Double Live is exactly that. Here are two (almost) solo performances from Band bassman, Rick Danko, recorded in 1989 and 1997. Both are bootlegs; one listed in The Band’s archive, the other not.
The first set is an off-the-board recording from Cubby Bear in Chicago and it is alleged that Rick was bribed with certain substances to allow it. It has to be said that his performances sound rather “chemically enhanced” in places and the idea of letting the audience sing ‘The Weight’ while he played doesn’t add much to the sum of human happiness. I guess you had to be there. Amongst the solo and Band hits Rick mixes in some old blues and rock. ‘Crazy Mama’ is a perennial live favourite and you’ll also find Ma Rainey’s ‘CC Rider’, Robert Johnson’s ‘Walkin’ Blues’ and Willie Dixon’s ‘Little Red Rooster’.
Rick is accompanied on harmonica by Shredni Vollmer – I found out so you don’t have to – but the album suffers, as do many bootlegs, from sloppy packaging. The sleeve notes are generic and there are errors in the track listing (‘Sip Some Wine’, ‘Days Of Glory’ and ‘Just In Case’ which is actually ‘Think’). Sadly you’ll now find the errors enshrined on the web.
The second set was recorded at Stephen Talkhouse, Amagansett (“we’re in The Hamptons”, says Rick at one point) and sounds like another soundboard recording. At its best it’s top quality but then the tape runs out in the middle of ‘The Weight’ and comes back half-way through ‘Next Time You See Me’. Aaron Hurwitz is on keyboards and his presence helps keep Rick on the straight and narrow for most of the time although you can hear him straining at the leash. For all its faults there are some magic moments – ‘Blind Willie McTell’, ‘Endless Highway’, Eric Anderson’s ‘Blue River’ and a gorgeous reading of ‘Unfaithful Servant’.
Double Live comes at a bargain price which makes it an attractive purchase. It’s not Rick at his very best but you have to go back a long way for that.
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Not from either of these sets but it’s the right song and the right year. ‘It Makes No Difference’ – live: