Levon Helm / Levon Helm & the RCO All-Stars

Live at the Palladium NYC, New Years Eve 1977

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In November 1976, the Band called it quits with a well-publicized Thanksgiving Day farewell concert, but Levon Helm made it clear to anyone who cared to listen he thought the group was foolish to throw in the towel, and within a year Helm was on the road with a band designed to show fans how much he had to offer. The RCO All Stars certainly lived up to their name, featuring Helm on drums and vocals, Mac Rebennack (aka Dr. John) on piano, Paul Butterfield on harmonica, Steve Cropper and Fred Carter, Jr. on guitars, Donald "Duck" Dunn on bass, and a horn section featuring Howard Johnson, Tom "Bones" Malone, Lou Marini, and Alan Rubin. While the group's sole studio album showed the supergroup's songwriting chops were not all one might hope for, they certainly had chops and swing to spare, and this live recording of the All Stars on-stage as 1977 was about to fade into 1978 in New York City testifies to their power as a live act. While Helm takes the lion's share of the vocals, he has the good sense not to hog the spotlight, with Rebennack and Butterfield singing some leads, and the musicians are in fine fettle throughout as the horn section blows up a storm, Helm's drums strut like a bantam, Rebennack's keys add rollicking color, and Cropper throws some razor-sharp solos into the mix. And while the song selection here, like on the studio album, is good but not great (the best numbers are the most recognizable covers, in particular "Good Night Irene," "Milk Cow Boogie," and the Band's "Ophelia"), playing before an enthusiastic audience the All Stars give these numbers just enough juice to make the difference. Helm obviously meant the RCO All Stars to be a band that would rock the party, and on this disc you can hear them do just that; fans of any of the acts on board will have a great time with this album.

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