The BAND – ” Cahoots ” Released 15th September 1971 45 Years Ago Today

Posted: September 23, 2016 in CLASSIC ALBUMS, MUSIC
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‘Cahoots’ celebrates its 45th Anniversary!, This whole album is a masterpiece. Seems to be much more appreciated now than the initial fan reactions. Cahoots is the fourth studio album release by the American/Canadian  rock group The Band . It was released in 1971 to mixed reviews, and was their last album of original material for four years. The album’s front cover was painted by New York artist/illustrator Gilbert Stone,

“Run away Run away”  it’s the restless age, sings the Band at the beginning of Cahoots (Capitol SMAS 651) and they mean it. They also mean it when they sing of the endlessness of the river, admonishing the listener that “You can ride on it or drink it,/Poison it or dam it,/Fish in it and wash in it,/Swim in it and you can die in it, run you river run …” Cahoots is about finding a place for yourself in the restless age.

The mood of the album is filled with a “tinge of extinction.” As the chaos of the carnival is played off against the timelessness of the river, the Band mourns, always more in sorrow than in anger, the passing away of the things they have grown old with and the failure of anything of consequence to rise up in their place. “How you gonna replace human hands?” they ask us in “Last of the Blacksmiths.” And, “How can you sleep when the whistle don’t moan?” in “Where Do We Go From Here.” “Your neighborhood isn’t there anymore,” they jeer in “Smoke Signal.” “Run away Run away — it’s the restless age,” but, “the car broke down when we had just begun.”

Very complex song structures and features some of The Bands best vocals.

Allen Toussaint and Van Morrison. Where on The Band we were made to experience a mythical view of the past as a present reality, Cahoots is merely sometimes about the past, and then only insofar as the past can be made to comment in a direct way on the present. Unlike The Band, Cahoots endistances us from the past, constantly reminding us of what was then and what is now.

In Cahoots, the notion of the commentator is stressed over that of the participant. The narrator of these songs is most often observing others and in the process drawing explicit contrasts, comparisons, and morals. Instead of seeing phenomenon in motion, as they were being experienced, we see them as fixed entities to be described or dealt with: the process is now less important than the conclusions to be drawn about the process. At the same time, the orientation and musical texture is constantly changing so that we are left with the feeling of experiencing things through a stylistic kaleidoscope.

“4% Pantomime,” another song about performing, is named after the fact that the difference between Johnny Walker Black and Johnny Walker Red is 4%. It is also for the 4% of Mr. Van Morrison’s performance which had to be seen, not heard. Unlike “Stage Fright,” which analyzed the artist’s dilemma, “4% Pantomime” is simply about being a working artist. Many of the Band’s songs have been in the first person but none of them literal representations of themselves. This one even uses real names on the choruses, as two old fashioned juicers  Van Morrison and Richard Manuel — coax as much feeling as they can out of each other.

“Last of the Blacksmiths” is a crucial song embodying more than any other the definition of the “tinge of extinction” and “isolated artist” themes of the album. Sung and played in a desperate style, the lyrics parallel the question of the blacksmith (“how can you replace human hands”) with the question of the musician: “frozen fingers at the keyboard, could this be the reward?” Unfortunately, the acuity of perception then trails off in a typical bit of over-writing and the rest of the song is sustained more by the excellence of the performance than by its lyrical content.

“Where Do We Go From Here” comes dangerously close to being merely topical. Cute rhymes like “Just one more victim of fate/Like California state” do nothing to add to what the song has. The music, while brilliantly put together, has a stiffness which makes it once again forbidding. Like every cut on the album there is something to recommend it: in this case, the opening lines of Rick Danko’s beautiful vocal.

“Shoot Out In Chinatown” is a fairly grim story that makes the point that things cannot be shoved under the rug, to wit: “Buddha has lost his smile/But swears that we will meet again/In just a little while.” The music has more momentum and freshness than most things on the album and the cut is sustained exceptionally well. One of the most enjoyable things on the record.

“Smoke Signal” is a light play on the extinction theme. In “Chinatown” Robertson is talking about deliberate actions of the state while on “Smoke Signal” the humorous allusions seem to be to the process by which people merely lose control, instead of being actively forced to surrender it. Musically, it is a powerful song with some brilliant lines that stick in the mind, especially: “When they’re torn out by the roots/Young brothers join in cahoots.”

If “Life In A Carnival” is an overture,  The song features a lively Dixieland horn chart courtesy of  Allen Toussaint then “The River Hymn” was surely intended as a finale, a sort of ceremonial piece, and on it one’s ultimate impression of Cahoots must rest. It is surely the most ambitious thing the group has ever attempted. Lyrically, it is the culmination of Robertson’s growing style. It is so cinematic, that as it is heard the movie possibilities flash in front of you uncontrollably. Everything described is not only easy to visualize but is, in the listener’s mind, inevitably visualized.

“When I Paint My Masterpiece,” a Bob Dylan song making its recorded debut here as the second selection, is another welcome track, buoyed by mandolin and accordion in a charming arrangement appropriate to its tale of an odd trip to Europe.

Several of the songs’ lyrics come across as half-baked film scenarios, but they fail to be evocative, and they are paired to music lacking in structure. The failure is solely in the writing The Band sounds as good as ever playing the songs, with singers Richard Manuel Levon Helm and Rick Danko all performing effectively and primary instrumentalist Garth Hudson filling in the arrangements cleverly.

Rick Danko – bass, acoustic guitar, vocals
Levon Helm – drums, mandolin, upright bass, vocals
Garth Hudson – organ, piano, accordion, tenor and baritone saxophones
Richard Manuel – piano, drums, organ, slide guitar, vocals
Robbie Robertson – guitars, piano
Additional personnel
Allen Toussaint – brass arrangements on “Life Is a Carnival”
Van Morrison – vocals on “4% Pantomime”
Libby Titus – backing vocals on “The River Hymn”[6]
Mark Harman – engineer

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