Reviews by - Lindsay Planer


The Band -- The Best of A Musical History (Capitol/EMI)

For those not wanting the expensive and equally expansive The Band: A Musical History (2005) box set, this 19-song distillation is definitely a worthy alternative. However, potential purchasers should consider that this newly-released Best Of …  (2007) is available in two formats -- as a sole audio CD, or with an accompanying DVD containing five of the nine clips from the larger package.

The audio contents commence as the primordial combo support Ronnie Hawkins on an R&B-fuelled cover of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love?” Their intersection with Bob Dylan is represented by the punk-tinged rocker “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?” From there they continue their ongoing relationship (if not only in spirit) with the Basement Tapes nugget “Ain’t No More Cane On The Brazos.” There are also obligatory entries such as “The Weight,” “King Harvest (Has Surely Come),” “Stage Fright,” and “I Shall Be Released.”

For many, the heart and soul will be the rarities and deep album cuts that are liberally sprinkled throughout. Standouts include “Orange Juice Blues (Blues For Breakfast) circa Music From Big Pink (1968), an ‘early version’ of “All La Glory” worked up during the sessions for Stage Fright (1970), “4% Pantomime” with vocals by none other than Van Morrison and a rollicking live remake of the ‘50s rocker “Slippin’ & Slidin’” from the Festival Express Train Tour in the summer of 1970.

Those who spring for the DVD edition will be treated to a half-hour of performance footage kicking off with an instrumental jam that veers into a solid rehearsal of “King Harvest (Has Surely Come)”. “Long Black Veil” and ‘Rockin’ Chair” are taken from the aforementioned Festival Express tour and more specifically the 2003 documentary of the same name. This is followed by their funky take on the Motown standard “(Baby) Don’t Do It” filmed to help promote the Rock Of Ages (1972) package. Wrapping up the DVD sampler is a previously vaulted clip from a 1974 Wembley Stadium show in London of “Hard Times (The Slop)” and “Just Another Whistle Stop”.

Various Artists -- The Best of Hootenanny (Shout! Factory)

Contained within this triple DVD set are no less than a whopping 91 otherwise unavailable performances from the early ‘60s television program “Hootenanny”. The show was considered Saturday night ‘must see’ TV for folkies of all ages and tastes. Although it only aired for 18 months -- from April of ’63 to September of ’64 -- the legacy and impact left behind are indelible. Each week, Jack Linkletter -- son of Art -- would travel to a different college campus and host the televised half-hour. The artists came from the burgeoning folk and coffeehouse scene with a virtual who’s-who of well-established and rising talents, as well as up-and-coming comedians.

While space prohibits listing every contributor, a few key artists and entries from this four-and-a-half hour package include: The Chad Mitchell Trio (“Mighty Day,” and the controversial “John Birch Society”), Johnny Cash (“Busted” and “Five Feet High And Risin’”), Limelighters (“Midnight Special” and “Cottonfields”) Flatt & Scruggs (“Hot Corn, Cold Corn” and “Reuben”), Doc Watson (“Deep River Blues”), Judy Collins (“Anathea”), the Simon Sisters duo of Carly and sister Lucy (“Turn, Turn, Turn” and “Winkin’, Blinkin’ and Nod”), Miriam Makeba (“Umgokozo” and “Love Tastes Like Strawberries”), The Dillards (“Ruben’s Train”) as well as numerous appearances from the New Christy Minstrels and The Rooftop Singers. The stand-up comedic roster is equally impressive with observations and monologues from Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, Vaughn Meader, Louis Nye and Jackie Vernon.

The demise in popularity of acoustic-based folk ultimately resulted in the cancellation of “Hootenanny”. This on the heels of the perpetually-changing tides of the pop scene in the mid ‘60s. With the onslaught of Beatlemania and other British Invasion rock bands, “Shindig!” replaced “Hootenanny” as America’s prime-time weekly musical TV event. Shout! Factory has done a commendable job of presenting the best of the surviving “Hootenanny” kinescopes -- which are films made off of television monitors. Sadly, the majority of the shows were either not recorded, or are lost and/or presumed destroyed by short-sighted archivists who considered folk to be just another passing fad.

Charlie Daniels Band -- Volunteer Jam (Eagle Eye Media)

After several decades out-of-circulation, the Charlie Daniels Band (CDB) Volunteer Jam (1975) has finally been brought to home video. This yearly event presented the royalty of Southern Rock for a unique one-night only performance. Special considerations were also made to keep the all-star roster from becoming public knowledge prior to show time, which would only add to the excitement and spontaneity of the event.

Captured on this two-plus hour rockumentary is the second annual confab with the CDB trading licks with the likes of the Marshall Tucker Band’s Doug Gray (vocals/percussion), siblings Tommy Caldwell (bass/vocals) and Toy Caldwell (lead guitar/vocals), Paul Riddle (drums), George McCorkle (guitar/vocals) and Jerry Eubanks (woodwind/sax/keyboards/vocals). Plus, Jimmy Hall (vocals/harmonica) from the Mobile, Alabama-based band Wet Willie, as well as Dru Lombar (guitar) from Georgia’s own Grinderswitch, and fellow Allman Brothers Bandmates Dickey Betts (guitar) and Chuck Levell (keyboards/vocals).

The roughly hour-long CDB set features early classics “Whiskey,” “Birmingham Blues,” Long-Haired Country Boy,” and “The South’s Gonna Do It Again,” among others. The jamming kicks off with a stretched out reading of the Marshall Tucker Band’s “Twenty-Four Hours,” as well as a winding overhaul of “The Thrill Is Gone.” Jimmy Hall steps up and contributes some tasty harmonica on a remarkably soulful “Jelly Blues.” Dickey Betts then corals the ensemble through a hard-drivin’ rendition of the Billie Joe Shaver tune “Sweet Mama,” before a hot steppin’, head-for-the hills version of the bluegrass staple “Morning Dew” led by Roni Stoneman, the buck-tooth first lady of the banjo.

As a bonus, there is a candid (and seemingly unedited) modern interview with Charlie Daniels who talks about the history behind the Volunteer Jams, the importance of Southern Rock, and the evolution of the CDB’s music from the 1970s and into the 21st Century.

Lindsay Planer is a freelance journalist and is the weekday on-air producer at WDYT 1220 AM in Charlotte, NC. He's also a contributor to All Music Guide, CrutchfieldAdvisor.com and the Gaston Gazette.
All comments and questions are encouraged and can be sent to <asthediscspins@earthlink.net>.


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