

I only dare guess how many songs Bob Dylan wrote. Here's one I never heard before ... and can only be heard on The Basement Tapes. Geez... was that guy prolific or what? I suppose this is a relatively obscure song for a reason, but it's a well-written song with the guys turning in some interesting improvisations throughout. It's not mind blowing but entertaining all the same.

Like a Rolling Stone A+

Now this song is not obscure and that's for a very good reason. I was going to say that this was a bit out-of-place here since this song isn't really associated with The Band ... but then I remembered that they used to be Dylan's live backing band! So, it was like revisiting the old days for them, I guess. And what a treat this is! Dylan's giving an upbeat vocal performance, and The Band's loose-edged performances are perfect fits. A cool way to end this massively huge album that I just sat through.


Moondog Matinee (1973)

Read the full review:
Moondog Matinee

Ain't Got No Home B

Gimme them swingin' blues! At least you can expect The Band's instrumental standards to be excellent even though the song itself doesn't interest me a whole lot. They let a horn section provide the beef of its groove, which was an excellent choice. Somebody talks into a sort of voice decoder in the middle of this. Having fun, are we?

Holy Cow A

This is an Allen Toussaint, but it's in The Band's same general style. They treat it just about as well as they did in their previous two studio albums (that's to say, it's a little bit sloppy, but still well-performed). The melody is good, and bringing in those blaring horns for the chorus gives it some body. There's a fun, wobbly guitar solo in the middle! ...This might be an inessential Band album, but this sure is an endearing moment.

Share Your Love With Me B-

This is OK, but ... eh. It's a tasteful ballad with OK instrumentation ... of course, it's looser. I like that unstable synthesizer they use at the beginning. The melody is nice. I'm just not very interested by it. Sorry. It's a bit flat when they should've worked on developing it more fully.

Mystery Train A

The sort of song I can find myself easily getting lost in. It's not even that amazing, judging by the melody, which are fairly generic bluesy pieces. They are playing the funk out of those guitars, though. Holy hell. ...And that's all about this song that I like. Those freakedly fun guitars, which are played so tightly and the textures so intricate that I had to remove my socks as a precaution. They quiet things down in the middle, and someone's playing this really funny sounding instrument in an inspired solo. Do I know what this instrument is? I expect it's a guitar with a funny tone. But I could be wrong. (Have I mentioned that I know next to nothing about rock instruments? I can't see what they're doing, after all.)

The Third Man Theme B-

Hey! What happened to the First Man and the Second Man?? ................... sorry. This is a cover of some music that appeared in the film. I don't know what the purpose of doing this was, because it's not that worthwhile to hear. They at least found time to find a few bouncy instruments! Sort of reminds me of a Zappa instrumental.

The Promised Land A

Really a first-rate cover since I can't imagine the original (by Chuck Berry) sounded anything like this. The rhythm is excellent ... that beat is very rapid and very tight ... and I also like the flat sound of the drums, too. Those guitars are brilliant, too ... they sound almost off-key. The keyboards are doing their usual, weird thing. And getta load of that harmonica! It's going: “Wah, wah, wah!” ......Geez, these guys can be really interesting.

The Great Pretender B-

Not a particularly distinctive track. This mid-tempo track played very straight. The instrumentals are good, but don't do anything that gets me on the edge of my seat. The melody is good, too, but quite forgettable. Nothing that The Band haven't done before -- you'll immediately recognize their style -- and therefore, not anything very special. But for that reason, you'll probably still enjoy it, because The Band's usual style is awesome.

I'm Ready A-

Geez, I really don't want this album to score higher than some of their original albums, but what else can I do when this stuff is just so enjoyable? This is a big compliment to them, anyway, because it's clear they cared enough about the material to give them very good renditions. The drums, guitars, piano and saxophone (in the last half) are all making out madly. I rarely have this much fun listening to these old tunes.

Saved B+

These guys sure know how to have fun! An upbeat gospel song that I'd wager is just about as any more “authentic” version of it that you'd hear. These guys really are making these songs their own. As usual, the instrumentation is fantastic ... They even have a very tight rock jam in the middle. Hard to imagine it happening that well in most cover albums!

