Review: The Band is in Cahoots Once Again

The Band/Cahoots (50th Anniversary Edition)/Capitol/UME
3.5 out of Five Stars

Videos by American Songwriter

Having originally appeared on the heels of the Band’s first three landmark albums, their fourth effort, Cahoots, had a lot to measure up to. Naturally, that was no easy task considering the seminal standards initially recorded in the company of Bob Dylan at Woodstock and the subsequent success they attained entirely on their own. So while this, their fourth album, is sometimes seen as a less than successful attempt to keep their momentum moving forward, it still stands up all on its own. The Dylan connection remained intact courtesy of a cover of his heretofore unreleased “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” but it was songs such as the upbeat and optimistic “Life Is a Carnival” as well as a few lesser could-have-been classics— “Shoot Out in Chinatown,” “Where Do We Go From Here,” “4% Pantomime,” and “The Moon Struck One”—that allowed the album to stand on its own.

Like its predecessors, Cahoots has now been given the special 50th-anniversary treatment, replete with outtakes, live cuts, demos, and the like. Yet, coming on the heels of the massive overhaul given Stage Fright, the Band’s third album, even the new version of Cahoots seems a bit of an afterthought, at least in comparison. The fact that three of the five studio bonus tracks—alternate versions of “Endless Highway” and “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” as well as an unreleased outtake, “Bessie Smith—were previously included in a 2000 reissue seems to diminish the impact somewhat as well.

Still, the real draw here is the inclusion of a live concert recorded at the Olympia Theatre in Paris in May of 1971. As expected, the setlist draws mostly from the first three LPs, although the bonus tracks included on that disc—instrumental versions of “Life Is a Carnival” and “Volcano” and a new mix of “Thinkin’ Out Loud”—bolster the prospects, at least in a minimal way. Likewise, the obligatory blu-ray disc adds, as expected, a new dimension in terms of the original sound.

Ultimately, completists may debate the worth of this particular anniversary offering, due not only to the aforementioned repetition but also because of the definitive live Band recordings that accompanied the recent re-releases of The Band and Stage Fright. That said, a half-century anniversary makes any Band album well worth revisiting.

Photo by Barry Feinstein / Universal Music

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