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Professor "Louie" and The Crowmatrix: Flyin' High

Dan McClenaghan By

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Professor "Louie", aka Aaron Hurwitz, played a major role—as co-producer, thrice—in the revival of The Band's recording career. The Band: the Hawks behind Rockabilly Ronnie Hawkins in the late fifties ("Who Do You Love); Dylan's sizzling, frenetic mid-sixties touring unit; "The Weight", "Up on Cripple Creek", "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down", "Stage Fright". That Band.

That quintessentially American group (four-fifths Canadian)disolved after "The Last Waltz" (memorialized in the Marty Scorcese film), but got back together again—without former leader/guitarist Robbie Robertson—in '83 to tour again—rent had to be paid, food laid on the tables. But no recordings; until '93, with Jericho, John Simon and Aaron (Professor "Louie") Hurwitz producing. A recapturing of the magic that was The Band, seventeen years after their last studio recording. Then High on the Hog, with the Professor producing again; and then their finest post-Robertson release, Jubilation in '96, and the good Professor was there again.

During this second stint of recording activity, Professor "Louie" and his Crowmatrix set up shop to prepare arranged tunes for The Band's studio dates. Danko, Helm, Hudson and Company were touring a great deal at the time, and the professor worked out the songs for them when the time came to hit the studio.

Flyin' High is The Professor and his groups third Band-tinged CD on Woodstock Records, with the bonus of having Garth Hudson—the origninal Band's keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist—sitting in...

...this Band fan, back in '69, caught The Band in concert in San Diego and Long Beach California. Hudson's keyboard wizardry on numbers like "We Can Talk" and "This Wheel's on Fire" drew gasps of pure awe from a rock audience unprepared for his prowess, and a yong woman in front of me whispered "Oh my God," at the pure beauty of his saxophone solo at the end of "Unfaithful Servant".

And Garth is in top form here, on Flyin' High

The CD opens with a traditional romper, a New Orleans-inflected romper, "Bull Frog", the band crisp, the lead vocals sounding quite Levon-esque. Louie and Crew mine Jubilation for "Don't Wait", one of the Band's best recorded performances, pre or post-Robertson. And, Oh Garth! Play that organ, Brother. "Whatever it Takes" is a tune co-written by the Band's late bassist/vocalist (too soon gone, like Richard Manuel), a soulful, pensive gem with New Riders of the Purple Sage feel. Then "No Survivors" brings The Allman Bros Band to mind.

A great , bluesy, roots rock recording, with another bonus: Marie Spinosa on a couple of lead vocals, "Especially Now" and "Jackie"—a reminder that the original Band would have sounded great doing a full album behind Emmylou Harris, or maybe backing Miss Marie.

A necessary CD for Band fans, and lovers of '70's country roots rock.

www.woodstockrecords.com


Track Listing: Bull Frong, Don't Wait, Whatever it Takes, No Souveniers, Miss Marie, Nashville Blues, Between Midnight and Two, Especially Now, Last Train Out, Jackie, Jack-A-Roe

Personnel: Prof. "Louie", lead vocals, keyboards; Miss Marie Spinosa, vocals, percussion; Mike deMicco, guitars and mandolins; Mike Dunn, bass; Gary Burke, drums; Mike Falzarano, vocals, guitar, mandolin; Garth Hudson, keyboards and arrangements

Title: Flyin' High | Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Woodstock Records

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