Rick Danko

TrackAlbum
All CreationRidin’' On The Blinds
All Our Past TimesTimes Like These
Blue RiverDanko, Fjeld, Andersen
Book Faded BrownTimes Like These
Driftin’' AwayDanko, Fjeld, Andersen
New MexicoeRick Danko
RippleTimes Like These
Shake ItRick Danko
Sip The WineRick Danko / Live on Breeze Hill
Small Town TalkRick Danko

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Contributor: Peter Viney

As with Levon Helm, I’ve disqualified live, solo versions of songs The Band recorded, with one exception: Book Faded Brown which is on both his solo Times Like These and The Band’s final Jubilation, though in different versions. I’m allowing a Band/Eric Clapton performance of a song he wrote for Eric’s No Reason To Cry album, All Our Past Times and which they reprised on The Last Waltz full de-luxe box set. But there’s also a solo performance on Times Like These.

In The Last Waltz film, Rick Danko seems the most optimistic about the future, as well he should have been, with his excellent 1977 solo album Rick Danko due out on Arista at the time, and an extract from Sip The Wine in the film. After a successful tour, he should have followed up, but didn’t. The Cryin’ Heart Blues CD released in 2005, alleges to have a few tracks demoing songs for the follow-up, though less than half comes from 1977-1979. Old Mexico seems the most finished, and very nearly made the Top Ten (just edged out by Shake It),

I would guess that This Wheel’s On Fire co-written with Bob Dylan was the second most-popular song by a member of The Band (after The Weight), partly because of the success of Absolutely Fabulous where Julie Driscoll and Adrian Edmondson sang it as the theme. There is a stunning version on Times Like These with Garth Hudson & The Crowmatix, which is, I think, a later creation with gorgeous instrumental for most of the song. Too little of Rick’s vocal to make the cut.

He co-wrote Life Is A Carnival with Robbie and Levon. Rick Danko’s best songs are collaborations, and I suspect the collaborator did the lyrics, because they do have a unified style. Shake It is a solo composition, but it has a stylistic relation to several collaborations. Small Town Talk, New Mexicoe (sic), What A Town were with Bobby Charles; Once Upon A Time, Brainwash and Sweet Romance with Emmett Grogan; Driftin’ Away and All Creation were with Eric Andersen. All Our Past Times was with Eric Clapton according to Times Like These, but just Rick Danko according to Clapton’s No Reason To Cry album. On the Clapton album, Clapton and Danko take alternate verses. Beautiful Thing from the same Clapton album was written with Richard Manuel.

In the 1990s, Rick Danko put original work into the albums with Jonas Fjeld and Eric Andersen (Danko, Fjeld, Andersen / Ridin’ On The Blinds / One More Shot), and surprisingly The Band didn’t perform his newer songs, or his earlier solo songs in that era … there are a couple of early 90s shows with Driftin’ Away.

Twilight was always one of his great performances, like It Makes No Difference, and while it exists on Ridin’ On The Blinds, Live On Breeze Hill and Cryin’ Heart Blues in excellent versions, I didn’t include it because the 1970s The Band version is the one I’d play. My favourite Danko, Fjeld, Andersen track of all is Come Runnin’ Like A Friend, excluded here because Eric Andersen takes the lead vocal.

A surprise omission for many will be Java Blues. He loved it, played it on every solo show. I never liked it much, but was tempted by the frenetic live version with Paul Butterfield on Cryin’ Heart Blues. The lyric’s about being wired on caffeine, and this version suits it best.

There’s also the posthumous collection Times Like These and a flurry of half a dozen posthumous CDs of live shows. He had a wide range of covers from Lionel Richie to James Taylor. The Grateful Dead’s Ripple makes the ten here: with Eric “Deliverance” Weissberg on banjo, Levon Helm on mandolin and Garth Hudson on accordion. I find the live solo shows suffer because he plays acoustic guitar. He was one of the very best bass guitarists ever, but his quirky somewhat sloppy 6-string work jars a tad.

Rick Danko: His Life, His Music & His Legacy

Rick Danko on The Band website, the definitive Internet resource

Rick Danko biography (iTunes)

TopperPost #47

5 Comments

  1. Peter Viney
    Aug 13, 2013

    A clarification on the song “New Mexicoe”. It’s spelled with an “e” on the original Arista LP, both on the cover and on the disc label. The album has been released around three times on CD, and the Edsel copy has a photo-reproduction of the original LP sleeve with “New Mexicoe” but the rear and CD itself have ‘New Mexico.’ I always thought it was some kind of in joke, because on Crying Heart Blues the song “Old Mexico” is spelled correctly.

  2. Colin Duncan
    Aug 13, 2013

    I don’t have the album ‘Rick Danko’, which now sells at a huge price. I think ‘Small Town Talk’ is a really good song, but always think of John Martyn’s version where the drum/percussion played by the excellent Arran Ahmun takes a leading part. After playing the song I carry the drum rhythm around with me.

  3. Mark Atkins
    Aug 14, 2013

    “Raining in My Heart” from Ringo’s 1989 tour. A guilty pleasure of mine. Features Levon and Garth.

  4. Peter Viney
    Aug 14, 2013

    Raining In My Heart was only missing because I forgot about it. I agree, fabulous performance.

    On Small Town Talk, two great versions came out before Rick Danko’s own. It’s on the “Bobby Charles” album, and on “It All Comes Back” by Paul Butterfield’s Better Days. On the latter, it’s sung by Geoff Muldaur, with guitars from Geoff Muldaur and Amos Garrett, and if I could only have one version of this song, it would be the choice.

  5. Dennis Cooper
    Aug 14, 2013

    Java Blues was a terrific song… when performed live, not sure if there was quite as good of a record version.

    And for one month a year, December, Christmas Must Be Tonight was also a performance highlight.

    These lists are fun, thank-you Peter and gang!

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