Squirm factor: 3
Rick Danko's first solo record after The Last Waltz shows a lot of musical ability, but somehow falls short on personality. I find that surprising because his vocals on the Band's songs always seemed to have the most "personal" feel.
Perhaps it's because he co-wrote most of the songs here with others handling the lyrics, but one gets a rather generic vibe from this record. All the songs are well-played, with Danko and co-producer Rob Fraboni pulling together a good live-sounding recording that always catches the intended groove, but the melodies don't go anywhere in particular. "Sip the Wine" is a notable stinker with its long, drawn-out one-note melody, but lots of others sound undistinguished as well.
Despite these shortcomings, high points abound. The brass arrangement on "What a Town" is ultra-funky, and I love the fact that the rest of the band fades out and leaves the horns blowing at the end. "New Mexicoe" has beautiful harmony vocals, and "Shake It" has a catchy chorus and some genuine emotion behind the lyrics (this time self-penned).
The singing from Danko is up to his usual standards, except on "Small Town Talk" which he unfortunately delivers in the style of Janet from Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. He delivers "Sweet Romance" with a nice air of resignation, and the way he growls out "Java Blues" is amusing.
I don't have any of his later records, but I believe that this record could be a stepping stone to some better songwriting, which with his accomplishments as a performer and producer here would make for a terrific album.
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