Times Like These
First Appeared at The Music Box, May 2001, Volume 8, #5
Written by John Metzger
At the time of his death, Rick Danko had finally come out of the long shadow of Robbie Robertson and was in fact making some of the best music of his career. The proof of this lies in his final two recordings — Jubilation (which proved to be The Band's magnificent swan song and best album in decades) and his touching, yet haunted final solo outing Times Like These — both of which make his premature departure all the more disheartening.
More often than not, posthumously released endeavors are hit and miss affairs that show only a few sparks of brilliance amidst a sea of "works-in-progress." Though Times Like These was never officially completed and was instead culled from studio sessions held in 1998 and 1999 as well as Danko's final concert appearance (for the Acoustic Café radio program), it sounds undeniably seamless and carries the same timeless quality as the earliest releases from The Band.
Part of this can be explained by some of the songs that appear on Times Like These and touch upon several stages of Danko's recording career. For example, Bob Dylan's This Wheel's on Fire, which appeared on the debut release from The Band, is revamped as an ornately majestic folk song. It begins simply enough with the gentle picking of a National Steel guitar set against a gentle strum of an acoustic, but before long it dives head-first into a swirling mixture of accordion, soprano sax, piano, mandolin, and percussion. Likewise, Danko's own composition Book Faded Brown sounds even more relaxed and reflective than the version that appeared on The Band's final recording, and the Grateful Dead's Ripple is tackled with superlative imagination as Danko captures the spirit of the original while making it his own.
Yet, there is something else at work throughout Times Like These that makes the album more than just a simple waltz through the past. That something, of course, is Rick Danko. He sounds relaxed. He sounds at peace. He sounds free. True, the man was a troubled soul, but, perhaps, in laying down the tracks for what became his final album, he discovered a little bit more of — and became more at ease with — himself. Whether allowing his voice to yearn meditatively for salvation on Sam Cooke's Chain Gang or to plead tearfully out of loneliness on Times Like These, Danko's emotions run sweet and pure, linking each song to the next in steadfastly acute precision. That producer Aaron Hurwitz was able to salvage these sessions and polish them off so nicely is a credit to his understanding of Danko's vision. And when combined with appearances by Garth Hudson, Joe Walsh, Levon Helm, Randy Ciarlante, Tom Pacheco, and Rick's brother Terry, Times Like These becomes a stirring memorial to an amazing artist who left us far too soon.
Times Like These is available from Barnes & Noble.
To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2001 The Music Box