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A Phoenix-Like Rise

by Peter Viney

From Record Collector, Issue 324, June 2006.

Levon Helm & the Rco All-Stars:
Live at the Palladium, NYC, New Year's Eve 1977
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Available from

So how do you replace The Band? In 1976 Levon Helm had played The Last Waltz, now held to be one of the ultimate rock concerts. Except that few knew that till the film came out in 1978. In 1977 Helm had the job of finding himself a new band and recruited Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn, Dr John, Paul Butterfield, Fred Carter Jnr and the Last Waltz horn section. The resulting abum gained a four star review from Rolling Stone, and a one word review from Robert Christgau, "Boogie." Thirty years on, Levon Helm Studios have released a live concert from the RCO All Stars, recorded on New Years Eve 1977, and the power of the RCO All Stars falls into place. This was a band that demanded to be heard live, crisply recorded with Helm's drumming and voice right up front. It includes the outstanding tracks from the studio album, plus live versions of Ain't That A Lot of Love, Goin' Back to Memphis, Born in Chicago, Got My Mojo Working and Goodnight Irene. There's only one Band song, Ophelia, and it rivals the Last Waltz recording. The Band had cut Ain't That A Lot of Love for the Islands album, and it was uncharacteristically weak. The RCO All Stars open with the same song, and Helm outdoes The Band on a powerful horn-laden version. The material gives everyone space to play, and allows room for the inspiration of the moment, nowhere more so than on Rain Down Tears which combines tight horn arrangements with relaxed soloing. This is the first of a series from Levon's archives, and if they are as well produced and remastered as this stunning live set, there are more treats to look forward to.

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