Northern Lights, Southern Cross

The Band

Capitol, 1975

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


The Band returned in 1975 with their first album of all new original material in four years. The group had relocated to California and Robbie Robertson was inspired to write all the material for this release. While several members of The Band had begun to experience personal problems, they proved to be focused in the studio and were able to create an excellent album.

The songs were a little longer than usual, but because only eight tracks were included on the album, it was their shortest release. In this case, brevity translated into excellence, as my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Northern Lights, Southern Cross was The Band’s last truly superior studio album.

The album’s first track, “Forbidden Fruit,” found a different Robbie Robertson. His guitar sound and particularly his soloing were more apparent and up front than in the past. The other surprise was that Garth Hudson was now playing a synthesizer. While this found the group veering from their traditional sound, it also gave Hudson more flexibility in creating new textures for the group’s work together. “Forbidden Fruit” is at its heart a biblical epic and a rock ‘n’ roll song all rolled into one.

“Hobo Justice” is an acoustic rock song. Richard Manuel is the vocalist and he creates a soulful sound the runs counterpoint to the song’s structure.

“Arcadian Driftwood” was a brilliant creation by Robertson. It returned The Band to the earthy sound of Music From Big Pink. It is a mesmerizing history lesson presented through music. The harmonies of Danko, Helm, and Manuel are perfect.

The other five tracks all have something to recommend them. “Ring Your Bell” features a sweet duet by Danko and Manuel. “It Makes No Difference” returned The Band to their traditional harmony sound. “Jupiter Moon” is almost a flight of fantasy. “Rags And Bones” features Robertson on acoustic guitar again but the highlight of the track is a perfect stereo mix. “Ophelia” is probably the best known song from the album and contains a subtle and delicate structure written by Robertson.

Northern Lights, Southern Cross is a very representative album by The Band. It presents the joys and sadness of life within the context of the musical form. At the time of its release 33 years ago, it left the listening public wanting more.

Rating: B+

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