Neil Young, the Sadies and Garth Hudson, “This Wheel’s On Fire” (2012): One Track Mind

The forthcoming Garth Hudson Presents: A Canadian Celebration of the Band, curated and performed alongside co-founding keyboardist Garth Hudson, is nearly set ablaze by this ferocious new take on “This Wheel’s on Fire.”

Elsewhere on the album, there are loving updates of Band classics from Cowboy Junkies, Bruce Cockburn and Blue Rodeo, but none of those redone tracks is perhaps more remarkably executed than this one from Neil Young, the Sadies and Hudson.

Young’s searing yowl is featured here over an insistent, bedraggled cadence — and they never let go of that angular propulsion, giving the song the sense of angry menace. Make that, a long-overdue sense of angry menace.

What the song captures is the way the Band actually sounded, not the way it recorded. This isn’t the low levee moan found on Bob Dylan and the Band’s late 1960s Basement Tapes sessions — not to mention the more kaleidoscopic take, with Rick Danko’s perfectly longing lead vocal, for 1968’s Music from Big Pink.

What you hear on Garth Hudson Presents: A Canadian Celebration of the Band is something more in keeping with galloping version the Band did for The Last Waltz, minus Allen Toussaint’s funky horns.

From its rambunctious, off-kilter start, to its scalding guitar solo, to its twinkling keyboard conclusion from Hudson himself, “This Wheel’s On Fire” shows how the Band’s music could be just as dangerous as it could be contemplative. The group has been rightly deified over the years for its sensitivity, but not as much has been made of their fury and wit.

Young, Hudson and the Sadies, with this scalding update, help set that right.

‘Garth Hudson Presents: A Canadian Celebration of the Band,’ produced by Band cofounder Garth Hudson and Peter J. Moore (Cowboy Junkies, Lucinda Williams), features a number of songs Hudson says are his favorites from the group’s live repertoire — including familiar moments like “The Shape I’m In,” Dylan’s “Clothes Line Saga” from The Basement Tapes, and even a deep cut from post-Robbie Robertson era, “Move To Japan.” Hudson appears on every track.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso