I’ve always had an interesting relationship regarding Robbie Robertson from The Band. Even though I was a die-hard college radio geek, I just never really got into the band, although boy did I try more than once.
I did love the imagery on “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” but never got into “Life Is A Carnival.”
The Band backed up Bob Dylan, had Todd Rundgren as an engineer when they recorded Music From Big Pink and made a hell of a movie with Marty Scorsese (“The Last Waltz”) about their final show.
Then they broke up amid much rancor, or so I heard and heard.
A few years later (1987) Robertson, their guitarist and main writer, released his self titled solo album and all of the songs on the album clicked for me.
None were more notably than “Somewhere Down The Crazy River,” which begins as a spoken word song then magically morphs into one of the most elegiac and hypnotic songs I’ve ever heard.
I well recall when it first came out and I just couldn’t get enough it and wondered where the artist had been all through my musical journeys.
The song blends standard rock with a healthy dose of New Orleans-influenced mojo. It really does take your breath away both lyrically and musically.
After not listening to it for quite some time, I played it again and was equally as moved as that first time. In addition to that song, “Fallen Angel,” “American Roulette,” “Showdown At Big Sky” and “Broken Arrow” were great tracks.
In fact, the album was widely hailed as one of the best of the year. It was co-produced by Daniel Lanois and featured, among others, Peter Gabriel, Tony Levin, Garth Hudson, Larry Klein, U2, Gil Evans and Rick Danko.
It was an amazingly epic album.
He made several additional albums, but his latest, just out; called How To Become Clairvoyant is his first since his Contact from the Underworld of Redboy in 1998.
In addition to a classic cast of characters, Robertson again brings together a diverse assortment of musicians.
Among his collaborators are Eric Clapton (who wrote one song with the artist and plays on several others); Steve Winwood; Robert Randolph; Trent Renzor, and Tom Morello
Among the tracks are: “He Don’t Live Here No More,” “Madame X,” “Fear Of Falling” and “Won’t Be Back.” I’m tempted to say it’s a full return to form and more for Robbie, now 62.
Between then and now, he’s served as a music producer for DreamWorks and he’s done most all of the music for former-roommate Scorsese.
Most notably, he scored the director’s last movie “Shutter Island,” as well his “Raging Bull” and “The Departed.”
He only performed on “The View” and “David Letterman” on the East Coast in promotion for the album, but he was simply sensational.
He was backed up by the local L.A.-band Dawes and the five-member aggregation were simply terrific; reverent of their leader, but still able and sensational accompaniment.
I think it speaks volumes when you say he has exactly the same degree of music intergrity now, as he did then.
Robertson seemingly can do it all: Mississippi-delta blues, voodoo-driven rock; he’s certainly a wizard with music. This is of the best albums you’ll hear this year.
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