The Band, “Saved” from Moondog Matinee (1973): Across the Great Divide

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Not many rock bands would approach something like Leiber and Stoller’s “Saved,” originally a Top 40 Billboard hit for LaVerne Baker in 1961. But not many had an ace in the hole like vocalist Richard Manuel or a history quite like the Band’s.

It wasn’t just that this kind of rock and roll gospel was his forte, his raison d’etre. It’s not just that his winking admonitions about past misdeeds ring so true. It’s that when he sings (when Richard Manuel gleefully crows, really, as he does so often here), you get a welcome glimpse into what originally brought the Band to this place.

They are, for a moment at least, as they once were: These hard-headed, soul-stoked roustabouts who stood between two worlds, with one dusty boot in R&B and another in rock — long before Bob Dylan, Big Pink and even bigger fame sent them to a different place.

The choice of material was just as inspired as the performance. In placing “Saved” on Moondog Matinee, the Band connected a straight line from LaVerne Baker to her appearances on the old package tours sponsored by Alan Freed, whose original Cleveland-based Moondog Rock ‘n’ Roll Party radio program in turn inspired the name of this 1973 tribute album.

But Moondog Matinee wasn’t, despite intimations from all around, a nostalgic return to their glory days as the pre-fame Hawks. Instead, this consistently underrated album from the Band was a memorably vibrant re-construction, something brand new sewed together from older strands.

Moondog Matinee — and you hear that so clearly across Richard Manuel’s romping take on “Saved” — found a group of jointly committed musicians, guys with a lengthy history with this music, not simply recreating an old bandstand setlist but bringing new life into music that once inspired them. Clearly, it still did, as “Saved” became the rare Moondog Matinee cut to appear in the Band’s live shows.

So, why is Moondog Matinee so little mentioned? In a strange inversion of what’s typical for covers-focused albums, the project was compared more to the Band’s earlier successes than to the originals which it sought to redefine. It was somehow seen not as a passionate homage, but as a creative retrenchment. It was, to be it more directly, no Music from Big Pink, no Brown Album.

Thing is, Moondog Matinee was never meant to be. The thrill of riding along for Richard Manuel’s rapscallion rush through “Saved,” decades past those of-the-moment expectations, make them feel ever more hollow. This song’s charms are simply undeniable.

Across the Great Divide is a weekly, song-by-song examination from Something Else! on the legacy of the Band, both together and as solo artists. The series runs on Thursdays.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, 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 U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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  • nicmart

    I’ve listened to MM many times since it was release, and I still don’t enjoy it. The Band is one of the few great rock bands, but I fail to find the joy in this album.

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