Rick Danko

In Concert

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Perhaps the least heralded of the three great vernacular singers that made up the front line of the Band (Robbie Robertson doesn't count, at least not as a singer), Rick Danko may well have been the glue and the heart of the whole enterprise. If Levon Helm's Arkansas drawl brought a kind of historical authenticity to the character studies he sang, and gave the Band the closest thing to a frontman, while Richard Manuel's gospel-tinged vocals, sung like a ragged angel desperately down on his luck, gave the Band its soul, then Danko's beautifully unsteady voice gave the Band its unabashed honesty, and particularly on his signature tune, "Makes No Difference," its very heart. Danko always seemed bare, open and naked when he sang this song in the Band's standard live set, and his solo career, in a way, mirrored it, with Danko sounding like an increasingly frayed nerve. This collection was drawn from two live performances just a couple of weeks apart in 1997, and features Danko in a loose trio format with late-era Band associates Randy Ciarlante on drums and Aaron Hurwitz on piano and accordion. Opening with an admirable version of J.J. Cale's "Crazy Mama" and climaxing in a particularly fragile take on "Makes No Difference," Danko works his limited palette well, and while nothing here replaces the original versions by the Band, neither does anything here diminish that legacy. Danko's death in 1999 makes this a particularly precious document of one of the most unique and unsung voices in rock.

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