The Band

King Biscuit Flour Hour

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The Band's final tour shows the degree to which the group had painted itself into a corner, psychically and musically -- Richard Manuel's car accident earlier in 1976 had sidetracked a hoped-for tour to support the release of Northern Lights-Southern Cross, and the summer tour was intended to support Capitol Records' issue of The Best of the Band instead. That may explain why they only ever did three songs off of Northern Lights-Southern Cross, but only partly -- the group was also unable to match the sound of any but the three simplest tunes ("It Makes No Difference," "Ophelia," "Forbidden Fruit"), the others having involved serious overdubbing (especially by Garth Hudson) that would have required some extra musicians on-stage; they did that once, in New York, on this tour, and the results were less than satisfactory on "Acadian Driftwood." In any case, their Washington show, broadcast on the King Biscuit Flour Hour, was one of the best on the tour -- Manuel was in good form, apart from a ragged "Tears of Rage," which showed how badly his health and ability had declined, and the highlights, in addition to the three cuts off of Northern Lights, included the then-current single "Twilight." The playing is excellent, and the group -- apart from Manuel's voice -- seems in as good shape as ever, and the songs here even include early numbers such as "Up on Cripple Creek"." Alas, this King Biscuit show was a last hurrah, an all-to-rare triumphant night on a frustrating tour -- this bootleg is made from what sounds like a first-generation tape source, and is a match for any legitimate release that may show up, in terms of sound quality; on the other hand, there are technical problems here, including index points that are haywire on the last four out of 15 tracks. Still, until a legitimate version appears, this is as good a souvenir of the group's final tour as one is likely to find.