The Endless Highway
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Endless Highway   

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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I've listened most of this release and it is very good as far as tributes go. It offers a mix a variety of artists from jam bands, to country, to pop  and a few things in between. You'll likely be introduced to an artist or two that you've never heard before. 

Press Release
429 RECORDS PAYS TRIBUTE TO 'THE BAND' WITH 
"ENDLESS HIGHWAY: THE MUSIC OF THE BAND"
Jack Johnson, My Morning Jacket, Lee Ann Womack, Death Cab For Cutie, Rosanne Cash, Jakob Dylan, Gomez, Widespread Panic, The Allman Brothers, John Hiatt, Joe Henry, Bruce Hornsby, Guster, Blues Traveler, Josh Turner, Gov't Mule and Others Reinterpret Legendary Group’s Classic Songs 

Release Date: January 30, 2007 

OCTOBER 11, 2007, SANTA MONICA, CA—Robbie Robertson, Garth Hudson, Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel—aka THE BAND— inarguably placed alongside a shortlist of groups considered “rock royalty”, will be paid a long-overdue, much-deserved tribute with ENDLESS HIGHWAY: THE MUSIC OF THE BAND—a collection of their compositions lovingly reworked by a diverse group of artists who share a love of The Band and are highly regarded in their own right . The project will be released by 429 Records (a unit of the Savoy Label Group), in January of 2007. The stellar collection features reinterpretations of classic BAND songs by Jack Johnson, Lee Ann Womack, Death Cab For Cutie, Gomez, Roseanne Cash, My Morning Jacket and many others. ENDLESS HIGHWAY: THE MUSIC OF THE BAND is in stores January 30th.

Executive Produced by Stu Fine and Steve Vining, ENDLESS HIGHWAY is a showcase for musicians of many different genres for whom The Band represent a pinnacle of creative musicianship. Says Stu Fine: “The more we talked about the idea, of finding an artist whose songs transcended time, space and generations, who artists loved and respected enough to want to cover, THE BAND kept showing up at the top of each of our wish lists.”

When The Band released their first album, MUSIC FROM BIG PINK, they had already spent over a year touring with Ronnie Hawkins (as The Hawks) and Bob Dylan on the intensely polarizing world tour that introduced audiences to the “electric” side of Dylan. It was a series of performances that were astonishing in their unwavering musical vision and intensity. The Band materialized out of the ashes of The Hawks upon an unsuspecting musical community with a collection of compositions unlike anything released in pop music before. Rob Bowman states in his notes to the compilation THE BAND: A MUSICAL HISTORY, “…more than any other band in the history of popular music they were able to internalize the main tributaries of American roots musics to the point where they syncretically fused them into a timeless musical stew that, both linguistically and sonically, encapsulates the mythical essence of some long-lost sense of America.”

The challenge for the artists participating in ENDLESS HIGHWAY was how to approach a body of work where more often than not, the word used to describe a particular song was “masterpiece.” My Morning Jacket drummer Patrick Hallahan comments to Billboard.com on the recording of “It Makes No Difference” with Levon Helm in Helm’s studio in Woodstock, NY: “We were very aware of the potential pain he would feel from hearing that song recorded by someone else. (Late Band members) Rick Danko and Richard Manuel were amongst the purest musicians to ever grace the art, and to conjure up their loss was something we feared and respected."

Adds Steve Vining, President of 429 Records/SLG: It’s been gratifying to work with so many established artists but also the young bands who have such an appreciation for The Band’s legacy. Putting together this project has been a labor of love for all involved and I am happy the music reflects that.”


The Tracks

The songwriter Don Henley once described our era as a 'graceless age.' The Last Waltz in some sense represented the beginning of that dreary time in our culture and particularly in the music business. It seemed to many of us that the 'undue influence' of bean-counters and beaurocrats was slowly killing the music. But creativity never sleeps even if it isnıt always on the airwaves or on store shelves. A great deal was evolving in the American psyche: Hip-Hop, new Country, Punk, Grunge, Rap and all the sub-genres like alt. country, new Folk and neo-Chill.

The Bandıs music recalled an earlier, rural America with dirt-road characters like 'Willie boy,' 'Anna Lee' and 'Little John Tyler.' It is no accident that their career peaked as technology tipped into personal computers, cell phones, internet and home-recording. When The Band moved into Big Pink much of Woodstock was still on 'party lines' where up to 12 local households shared a single telephone line.

The Bandıs generation felt change coming and responded by clinging to Appalachian ballads, Mississippi Blues, Chicago Rhythm and Blues and Rockabilly. We loved The Band because they were about groove and funk and the rawness of young turks slamming chords around like a tennis ball. The music thrived on interaction, a concept that seems alien to todayıs producers who record with drum machines and samples and flip files around the world without ever seeing their musical cohorts. 

I was skeptical when I first heard about this collection. I thought pity the fool that would try to cover a Band song! Iım glad to be proven wrong.

