Frightened into A Different Band
T. Stern | San Diago | 09/27/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Critics labeled this as "good, but not as good as the first two" and many fans agree. I completely disagree with such an idea, and I believe this album is completely uncomparable to the first two.
This album, as it has been described many times before, is purely a confessional piece of work, said nervously and memorably. Manuel, Danko and Helm have all been abusing drugs like there is no end, and leave the writing to Robertson, who writes all tracks except for the two Manuel contributions and the Helm contribution, both of which Robertson co-wrote. For just this feat, Robertson deserves a 5 star rating for quality songwriting.
For the first time, since the Band's inception, Robertson, the de-facto leader of the Band, becomes an upfront guitarist, bringing many pieces of great songs like Just Another Whistle Stop and Time to Kill into memorable classics in the Band catalogue.
Another first in the Band catalogue, is that the three main singers of the Band do not attempt to add their harmonies whenever they can. The three part Danko-Helm-Manuel harmony suddenly dissapeared from tracks and was no longer a main part of The Band sound.
Two of my favorite Band songs have come out of this album, namely the beautiful waltz Sleeping and the Rumor, which contains one of the greatest musical breakdowns in my Band collection. Sleeping contains soulful Richard Manuel chords and vocals, with great guitar work, bass work and energy, bringing the song upfront, and making it very memorable. The Rumor, with its great vocal interplay between Helm and Danko, has an instrumental break around 2:40 which gives me chills. The arrangment is funky and well chosen, and has more memorable Robertson guitar work.
The only bad song on the album is Strawberry Wine. Through any official story, Helm sang this song, the first time released to the public, while under the influence of heroin, and offers a very worn out vocal performance. The track was "amazingly played in one take," which from the muddled sound to the unsure playing, makes it the worst on the album.
The rest of the songs are of the highest quality (except one): All La Glory is a beautiful, country blue-tinged piece that Robertson wrote about the birth of his child. The Shape I'm In is an "in your face" confession which is funky and has great Manuel vocals, as well as good examples of how to play a Fender Rhodes. Time To Kill is an upbeat song about boredom, which is definitely not boring and worth many listens. Just Another Whistle Stop has great guitar breaks, fine bass playing and superb vocals. The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show is an upbeat rocker which has been played too many times on my cd player, whilest Stage Fright delivers one of Danko's best vocal performances in his career. Daniel And the Sacred Harp has beautiful Autoharp work, fuels their country Americana image, has great lyrics and good vocal interplay.
This album is a must in any music fan's collection and is worth every penny!"