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Return of The Band

This Wheel's On Fire
This Wheel's On Fire
By Levon Helm, with Stephen Davis

William Morrow: 1993

By The Band

Pyramid: 1993

These reviews first appeared in the December 17, 1993 issue of the North County Blade-Citizen (now North County Times).

Some 15 years since "The Last Waltz," a quarter-century since backing Bob Dylan as he went electric, The Band is back with a new album, Jericho. At the same time, original drummer and singer Levon Helm has written a book about his life with one of rock's most eclectic and eccentric outfits.

Purists might object to labeling "Jericho" a Band album, with guitarist/songwriter Robbie Robertson still in self-imposed exile from his former bandmates and keyboardist/singer Richard Manuel having committed suicide in 1986. But three of the band's core members remain (Helm, bassist Rick Danko and organist Garth Hudson). With Helm's wavering, deep Dixie vocals and Hudson's sweeping keyboards, the basic sound of The Band – and the consummate musicianship that always marked their playing – remains instact.

The book, co-written with professional writer Stephen Davis ("Hammer of the Gods," "Bob Marley"), is a no-frills, no-punches-pulled narrative history of the group's origins and eventual disbanding – with plenty of Helm's opinions tossed in.

While Helm is evidently still bitter at Robertson for leaving the group, he also seems to still care for his former friend. Still, he makes the charge that the writing of most of the group's songs was collaborative, and that Robertson only received sole songwriting credit due to his closeness to the band's manager.

How true that is, we may never know – although the new record would seem to indicate that even without Robertson, the remaining members are pretty capable at writing or finding good songs on their own.