Thursday, February 08, 2007

Unfaithful Servants

The endless array of tribute albums continues unabated with Endless Highway, wherein the timeless music of the Band is subjected to the tepid stylings of Jack Johnson, Bruce Hornsby, Gomez, and Dreck Cab for the Clueless. I was pleased to see the very worthy Atlanta singer Lizz Wright paired on "Whispering Pines" with Jakob Dylan (whose participation was, I suppose, inevitable). But I'll betcha dollars to donuts that the producers asked Norah Jones to do it first.

The song choices, too, are predictable. This isn't the Band that I choose to remember. Save your money for Rock of Ages or The Basement Tapes. What I loved about the Band was their voices, their musicality, and the way they could swing as a live band. I recently watched Festival Express in order to see the footage of the Band, and they did not disappoint: their cover of "Slipping and Sliding" was especially special. (And the footage of a very drunk Rick Danko on the train was amusing.)

Three things about Festival Express surprised me. First, Buddy Guy's guitar playing was incendiary. Second, I actually enjoyed the Grateful Dead (whose lineup at the time was keyboard-free and included Pigpen on vocals and harp). Most surprising of all was seeing members of the Dead cast in an anti-anti-establishment role. Gatecrashers at the concerts became violent, and one policeman suffered a severe head injury. "He's got a metal plate in his head now. Was that worth the $14 (ticket price)?" Bob Weir demanded of a woman on the train who sympathized with the fans' belief that they shouldn't have to pay for "their" music (not entirely unlike the goddam kids of today!)

Back to the Band. Yazoo Street Scandal pretty much sums up their greatness for me: a hardscrabble tale sung (nay, hollered) by Levon, with Garth's percolating organ, Robbie's stabbing leads, and the impossible elasticity of Danko's bass darting around Levon's polyrhythmic snare.

A beautiful version of Whispering Pines was recorded a few years back by the Pine Valley Cosmonauts, with Atlanta expatriate Kelly Hogan.


At 2/15/2007 3:28 PM , Blogger J said...

Yeah no one can beat the Band, but music survives by other people playing their music. Worthy effort and worth checking out.

At 2/16/2007 9:19 AM , Blogger jon manyjars said...

Good point, J. Check out J's new music blog: Heroin for the Ears.


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