Moondog Matinee - Capitol 1973
Personal problems and outside project were among the reasons that the group did not write and record much new material during 1972-73, and the idea came up to do an album entirely of covers. Though covers, many songs actually sound like Band originals and some of them are among the very best Band recordings.
Especially the songs with lead vocals from Richard Manuel and Rick Danko stand out. Somehow it was decided the Leveb Helm did the most straight-forward rocking songs, which solid but not outstanding.
Manuel´s performance on Bobby Bland´s “Share Your Love” is simply beatiful. And absolute highlight and a recording on par with the very best Band originals. The same can almost be said about the more commercial “The Great Pretender” - another Manuel performance.
Third Manuel lead vocal is found on the “Leiber/Stoller” rocker “Saved”. A good track, but really no more than that.
Rick Danko shines on Sam Cooke´s anthem “A Change is Gonna Come” which closed the original album. Actually I prefer this version to Sam Cooke´s original, which seems a little burdened down by too heavy orchestration.
The catchy “Holy Cow” performed by Danko, tongue in cheek, is another favourite.
There is a fine instrumental of the old movie theme “Third Man Theme” played in a similar mood to “Island” from their last studio album.
The rest of the album solid, with Levon Helm vocally in front.
The bonus tracks mostly sound like demos or unfinished outtakes.
Two important exceptions, though, is the exquisite Robbie Robertson original “Endless Highway” - great to finally have this song on an album; one of the very few new songs that Robertson wrote for the Band in this period. Lead vocals from Danko.
“Crying Heart Blues”, also with Danko up front, sounds like song that could have come from debut album “Music From Big Pink” - another highlight!
Like on all the other Band re-issue original albums a fine booklet is included. Extensive back-ground information about each recording.