Sunday, November 3, 2019

The Band - Cahoots - Alternate Version (1971)

The first two albums by the Band - "Music from Big Pink" and "The Band" - are considered all-time classics. Their third album, "Stagefright," is pretty good. But their fourth album, "Cahoots," is widely seen as a disappointment, and I agree. It has a few excellent songs, but some clunkers too. This is my effort to "fix" "Cahoots" by replacing those clunkers with some stray tracks from that same year.

Here are the four songs I've removed: "Where Do We Go from Here," "Shoot Out in Chinatown," "The Moon Struck One," and "Thinkin' Out Loud." They're just okay and forgettable, and not up to the high standards the Band set with their first three albums. I also rejected some stray tracks from the time period. For instance, "Move Me," an "original" written by Rick Danko, in fact is so very similar to the 1970 King Floyd hit "Groove Me" that the Band surely would have lost a lawsuit if they'd tried to release it at the time. Even the title is hardly changed!

To replace these songs, the most obvious contender is "Endless Highway." This is a great original song that was played a lot in concert by the Band in the 1970s, but no studio version of it was released at the time. It turns out a studio version was recorded in 1971, but apparently just after "Cahoots" was released.

I've also added three fun cover versions. The Motown hit "Baby Don't You Do It (Don't Do It)" was recorded in the studio, and was a concert staple for the Band, but the studio version wasn't released at the time either. "(I Don't Want to) Hang Up My Rock and Roll Shoes" and "Loving You Is Sweeter than Ever" are songs the Band also played in concert, and both were released on the "Rock of Ages" live album that was recorded in 1971 and released in 1972. I've found unreleased performances of both songs that came from the same series of concerts that were recorded for the "Rock of Ages" album. Both are fantastic soundboard recordings that no doubt were considered for the live album. I've managed the remove the audience noise so well that they sound just like studio versions.

I've sprinkled the replacement songs throughout the album, because "The River Hymn" is still a natural album closer.

I've also included another cover song, "Slippin' and Slidin'" as a bonus track. It's a live version that was released on the "A Musical History" box set. The reason it's only a bonus track is because it dates from 1970, not 1971. It arguably belongs with the "Stagefright" album.

With four songs removed and another four songs added, the album ends up being about the same length, at 45 minutes long. In my opinion,  it's a much stronger album after these changes, one that might even compare to their great first two. I suppose the group wanted all original songs, but chief songwriter Robbie Robertson was losing his inspiration around this time, as could be seen by the fact that it would be four more years before they put out another album of originals. They would have done much better to include more cover versions.

01. Life Is a Carnival (Band)
02. When I Paint My Masterpiece (Band)
03. Last of the Blacksmiths (Band)
04. 4% Pantomime (Band & Van Morrison)
05. [I Don't Want To] Hang Up My Rock and Roll Shoes (Band)
06. Smoke Signal (Band)
07. Volcano (Band)
08. Baby Don't You Do It [Don't Do It] (Band)
09. Endless Highway (Band)
10. Loving You Is Sweeter than Ever (Band)
11. The River Hymn (Band)

Slippin' and Slidin' (Band)

The album cover is simply the unchanged original cover.


