The Band’s fourth album showed them expanding their sound somewhat, a welcome change after the homogeneous Stage Fright. Cahoots is often categorised as a step down from its predecessors, but I find it at least as compelling as 1970’s Stage Fright. Arguably the tunes are weaker, but the introspective lyrics from Robbie Robertson and the more varied arrangements make it an interesting album. Van Morrison duets with Richard Manuel on ‘4% Pantomine’, while Allen Toussaint arranged the horns on the opening ‘Life Is A Carnival’.
Cahoots starts with two of its most accessible songs – ‘Life Is A Carnival’ is invigorating, with Levon Helm and Rick Danko sharing vocals, while ‘When I Paint My Masterpiece’ is the first Bob Dylan cover from The Band since Music From Big Pink. Elsewhere, Cahoots is characterised by Robertson’s lyrics that lament a changing society on songs like ‘Last of the Blacksmiths’ and ‘Where Do We Go From Here’; “Did you hear about the railroad going under/How it seems its days are numbered on the board.” The second side of Cahoots is weaker, but still boasts the contemplative ‘The Moon Struck One’ and the urgent ‘Smoke Signal’.
The Band wouldn’t release another studio album of original material for another four years, but Cahoots is a serviceable, under-rated effort that’s worth hearing.