Levon Helm

Levon Helm [1982]

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Levon Helm's third solo album has the same producer as his second, Donald "Duck" Dunn (of Booker T. & the MG's fame), features the same Muscle Shoals gang, and even boasts guitarist Steve Cropper (also of the MG's) back for another go-around. Increasing this déjà vu feeling, it is also entitled Levon Helm, the same modest title that was given to the 1978 album. Unfortunately, it also has the same problems. Given the participants here, this thing should absolutely drip with soul and sharp grooves, but instead it unfolds in a professional manner without ever really catching fire. Helm's Arkansas drawl still gives his vocals an affecting personality, the playing is solid, and the songs, which are mostly covers, ought to really cook, but somehow they just don't. There isn't anything patently wrong with the versions here of "Money" or "Willie and the Hand Jive," because both are proven vehicles, but Helm adds little definition to either, and while the Band grooved seemingly effortlessly in its own back porch style, the players here seem to struggle to even lift these old chestnuts off the ground. It is a mystery why this album, given the high level of talent participating here, seems so lifeless and by-the-numbers. You really want to like this thing, and it certainly isn't horrible, but after hearing it once, there is no strong urge to hear it again.

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