Tombstone: The Lost Album
From BigO magazine, August 2005
"No one lasts forever
Who would want to?
But you're too soon gone"
The Band played their last waltz together in 1978 with an all-star concert that one would have thought used up all their desire for the big time. They went their separate ways with Levon Helm forming the RCO Allstars, Rick Danko pursuing a short-lived solo career while Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel did the sensible thing of touring together to play those old favorites. Robbie Robertson, of course couldn't get enough of the spotlight and followed Martin Scorsese into the movies to make soundtracks. By the mid-'80s The Band had regrouped minus Robertson, to start touring again. Then they decided to get back into the studios to record an album.
Since Robertson wrote the lion's share of The Band's music, they needed a producer to help them along. We've not had the good fortune of reading The Band's bio but around 1990 or 1991, they linked up with pop writer Jules Shear, who wrote Cyndi Lauper's hit All Through The Night. He was a sensitive songwriter who could write interesting material. He was also a Sony recording artist, the new label The Band had signed to.
At least 11 tracks were recorded with Jules Shear who sings and writes a fair amount but apparently the album was rejected by The Band's new label, Sony Music. As far as we can tell the title song Tombstone and Never Again Or Forever were written by Jules Shear. The outtake "Tombstone" was originally recorded in 1991 by The Band with an amazing vocal from Rick Danko.
However, this song was also considered for inclusion on the Band's finally released album Jericho, which arrived in 1993 on the indie Pyramid label. The only song that survived these 1990-'91 sessions was Rick Danko's Too Soon Gone, a sweet farewell song for Richard Manuel included on Jericho. The version here is different.
Tombstone was hardly contemporary in feel except perhaps for the urban r 'n b of Money Whipped with its unusual spoken interludes. Mostly Rick Danko's superb vocals marked the way back to the Band of the old. Songs like All Creation, Too Soon Gone and the title track had their old sound and that rustic feeling of time stood still. But producer Jules Shear's presence was also profound. It sounds like him handling vocals on at least four of the nine songs.
Finally, an album without Robbie Robertson or Richard Manuel was probably not an album Sony wanted to release. Tombstone remains in somebody's vault with only Too Soon Gone released on 1993's Jericho and High Price of Love emerging on 1996's High On The Hog. The versions here were all recorded much earlier.