March 7, 2013

A couple of good ones to satisfy you today – both from The Band’s last concert called The Last Waltz, filmed by Martin Scorcese. You want songs that speak of loss and loneliness? We got ’em. You want songs beautifully composed, arranged, and performed? We got ’em – in spades.

First up the late Rick Danko’s heartfelt rendition of Solomon Burke’s It Makes No Difference:

It makes no difference where I turn
I can’t get over you and the flame still burns
It makes no difference, night or day
The shadow never seems to fade away

And the sun don’t shine anymore
And the rains fall down on my door

It makes no difference how far I go
Like a scar, the hurt will always show
And it makes no difference who I meet
They’re just a face in the crowd on a dead-end street

And the sun don’t shine anymore
And the rains fall down on my door

These old love letters
Well, I just can’t keep
Just like the gambler says:
“Read ’em and weep”
And the dawn don’t rescue me no more

Without your love, I’m nothing at all
Like an empty hall, it’s a lonely fall
Since you’ve gone it’s a losing battle
Stampeding cattle, they rattle the walls

And the sun don’t shine anymore
And the rains fall down on my door

Well, I love you so much
That it’s all I can do
Just to keep myself from telling you
That I never felt so alone before

That’s Garth Hudon on the soprano sax that brings the song home. Watching him and guitarist Robbie Robertson trade solosis a beautiful and heartfelt thing. A truly mesmerizing performance.

Next up, Danko and The Band’s late and great drummer, Levon Helm join the fabulous Emmylou Harris lead the band through the traditional Evangeline:

She stands on the banks of the mighty Mississippi
Alone in the pale moonlight
Waiting for a man, a riverboat gambler
Said that he’d return tonight

They used to waltz on the banks of the mighty Mississippi
Loving the whole night through
‘Til the riverboat gambler went off to make a killing
And bring it on back to you

Evangeline, Evangeline
Curses the soul of the Mississippi queen
That pulled her man away

Bayou Sam, from the South Louisiane
Had gambling in his veins
Evangeline, from the Maritimes
Was slowly going insane
High on the top of Hickory Hill
She stands in the lightning and thunder
Down on the river the boat was a-sinking
She watched that queen go under

The combination of instrumentation and talent on display is really impressive. Helm on mandolin instead of drums, Richard Manuel on drums instead of piano, Hudson on accordion, Danko on fiddle instead of guitar – those guys could play anything and were a truly great band. And Emmylou Harris – has she ever recorded a bad song? She and her voice grow only more beautiful with age. I just wish the video was a little brighter!

It’s hard to believe these performances are thirty-five years old; in some ways I think of them as if they were yesterday. It’s frightening sometimes to think how much time has poassed and that you’re as old as you are. But these songs have always been special to me, and it’s the music that keeps me you – at least within. Hopefully, I’ll always have the music and the fond memories they bring.

UPDATE: I realized today that I left out of this post another great torch song from “The Last Waltz” – Robbie Robertson’s lovely Out Of the Blue, featuring a few of the best lyrics ever in my opinion, in bold below:

Out of this world
Out of this mind
Out of this love for you

Out of this world
Out of the blue
Out of this love for you

Sometimes I don’t know you
You’re like someone else
But that’s alright
I’m a stranger here myself

She don’t shed a tear
When I walk out that door
She knows, she knows
I’ll be coming back for more

Out of this world
Out of this mind
Out of this love for you

Out of this world
Out of the blue
Out of this love for you

It’s in the cards
It’s written in the stars
It’s in the wee-wee hours
In some lonely bar

If she don’t stay up all night
And walk the floor
She knows damn well
I’ll be coming back for more

Out of this world
Out of this mind
Out of this love for you

For you, you, you
For you, you, you
For you

Garth Hudson’s synthesizer whirring throughout provides a lovely backdrop to a song about total vulnerability and helplessness, and all because of a chick – I mean, does it get better than that?

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:06 | Comments (2)
  1. Love Robertson’s story about the humongous Dallas bar. Only three people in the whole place and a fight breaks out. I’ve been to those Dallas and Houston bars. You can fit multiple football fields inside. They’re enormous.

    “The Shape I’m In” from that concert is just hypnotic to me. Can’t get enough of it.

    Comment by Rob — March 8, 2013 @ 10:16 pm

  2. Thanks for the comment, Rob. I think I should pick that up on Blu-Ray. Lots of classic performances in that concert – Joni Mitchell’s “Coyote”, even Neil Diamond doing “Dry Your Eyes”. Reminds me how 1978 was my “coming out year”. Inspired a post on that, for that matter!

    Comment by The Great White Shank — March 9, 2013 @ 12:02 am

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