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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Rick Danko

Live on Breeze Hill

Review by Gary Hill

I have to admit I’ve never been a huge fan of The Band. Don’t get me wrong, I like the radio songs well enough – although at times they got a bit too “down home countrified” for my tastes. Well, this live record from Band member Rick Danko does a nice job of making that sound work better in what is at times nearly a progressive rock motif. I like this disc quite a bit. It seems certain to please fans of the band, but those who, like me, were not quite convinced will probably find this the perfect “gateway drug” to the music of The Band. Certainly this shares a lot of musical ground with the Grateful Dead and should appeal to their fans, too.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Sip The Wine
This is a slow paced jam that has a cool groove.
Twilight
Far mellower, this has a more folky nature. Still, there are some jazz elements at play here. We get a tasty rather prog-like keyboard solo later and some nice bluesy guitar.
Crazy Mama
Speaking of the blues, here we get a full on blues rocker that’s a real scorcher. A killer horn solo later brings us more into the realm of jazz.

Stage Fright
This song, done differently, was quite a well-known number. Here it is actually nearly a progressive rock jam. In fact, the instrumental segment reminds me a lot of Rick Wakeman. This is a more high energy number than a lot of the other stuff here. It’s also a highlight of the disc.
Ophelia
Another more well-known gem, this starts off very much in a mode like The Band. It takes on more of a “Dixieland” texture as it carries on, though. It’s another cool track. It has one of the better instrumental segments of the whole disc.

Blaze Of Glory
Here we get a gospel-like bluegrass influenced jam. It’s fun, but not really my cup of tea. The music on this feels quite a bit like “When the Saints Go Marching In,” but the lyrical content is quite different.

Next Time You See Me
This bluesy rocker is very much in the vein of Chuck Berry. It’s got some exceptionally tasty instrumental work. It’s a classic example of how the right musicians can truly elevate a standard twelve bar blues.
Caldonia Mission
A track that’s set in the classic Band territory that closely borders the sounds of The Grateful Dead’s territory, this is a slower jam that works quite well.

Shape I'm In
We get more energy here on this bluesy jam. It’s shifted out more towards prog rock with the inspired instrumental section.

Chest Fever
An extensive keyboard solo starts things off here. This has some cheesy moments, but also some cool ones. As the rest of the band join it becomes a rather proggy take on the classic Band sound. They take us through a few changes and iterations and we get a killer progressive rock instrumental section. After a return to the vocal section we get a smoking keyboard dominated instrumental movement that really brings us even further into the prog realm.
It Makes No Difference
They close things out with a slow and rather reflective piece that’s much more like traditional Band music. This is a cool song and while perhaps “Chest Fever” might have been a more effective closer, this works quite satisfyingly in the final position. The actual closing segment is a spoken introduction of all the members of the band. While I suppose that’s a cool touch, it’s a bit anti-climactic – necessary in the concert, but perhaps not the best thing on the album.
 
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