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stuck in the '60s (and better for it)
By John Goodin
Imagine it's the summer of 1969. The Band has recently finished recording the follow-up to Music From Big Pink. The Woodstock festival is a few weeks away. Robbie Robertson has taken off to Canada to write some songs and Richard Manuel is hanging out with Van Morrison for a few days discussing Johnny Walker. Levon Helm, Rick Danko and Garth Hudson, together with John Simon and some friends, decide to do a little recording. Jericho is what you get.
Jericho, of course, was not recorded in 1969. But, remarkably, it feels very much like it was. Levon, Rick and Garth are not the whole Band, but together they recreate the sound of the group in its prime — a sound much imitated but never duplicated.
The hard rockin' "Remedy" kicks things off and is the first of several tunes to showcase the rhythm and blues roots of the players. The real magic, however, comes in the following three numbers. Bob Dylan's "Blind Willie McTell" is mythic in content and execution, with Danko and Helm trading verses like in the old days. "The Caves of Jericho" follows with a great story, earthy harmonies and one of those slightly off-center horn sections that Garth Hudson and John Simon used on Big Pink. The trilogy is completed with a great arrangement of Bruce Springsteen's "Atlantic City," featuring some driving mandolin playing and trademark first-person singing from Levon.
Richard Manuel makes a moving posthumous appearance singing the aching "Country Boy." The upbeat, humorous "Move to Japan" follows to lighten the mood. Other highlights are Rick Danko's take on "Amazon" and the Delta groove of Muddy Waters' "Same Thing."
Garth Hudson keeps his legendary status intact by playing great stuff throughout. His accordion solo on "Atlantic City" and his langorous, funky sax solo on "Blues Stay Away from Me" are wonderful.
Jericho would be better with a couple of first-rate Robbie Robertson songs. It would also be fun to hear some Robertson guitar solos on the rockier numbers. Despite these reservations, this is a strong effort and a must-have for anyone who treasures Music From Big Pink and The Band.