The Band

Capitol, 1977

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


Islands is the final studio album that all five original members of The Band would record together. It seems they owed the Capital label one more album, so the group reached into their past for some unreleased tracks and leftover songs and combined them with a few new tunes and Islands was born.

It is more of a hodgepodge than any of their previous releases. Some of the songs have an unfinished feel and others are more poppish than in the past. The album also has a modern sound, which was not the usual Band style. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Oddly, the song that appears most out of place on the album is also its best track: “Georgia On My Mind” was written by Hoagy Carmichael and is given a beautiful interpretation by Richard Manuel. It is a soulful vocal that just sends chills through the listener.

There are several strong points to the album. “Right As Rain” was as good as most of the better songs that Robbie Robertson created. Rick Danko brings it to life with a fine vocal and Garth Hudson provides the instrumental underpinning with his usual creative keyboards. “The Saga Of Pepote Rouge” is a nice story song. The unique vocal duet by Danko and Helm is first rate. Every once in awhile, The Band added horns to their sound with good effect. “Livin’ In A Dream” is just such an occasion. It moves the focus from the average lyrics to the enhanced instrumental sound. “Street Walker” is a gritty song penned by Danko and Robertson. It is one of the few songs on the album that Robertson seems enthused enough to provide some creative guitar work.

On the other hand, Islands contains some very average work. The title song is an instrumental co-written by Hudson, Robertson, and Danko. I just expect more of Robertson and Hudson, especially when they are unencumbered by lyrics. “Christmas Must Be Tonight” written by Robbie Robertson for the birth of his son, is an inferior version to the one that later appeared as a bonus track on the Northern Lights, Southern Cross CD. Songs such as “Let The Night Fall,” “Knockin’ Lost John” and “Ain’t That A Lot Of Love” are ordinary at best and are deservedly buried in The Band catalogue.

Islands may have some good points, but it is far from the quality of the group’s early and classic releases. All in all, it remains a very average album by a Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame band.

Rating: C+

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