A Change is Gonna Come B

A slower-paced number with a good melody and a funny, rubbery synthesizer sound. It's not that exciting or particularly soulful, but this instrumentation makes it quite a unique thing. I like it. It makes an OK closer. I usually want something more exciting or stronger, but this has a conclusive aura about it. ...And it's not really the end unless you programmed the bonus tracks out of it.

BONUS TRACKS:

The bonus tracks contain much more of the same. Shamefully enough, I'm not in much of a mood to write individual track reviews. If you liked the songs in the regular album, then check these out too. For the most part, they picked the right songs to release on the album.


Northern Lights, Southern Cross (1975)

Read the full review:
Northern Lights, Southern Cross

Forbidden Fruit A+

Hey, listen to this! Here's a very lighthearted pop song that's actually very catchy! Anyone who thinks some of The Band's previous material might have been a bit overwhelming, might feel relieved to hear something like this. It's pleasant and even a little bit quirky. One of the main attractions of this, as it is with practically every song by this group, is the instrumentation. They're not trying anything too serious ... they're just playing around. But a lot of this stuff is fancy! Especially that guitarist who is having a field day. Heck, even those keyboards are having a freaking blast. This song lasts six minutes, and they rarely change the groove, but all these crazy instrumentals are wild enough to keep my lucky, lucky ears happy. I usually prefer quirky music to ultra serious ones, anyway. Sometimes there's more feeling in humor. This is easily among the best single songs they've ever done. Don't believe me? Just take a listen.

Hobo Jungle A

After that brilliant opener, The Band show that they're not willing to throw in the towel yet. Here is a very warm and tuneful ballad. The instrumentals aren't the highlight for this one --- it's the melody. And they make it a beautiful one! You'll probably be humming it by the time it's over. Of course, the instrumentals continue to be very playful. They're laid back, but there's plenty of complicated stuff for your ears to hold onto throughout the course of this song. I want to single out the accordion for making the song sound more homely.

Ophelia A-

A very upbeat and happy song. It seems a little more inconsequential than the two that preceded it and perhaps a little less imaginative with the harmonies. (This sounds a lot like “The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show.”) But it's very enjoyable and comes with a snappy beat. Some great horn arrangements come in and totally steal this show.

Acadian Driftwood A

This distinctive sound is an immediate reminder of the Americana sounds of The Band. Considering how great the melody is, it wouldn't be off-base to say this would have found a comfortable home on that album. (OK, the whistle synthesizers wouldn't have been there, but everything else is on-base.) The melody is sweet and, again, represents some of this group's finest work. Geez... here's yet another Band song that you can take to heart. Listening to this, I have to reiterate that these guys are absolutely masters of textures... Those accordions, guitars and violins combine to create this exotic and delicate fabric, and every thread is in its right place. This sort of group instrumental work is probably impossible for anyone else to replicate. My only complaint is that, even though the instrumentals keep me engaged, that seven-minute running time was a bit too much...

Ring Your Bell B+

This is about where the album stops being so captivating. Although it continues to be listenable. This is an upbeat, “groovy” song that's not so out-of-place for the pre-disco era. The guitars are very snappy and danceable. A weird trumpet synthesizer is a quirky addition to the texture!

Rags and Bones B+

Upbeat and happy. Plus, I used to *really* like this song, apparently. (I don't have much of a pulse of how my brain worked three years ago, oddly enough.) The melody is well-written although I have a general complaint that it's not that catchy and repeats itself too much. They're really enjoying those synthesizers! Sure, it's still a distinctive Band song and not anything remotely near a “synthesizer song.” Just that the organ and piano from the earlier albums were replaced with synthesizers. ...It wasn't a bad idea, actually. The rest of the instrumentation is business as usual. A lightly chugging drum-line, and an electric guitar that sometimes goes wayward provides the bulk of the instrumentation.

It Makes No Difference B+

Again, they're not trying to be anything other than pleasant. Nothing too groundbreaking about this, but this sweeping ballad has a nice melody and lovely instrumental playing. The instrumentals can even be considered very straitlaced ... especially that sax solo, which starts to sound like “bedroom soul” for a while. The guitar is far from being generic, but it's likewise rather soothing.

Jupiter Hollow A-

That quasi-funk groove reminds me of “Up On Cripple Creek,” but the comparisons end there. This is a difficult song to describe. The melody sounds typical of this group. Something that might have worked as a country song if the instrumentation was MUCH different. What we get instead is a sort of rubbery symphony. The guitar is very high pitched and bouncy ... it might not have sounded out of place in a new wave album. The keyboardist is probably improvising... because you can't predict what he does at all... One point sounds like he thought he was at a wayward carnival. Another part sounds like he was trying to score a '50s sci-fi movie. He broke out the wind chimes at one point. At all the same time, the simple melody doesn't change. Interesting!


Islands (1977)

Read the full review:
Islands

Right As Rain B+

The Band opens up this album with a very pleasant and simple little song with a fitfully catchy melody! This group's biggest strength lies with their level of instrumentation, and they do quite an excellent job here. However, this seems unsettlingly straitlaced for them... and that sax solo borders on cheesy in a Kenny-G-esque way. Other than that, there's not a whole lot to complain about this. It's a nice song that's easy to sit back and soak up... which was always one of the finest features of these guys' albums.

Street Walker B

They bring up the sass a little bit for this track. It's the usual barroom thing these guys get up to, and it's very nicely played. The melody is rather nice, and they bring in a few interesting solos at the end. (Although I will add that they start to, very uncharacteristically, sound cluttered at the end.)

Let the Night Fall B-

Surprisingly, I don't have anything to complain about here other than surefire blandness. That is, the melody of this ballad is still well-written enough to keep the experience from truly growing dull. I do love listening to that keyboard going all over the place, which is usually one of my favorite features of these late-period Band albums.

Ain't That a Lot of Love C

The initial pattern of this album is apparently “ballad, sass, ballad, sass.” This thing is really stale, though. The groove isn't that interesting at all... it's a flat and dead thing. The song develops like a fish flopping around on the docks. It's cold, uninteresting a bit painful to see. They had a nice idea to bring in a horn section to accent this song, but they ultimately just made it flop around more noticeably.

Christmas Must Be Tonight B+

Yup, it's a ballad! But this is an incredibly nice one... one day, it might become a Christmastime classic, but so far it hasn't quite been able to break through. (Ah, Christmas songs are rooted in traditions, I guess... which could be one of the reasons that The Band were interested in writing such a song!) The melody is very simple and sweet, and the instrumentation is just about as you think it would sound. I like the keyboardist toward the end, but everything is fairly straitlaced until then.

Islands B

A very pleasant instrumental... Their instrumental prowess is probably better showcased here than any of the other tracks (which, I guess, warrants it being an instrumental!) But then again, I can't say that anything about the melody or harmonies actually interests me. It a very simple melody line, and the whole piece becomes rather ho-hum quickly.

The Saga of the People Rogue B

Back to business as usual. This is a mid-tempo rocker with an enjoyable melody and solid instrumentation. I do think that this could have been salvaged into something *great* because I think the melody is a little more interesting than some of these other songs. But the instrumentation, again, is treated in an unsettlingly ho-hum fashion... Listen to the organ and the electric guitar noodles toward the end. They're not really cooperating as beautifully as they used to! Surely, this is a perfectly fine experience if you're just going to let it play in the background... but I miss it when they gave us things interesting to hear if you decided to pay close attention, too.

Georgia on My Mind B+

Of course, this is a cover of that old country song written in the 1930s that was, later on, popularized by Ray Charles. The Band chose to cover it not because they thought Ray Charles was cool, but it was done to voice their support of Jimmy Carter's presidential campaign. Originally, I didn't care for this song, but it's played very earnestly, and that counts for a lot of things. The vocal performance is very passionate... You can instantly tell how much they hated Gerald Ford.

Knockin' Lost John B

I'm not sure why I didn't care for this song either, when I reviewed this album a few years ago. It's rather decent. It's one of their mid-tempo upbeat tunes. The melody isn't too revolutionary, of course, but nobody was expecting that. The instrumentation is bouncy, and generally fun to soak up. So, nice job!

