Friday, February 1, 2013

The Band-Moondog Matinee

Moondog Matinee
I have seen this record get two stars from rock critics, and for years avoided it despite the greatness of the Band's earlier records simply because I did not believe it to be on a par with the Band's classics. Finally I noticed that it had been remastered and was generally garnering good reviews from those who had bought it (see the other reviews here). So, I sprung for it and couldn't have been happier with the result. Like Lennon's "Rock N Roll," it's a seriously underrated attempt to explore an older style of music after the creation in years past of groundbreaking new work. The Band tackle a style of rock that came about in the 1950s and largely had ended when the psychedelic sound changed rock in the mid-60s. It's lively, bluesy and raw, but with enough polish and musical sophistication to make it interesting. My favorite tracks are the outtakes, like "What am I Living For" and "Shakin'," which I think are significantly better than some of the album tracks and push the disc into solid 5-star territory. If you dig "Get Back" era Beatles, earlier work by the Band, Chuck Berry and very early Elvis, this will likely be a favorite for you as it is for me. Uncertain of their direction and what they were going to do after "Cahoots" The Band did a series of casual sessions recording a variety of oldies some of which they had played when they were Levon and The Hawks and some from further back when they backed Ronnie Hawkins. A small handful were songs that they had never played but admired and had fun playing such were the circumstances that generated "Moondog Matinee"--it was about the fun and if the song felt right.
Perhaps this was an attempt by Robbie Robertson and his bandmates to rediscover their roots and, perhaps, regain some of the inspiration that had made their first three studio albums so memorable but, more than likely, it was ALL of these things. The Band chose carefully covering a wide variety of stuff but picking more obscure songs to remake for the most part (and Robbie Robertson added a bit to "Mystery Train" with Sam Phillips permission).

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