THE BAND – Live in Charleston 1994 (Live on Vinyl – LOVL2027)

Live In Charleston 1994Although The Band called it a day in the late 1970s (as famously documented in Martin Scorsese’s  The Last Waltz) they did re-emerge in the early ‘80s, albeit with an altered line up. This time, there was no Robbie Robertson and although Richard Manuel would initially reunite with the group, sadly, he took his own life in the middle of the decade. Nonetheless, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson and Rick Danko kept on keepin’ on (to borrow a phrase), eventually cracking a new audience through their 1993 LP, Jericho. This recording, Live in Charleston 1994, is a live representation of their work in this era.

While the album is mostly made up of live takes from the aforementioned Jericho record, it is the old jazz standard, ‘Caledonia’, which begins the show. The up-beat, funky and blues-esque ‘Remedy’ then follows – only being let down by the various inconsistencies in the sound which plague the first few numbers. Towards the end of side 1 however, this appears to have been addressed somewhat and classic Band numbers like ‘It Makes No Difference’ and ‘The Weight’, Bob Dylan’s ‘Blind Willie McTell’ and Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Atlantic City’ all come out wonderfully played and relatively unscathed.

The set concludes with the encore; ‘Blues Stay Away From Me’, also from Jericho. While the 12-bar blues number is a pretty solid listen in itself, the live recording fades to silence before the song reaches a ‘real life’ conclusion, providing very little closure to the set being presented as an album.

Christopher James Sheridan

Label website:

‘Atlantic City’ – live in 1994:

RICK DANKO RICHARD MANUEL & GARTH HUDSON – Live At The Lonestar, NYC, 1985 (Floating World FLOATM6380)

Live At The LonestarLive At The Lonestar, NYC, 1985 is the third and final of a set of new bootleg releases of Band alumni for this year. The sound is good and the trio, with collected years of experience behind them, are tight. Danko handles the majority of the lead vocals: ‘Mystery Train’, ‘Crazy Mama’, ‘Java Blues’ and ‘It Makes No Difference’ were staples of his solo live performances.

They kick off with two of those looseners: ‘Mystery Train’ and ‘Crazy Mama’, before tackling some of The Band’s biggest hits. The fourth track is listed as ‘The Rumor’ but it isn’t and the person who wrote the sleeve notes either didn’t listen to the recording or didn’t know what the fuck he was talking about – probably both. They actually play a long soulful version of ‘Every Night And Every Day’ by Chicago bluesman Magic Sam. It took me about two minutes to track it down – gissa job!

The first actual Band original is ‘Shape I’m In’ followed by another impassioned reading of ‘It Makes No Difference’. ‘Across The Great Divide’ and ‘Stage Fright’ follow and finally Richard Manuel gets up front to sing a soulful piano-led ‘She Knows’ – apparently it was his birthday. Danko returns with ‘Unfaithful Servant’ before Hudson has his moment in the spotlight with the pairing of ‘The Genetic Method’ and ‘Chest Fever’. A really loose ‘Java Blues’ with a belting break from Hudson and ‘I Shall be Released’ wrap up the recording although not the party.

The songs have a new freedom without Levon Helm’s drums and you can feel Manuel and Hudson responding to Danko’s singing. Little things like Richard’s piano on ‘Unfaithful Servant’ with its new variations on the original recording make this set a particular delight

Dai Jeffries

Label website:

‘She Knows’ featuring Richard Manuel:

RICK DANKO – Double Live (Floating World FLOATM6381)

Double LiveDouble 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.

Dai Jeffries

Label website:

Not from either of these sets but it’s the right song and the right year. ‘It Makes No Difference’ – live:

DANKO & BUTTERFIELD – Live At The Golden Bear (Floating World FLOATM6375)

Live At The Golden BearThis is the earliest of three new archive albums featuring Rick Danko. When The Band was in down-time Rick would regularly tour small clubs, sometimes solo, sometimes with friends and in the late 70s, Paul Butterfield was a regular partner. Live At The Golden Bear is one of the first of these collaborations, reckoned to be recorded in November 1978 but so obscure that it isn’t listed on The Band’s website.

The first disc is pretty much pure rock’n’roll and Rick and Paul are clearly having a wonderful time. Early tracks include JJ Cale’s ‘Crazy Mama’, a staple of Danko’s live set; Nick Gravenites’ ‘Born In Chicago’ from Butterfield’s early days and ‘Seaboard Line Boogie’ from Paul Revere & The Raiders – I’m still trying to find the connection to that one. From there we have five Buddy Holly songs and Bob Wills’ ‘Stay All Night’ to end the first disc.

The band includes Marty Grebb, Walt Richmond and Terry Danko and there may be others but they are not listed in the booklet. They are announced from the stage but the crowd noise is too high for clarity and therein lies the major problem. The noise builds and builds and an attempt to introduce some sensitivity in the shape of ‘Unfaithful Servant’ is ruined by an annoyingly loud-voiced woman, presumably standing next to the microphone. She moves or shuts up after a while and Randy Van Warmer’s ‘Just When I Needed You Most’ fares rather better.

I was really looking forward to hearing this album but, sadly, it turns out to be a so-so bootleg and I’m unwilling to recommend it.

Dai Jeffries

Label website:

‘Crazy Mama’ – live in 1979:

Tompkins Square Release ‘Live At Caffè Lena : Music From America’s Legendary Coffeehouse, 1967-2013,’ 3CD Box Set


Nestled in the quaint upstate town of Saratoga Springs, New York is Caffè Lena, the oldest continuously operating folk music coffeehouse in the US. Opened by Lena Spencer in 1960, this tiny room has played host to influential artists across diverse genres of music; traditional folk, blues, singer-songwriters, jazz and bluegrass. Luckily, many performances were caught on tape through the years, offering the listener a thrilling seat inside this hallowed venue. ‘Live At Caffè Lena’, a 3-CD box set, the result of years of investigative research, contains 47 tracks, all released for the very first time, alongside previously unpublished photographs. Images include selections from the archive of esteemed photographer Joe Alper, who captured many iconic, intimate portraits from the folk era of the 1960s.

Live At Caffè Lena documents an important folk universe that was and is still happening in upstate New York, a story heretofore largely untold. The release of this collection comes at an auspicious time in light of renewed interest in the New York folk scene of the 60s as depicted in the forthcoming Coen Brothers film, ‘Inside Llewyn Davis.’ The film is loosely based on Dave Van Ronk’s 2005 memoir ‘The Mayor of Macdougal Street.’ Van Ronk, a Caffè Lena regular, served as a mentor to many artists, some who would go on to eclipse his fame. His 1974 recording of “Gaslight Rag” featured on the box set references the Gaslight Café, a famed Greenwich Village venue that along with Caffè Lena was a catalyst for the folk music revival.

Caffè Lena embodied the spirit of the folk boom, the era and its artistry, building a reputation as a hotbed of creativity and connection. It was also a safe haven and nurturing space for artists, its atmosphere cultivated personally by Lena Spencer herself. She would graciously house wayward artists, sometimes for months at a time. But she was not merely a host. She championed artists, from Bob Dylan as early as 1961 all the way through the 80s until her passing. Her passion for identifying and promoting talent is evident throughout this 3-CD set. That Caffè Lena is still open for business tonight is a testament to her legacy.

The producers are Steve Rosenthal (Three-time GRAMMY Award-winner, owner of The Magic Shop and The Living Room Music Club in NYC), Jocelyn Arem (Director of the CaffèLena History Project). Liner notes: Holly George-Warren & Robert Burke Warren, Scott Goldman, Michael Eck

Live At Caffè Lena: Music From America’s Legendary Coffeehouse, 1967-2013 is available Worldwide on Tompkins Square TSQ 2967 Distributed by INgrooves in North America, Cargo UK for Europe, FUSE for Australia.

 Bob Dylan at Caffè Lena, 1962 (photo by Joe Alper)

Caffe Lena

Track list for Live At Caffè Lena: Music From America’s Legendary Coffeehouse, 1967-2013

01 Intro by Lena Spencer / Guy Carawan Cripple Creek 1970
02 Hedy West Shady Grove 1968
03 Intro by Lena Spencer / Sleepy John Estes Holy Spirit 1974
04 Frank Wakefield and Friends Will The Circle Be Unbroken 1971
05 Jean Ritchie West Virginia Mine Disaster 1969
06 Billy Faier Hunt The Wren 1967
07 Greenbriar Boys Hit Parade of Love 1968
08 Mike Seeger O Death 1971
09 Jacqui and Bridie Hello Friend 1974
10 Tom Paxton Morning Again 1968
11 David Amram Little Mama 1974
12 Patrick Sky Reality Is Bad Enough 1971
13 Rosalie Sorrels Travelin’ Lady 1974
14 Smoke Dawson Devil’s Dream 1968
15 Utah Phillips The Green Rolling Hills of West Virginia 1974
16 Michael Cooney Thyme It Is A Precious Thing 1974
17 Kate McGarrigle and Roma Baran Caffè Lena 1972

01 Intro by Lena Spencer / Dave Van Ronk Gaslight Rag 1974
02 Jerry Jeff Walker Mr. Bojangles 1968
03 Barbara Dane Mama Yancey’s Advice / Love With a Feeling 1968
04 Roy Book Binder Ain’t Nobody Home But Me 1974
05 Intro by Lena Spencer / David Bromberg The Holdup 1972
06 Ramblin’ Jack Elliott Pretty Boy Floyd 1992
07 Arlo Guthrie City of New Orleans 2010
08 Aztec Two Step The Persecution and Restoration of Dean Moriarty 1989
09 Happy And Artie Traum Trials Of Jonathan 1974
10 Rick Danko It Makes No Difference 1988
11 Paul Geremia Something’s Gotta Be Arranged 1989
12 Robin and Linda Williams S-A-V-E-D 1987
13 John Herald Ramblin’ Jack Elliott 1991
14 Pete Seeger Somos El Barco (We Are the Boat) 1985

01 Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion Folksong 2013
02 Anais Mitchell Wedding Song 2013
03 Bill Morrissey The Last Day Of The Furlough 1990
04 Patty Larkin Island Of Time 1992
05 Greg Brown Flat Stuff 1989
06 Mary Gauthier I Drink 2013
07 Sean Rowe Old Black Dodge 2013
08 Tom Chapin Cat’s In The Cradle 1987
09 Intro by Lena Spencer / Christine Lavin Good Thing He Can’t Read My Mind 1987
10 Bill Staines Sweet Wyoming Home 1990
11 Bucky and John Pizzarelli I Like Jersey Best 1989
12 Rory Block That’s No Way To Get Along 1989
13 Chris Smither Killing The Blues 1989
14 Tift Merritt Traveling Alone 2013
15 John Gorka Down In The Milltown 1990
16 Lena Spencer Dear Little Cafe 1972