Livin' in a Dream C+

And a non-extraordinary closer to a non-extraordinary album! Its texture is bubbly and bouncy, but its herky-jerky quality isn't too likable. The melody is really dull this time... and worse than some of these other songs. Again, I get the feeling that they're just treading water... Recording an album just because there was nothing else to do, and they forgot to bring their hearts with them. Ah well...

BONUS TRACKS:

Twilight B+

This is a mid-tempo rocker with a groove that has a vague reggae groove to it. And, actually, this is quite a bit more interesting than anything that appeared on the regular album if only it's just because of that very faint synthesizer sound that sounds a bit like it's out of a spaceman movie. The melody is business as usual... and it's a tad sluggish.

Georgia on My Mind

You can listen to some studio outtakes of “Georgia on My Mind” if you want to. ........I don't know why you'd want to.


The Last Waltz (1978)

Read the full review:
The Last Waltz

Theme From the Last Waltz B

This is a literal waltz! Well, that's just cute innit? Admittedly, this isn't very interesting and it's really the last thing you would expect to hear in a Band album, but they make an entirely decent stab at it though they do seem to resort to enough cliches... Eh, but let's not dwell on it. This is not why they're called The Band!

Up on Cripple Creek A-

Getting to the biggest hit right away! It's played quite a bit looser than the original version, and it's not necessarily better for it. I suppose this is evidence that these guys were tired. But anyway, this is always a good song no matter how they play it. If you don't know it by heart by now, then you should!

Who Do You Love (with Ronnie Hawkins) A-

They introduce Ronnie Hawkins as the guy who got The Band started! But The Band is more famous than Ronnie Hawkins!!! Anyway, they perform a very danceable rockabilly tune! Hawkin's voice is maniacal, and he eventually belts out these crazy screams. ...Funny!

Helpless (with Neil Young) A-

Now, The Band does a duet with Mickey Mouse. However they got Disney to license him for a rock concert will remain forever a mystery. Anyway, I like this song, and for some reason I like it better here than it was on the original album. Part of it is because The Band contributes some gorgeous instrumental backing, and it comes across as spirited and soulful. Plus, there's someone singing in a “Lion Sleeps Tonight”-style vocal! Can't be bad.

Stage Fright A

Wow... That keyboard is just about the nuttiest thing I ever heard. It sounds like he had it programmed to play slightly off key, and that thing is going all over the map! ... Well, that's kind of cool! I also love those bold horns, which are incredibly spirited and fun. The electric guitar solo is absolutely finger-blasting. ... Geez. Here's another moment that surpasses the studio version! To a great extent, even. After hearing this, I can't believe I gave a C+ to the original.

Coyote (with Joni Mitchell) A

When it's all said and done, absolutely nothing can be better than Joni Mitchell. Except maybe Count Chocula, but I happen to like Count Chocula very very much. I can state, however, that to my ears, nothing can be better than Joni Mitchell. Count Chocula sounds a lot like the other breakfast cereals, such as that Oreo cereal, which was a joke. .......... Where was I? Oh yes. Joni Mitchell. I like Joni Mitchell!!! I like the song “Coyote!”

Dry Your Eyes (with Neil Diamond) A-

There are two types of people in the world: those who like Neil Diamond and those who don't. The Band loves Neil Diamond. He seemed the most out of place among all the guests invited to the concert, because people don't always respect him. But the man had more than his fair share of great songs, and this is one of them. I love his voice, as he belts out this incredibly tuneful, dramatic and soulful ditty! In the end, it was a fitting and memorable addition to the album.

It Makes No Difference B

I like this song, too! It was taken from their under-loved Northern Lights, Southern Cross album even though it wasn't my favorite song there. It's a normal and very tuneful ballad that they play completely straight.

