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Rick Danko: Times Like These

[cover art]

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"Rick had always said he would never put his name on an album unless he was proud of it. The reason being he had to live with it. Well, this is no exception. I know he can hear it and I know that he is very proud to have his name on it." --Elizabeth Danko

Times Like These, released posthumously, is Rick Danko's last studio album. There's a tendency for fans to under-appreciate the singer/bassist's later work, opting instead for some sepia-toned memory of the Ontario farm boy amidst his original Band colleagues in the '60s and '70s - but that's only part of the story of a 40-year career. Later in life, Danko's voice, while remaining the distinctly mournful instrument of his youth, mellowed to equal parts milk and whiskey. Here, a less urgent and wiser artist wraps his pipes around his signature tune "This Wheel's on Fire," which is drawn out on both ends by elegant instrumental passages. This version of the song is a fitting coda to Danko's life, lingered over lovingly and masterfully by the Crowmatix with Band cohort Garth Hudson, a veritable one-man Fellini soundtrack on accordion. "Let the Four Winds Blow," a Fats Domino/Dave Bartholomew cover recorded live, showcases Levon Helm on harmonica and longtime Danko and Band associate Professor "Louie" on piano and vocals, rolling and stomping in the finest spirit of the Band. "All Our Past Times," a return to a song the artist co-wrote with Eric Clapton in 1976, is wistfully gorgeous and heart-wrenchingly appropriate. And a cover of The Grateful Dead's "Ripple" - with Hudson and Helm once again making appearances - is delivered with the rustic charm of a back porch session (albeit a highly skilled one). While the album can drip with sentimentality or sound too polished at times, ultimately Times Like These, co-produced by Danko and Professor "Louie" (aka Aaron Hurwitz), is a thoughtfully rendered reflection on a great musical life.
-- Erik Hage, All-Music Guide

Times Like These was mostly recorded in various studios in the '90s. Rick was still working on it when he died in December 1999. Released in August 2000 on Breeze Hill Records (available for purchase from Woodstock Records) and in Europe by CoraZong Records in 2003. The European CD has a new cover and a different track order, and also adds one extra track.

Times Like These contains 8 studio tracks and two live songs. All members of the '90s line-up of The Band are present on the album.

The opening title track is a beautiful Danko original that he often performed live. It is followed by a heartfelt cover of the Grateful Dead's "Ripple", which also features Levon Helm and Garth Hudson. Rick does an inspirational version of Sam Cooke's "Chain Gang", recorded as a duet with The Band's Randy Ciarlante, and a rockin' "All Our Past Times," featuring Band guitarist Jim Weider. Rick co-wrote "All Our Past Times" with Eric Clapton for Clapton's No Reason To Cry album.

"Change Is Good" is another original song co-written by Danko, with Rick's brother Terry Danko on bass. Also included are a masterfully reworked version of the Dylan/Danko classic "This Wheel's On Fire" with The Crowmatix, and Rick's testimony to helping out the neighborhood, "You Can Go Home" and "People Of Conscience". The two live songs are from Rick's last radio interview/ performance in Michigan, December 6th 1999; "Let The Four Winds Blow" with Levon Helm on harp and "Book Faded Brown", featuring Garth Hudson's wife Maud.

There couldn't be a more apt title for Rick's final solo album and the title track alone holds a great deal of reverence for me. Breeze Hill Records was born out of its association with Rick and its a credit to Aaron "Louie" Hurwitz, Quentin Ryan and all the musicians for their hard work, and for giving us this album to savour and treasure.
--Lee Gabites


(comments by Lee Gabites)
  1. [RealAudio] Times Like These (Danko)
    Written by Danko in the late 70s it contains a beautiful melody. Rick's vocal is the shining light with backing from Marie Spinosa and Leslie Ritter. The instrumentation sounds at its most sparse here, though, there are acoustic guitar, piano, accordion, bongos and chimes. The lyric content is slightly different from the early versions Rick was singing in the 80s but I guess it makes it more contemporary. You can't overestimate how wonderful the vocals are.

  2. [RealAudio] Ripple (Hunter/ Garcia)
    Everyone will be familiar with this Grateful Dead song from their American Beauty album, which was a tip of the hat to the same influences The Band had drawn from and possibly a nod in their direction. Rick is returning this gesture with a heartfelt cover. A country blues with great lyrics. Rick's voice was an agile instrument, able to cover many genre's of music, but you feel this is where it truly belongs with mandolins, accordions, banjo and pedal steel behind it. It was Quentin Ryan who suggested the song (Breeze Hill's president), and surely a divine moment of clarity. Master instrumentalist, Eric Weissberg, lends his talents on banjo and Levon Helm plays mandolin.

  3. [RealAudio] All Our Past Times (Clapton/ Danko)
    A return to a song Rick cowrote with Eric Clapton in 1976 when The Band were based in Malibu, working from their clubhouse/studio at Shangri-La. I always think of the song as the precursor to Rick's solo career. Rick performs a grand vocal to a version that retains a country feel to the album. Great dobro guitar and mandolin from Jim Weider.

