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Rick Danko: Live Anthology

Reviewed By: Carl Bookstein
Label: Floating World
Format: CD

In the 1960s and 1970s, legendary group The Band were the authors of a rich amalgam of music that came to be known as Americana- music that was both down to earth and pastoral. The Band stepped into the limelight in the mid 1960s as the backing band for Bob Dylan when the famed folk poet went electric.

Bassist and one of three lead vocalists for The Band, Rick Danko’s vocals always hit home.

With masterpieces including their debut 'Music from Big Pink' and their self-titled second album, The Band’s Dixie-inflected country rock rhythms reached a creative apex in popular music. Mostly born and bred in Canada, The Band nevertheless captured the lure and the very heart of America.

Danko’s passing in 1999 was a great loss to music. He followed Band mate, vocalist and keyboard player Richard Manuel who committed suicide in 1986.

'Live Anthology' is culled from a few live solo shows from the 1980s and 1990s, and includes a duo performance with Manuel that took place three months before Manuel’s death.

The anthology starts off with a solo performance of 'Mystery Train'- just Danko and a guitar. His vocals are compelling as ever. From there he goes into a poignant rendition of 'Caledonia Mission' from 'Music from Big Pink' as Danko warmly rekindles the music of The Band: “We’ll be gone in moonshine times/You see I’ve got a place they’ll never find.”

The anthology includes an evocative version of Danko’s signature vocal on The Band classic, 'It Makes No Difference', as well as 'Java Blues', the singer’s love song to coffee.

Other highlights include 'Long Black Veil', 'Twilight' and 'When You Awake'. On the classic 'The Weight', Danko’s band mates are sorely missed, but his solo version is still welcome. The first disc closes with a beautifully rendered 'Christmas Must Be Tonight'- an absolute highlight of the anthology, with Danko’s voice both sweet and soothing.

The second disc includes a crisp 'Blind Willie McTell' that goes straight to the soul.

On the last seven tracks of the anthology, Richard Manuel is found tickling the ivories and adding vocals. His band mate’s presence clearly brings something extra out in Danko’s performance as the listener is blessed with a positively lovely 'Unfaithful Servant'. Manuel then takes the lead on rousing renditions of 'King Harvest' and 'Chest Fever'.

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