Jericho - Pyramid 1993
I knew they had reformed and recorded new albums in the 1990's, but with Richard Manuel gone Robbie Robertson gone, I had a feeling that these recordings would be disappointing and only pale reminders of what once was. How wrong you can be!!
"Jericho" was their first re-union studio album, with original members Helm, Danko and Hudson together with guitarist Jim Weider, Drummer Ciarlante and Richard Bell on piano.
"Remedy" sets the scene right from the beginning. Classic Band sound, with Helm vocally in good form and horns that bring up memories of old albums like "Rock of All Ages" of "Cahoots" - written by Weider and Colin Linden.
"Blind Willie McTell" is a completely stunning recording - it has all the best qualities of classic Band. Great melodic tune (Dylan) and outsstanding changing lead vocals from Danko and Helm. Moreover I really enjoy the acoustic guitar and Hudson's harmonica. The song wouldn't have sounded out of place on "Northern Lights, Southern Cross".
"Jericho" is an almost equally strong track - sounds like a Robertson song. Could have been a forgotten track from the "Brown" album sessions.
The high standards are continued with the Band's version of Bruce Sprinsteen's "Atlantic City" - sung by Helm with harmony vocals from Danko.
Stan Szelest who guest-appeared on "Atlantic City" wrote the tribute "Too Soon Gone" to the memory of the great Richard Manuel. Sad to think about that Stan himself was gone before the release of the album. Beautifully sung by Danko.
The greatest tribute given to Manuel, though, is that the Band let him appear on the album himself. The inclusion of the 1985 recording with Manuel, "Country Boy", makes this album even more authentic. Great vocal performance from Manuel, as always.
Somehow second half of the album loses a little steam. The straightforward "Move to Japan" has a nice rockabilly rhythm and nice vocals from Helm - but is not particularly memorable.
"Amazon" is a slow slightly droning song with jungle sounds and more beautiful vocals from Danko - again reprising the atmosphere of "Northern Lights" - even the guitar sounds like Robbie Robertson.
"Stuff You Gotta Watch" is Muddy Waters blues - played with a quite free and easy feel; but apart from Helm's vocals it doesn't really sound like the Band.
Willie Dixon's "Same Thing" - is a nice track, but nothing more. Again sung by Helm.
"Shine a Light" is a gospel-inspired song, with shifting lead vocals from Danko and Helm. Quite inspiring and bringing back memories of "Stage Fright", which isn't bad at all.
"Blues Stay Away From Me" is a 6 minutes blues; I have a feeling that had this been in the old vinyl-album days with playing times around 40 minutes, this would have been the track that was left out.
Because of the strong first half of the album I feel I must give it all five stars; and"Amazon" and "Shine a Light" are really good too!