Singer/songwriter/pianist Richard Manuel never actually made any formal solo recordings apart from his membership in the Band, but this posthumously released album presents a club date he played in Saugerties, NY, less than five months before he committed suicide on March 4, 1986. Manuel accompanies himself on piano, singing songs from the Band repertoire ("Across the Great Divide," "King Harvest [Has Surely Come]," "I Shall Be Released," "The Shape I'm In," "Chest Fever"), including a couple ("Whispering Pines," "Tears of Rage") on which he has co-songwriting credits. He also demonstrates his major influences by performing music by and associated with Fats Domino ("Grow Too Old") and Ray Charles ("Georgia on My Mind," "You Don't Know Me," "Hard Times"). And he plays a couple of piano instrumentals. He has friends in the audience who sometimes come up and join him, notably fellow Band member Rick Danko, who provides vocal and guitar support on several tracks, and guitarist Jim Weider, who was a member of later configurations of the Band. Manuel's contributions to the Band tended to be overshadowed by other group members, but here, even shortly before his death, he makes a strong impression with his barrelhouse piano work and expressive vocals, emphasizing the loss to music that was soon to come.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann