http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/ec6a134e18d7316d9e7626ec8161a2f257386c89.jpg Moondog Matinee

The Band

Moondog Matinee

Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 0 0
January 3, 1974

Under normal circumstances this would be a fairly disappointing album for the Band, coming as it does on the year-old heels of a live set and a good 30 months since the last appearance of any original material. But with the upcoming Bob Dylan tour probably occupying a large share of their attention and the possibility of a label change in the offing, they probably figured to conserve the group's not-too-prolific energies by playing around with the past. Moondog Matinee, the Band's own Self-Portrait, is, at the least, an ingratiating result.

Like most oldies albums, part of the pleasure here lies in seeing what inspirations the Band felt should be resurrected from their early roadhouse beginnings. In the main they've drawn well, choosing rhythm and blues styles that run the gamut from Clarence "Frogman" Henry to the Platters, all refined into the wood-smoked ambience that covers the ex-Hawks like a friendly shoe. They take each selection straight, casual and almost off the cuff. There are few surprises, even less tension, and if the album contains a distinct lack of outstanding moments, the group's consistency has seldom been more apparent or necessary.

Yet redeemed as it somewhat is, Moondog Matinee remains a flimsy work, a collection of B sides that are as enjoyable as they are forgettable in the context of the group's larger concerns. This is not helped by the Band's gift for understatement, which, though it enhances the group's own material, maneuvers at cross purposes with the drift of the album. "A Change Is Gonna Come," the unbearably lovely Sam Cooke tune, loses much of its emotive power as a result, while "Third Man Theme" becomes merely a pretty pastiche of Felliniesque muzak. They're on firmer ground when they lay back and rock & roll, as with "Mystery Train" or Chuck Berry's "Promised Land," the latter a sterling evocation of Edward Kaspar's brilliant razorback cover painting, '55 T-Bird and all.

A sense of humor helps too, amply demonstrated by Levon's magnificently cracked reading of "The Great Pretender" or the frogman segment of "Ain't Got No Home." The best things on the set are Fats Domino's "I'm Ready," leading and pummeling the way into Leiber-Stoller's (via LaVerne Baker) "Saved." "Holy Cow" is a hat-tip to Allen Toussaint, whose horn arrangements are given tribute throughout the album, and "Share Your Love" features Richard Manuel in the only cut which manages to break out of the jook-joint concept and sit on its own as a fully realized touch of classic.

It's hard to dislike Moondog Matinee, given its low-priority inflection and modest goals, but it seems to me that the Band and their fans deserve better.

Album Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Try a Little Tenderness”

    Otis Redding | 1966

    This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

    More Song Stories entries »