Such a Night (with Dr. John) B+

I honestly don't know much about Dr. John other than he appears in The Last Waltz. It's funny that I still remember what I was thinking when I first saw the movie probably around 1998 or so. I didn't know much about the performers other than vague name recognition. I can still remember thinking that Dr. John was probably a great rock figure amidst all the other performers. (Though I could have been confusing him with Elton John who I was vaguely aware of.) However, ever since I started listening to so many rock albums, and reading about rock music, I never hear about him! Scanning his discography, he was quite prolific... Anyway, he contributes a catchy Americana tune with some of that bar-room piano. It's not too unique, but the performances are enjoyable.

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down A

Here's another one of The Band's GREAT songs that I'm sure we all know by heart. You'll notice a horn section that's tucked away a little bit in the background!

Mystery Train (with Paul Butterfield) A

Paul Butterfield was a blues musician who was reportedly a huge influence of blues-rock! His blues is pretty dang good if this performance is anything to judge. Even though it's blues and sounds a lot like the other blues songs, this one is incredibly fresh and vibrant. The instrumentals have never been more energetic! Butterfield can be heard on the harmonica, and I'm sure the harmonica lost the use of its legs after that performance.

Mannish Boy (with Muddy Waters) A-

While I admit I'm not too familiar with Paul Butterfield, everybody's familiar with Muddy Waters! (Well, I don't think I've ever heard any of his albums, but ... I should.) Butterfield was more blues-rock, but Waters is BLUES. Yup. And he uses one of the most common riffs in the history of mankind. I think one of the reasons I don't like blues that much is because I'm always hearing these wussy interpretations from these wimpy little pop bands... Well, here's who they're imitating!!! And it's easy to see why they would want to.

Further Up On the Road (with Eric Clapton) A-

I almost forgot how well Eric Clapton can play the guitar! I guess he's not a god for nothing, eh? This is a very ordinary bluesy song whose sole purpose is to showcase that guitar. That's good enough for me, baby!

The Shape I'm In A

Here's yet another song that's better here than it was on the regular album! I think they were feeling pretty energized after performing these other songs, which really comes through here. The melody was good to begin with, and it never sounded better here.

Down South in New Orleans (with Bobby Charles) B+

Bobby Charles' scene was cut from the movie, but that doesn't make his contribution any less enjoyable. He likes Cajun music, and this is a typical example of one. You already know how this sounds like. Skiffle guitars and a crunchy accordion. They add in some violin and a bit of piano for good measure.

Ophelia A-

Another song from Northern Light, Southern Cross. Have I stressed enough how good that album is? This is an incredibly upbeat and danceable rendition of the song that sounded much the same on the album.

Tura-Lura-Lural (with Van Morrison) B

This scene was also cut from the film (although the other Van Morrison performance, the track below this, was shown in the movie). Morrison had some EXCELLENT chops and he's pretty obviously baring his soul for this! The slowness of it does seem to have a negative effect on me... and sometimes I think that Morrison was going a little overboard. But who cares? It's rousing!

Caravan (with Van Morrison) B+

This is much more poppy and upbeat than the last song, which is undoubtedly the reason they kept this one over the other. Again, I really like that voice of his! He can sing really loudly, and make it seem like it's not just a bunch of noise. This is a pretty good song, but six minutes did seem a little much for it. Though it's better actually watching Morrison sing it! I can still remember that scene pretty vividly!

Life is a Carnival A

This was one of the best things about Cahoots, and I love hearing it! Those horn arrangements are what defines “brassy,” which is easily the most notable thing about this song. I believe The Band does those horn arrangements better than many funk bands! Plus, the melody is very catchy, and the pace is extremely spirited and upbeat. Also, you can expect a handful of fingermelting electric guitar solos!!!!!

Baby, Let Me Follow You Down (with Bob Dylan) A

BOB DYLAN!!!! ... That cheeky old bastard sings “Baby, Let Me Follow You Down,” which was a song he covered in his 1962 debut album. It sounded terrible on that album. But 15 years after-the-fact I guess he wanted to finally do it justice! Of course, keeping the spirit of the album, this is an upbeat rock 'n' roll version of it. And it's hella fun!

I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met) (with Bob Dylan) A-

Here's another song Dylan originally did before he was even associated with The Band. Does anyone else find that weird? Oh, and this song didn't appear in the film, either. I guess Martin Scorsese thought that was weird, too!

