Friday, November 7, 2014

Band 6: Moondog Matinee

They may have been out of new ideas, but they still wanted to play, so in the same year that David Bowie and John Lennon embarked on oldies projects, The Band eschewed an album of new songs for a grab-bag of early rock ‘n roll and R&B. (Besides, everybody was PO’d at Robbie for elbowing aside the collaboration that made their first albums so good, or so Levon would have us believe.)
Moondog Matinee is an attempt to recreate the feel of the “jook joints” where they’d started out. But just as other oldies projects transplanted the music to the current decade, The Band drag their musical selections firmly into the seventies. The biggest culprit is Garth Hudson’s arsenal of decidedly modern keyboards. That said, his saxophones, when heard, come closer to making the fa├žade real, especially on tracks where Robbie’s not stomping on the wah-wah.
Overall, it’s a fun album, as the boys certainly sound like they’re enjoying themselves, and the songs aren’t the typical hackneyed touchstones. Levon tackles “I’m Ready” and Clarence “Frogman” Henry’s “Ain’t Got No Home” with glee, tackling the frog voice on the latter but thankfully avoiding the girl part. Except for the gospel parody “Saved”, Richard sings most of the slow ones, filling “Share Your Love” and “The Great Pretender” with the appropriate emotion, while Rick takes center stage on “A Change Is Gonna Come”. And all three revel in the swamp of “Holy Cow”.
Not content to leave well enough alone, “Mystery Train” isn’t just an extended jam but includes new verses. It’s followed up by the instrumental “Third Man Theme”, which even the early Beatles used to kill time, providing a silly end to what was side one.
While certainly a placeholder for their career as a whole, Moondog Matinee is recommended to the listener who’s not expecting much. The reissue adds a few more recordings from the sessions, including Chuck Berry’s “Back To Memphis” and The Band’s own “Endless Highway”, both of which had been doctored and passed off as live recordings on earlier reissues.

The Band Moondog Matinee (1973)—3
2000 CD reissue: same as 1973, plus 6 extra tracks

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