Northern Lights – Southern Cross
After four years, during which their only studio album was the covers record Moondog Matinee, The Band returned with their best work since 1969. They’ve updated their sound for the 1970s, it was the first album recorded in the group’s new studio, and 24 track recording allows room for synthesiser over-dubs; Garth Hudson’s work on ‘Jupiter Hollow’ is reminiscent of Stevie Wonder’s 1970s’ albums. More importantly, it’s much more lively than the previous two efforts – songs like the opener ‘Forbidden Fruit’ and ‘Ophelia’ are full sounding and joyful.
But the standout song is ‘Acadian Driftwood’ – an historic epic that’s the equal of ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’, but based in Canada, about the expulsion of French colonists from the eastern provinces in the 18th century. Rick Danko takes the spotlight in the country-soul tearjerker ‘It Makes No Difference’, while the group romp through ‘Forbidden Fruit’ and ‘Ophelia’.
If there’s a criticism of Northern Lights – Southern Cross, some of the songs outstay their welcome with only eight tracks over forty minutes, but it’s a creative rebound after the rote Stage Fright and the unfocused Cahoots, and it’s a major work in The Band’s catalogue.