Forever Young (with Bob Dylan) A+

Here is Bob Dylan covering Alphaville. ................................... OK, not really. But this song was originally recorded in the 1974 album Planet Waves, the collaboration between Dylan and The Band, and it was one of the best songs from that as I remember it! Dylan delivers an utterly soulful vocal performance, and the melody is just about as memorable and sweet as anything on this whole album. FREAKEDLY AWESOME!

Baby, Let Me Follow You Down (Reprise) (with Bob Dylan) A

I guess he didn't think it was enough the first time! His guilty conscious for the assault on Bob Dylan was still baring down on him! Well... it's about as good as the earlier version, which is to say ganpankurlipging wonderful!! Again, the electric guitar performance in here is excellent!!

I Shall Be Released (with EVERYBODY) A

They brought out all who previously participated in this concert to sing this rousing version of“I Shall Be Released” from Music From Big Pink. They even bring out two people who hadn't participated in the program so far: Ronnie Wood and Ringo Starr. (Unfortunately, I guess, they ran out of time for Ringo to do “Back Off Boogaloo,” which I might add, would have been sweet.) Naturally, Dylan takes the lead vocals, since he wrote it. While I really enjoy hearing this, this is another moment that's best heard while watching the film. And this concludes the live stuff.

The Last Waltz Suite – The Well B+

The concert might be over, but that's no reason for the music to stop! It's easy to forget that The Band wrote an EP's worth of studio material for the album as well. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if most audiences sneakily turn off the album at this point...... But this is certainly a weird thing. That is to say, there is a bizarre echo effect they put on the vocals. Also, the instrumentals seem a little bit disjointed at times ... especially at the end, when every band member comes in and starts soloing ... probably making it up on the spot.

The Last Waltz Suite – Evangeline (with Emmylou Harris) B-

I feel weird, because I did a Yahoo! Image search on Emmylou Harris and discovered that the now-60-year-old is a babe!!!!!!!! .... But this song ain't so hot. It's an incredibly trite folk song that's boring. The only thing that keeps this one listenable is undoubtedly The Band's frilly instrumentation, which I am now fully confident could save anything. Forget the vocal melody and listen to that accordion, for pete's sake!!! That thing is going over all over the place... up and down and around corners. Yes, you shall be impressed with the accordion!

The Last Waltz Suite – Out of the Blue B-

Here's another Robbie Robertson original... This is just a pop ballad that could very well have been written and performed in the early '60s, and it wouldn't have been a remembered one. I can't understand why he's resorting to these old cliches! Again, hearing the instrumentation is what keeps this generally fresh... This time, I point out that very quiet, pure synthesizer sound. I like it!

The Last Waltz Suite – The Weight (with The Staple Singers) A

Yeah... they were pretty hard-up for material if they're just going to re-record this old classic! But anyway, a great song will always remain a great song! Plus, they bring in The Staple Singers, which was a vocal group from the '60s. That girl that sings at the beginning sounds a little demented, but it's all good.

The Last Waltz Suite – The Last Waltz (Refrain) A-

Here is a very brief and very sparse bluesy song that has a rather sweet melody. A very heartfelt vocal performance here... you almost feel sad! (Of course, The Band would end up officially reforming without Robertson four years later, but as Robertson's final moment with The Band, it's bittersweet!)

The Last Waltz Suite – Theme From The Last Waltz B

Isn't this where we came in? Oh yes. The beginning of the album. I remember that. THAT WAS LIKE A BILLION YEARS AGO. Not that I regret it... or anything... I'm tired as hell now, but this has been great. Thanks guys!!!


Jericho (1993)

Read the full review:
Jericho

Remedy A-

Why, it's almost like they never left! OK, a few members have been replaced, but this is still the same old Band. This is a very pleasant, upbeat song with a melody containing a few very addictive hooks. In fact, they were apparently aware of that fact, because they seem to repeat it an awful lot! The instrumentation has a little swing to it, which I do like. The instrumentation sounded a bit more liquidy in the old days... this is far more retrained. But that doesn't make it any less enjoyable!

