Released in 1971, Cahoots wasn’t a major hit, but it reaffirmed The Band’s songwriting prowess and gifted vocalists, Levon Helm, Rick Danko, and Richard Manuel. Fifty years later, guitarist Robbie Robertson asked legendary engineer Bob Clearmountain to remix the album from scratch, yielding improved sonics while retaining the vibe.
Robertson, one of the earliest blues-rock guitarists (as Ronnie Hawkins’ early-’60s sideman), found his niche as The Band’s main writer and Fender ace. Crank up “Life Is a Carnival” to hear his funky Leslie-cab licks over Danko’s fat bass and Garth Hudson’s organ. Robbie’s Tele twang can be heard on “4% Pantomime,” a life-affirming jam with guest Van Morrison.
Bonus material includes studio outtakes and most of a 1971 Paris gig. Onstage, you’ll find concert gems like “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” “Rag Mama Rag,” and “The Unfaithful Servant,” the last with Robertson’s quick tremolo picking. “Don’t Do It” is full of jabbing blues bends and R&B comping.
For the Blu-Ray disc of Cahoots, Clearmountain uses a high-resolution Dolby ATMOS mix for even deeper audio thrills. In fact, every version of this reissue reminds us of The Band’s joyful sound – and seismic impact on Woodstock-era rock.
This article originally appeared in VG’s March 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.