  1. First of all, let me say that I really enjoy your terrific blog.
    A few comments about Cahoots: I always liked this album even though it was a far lesser effort than The Band’s three previous and far superior efforts. Cahoots starts off well with ‘Life is a Carnaval’, which is one of the The Band’s best tracks ever, and then proceeds with an excellent cover version (and great Levon Helm vocal) of Dylan’s ‘When I Paint My Masterpiece.’ From there, the quality of the album drops dramatically. So the question is what tracks to replace the improve the album. I agree with two of your suggestions for elimination: ‘Where Do We Go from Here’ is one of The Band’s weakest compositions and ‘Shoot Out in Chinatown’ is only slightly better. However, I must beg to differ about your other candidates for removal. While ‘Thinkin' Out Loud’ may not be prime Band, it is a fine track nonetheless. And I most fervently disagree with eliminating ‘The Moon Struck One.’ I have read many negative comments about this song from Band fans, and I never understood why. Richard Manuel’s vocal on this track is simply superb. Cahoots suffers a lot from eradicating this song. I would though like to nominate a song whose removal from Cahoot would be a blessing and that is ‘4% Pantomime.’ I know Band fans who believe this song is the 2nd strongest track on the album after ‘Life is a Carnaval.’ I remember thinking the dialogue between Rick Manuel and Van Morrison was cute the first two times I listened to this album. But by my third listen (I am sure I have listed to this album more than 100 times over the past 40 years), I began to find the song increasingly tedious — with an improvisational structure that just meanders. The Band has been my favorite rock band for over 40 years, and yet I find ‘4% Pantomime’ a total snore. It is my second least favorite Band track ever, only to be beaten out by the abysmal ‘Christmas Must Be Tonight’ from the Islands album. Now “Islands” is a Band album that could use some help (although there is some good stuff to be rescued from its selections). Any suggestions?

    1. Each person has their own unique tastes. I can only go with what my own tastes are. That said, there are general trends of which songs are most popular, and you admit that your tastes tend to go against the grain in some cases. For instance, "4% Pantomine." A lot of fans of the Band really like that song, to the point that it's on a lot of the Band's best of albums. I like it a lot too.

      Note that I also really like "Christmas Must Be Tonight," and yet you think it's terrible. Again, to each their own. You could always make your own alterations to the album.

      Re: Islands, I do plan on posting an alternate version of that eventually. I've already made it, and in case you're curious, here's my song list:

      01. Twilight [Single Version] (Band)
      02. The Well (Band)
      03. Evangeline (Band with Emmylou Harris)
      04. Out of the Blue (Band)
      05. Hard Times (Band with Eric Clapton)
      06. Steppin' Up in Class (Band with Eric Clapton)
      07. Home Cookin' (Band)
      08. Right as Rain (Band)
      09. The Saga of Pepote Rouge (Band)
      10. Livin' in a Dream (Band)
      11. Knockin' Lost John (Band)
      12. Georgia on My Mind (Band)
      13. Christmas Must Be Tonight (Band)

      It's so interesting how personal tastes may differ. Not only do I include "Christmas Must Be Tonight," I think it's the best song on "Islands" by a mile. And I like the "Islands" version way better than the bonus track version on "Northern Lights."

  2. Excellent selection- I'll have to check out ‘Thinkin' Out Loud’ and ‘The Moon Struck One.’ mentioned above to see if I want to add them back in! I agree with you, "Christmas Must Be Tonight," is very enjoyable.

    1. Please let me know what you think. I could be persuaded to make changes if lots of people disagree with my choices.

  3. Paul, thank you for your response. As you rightly say, every person has their own unique tastes. I should not have disparaged “Christmas Must Be Tonight,” and should have known better that even among people with musical tastes that overlap greatly, they may still have deep disagreements over the merits of individual songs, artists, and genres. My impetus for my previous note was to stick up for ‘The Moon Struck One,’ which is one of those songs whose merits Band fans have widely divergent opinions on.

    Anyway, let me reiterate that I really enjoy your blog. One specific thanks for your listings for The Zombies. Although I greatly enjoy and am fairly knowledgeable about 60’s Rock, I must admit that my previous knowledge of The Zombies was limited to their three big hits – and was dismissive of them otherwise. Having listened to your reconstructed Zombies albums many times since I downloaded them over the past few months , I recognize I greatly underestimated this group. Since then I bought, and listened for the first time, their final album - Odyssey and Oracle. I now realize that they were were one of the best groups of the Sixties. Thanks for bringing them to my attention. Also shout outs to your songwriters series, and the Chris Clark albums (I was unaware of her previously).

    1. I just listened to "Moon Struck One" again, since you like it so much. I have to admit the lyrics are interesting, but the melody doesn't engage me.

      Thanks for the compliments over the Zombies, the Covered series and Chris Clark. I'm psyched when I get to turn people on to music like that. It's what the blog is all about. :)