Monday, January 29, 2007

Endless Highway: The Music of the Band

Due for release tomorrow, January 30th, Endless Highway: The Music of the Band is a collection of great songs from quite possibly Canada's greatest band, by a wide variety of artists. The Band have long been hailed from inside the music industry, Eric Clapton was a noted fan of their first album, 1968's Music from Big Pink. The eclectic group that make up this CD, from The Allman Brothers to Gomez, Bruce Hornsby to Leanne Womak, this is an interesting an exciting addition to The Band pantheon.

The Album opens with Guster's This Wheel's On Fire, a rolling blue-grassy version that is both light and fun and pays appropriate homage to the Band's version.

Bruce Hornsby manages to sound more like The Band than himself on King Harvest, a bit disappointing considering his unique style and sound. None the less, his version of this song is a worthy addition, and actually excellent version. Just not very Bruce Hornsby-ish.

My Morning Jacket do an almost spot on version of It Makes No Difference, with a guitar running through it that could be Robertson at his peak playing.

Jack Johnson's I Shall Be Released, is a stunning version of a wonderful song. This may eclipse the Band's original version, and is clearly the highlight of the album.

Lee Ann Womack's The Weight is, as can be reasonable expected, heavily countried up. It's a song that lends itself well to countrification, and this works great, but it's also a song that I have long wished fro somebody to rock out on, and this would have been a good chance.

Bill Hayes, favourite band Gomez handle my favourite Band song, Up On Cripple Creek, very well. A friend last week was praising Gomez to me, suggested I had to hear them. This version of Cripple Creek makes me want to take him up on that.

The Allman Brothers give The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down the blues treatment, to some detriment. I would rather have given the Allman Brothers the Weight, and let Lee Ann Womak have this piece, but it is none the less, a different interpretation of the song, the third distinct on that I can think of. Nice writing Robbie!

Blues Traveller do a hopped up version of Rag Mama Rag that lacks true interpretation. They just seemed to have sped it up, cranked the honky-tonk piano in the mix, and called it a day.

John Hiatt & North Mississippi Allstars sound very much like The Band in Ain't No More Cane, with Hiatt himself sounding a lot like the late great Rick Danko.

Wallflowers lead singer, and son of Bob, Jakob Dylan's Whispering Pines is pretty if unremarkable.

California rocker's Animal Liberation Orchestra (ALO) modernize, without much changing Ophelia, a nice example of paying tribute without imitating.

Alt Country singer songwriter Joe Henry, treats Bessie Smith like an up-tempo folk tune, a nice treatment. Although my favourite Bessie Smith version is a swing version by the Johnny Favourite Swing Orchestra. None the less, this is a nice version.

Other highlights include a jam version of The Shape I'm In by Warren Haynes Govt. Mule, a rocked up version of Chest Fever, with full horns, a pretty version of Acadian Driftwood by female folkies The Roches, a cool treatment of Life is a Carnival and a stunning version of Stage Fright by Canadian folkie Steve Reynolds.

Over all, this is a great CD, the weak material being still good, and the best of it some great stuff. The Band were great songwriters, and what this CD does is show just how versatile and interesting their songs were. A nice tribute, and worth the price just for I Shall Be Released and Stage Fright, and Life is a Carnival may make it a bargain

1. Guster "This Wheel's On Fire"
2. Bruce Hornsby "King Harvest"
3. My Morning Jacket "It Makes No Difference"
4. Jack Johnson "I Shall Be Released"
5. Lee Ann Womack "The Weight"
6. Gomez "Up On Cripple Creek"
7. The Allman Brothers "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down"
8. Blues Traveler "Rag Mama Rag"
9. John Hiatt & North Mississippi Allstars "Ain't No More Cane"
10. Jakob Dylan "Whispering Pines"
11. Animal Liberation Orchestra "Ophelia"
12. Joe Henry "Bessie Smith"
13. Jackie Greene "Look Out Cleveland"
14. Death Cab For Cutie "Rocking Chair"
15. Gov't Mule "The Shape I'm In"
16. Steve Reynolds "Stage Fright"
17. Rosanne Cash "Unfaithful Servant"
18. Widespread Panic "Chest Fever"
19. Josh Turner "When I Paint My Masterpiece"
20. The Roches "Acadian Driftwood"
21. Trevor Hall "Life is a Carnival"