The Band: Jubilation (River North)
by Linda ScottThis review first appeared in the November 12, 1998, issue of Consumable online. Copyright © 1998 Consumable online, Linda Scott.
In America in the sixties, five young musicians pose for pictures in the Mecca of Woodstock. Dressed in string ties and black suits and dark hats, they don't look like the other popular bands then - or now. But the album they are releasing, Music From Big Pink is about to take America by storm. The album became a huge hit, then a classic; and was followed by the self-titled The Band . More albums followed carrying The Band on a tidal wave of music into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. By the nineties, they've lost a couple members to death and solo projects, but three of the five original members found three new members and 13 guest musicians to help them put out their tenth studio album. They did it because they love the music and in honor of the 30th anniversary of Music From Big Pink.
Several books have been written about The Band's history, and that's probably where you should look for the definitive facts on the group. It takes a book to tell the whole story of the young men who started out as The Hawks, played backup for Bob Dylan in his move from acoustic to electric, and all that meant in terms of the experience The Band got. When Dylan had his near fatal motorcycle accident and recuperated in Woodstock, he made music with The Band in the basement of their house called Big Pink. The Basement Tapes were the product of Dylan's recuperation. In the meantime The Hawks became The Band, and wrote Music From Big Pink. This was their own music in their own style, and singles like "Up On Cripple Creek", "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down", and their masterpiece, "The Weight" can just blow you away even in 1998. Timeless music is The Band's specialty.
Jubilation has a big tradition to follow. Original members Garth Hudson, Rick Danko, and Levon Helm are together again with the three new members Richard Bell, Randy Ciarlante, and Jim Weider. Of the 13 guest musicians, the most notable are Eric Clapton and John Hiatt. Clapton is a long time fan of The Band and inducted them into the Hall of Fame while noting that he had come to the U.S. to see if there was anyway at all he could get into The Band. Jubilation has 11 new songs and most were written by some combination of members of The Band. In homage to Music From Big Pink, Jubilation was written in a converted barn in Woodstock during the first half of this year.
Jubilation is The Band from the first track, and it's good to hear them again. "Book Faded Brown" has an easy country rock sound with good lyrics and (hats off to Danko) great vocals. Pack up your VW and head for Woodstock! But The Band hasn't lasted 30 years by living completely in the past. The music, the beautiful melodies, driving bass lines add up to a beautiful and sophisticated album. Starting off with a drum roll and "Book Faded Brown", the album opens with one of its strongest tracks. This one has to be a single. "Last Train To Memphis" features Clapton on lead guitar making the whole party song brighter and better. "Kentucky Downpour" is another swinger with lyrics that flash images of a wild, rainy country night. John Hiatt contributes the lyrics to "Bound By Love" and of course does some wonderful bass work here. "If I Should Fail" is another strong song sung just perfectly by Danko. The powerful lyrics are about a man facing death on the battlefield in the morning. This is another one that should be released as a single. Excellent treatment by The Band....and the list goes on and on.
The Band appeals most strongly to its old fans and to those who like that easy, down home music. Modern fans? If you were a fan of The Jayhawks, that's the kind of music you'll find here. Jubilation is recommended to everyone who likes country rock from one of the pioneers of that format.