  4. [RealAudio] Book Faded Brown - live (Jost)
    Its fair to say that if Rick hadn't passed away before this album was accomplished, Book Faded Brown wouldn't be a part of this record due to its release on The Band's "best kept secret," Jubilation. But the track clearly meant a lot to Rick as he'd had it in his pocket since 1993. This version was recorded in Michigan for Acoustic Cafe, Rick's last live performance with accompaniment by Louie Hurwitz on piano and vocals. It has been enriched with a lovely backing vocal from Maud Hudson. Bass and drums were also added to the track.

  5. [RealAudio] Chain Gang (Cooke)
    Sam Cooke was one of Rick's big influences and those lucky enough to have seen Rick's solo shows will warmly remember him performing this song. As much for the audience participation - at a London concert in 1993 at the Borderline, the crowd almost raised the roof, not just with the ooh and ahh parts, but singing along to every word. Recorded during the High On The Hog sessions as a duet with Randy Ciarlante, its a beautiful arrangement. Acoustic guitar and keyboards with pre-set sounds are a nice balance for the vocals. And the vocals. Rick really goes to work also harmonising with his lead vocal. Garth tracks a lilting sax solo on the final verse. It's exquisite.

  6. [RealAudio] Change Is Good (Danko/ Tullio/ Kaecher)
    Recorded in Chicago in 1993 by producer Jim Tullio who also had a hand in cowriting it with Rick and his friend, Ed Kaercher. It was intended for a solo album on Elektra Records. Joe Walsh is one of the musicians contributing guitar and piano. Rick sings a strong vocal and it has a much more bright, rock sound. Aaron had Rick's brother, Terry, overdub bass.

  7. [RealAudio] This Wheel's On Fire (Dylan/ Danko)
    A real surprise the arrangement of this "Basement" song written by Rick and Bob Dylan. Recorded by the Crowmatix in memory of Rick. A two-guitar introduction that almost has a flamenco flavour, one picking the melody the other strumming chords. The tempo changes as the other instruments are introduced. And at 3 minutes in Rick sings the last two verses and chorus. Garth Hudson's accordion work throughout and especially in the songs closing passage are inspired. Its a stimulating and moving version. As a closing thought, its also worth mentioning that Dylan performs this song at his shows today.

  8. [RealAudio] You Can Go Home (Pacheco/ Danko)
    A cowrite with Rick's friend and singer/songwriter, Tom Pacheco. A ballad about the refugees the world over (the atrocities of Bosnia and Rwanda surely come to mind).
    You'd have to be Christ
    To forget and forgive
    One day at a time
    Is how you must live

    Sredni Vollmer's harmonica throughout the song is both haunting and sublime.

  9. [RealAudio] Let The Four Winds Blow - live (Bartholomew/ Domino)
    Again, this slice of New Orleans was recorded for Acoustic Cafe. Aaron "Louie" Hurwitz takes lead vocal on this Fats Domino/Dave Bartholomew cover, but really its like a duet as Rick is singing right alongside from the first chorus and subsequent verses. Levon overdubbed some great Mississippi saxophone to give it that real barrelhouse flavour.

  10. [RealAudio] People of Conscience (Pacheco)
    Lyrically and musically this is an absolutley stunning song. A Tom Pacheco song that he may have written specifically for Rick. Rick sings the song with great passion and Pacheco is on backing vocals. Garth Hudson and Tom Malone's horns are all over this song from beginning to end. The chorus alone is an anthem to the United Nations. "Defending the defensless..." From Texas prisons to California redwoods. A tribute to environmentalists and those who fight polital injustice everywhere.


  • Richard Bell, keyboards
  • Gary Burke, drums
  • Chris "Hambone" Cameron, organ
  • Randy Ciarlante, lead vocal/ bkg. vocal/ drums
  • Rick Danko, lead vocal/ bkg. vocal/ guitars/ bass/ producer
  • Terry Danko, bass
  • Mike DeMicco, guitar/ mandolin
  • Mike Dunn, bass
  • Jim Eppard, mandolin/ guitars
  • Hank Guaglione, drums
  • Levon Helm, mandolin/ harmonica
  • Garth Hudson, accordion/ sax/ keyboards/ horn arrangement
  • Maud Hudson, bkg. vocals
  • Prof. "Louie" Hurwitz, bkg. vocal/ piano/ accordion/ keyboards/ piano/ bass/ producer
  • Bashiri Johnson, percussion
  • Dennis Johnson, bass
  • Tom Malone, tuba/ trombone/ baritone horn
  • Greg Marsh, percussion
  • Larry Packer, viola
  • Tom Pacheco, guitar
  • Leslie Ritter, bkg. vocal
  • Bill Rupert, guitar
  • Scott Petito, bass
  • Marie Spinosa, bkg. vocals/ chimes/ percussion
  • Jim Tullio, guitar/ bkg. vocal
  • Sredni Vollmer, harmonica
  • Joe Walsh, guitar/ piano/ bkg. vocal
  • Jim Weider, guitars/ mandolin/ dobro
  • Eric Weissberg, guitar

Rick Danko - Times Like These - 2000 - Breeze Hill Records
European release: CoraZong Records/ Nordic Records 255034 - 2003

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