Levon Helm

TrackAlbum
Ain’t That A Lotta LoveLive At The Palladium 1977
Anna Lee (live)Ramble At The Ryman
Gimme A StoneLargo
Golden BirdElectric Dirt
KingfishElectric Dirt
Little BirdsDirt Farmer
One More ShotThe Legend Of Jesse James
Poor Old Dirt FarmerDirt Farmer
Sweet Peach Georgia WineAmerican Son
When The Battle Is OverThe Midnight Ramble Sessions Vol. 2

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Contributor: Peter Viney

Levon Helm released four solo albums after The Band broke up: Levon Helm & The RCO All-Stars, Levon Helm (MCA), American Son and (again) Levon Helm (Capitol). The RCO All-Stars were just that; the cream of American session players, but the live concert released in 2006 Live At The Palladium NYC New Year’s Eve 1977 is a better version of the material. Christgau’s Record Guide gave one of them a single-word review: Boogie. It’s a fair description, the exceptional album being American Son with more countrified material, but also more varied and melodic material. It’s easily my favourite of the four early solo albums.

He also contributed to the concept album by Paul Kennearly, The Legend of Jesse James, playing the lead role of Jesse himself, and the concept album (produced by The Hooters) Largo. Summertime Blues was released only in mainland Europe as a single and while magnificent, failed to make it in comparison to Eddie Cochran’s original. You’ll Never Again Be Mine from The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams was a late contender: Levon Helm’s music, Hank Williams’ lyrics. His version of Lean On Me from the Staying Together OST was seriously considered.

Levon Helm lost his voice to throat cancer, and started the series of loose Saturday night concerts in his barn called The Midnight Rambles which spawned more live albums released on his own label as The Midnight Ramble Sessions. The last few years of his life saw his voice returning for a sequence of Grammy-Award winning albums: Dirt Farmer, Electric Dirt and Ramble At The Ryman. His band leader, Larry Campbell, and his daughter, Amy Helm (of Ollabelle), persuaded him to return to his Arkansas roots for these records. Dirt Farmer almost makes me want to select all ten tracks from its riches. Little Birds dates right back to The Band’s first ever concert at Winterland, San Francisco, though The Band never recorded it.

I disqualified all solo versions of Band songs, losing several brilliant versions of Ophelia among others.

Levon Helm official site

Levon Helm biography (iTunes)

TopperPost #33

3 Comments

  1. Ben Turkel
    Jul 30, 2013

    Peter, I think that your choices were solid. I would have included “When I get my rewards” from “Will the circle be unbroken vol 2” and “Rock, salt and nails” with John Martyn.

    I also disagree with your take on the RCO ALL Stars material. I would definitely include something from the studio album. I feel it’s a very solid album and has never really gotten it’s due.

    I’ve always thought that you could compile a great lost Band album by compiling the best tracks from RCO and Rick’s album. They were both released during the post production of The Last Waltz and feature guest appearances by the other Band members.

    I would also include something from “Souvenir” I’ve always enjoyed that cd. Maybe Levon’s cover of Java Blues. There are lots of interesting possibilities.

  2. Mark Atkins
    Jul 31, 2013

    Standing on the Mountain Top and Rock Salt and Nails would be on my list due to the drummer. Levon’s vocals are a bonus.

  3. David Lewis
    Jan 1, 2014

    Ooh, gee, a good list. But Levon’s version of ‘Wide River To Cross’ is, for me, a definite. As well as ‘Growing Trade’ from Electric Dirt. But a great listen as it is.

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