The Band – Jericho

Jericho (1993)


1. Remedy 2. Blind Willie McTell 3. The Caves Of Jericho 4. Atlantic City 5. Too Soon Gone 6. Country Boy 7. Move To Japan 8. Amazon (River Of Dreams) 9. Stuff You Gotta Watch 10. The Same Thing 11. Shine A Light 12. Blues Stay Away From Me


Say! Now this is a good idea! After spending a decade touring the casino circuit as an oldies act without your band’s only legitimate songwriter, and after one of your lead singers dies, record your first new studio album in sixteen years! Dynamite plan! And maybe we can all start wearing our shoes on our hands and our hats on our feet! And maybe I’ll start walking around all day with A MINIATURE IRON MAIDEN CLAMPED TIGHTLY AROUND MY BALLSAC.

In all seriousness, other bands have released “comeback” albums under far more dubious circumstances. But few such albums by major rock bands have been as pointless or easy to ignore. I mean, what are the Band without Robbie Robertson, anyway? Ultimately, just one of the 800 million cover bands in America, peddling generic twelve bar blues, obvious covers, and whatever few sorry originals their no-name sidemen are able to conjure up. Sure, this new configuration of the Band has an added air of legitimacy that comes with having Levon Helm’s inevitably thinner but still distinctive voice at their disposal, but when they’ve got him singing moronic pap like “Move To Japan,” even his credibility gets stretched to the limit, quite frankly.

So I suppose in theory Levon, Danko, and Hudson could have used this album to back up all the bitching they’d been doing over the past twenty years about how they all wanted and deserved more songwriting credits on Band albums but His Dickness King Robertson III wouldn’t allow it. Instead, they basically shot the credence of that story straight through the heart with Jericho, on which Levon and Danko share co-writing credit with a couple of the dudes they had backing them up at the time on exactly one song, “The Caves Of Jericho,” which is a quarter-speed rewrite of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” Levon also gets a co-write with four other people on “Move To Japan,” giving him exactly as many co-writes on this album as Jim Weider, the new guitarist, and John Simon, an auxiliary horn player. Hey, Levon: if you were gonna whine and complain about not getting enough songwriting credits (which apparently he spent ample time doing in his autobiography, which was released the same year as Jericho; what a delightful coincidence for his PR team!), it might help your case if you had actually, you know, written some songs when you had the chance.

But nooooooo. Instead of doing something, you know, remotely interesting, Jericho sounds like the product of a few flabby middle aged white guys with absolutely no new creative ideas cracking open a few beers and playing a few old songs they know. Which, I presume, is exactly what this album is. The final third of the album is full to bursting with exactly the kind of pallid blues covers you’d expect from a bunch of aging baby boomers; I’d imagine you could go see any decent anonymous bar band play this stuff in 1993 and the difference wouldn’t be too dramatic. The only difference being, of course, that the Band had the budget to pay for sterile production that removes almost any semblance of true spontaneity and joy from the record. The closing “Blues Stay Away From Me,” in particular, would be wearingly generic at two minutes; at six minutes, it’s beyond aggravating and makes for a particularly deflating ending after the preceding, actually pretty decent (and ubeat!) emotional, gospel-tinged piano rocker “Shine A Light” threatens to inject some real life into the proceedings for the first time.

The first side of the record is less blatantly lazy, but hardly any better. They didn’t bother coming up with a third chord for “Remedy,” nor with adding anything of note to Dylan’s “Blind Willie McTell”… in fact, I found it downright irritating the way Danko and Levon phrase their vocals, with all those choppy and awkward dividing of lyrical phrases. Just let it flow, guys! Like Bob would! He doesn’t even sing it in tune, but at least he doesn’t sound like some bionic Microsoft speech program! Levon basically does the same thing with Springsteen’s “Atlantic City,” but it’s still probably the best thing on here, if only because no other song on the record comes remotely close to that quality of songwriting. Still, the mandolin-based arrangement is fine, and Levon’s voice fits the song well. Oh yeah, Richard Manuel’s final studio recording with the Band, dating back to the mid-80s before poor Richard’s suicide, appears here. It’s a synth-heavy cover of “Country Boy,” made famous by Harry Belafonte and Don Williams. It sucks.

Did I mention that this thing goes on for fucking ever? Nearly an hour! More than thirteen minutes longer than any previous Band album! Fucking why??!? Thanks a lot, Fat Rick Danko.

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