When it was first released 50 years ago, The Band’s Cahoots received lukewarm reviews. Maybe it suffered by comparison with the group’s first three albums, two whose standards it was impossible to live up to.
And while the energy level of the album does dip a little on side two, it seems a little unfair to complain, given the brilliance of, say, Life Is A Carnival, in which brass soul, electric rock and bluegrass are all pulled together into a fully rocking, fully funky weave.
Also When I Paint My Masterpiece, which brings flesh, blood and flavour to the Bob Dylan song, or 4% Pantomime, featuring a dazzling, practically impromptu intervention from Van Morrison, whose diamond voice is a reminder of how imperishable his talent is, despite his persistent, anti-social efforts to sabotage his reputation
The live disc, a partial retrieval of a concert at the Olympia Theatre in Paris in May 1971, reminds, despite its rawness, of The Band’s unmatched on-stage brilliance and the legacy they’d already built up with the likes of Rag Mama Rag and The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, while their version of Ivy Jo Hunter & Stevie Wonder’s Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever demonstrates that soul wasn’t something whose mannerisms they adopted, but was in their own fibre, their DNA.
Despite being (mostly) Canadian, they were America itself, from north to south. Among the out-takes, Bessie Smith is a further indicator that their sense of American ‘roots’ was fully integrated.