Monday, November 07, 2005

Richard Manuel's blues

Recorded live near his home base around Woodstock in fall of 1985, a few months before he hung himself in early 1986, Whispering Pines remains the closest thing that ex-Band singer/pianist Richard Manuel had to a solo album. Though he had participated in some Band reunions after their official break-up, he was sidelined by addiction and the rigours of touring. Even if you don't have much use for classic rock nowadays, remember that the Mekons dedicated an album to him shortly after his death.

Perhaps sensing that his end was near (compare Ian Curtis on Closer), he turned to the unfathomable sadness that's plummed from early Ray Charles in a group of covers that sound appropriate: "Georgia On My Mind," "You Don't Know Me" and "Hard Times" ("who knows better than I?"). Of course, Band songs make it here and just as a reminder, some of them came from his pen. Another worthwhile reminder is what a great pianist he was- just listen to his boogie-woogie rhapsody on "The Shape I'm In." The way his gruff voice cracks (a cornerstone of the Band's music) is heartbreaking too- just listen to the title track for proof of this. The setting for the show was mostly solo, with occasional help from his ex-bandmate (and also now departed) Rick Danko.

Though it's listed as coming out later this month, the album should be available now from Other Peoples' Music, a label that faithfully archives many Band solo projects.


Post a Comment

<< Home