The Band – Jubilation

Jubilation (1998)


1. Book Faded Brown 2. Don’t Wait 3. Last Train To Memphis 4. High Cotton 5. Kentucky Downpour 6. Bound By Love 7. White Cadillac (Ode To Ronnie Hawkins) 8. If I Should Fail 9. Spirit Of The Dance 10. You See Me 11. French Girls


Say! Now this one isn’t so bad! In fact, it’s got lots of noisy guitars and sounds a whole lot like Goo by Sonic Youth and totally rules!

Oh wait, my bad. I’m listening to entirely the wrong album.

Seriously though, Jubilation is a major improvement over the last two pseudo-Band pieces of shit. Parts of it even present a fairly decent facsimile of the real Band! You know, those guys with beards who had some hits back in the 70s like “Up On Crippled Creek” and “The Weight (Of My Balls On Your Face).”

You know what, lemme start over. Those were not even the least bit clever. Just forget the beginning of this review ever happened.

Jubilation features Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, and some random assholes realizing that the last two albums they did served no function whatsoever to society and deciding to actually write some new songs in the style of Robbie Robertson’s the Band. In so doing, they were able to produce a record that is, despite being no more than mostly pleasant and easily digestible, the second best studio album they’d released since 1970. If that doesn’t give you an obvious indication that the Band’s reputation exceeds their actual output by an astronomical margin, then I don’t know what does.

Still, it’s impossible to pretend that Jubilation wasn’t made by a bunch of has-beens. The record is more organic-sounding than the last two, with plenty of warm acoustic guitars and honky tonk piano, but the production is still miles too slick compared to Big Pink and The Band. The band’s attempts to rock are also more convincing than those on Jericho and High On The Chronic, but the band still plays the only way they could manage by this point: like tepid old men. They also sing like old men – Levon’s voice is absolutely wrecked, like he had throat cancer or something.

*receives transmission in earpiece*

*is told that Levon was diagnosed with throat cancer the same year this album came out*

*hides face in shame*

Seriously, it’s incredible that he was even trying to sing with his voice in such a deteriorated state, even if he didn’t know he had cancer while they were recording the album. I sure wouldn’t have been. It’s awfully sad to hear his once mighty Arkansas roar reduced to a thin, wispy rasp, but there’s a retrospective silver lining to it in knowing that he got to live another fourteen years before succumbing to his disease. Rick Danko, barely made it another fourteen months, dying of heart failure in December 1999.

If I were a hack, I would attribute Jubilation’s somewhat somber tone to all this looming mortality. However, I won’t because 1) it’s not like Danko and Helm knew they were going to die while they were recording the album, that’s retarded, and 2) only half of it could really be construed as at all somber, and the other half is really only particularly somber in comparison to the slight, throwaway shit boogie that the last two fake Band albums were comprised of. Nah, the real story here is that there are only three covers, and both the originals and smart cover choices actually sound like second tier 70s Band songs! Like the rambunctious “Kentucky Downpour,” which satisfyingly recalls old rockers like “Smoke Signal” and “Ophelia,” Danko’s bubbly “High Cotton” and Levon’s bluegrass tune “Don’t Wait,” which sounds like it took its inspiration from the 90s alt-country movement and is the best song on here by a mile.

The rest is basically just creaky but competent country rock, occasionally punctuated by a couple of guest appearances (John Hiatt duets with Danko on his “Bound By Love,” Eric Claton plays barely noticeable lead guitar on the generic 50s-style boogie “Last Train To Memphis”) and one or two red herrings (the rancid funk rocker “Spirit Of The Dance,” complete with a bleating horn section that sounds like it was stolen from a Ricky Martin song, Hudson’s mercifully much-briefer-than-“The Genetic Method” closing keyboard instrumental “French Girls”). Some of it piques my interest (Paul Jost’s “Book Faded Brown”), most of it doesn’t go much of anywhere. But all of it is still way better than fucking Moondog Matinee, proving that even if this isn’t the “real” Band, the “real” Band wasn’t exactly infallible.

One Comment

  1. Robin wrote:

    Never knew THE BAND recorded a bunch of lousy albums! As for Levon, he amazingly regained his voice after throat surgery. The 2 albums recorded before his death were terrific and he was in fine form. RIP Levon…

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