Blind Willie McTell A

And just as one might expect, The Band would go back to their old ways of covering Bob Dylan songs! This is one that Dylan himself never recorded, so I suppose The Band are doing a pretty good service by giving it some life. The melody is also very catchy, reminding me of an old British folk song. Their instrumentation is excellent... You can hear that keyboardist going a little bit crazy in the background at times, and there's this really unique horn solo toward the end of this. ...Wow, these old guys are still capable of doing something unique?! What's more, it goes on for nearly seven minutes and I don't grow tired of it.

The Caves of Jericho A

This was actually written by these guys, and it's another excellent song! It's pretty much a rewrite of “The Weight,” but that was such a great song that hearing them doing something similar is a very welcome experience. The melody sounds very fresh and vibrant, and it's very easy to fall in love with it. As usual, the instrumentation works beautifully... It's very thick and well-stated. It even includes a few inspired keyboard noodling moments.

Atlantic City A-

Some nobody named “Bruce Springsteen” is credited as the songwriter, and it originally appeared on some obscure album called Nebraska. Hey... maybe this Springsteen fella should be more well-known! This song ain't bad at all. The melody is catchy, and, as you know, that's all that matters. I like that accordion! ... At first, it's very pleasant and straitlaced, but I guess toward the end of the song, it forgot to take its meds.

Too Soon Gone B-

The first song I don't particularly care for. This is a very slow and long-drawn-out ballad that's frankly a little sleep inducing. The melody doesn't work that well for me, and that slow-jazz-style saxophone that we hear subtly in the background doesn't help matters a whole lot. It's hardly offensive, but it's the sort of song that you don't notice.

Country Boy B

This apparently contains Richard Manuel's final recording with the band before he killed himself. Honestly, I can't tell people apart here... so... In that case, this song has more historical interest than aesthetic interest. It's pretty boring. It's a very light, bluesy number that never seems to sit up and start truly breathing life. Of course, it's a well-written song, and I certainly appreciate that it sounds earnest.

Move to Japan A-

Here's a bar-rock song with a simple melody, chugging drum beat and piano... But somehow, it's unusual enough that you can't really call it “ordinary.” They're very quietly playing around with the synthesizers throughout, which lends quite a bit of uniqueness to the atmosphere. There's also something very off-kilter about that accordion at times. ...Wow, you gotta love these guys.

Amazon (River of Dreams) B

This is a very good song, but it's another example of a long-drawn-out ballad that has the tendency to grow dull. It probably would have helped to cut the running length from six minutes to four minutes... Although I will say that the overall pace and feel of the song is very soothing, indeed. They're playing Amazon jungle recordings in the background all throughout this, and sometimes their instrumentation seems to try to match those noises! (Listen to that bird-like saxophone!!)

Stuff You Gotta Watch B-

This is by far the most derivative song on here... and some of them have been pretty dang derivative. It must be pretty well-known by now that I have a bone to pick with R&B especially when it's done in essentially the same way that it was in the '50s. The only thing The Band does differently is those horn arrangements, which are wonderful of course! ... But besides that, I can't say their rendition of this is bad at all. Really, I'm just whining. It's pretty good. A lot of fun, too.

Same Thing A-

Yeah, this is another sort of blues song, but it's not quite the same thing. The Band finds plenty of time to inject their own brand of personality into the mix. The pacing chugs along beautifully with a wonderful drum line! And then there's that electric guitar playing that high-pitched sting. What's more, Mr. Keyboards is doing all sorts of strange things in the background. Why can't all rock bands treat the keyboards the same way???

Shine a Light C+

Even though this isn't R&B, I'd say this is considerably weaker than “Stuff You Gotta Watch.” And this is sort of a strange song for me to single out as the album's lowlight. It's a very typical mid-tempo song. But listening to the melody, it's so sterile. And you can sort of tell these guys sound a bit like they were on autopilot... The instrumentation is noticeably much barer than the others... except for the keyboard, which I am thankful for.

