Friday, November 18, 2016

Band 10: Jericho

The surviving members of the Band who weren’t Robbie Robertson had been stumbling along for a while, playing whatever shows they could, and getting a few handouts via Ringo’s All-Starr Band and such high-profile gatherings as Roger Waters’ restaging of The Wall in Berlin and Bobfest. While many of their complaints about Robbie Robertson may have been well-founded, the truth of the matter is that they weren’t exactly setting the world on fire with the songs they were writing, since they hadn’t appeared to have written any.
For proof, consider the contents of Jericho, the first Robbie-less Band album that took several years and too many guest musicians to bring together. Of the dozen songs here, only two have writing contributions from any of the original members, and we’ll get to those. Along with covers of Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters songs, there’s a version of Springsteen’s “Atlantic City” featuring two of the Hooters, and, even stranger, Dylan’s “Blind Willie McTell”, which most of the world hadn’t heard until the first Bootleg Series box, and we’re betting the boys in the Band hadn’t either.
Just in case the legacy didn’t speak for itself, a good deal of the budget went to Peter Max for a painting of the Big Pink house. Their original producer John Simon gets partial credit for doing that here, and just so nobody could get away without shedding a tear, there are back-to-back tributes to Richard Manuel. “Too Soon Gone” was written by Jules Shear and the piano player who was in the band before Richard, and replaced him later, only to die himself before Jericho was finished. It’s followed by “Country Boy”, a lonesome lament sung by Richard himself.
Outside of their voices and instruments, songwriting credits go to Levon Helm on exactly two songs: “The Caves Of Jericho”, a mine tragedy obviously Xeroxed from “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, and “Move To Japan”, an embarrassing protest of consumerism that’s more obnoxious than clever. He’s much more suited to the honky tonk of “Remedy” and “Stuff You Gotta Watch” than Rick Danko is on “Amazon (River Of Dreams)” which relies far too much on rain forest sound effects.
Yet amazingly, Jericho is enjoyable. Levon and Rick can still sing, and Garth knows where to put his keyboards and horns. But too many tracks demand to be skipped, so it’s only for the faithful, who’d probably endure the other two Band albums of the ‘90s, but we just can’t.

The Band Jericho (1993)—

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