From the minute I heard Lee Ann Womack take control of The Weight, with her raspy vocals and soulful trills, I knew this collection worked on an emotional and musical level. The producers of this CD made many thoughtful A and R decisions. They chose popular younger artists and a few seasoned bands to put their stamp on some of The Bandıs greatest songs. 

Guster kicks things off with This Wheelıs On Fire, which originally appeared on The Basement Tapes in 1975. Guster formed as an acoustic-based band at an east coast college in the early 1990ıs, and theyıre a socially conscious band with distinctive vocals and tight playing. Gusterıs tour bus was powered by biodiesel on their 2006 tour and in that sense their wheels were truly on fire. Theyıve got a wry sense of humor (check out their animation of One Man Wrecking Machine), and Guster captures the spirit of This Wheelıs On Fire with banjos, guitars and strong harmonies.

Bruce Hornsby is a powerful artist who walks easily in Band territory. Like Dylan, Hornsbyıs lyrics tap into American heartland themes and touch on blues and traditional melodies while always maintaining a dynamic groove. He co-wrote Go Back To Your Woods with Robbie Roberston for the Storyville album. Hornsby and his group The Noisemakers do a funky King Harvest here with Bruce's signature piano style holding down the arrangement. His high-energy vocal and piano meet his long-stated goal to 'make music in the present tense.

In 1971 my brother Happy Traum played and sang with Bob Dylan on an emotionally raw I Shall Be Released (Bob Dylanıs Greatest Hits Volume 2). The Band had cut this song on Music From Big Pink. Over the years, I Shall Be Released has become something of a festival anthem, recorded by everyone from Bette Midler to the Slackers. Jack Johnsonıs version is the latest, and it is quietly powerful. The ex-surfer turns in a steady acoustic-guitar rendition which wraps around the mind like an old wool blanket.

Look Out Cleveland exploded out of The Bandıs 'Brown' album - their followup to Music From Big Pink. They recorded the classics Unfaithful Servant, Across The Great Divide, and King Harvest for this album. The Brown album swept through the music world as a kind of American ³Sergeant Pepper² and established the Band as an enduring force on the scene. Look Out Cleveland comes on like a line of thunderstorms. The Band was shouting out a warning, an alert that something heavy was coming on. Jackie Greene understands this dynamic. Greene is a contemporary funkster with elements of folk, R and B, soul and pop infusing his style. He tackles the song head-on with plenty of raw energy and a kick-butt band that yanks the listener into full awareness.

Death Cab For Cutie comes from Bellingham, WA, a harbor town not far from the Canadian border. Ben Gibbardıs vocal sound and finger-style guitar playing led the band (Nick Harmer, Chris Walla and Jason McGerr) to a strong following in Seattle and beyond. Rocking Chair is a perfect match for these guys, starting with edgy simplicity and building to a sweet horn-enhanced fade arranged by John Painter.

Levon Helm mentions Up On Cripple Creek as The Bandıs unexpected 'hit record' in 1969. In his book This Wheelıs On Fire, Levon says The Band turned down the Glen Campbell Show because 'weıd have to sit on barrels in the back of a pickup truck and lip-synch.' If The Band was about anything it was about live music, the spontaneous response that happens when great vocalists work off each other. I donıt know if Gomez sang this live in the studio but the feeling is there. The singers are compelling, with phrasing thatıs true to the original and at the same time explores new territory. Gomez rounds it out with screaming slide guitars and a drummer who catches a tough back-beat, delivering Levon-style fills right on schedule.

Rick Danko must have performed It Makes No Difference a thousand times on a beat-up old Gibson at the Whitewater Cafe, the Joyous Lake and the Bearsville Theater. Every performance was as good as his rendition in The Last Waltz and never failed to bring tears to our eyes. My Morning Jacket recorded their version at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, New York. Jim James reaches deep for his vocals, with Carl Broemel and Bo Koster adding harmonies. Jamesı edgy electric lead, Patrick Hallahanıs drums and Two Tone Tommyıs bass keep Rickıs spirit alive. 

The Allman Brothers Band brings out emotions that only Southern men seem to own. Although The Band wasnıt from the South (with the exception of Arkansas-born Levon Helm), they seemed like boys from below the Mason-Dixon line. The Allmans are from Georgia and that comes through loud and clear in their concert version of The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down. This version has more than its share of pain about a vanquished southern landscape. 

Jakob Dylan hit the charts in the late 1990ıs with The Wallflowers and his classic songs One Headlight and Sixth Avenue Heartache. Whispering Pines was composed by Richard Manuel and Robbie Robertson, and it poses this archetypal Band situation: 'If you find me in a gloom, or catch me in a dream...' Eric Clapton described had described Richard Manuel as 'incredibly gifted...a holy madman.' Jakob Dylan brings intuitive understanding to this material and delivers a beautiful vocal. The incomparable Lizz Wright answers Jakobıs verses, and the two of them gave me chills.

Garth Hudson captured 'mad genius' status with his brilliant organ ramblings on Chest Fever. Garth improvises wildly on the original yet maintains control with his deep orchestral sensibility. Widespread Panic does the logical thing on their cover. They leap right in. The new organ part holds its own territory, and this seasoned band brings all their power and energy to bear on the vocals.