Blues Stay Away From Me B

...That's what I've been sayin'! BLUES... stay away from me. Please. I don't care about how horrible your life is, and I don't like listening to those depressing chord progressions for the eight billionth time! ... But in all actuality, this song is pretty good. At least these guys know how to put a relatively fresh face on the blues. Their beats are nice and thick, and that sax solo is unquestionably cool. Probably the biggest problem with the song is it really didn't need six minutes to express its point.


Live at Watkins Glen (1995)

Read the full review:
Live at Watkins Glen

Back to Memphis B+

This track opens with a cheering audience and an announcer introduces THE BAND! And they come out and start playing a Chuck Berry cover. As you probably know by now, these guys were some excellent musicians, and so listening to them play a rockabilly cover will naturally be an entertaining experience! I mean, they almost could do no wrong. ...And that's exactly what happens. Their guitar riffs are tight and enjoyable, the drumming is complex and suits the song well. There's a pure electric organ noodling around. Just a chance for them to show off their chops, I think, and they do a nice job of it.

Endless Highway B-

Here's a song that they never put on an album, except for the bonus tracks of Cahoots. So, it's obviously not one of their more well-known songs. But it's a tuneful song, and of course, they give a solid rendition of it. Perhaps not one of the most memorable songs in their repertoire ... but that's OK. (Don't those cymbals seem a bit loud? ... Funny, I don't think I ever faulted the drummer for anything before.) That instrumental noodling in the middle just comes off as a lot of jumbly nonsense, unfortunately.

I Shall Be Released B

Ah yes... Here's the song I'm sure everyone at the concert wanted to hear! This is easily in their top five best songs. I don't know why that singing sounds so hoarse, though ... and you can hardly hear the singing at times. ...I can't say they squeezed the best performance of this song out in this concert setting. The studio version is much more vivid and colorful...... It's even more soulful.

Loving You is Sweeter Than Ever B-

That's an interesting cover choice... an old Motown song co-written by Stevie Wonder. It's certainly not the sort of thing you'd expect The Band to try covering! And it's pretty nice, though they don't really do anything special with it. That singing performance sounds like they probably didn't plan it much. Or maybe he had a cold or something.

Too Wet to Work B-

A completely pointless though entirely harmless track. Apparently, this is where the thunderstorm became unbearable, and they wanted to stop playing ... but members of the audience scream at them not to. And then there's a silly organ improvisation. It's not really worth listening to... it just goes to show how much you need this album!

Don't Ya Tell Henry C+

Yikes... Here's a Dylan cover. Dylan was obviously writing a rockabilly throwback, and these guys sound uncharacteristically sloppy with it. This seems like they didn't plan it. It's hardly offensive or embarrassing... they just don't do anything special with it.

The Rumor B

I've felt so underwhelmed about the last few tracks that it feels a little odd to hear a song that actually sounds very nice, for once! It's not one of their more well-known songs, and I didn't care too much for the original. But in this concert setting, they give earnest performances... Not too show-offey or pretentious. The vocals do sound a little bit rusty, though. It sure sounded much better on the studio album and much more treasurable. There's nothing particular special about this rendition... but it's sure nice to hear.

Time to Kill B+

This one's a little louder than the others, and the instrumentation sounds much more polished. The guitar gets a chance to rock out a bit, which is surely nice. The original song was nice though not one of their best tunes.

Jam C

This is as good as rock jams ever are, I guess. They're just playing whatever they feel like while sort of keeping an ordinary R&B structure in mind. More proof about how insubstantial this live disc is.

Up on Cripple Creek A-

Yay! I would have hated going to a Band concert if they didn't play this song. Again, it's probably best to catch it in its proper context (the regular album) ... and if you're dying to hear a live version, then we have a perfectly nice rendition on Rock of Ages, which is much crisper. It doesn't start off too strongly, but it finally picks up some real steam when they get to that yodel part at the end! They really seemed to end it abruptly, though... It would have been nice if they put a grander ending on it... Ah well.


Home | F.A.Q. | Rating System | Best-to-Worst List | Links | About the Author |
Movie Reviews | Short Stories | Message Board | Contact Me

All reviews are written by Michael Lawrence.