|1. Life Is A Carnival|
|2. When I Paint My Masterpiece|
|3. Last Of The Blacksmiths|
|4. Where Do We Go From Here?|
|5. 4% Pantomime|
|6. Shoot Out In China Town|
|7. The Moon Struck One|
|8. Thinkin' Out Loud|
|9. Smoke Signal|
|11. The River Hymn|
Stumbled? No, they just veered off in a direction no one predicted, when the critics wanted another "brown album."
The album's like a journey through the world. "Life Is A Carnival" is the fourth straight brilliant opener that evokes New Orleans (down to the Allen Toussaint-arranged horns). "When I Paint My Masterpiece" is a brilliant Dylan-penned second track that evokes Europe (dig Manuel's drumming). "4% Pantomime", with Belfast's own George Ivan Morrison on second vocal, really evokes the musician lifestyle, frantic, manic and drunken. "Thinkin' Out Loud" has a great piano part and a nice metallic (upright?) bass part. "Volcano" features a strong vocal by Rick Danko and great horns by Garth Hudson. They all get five out of five stars.
"The Moon Struck One", to contrast those first five, blows. The lyrics are the worst ever. It's the only Band track I truly dislike. I give it one out of five stars. "Last of the Blacksmiths" and "Where Do We Go From Here?" sound uninspired. Out of five stars, they get 2.5 stars.
"Shoot Out In Chinatown", "Smoke Signal" and "The River Hymn" are decent enough, but are a step down from "Carnival", "Masterpiece", "Pantomime", "Thinkin" and "Volcano". Out of five stars, they probably all get 3.5 stars.
Averaging that out, you get an average of 4.15 out of 5 stars. A step down from the previous three, but worth a listen.
On first listen the album one can get frustrated on how unmemorable the songs seem to be. Well actually the album opens right up to par with a dynamite "Life is a Carnival," a catchy tune right up there with the Band's best work. "Masterpiece" is another famous classic with a fine arrangement, but it obviously was written by some other songwriter. That leaves us with the rest of the album, and I confess that it took me a while to get used to some/any of the songs. There is definitely a problem with the songwriting. However, there are hidden gems worth seeking out that make the album worthwhile. "Smoke Signal" and "Shootout in China Town" are songs they actually played live early on, and you can hear that the studio versions are evidence that they have potential for development on stage. They are actually catchy songs and hummable if you give them a chance.
The Band's playing is first rate which helps, and Levon Helm's singing always gives the tune its distinctive sound.
The Robertson/Morrison collaboration "4% Pantomime" is delightful too.Read more ›