Stage Fright was one of Rick Dankoıs signature vocals performed with a bold, quavering style. Steve Reynolds' fingerstyle version of Stage Fright takes the song in a unique direction. Reynolds delivers intimate vocals, backed by cello and a light rhythm section. Reynolds has a steady acoustic guitar style which surrounds his vocals with air and emotion.

I wouldnıt have guessed that Trevor Hall is just 19 years old. His voice carries the depth and weight of experience. His singing on Life Is A Carnival, one of the few true writing collaborations by Rick, Levon and Robbie, has a loose-jawed street-smart 'carnie' approach. Trevor jumps across the lyrics, risking disaster at each turn, yet lands firmly on his feet. He is solidly backed by his bassist Ben Jacobs, keyboardist Zac Rae, guitarist Lyle Workman and a 'gang' of fine players. 'Iım honored to pay tribute to a legendary group,' Trevor told me. You can feel these guys had fun at the session produced by Joey Waronker which Trevor said 'was like a carnival.'

The Roches came on the folk scene in the late 1970ıs. Their song We made quite a splash at clubs and festivals, where they were wildly popular. Maggie, Terre and Suzzy put their unique vocal sound on Acadian Driftwood. With three part harmonies, fiddle, organ and acoustic guitars, the sisters depart from original Band version with an arrangement that carries traditional Celtic and Cajun elements - the classy performance youıd expect from The Roches.

The Unfaithful Servant is like a short Southern novel that could have been written by Robert Penn Warren or even William Faulkner. Thereıs mystery built into the lyrics, one of the best to spring from Robbie Robertsonıs imagination. Rosanne Cash captures a beautiful moment with her emotionally delicate and exposed performance. She makes you wonder what happened to these forlorn people, what will become of them, why are they so close yet oddly distant? 'Life has been good to us all, even when that sky has been raining' may indeed be a metaphor for The Band.

There are different lyric versions of Bob Dylanıs When I Paint My Masterpiece including one that says 'I got me a date with a pretty little girl from Greece' rather than 'with Botticelliıs niece.' I donıt know if Dylan wrote it a couple of different ways or if it changed accidentally at jam sessions. Lyrics have a way of doing that. Josh Turner exploded on the country music charts with Long Black Train which started a string of hits for him. Heıs got one of the deepest, most resonant voices to ever sing country music. Check out that impossibly great note he hits on 'wasting time.' Turnerıs swampy version of Paint My Masterpiece digs in with exceptional vocals backed by a powerful drummer, bluegrass instruments and mountain honesty. He is a great artist.

Sharing a similar philosophy to Bruce Hornsby, Warren Haynes says that Govıt Mule audiences come to their shows to 'be part of a moment in time.' Haynesı husky voice and soulful phrasing re-defines The Shape Iım In. Haynes was brought up on Bill Monroe and Merle Haggard but soon found inspiration in the vocals of Diana Ross, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and other soul singers. A member of the Allman Brothers Band and Dickey Betts Band, Haynes stepped out in recent years as a front-man for Govıt Mule. With acclaimed drummer Matt Abts, keyboardist Danny Louis (who also plays a mean trumpet here!) and bassist Andy Hess, Govıt Mule does a jazz-inspired version of The Shape Iım In. Itıs a relaxed take on what Levon Helm called a song about 'desperation.' The original Band recording appeared on their third effort, Stage Fright. It was hammered down with a brisk piano comped by Richard Manuel and Levon Helmıs insistent backbeat on 2 and 4. Govıt Mule kicks it off with a slow ambient introduction. Wah-wah, trumpet and a distant keyboard give this a moody glow, as though they were telling The Band 'itıs ok guys, weıre with you.'

The Band 'painted their masterpiece' over and over again, album after album, concert after concert. This tribute CD to my old friends and current neighbors is as fitting and respectful as I could imagine. Jump in with both feet and enjoy a tradition of purely American music that remains vital and alive.

Artie Traum

Bearsville, NY

October 2006

Track List

 Top of Page

1 The Wheel's on Fire Guster
2 King Harvest Bruce Hornsby
3 It Makes No Difference My Morning Jacket
4 I Shall Be Released Jack Johnson, ALO
5 The Weight Womack, Lee Ann
6 Chest Fever Widespread Panic
7 Up on Cripple Creek Gomez
8 The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down Allman Brothers Band
9 Stage Fright Steve Reynolds
10 Rag Mama Rag Blues Traveler
11 Whispering Pines Jakob Dylan, Lizz Wright
12 Acadian Driftwood Roches
13 The Unfaithful Servant Rosanne Cash
14 When I Paint My Masterpiece Josh Turner
15 Life Is a Carnival Trevor Hall
16 Look out Cleveland Jackie Greene
17 Rockin' Chair Death Cab For Cutie
Notes:

Top of Page

Released - Jan 2007
429 Records, a unit of the Savoy Label Group (SLG)

There are several tracks that didn't make it onto the CD. Some I'm aware are:
The Shape I'm In - Gov't Mule

 

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