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Rick Danko - Profile

  by Carl Bookstein

published: 23 / 10 / 2015

Rick Danko - Profile


Carl Bookstein reflects on the career of The Band's bassist Rick Danko and looks at a new in-depth four disc all live collection of Danko's which expands from the 1970s across to the 1990s

With The Band, bassist Rick Danko was one of a triumvirate of vocal angels that included pianist Richard Manuel and drummer Levon Helm. All three have passed on now. Band songwriter and guitarist Robbie Robertson and organ virtuoso Garth Hudson alone remain. The Band is responsible for some of the richest roots rock and Americana ever recorded. Their depth of talent is unsurpassed. The Band famously backed up Bob Dylan when the iconic folk poet went electric in the mid 1960s. By late 1976, Robertson called it a day for the Band as a live touring unit with the Martin Scorsese-filmed 'The Last Waltz'. Through the 1980s and into the 1990s, Danko toured with a reformed version of the Band without Robertson. 'Stage Fright Live Collection' is drawn from various live performances by Rick Danko across the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s - solo and otherwise. This four disc set gets off to a percolating start with an acoustic guitar strum and a pepped up live version of 'Java Blues' from Danko’s excellent self titled 1977 solo album. Bassist Danko is often on acoustic guitar throughout 'Stage Fright Live Collection'. “Kind of like being in your living room,” Danko says, describing this intimate live gig. Next Danko goes into the Band classic 'Christmas Must Be Tonight'- arguably one of the greatest holiday songs ever recorded, and a truly moving version captured here. 'Stage Fright', the namesake of this collection is well rendered: “For the price that the poor boy’s paid/He gets to sing just like a bird.” Danko’s vocal treatment warms the soul, like the presence of a good friend. “We all got certain trials burning up inside,” Danko sings - the effect on 'Twilight' is soul calming and profound. 'Long Black Veil' from the Band’s classic masterpiece album 'Music from Big Pink' is also well captured here, a story song and eulogy with the singer calling out from the grave. 'Caledonia Mission' is another welcome choice culled from 'Big Pink' and emotionally performed. 'My Love' is truly heartfelt: “Just thinking about you baby really blows my mind.” Additional welcome disc one selections include the Band’s seminal track 'The Weight' and Danko’s signature Band vocal moment 'It Makes No Difference'. A stinging 'Brainwash' is also notable. Disc two features 1984 sessions from New York’s Lone Star Café with Danko and his great Band mate Richard Manuel, plus blues artist Paul Butterfield. Manuel begins in the forefront, taking the lead vocal on his signature Band number 'The Shape I’m In', delivering with passion, alongside fine harmonica accompaniment by Butterfield. Manuel’s vocal reading of Ray Charles’ 'You Don’t Know Me' is gorgeous- an absolute stand out number and rich, resonant soul music. Manuel and Danko again shine on the stately Band number 'Across the Great Divide' and the touching soulful Danko-led 'Unfaithful Servant'. On disc three, another Manuel-led vocal 'Just Another Whistle Stop' from the Band’s 'Stage Fright' album offers ample rewards - a truly magnetic Manuel vocal turn. Some tracks are repeated throughout this collection, but always with alternate and varied live versions. A smoking Danko and Manuel duo treatment of 'King Harvest' is a strong choice indeed. On disc four, the opener 'Book Faded Brown' is a touching and personal Danko ballad. 'Blind Willie McTell' follows - the potent Dylan cover. The lyric resonates: “I know one thing/Nobody can sing the blues like Blind Willie McTell,” Danko sings intensely. This four disc live Danko collection has plenty of gems and should be of particular interest to Rick Danko fans and fans of the Band alike.

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Rick Danko - Profile

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Rick Danko (2009)
Rick Danko - Rick Danko
Band vocalist and bassist Rick Danko had has posthumously released two live albums, one recorded in 1985 with fellow former Band member Richard Manuel, and the other in 1987 on his own. Carl Bookstein looks at both of them

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Live Anthology (2011)
Evocative live 1980s and 1990s solo recordings on double CD from the late Band bassist and vocalist, Rick Danko

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