The legendary group The Band recorded some of the richest, most pastoral as well as down home and soul satisfying music of the late 1960s and 1970s. The Band created a fully original sound combining country, soul, rhythm and blues, folk, gospel and rockabilly music. Their work is as life changing and majestic music as has been captured.

Two live shows from the 1980s, taken from their original soundboard recordings have recently been released featuring Band bassist and vocalist Rick Danko as well as Band keyboard player and vocalist Richard Manuel. ‘Live at O’Tooles Tavern, Scranton, Pa, December 1985’ showcases Danko and Manuel playing as a duo. ‘Live at Dylan’s Café, Washington D.C., December 1987’ is a solo Danko performance.

The Band originated in Canada as the Hawks, backing up rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins who recruited The Band’s various members by stealing the most talented musicians from other competing Canadian bands. Danko and Manuel were accompanied by drummer and vocalist Levon Helm, guitar player Robbie Robertson and organ player Garth Hudson.

The Band was hired as Bob Dylan’s back up group in Dylan’s transition from folk music to electric rock. In 1966 Bob Dylan and The Band toured Europe and the U.S., contending with the animosity of Dylan’s displeased folk fans who failed to appreciate the epiphany that was this new music being created.

In 1967, while Dylan recovered from a motorcycle accident, The Band rented Big Pink, a house located in Woodstock, New York. ‘Music from Big Pink’, the Band’s debut album was released in 1968. ‘Music from Big Pink’ was musical perfection, a masterpiece with hallmark harmony singing modelled after the gospel sound of the Staple Singers. The second album, another masterpiece, the self titled ‘The Band’, also known as “the brown album” followed.
The Band would call it a day for the first time in 1976 with their filmed, guest filled farewell concert known as the Last Waltz. The Band reformed in 1983 without Robbie Robertson and also performed occasionally in various groupings through the 1980s.

Rick Danko’s signature vocal style was a naturally plaintive, almost mournful voice. Danko’s tenor appeared on top of the Band’s melodic harmonies. Danko’s percussive bass playing style was also an integral part of the Band’s sound.

Richard Manuel was a naturally talented vocalist with a soulful rhythm and blues style and a rich timbre often compared to Ray Charles. His singing range encompassed the high vocal register of ‘Tears of Rage’ and the gorgeous falsetto of ‘I Shall Be Released’ as well as the rougher voiced versions of ‘King Harvest’ and ‘The Shape I’m In’. Manuel also contributed a rhythmic style of piano to the Band.

‘Live at O’Tooles Tavern, December 1985’ captures Danko and Manuel as they toured as an acoustic duo. The show was recorded less than three months before the sad and untimely death of Richard Manuel.

‘Live at O’Tooles’ opens with ‘CC Rider’ as Rick Danko’s vocal is forefront with Richard Manuel tickling the ivories in the backdrop, blending in with a harmony vocal. The ballad ‘My Love’ features a lovely lead vocal by Danko and a rich falsetto backing vocal by Manuel. Theirs is a fine understated low key performance.

‘Just Another Whistle Stop’ from the Band’s album ‘Stage Fright’ includes a fine vocal from Manuel, a bit raspy but impassioned and compelling. Next Danko sings an inspired rendition of the classic Band tune ‘Unfaithful Servant’ from their second album. The Robbie Robertson lyric hits home: “Let us not bow our heads/We won’t be complaining/Life has been good to us all, even when the sky’s been raining.”

A fine magic is captured by the combination of these two classic artists of the Band. ‘King Harvest’ includes a dual vocal with Manuel in the foreground as they capture a stripped down version of the Band’s transcendent sound.

‘It Makes No Difference’ was Rick Danko’s signature lead vocal performance- a Band song that he always sung until his death in 1999. The familiar chorus connects with the soul, “And the sun don’t shine anymore and the rains fall down on my door.” From there the duo go into ‘Chest Fever’, a genius composition from ‘Music from Big Pink’. Richard Manuel delivers a powerhouse lead vocal along with strong building keyboard work.

Manuel brought out the best in Danko. Likewise his work with the entire Band presented Danko at his most formidable level. Consequently, Danko’s ‘Live at Dylan’s Café, Washington D.C., December 1987’ is not as noteworthy as the duo performance at O’Tooles. Nevertheless ‘Dylan’s Café’ still features a solid performance by Danko.

Danko begins the show with 'Java Blues', a love song to coffee from his self titled 1977 first solo album. From there he goes into the Band’s ‘Christmas Must Be Tonight’ with a soothing vocal that hits home.

‘Dylan’s Café’ is a double CD filled with a host of Band songs as well as solo material and covers by Danko. The set list includes the Band songs’ ‘Stage Fright’, ‘Long Black Veil’, ‘When You Awake’ and ‘The Weight'. As I listen to Danko performing the Band classic ‘Twilight’, I feel like I’m getting reacquainted with an old friend. There is a pleasing solo performance of ‘Caledonia Mission’ here, very different from the version on ‘Big Pink’. Danko puts forth intimate very personal renditions of these classic songs.

All in all, these live releases are of special interest to the Band aficionado. While I believe fans of the Band will find these releases particularly rewarding, newcomers are recommended to start with the classic Band debut ‘Music from Big Pink’ and progress from there.











Related Links:

http://sipthewine.blogspot.co.uk/
http://www.rickdanko.net/
http://www.thebandofficial.com/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rick_Danko
https://www.facebook.com/groups/rickdanko
https://www.facebook.com/thebandtheband


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