Levon Helm & The RCO All-Stars (1977)
Levon Helm was The Band, if you ask me, but if you think Levon Helm & The RCO All-Stars is going to be another Band album you might be disappointed. Don’t get me wrong: This is a really good record from some of the best musicians of their generation. In fact, the band that backed The Blues Brothers is featured here, as well as Paul Butterfield, Dr. John and Booker T. Jones. It’s not The Band, but it is very good stuff from musicians at the top of their games.
The record opens with “Washer Woman,” a track that reminds me of early Little Feat, who produced some of the best rhythm and blues ever made. “The Tie That Binds” features Butterfield’s incredible harmonica, not to mention the guitars of Fred Carter Jr. and Steve Cropper. “You Got Me,” with its soft strong arrangements, is probably the weakest link on side one. “Blues So Bad” has a Derek Trucks feel, and “Sing, Sing, Sing” is an up-tempo track that infuses the album with an irresistible, optimistic vibe.
Side two opens with “Milk Cow Boogie,” a raucous bar band tune, and “Rain Down Tears” which cranks things down again with its jazzy brass and classic Helm harmony. “A Mood I Was In” could have been a B-side of any Band single.
Chuck Berry is nicely covered in “Havana Moon,” the legend’s hit from 1956, and the album closes with the R&B staple, “That’s My Home.”
And, thankfully, Helm hasn’t gone anywhere. He released Dirt Farm in 2007 and won a Grammy for it. He’s since released Electric Dirt and was featured on “Austin City Limits” earlier this month.
Check him out if you get a chance. (Dennis Donahue)
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