The Lost Band Tracks
(Woodstock Records)


Hot on the heels of Crowin’ The Blues, the 2017 CD by Upstate New York rockers Professor Louie & The Crowmatix, comes the release of The Lost Band Tracks. There’s a great story behind the songs on this six track EP release on Woodstock / Funzalo Records and it’s pretty much spelled out in the EP liner notes. Long story short, these songs were penned by New York rocker Jules Shear and members of The Band way back in 1991 for a new album by The Band, in the years after Robbie Robertson left the group. Shear co-wrote these songs with the intention of making the first post-Robertson Band album but Columbia dispensed with the idea and the songs laid in limbo for 25 + years. Revisiting these Jules Shear songs meant for The Band, Professor Louie rerecorded the tracks for a new Crowmatix album and, the results now heard for the first time in early 2018, are stellar. With a stellar career, Shear, who wrote classics for The Bangles and others, was at the top of his game back then and these new versions recorded exclusively for The Lost Band Tracks make them ripe for rediscovery among fans of Professor Louie as well as fans of The Band and Jules Shear. Speaking in his liner notes, Louie adds, “It’s like coming full circle for me.” With Professor Louie adding in lead vocals and all keys, the Crowmatix also features Miss Marie (backing vocals), John Platania (guitars), Gary Burke (drums), Frank Campbell (bass, backing vocals) with guests Jules Shear (lead and backing vocals) and Larry Packer (from The Last Waltz on mandolin). The Lost Band Tracks proves that even without Robbie Robertson, The Band and their producer Professor Louie were never short of valid musical ideas, even despite the changing musical terrain of the post-1970s music scene. Featuring six powerhouse cuts, The Lost Band Tracks revisits some stellar rock song classics that, even better late than never, still deserves to be heard. presents an interview with
Professor Louie (a/k/a) Aaron L. Hurwitz

"The Lost Band Tapes Interview"

: Who up at Columbia passed on these tracks?

Professor Louie: It wasn’t that anybody “passed” on The Band or these songs, they just did not understand The Band and the people who did left the label. There were also issues with publishing and writers credits.

mwe3: So here we are with The Lost Band Tracks in early 2018. Can you remember who sang what songs on the Columbia demos sent to a&r guru Rick Chertoff?

Professor Louie: I remember very well. I have notes from the original demos. All the guys… members of The Band, pitched in, which was why I was upset we did not get the budget right away to record professionally and correctly at that time.

: How involved were the other members of The Band members on the demo tracks?

Professor Louie: Very involved. Garth Hudson rose to the occasion many times and wrote great horn lines, keyboard & accordion parts. I tried to stick to all the original intent that Garth had when Professor Louie & The Crowmatix re-recorded the songs.

mwe3: Looking back on the late 1980s, it seemed American record labels were blind sided by the advent of the CD. When the majors discovered they were sitting on a gold mine, they stopped investing in new artists and milked their preexisting artists for the first time on CD.

Professor Louie: I think musical process started getting less creative and not enough money spent on new acts for many reasons. One large factor was that music people were no longer in charge of labels and artists that sold a lot of product were taking most of the money from the labels that use to go to new artist for development. The new non-music owners did not know about recording artists, writers and how to build new careers. The executives were taking too large of salaries and money was spent on too much nonsense opposed to music production and quality. I can remember going to record release parties by labels and thinking that I could make four full albums of new acts for the cost of the party.

mwe3: The major labels became more reckless and unresponsive after the CD arrived.

Professor Louie: I don’t think the physical format CD had much to do with the decline of money being spent in ridiculous ways. If anything, the labels were making more money as people wanted their old vinyl in CD format.

mwe3: By the way, what became of Rick Chertoff?

Professor Louie: Last I worked with Rick we did a great record called Largo. But that was quite long time ago and have lost touch…

mwe3: Why did Robbie quit The Band?

Professor Louie: I’m not sure anyone who was ever part of The Band organization, especially a founding member, ever really quits The Band, but from all I have heard, he did not want to perform live on the road touring anymore. He stated that fact in The Last Waltz.

mwe3: And what was the consensus among The Band about this?

Professor Louie: A lot of the guys went their own ways with solo careers but never stopped playing gigs in different configurations and then regrouped without Robbie in mid 1985 when I became part of the organization.

mwe3: Did you meet Robbie ever?

Professor Louie: Of course…

mwe3: Or did he leave The Band and move to L.A.?

Professor Louie: No not really, all the guys stayed in L.A. making movies, records movie scoring etc…

mwe3: His solo stuff is great but not officially as iconic as The Band is yet.

Professor Louie: The original five Band members were fantastic musicians and personalities. One solo performer can never get close to that great collaboration that they had…

mwe3: It’s admirable that you tried so valiantly to help them. Did you say how you met The Band?

Professor Louie: I was working on a Livingston Taylor CD, engineering and playing some keyboards. Artie Traum was the producer and it just so happened Garth Hudson called Artie and asked him who could help with a session that Garth was putting together with the Bengali Bauls. I worked for Garth on that session and the next thing I know I am getting called to help mix and produce a TV special for WYES in New Orleans with The Band, Allen Toussaint, Bobby Charles, Jo-el Sonnier and Fred Carter. That came out great and Levon asked me if I would help to start working with The Band to start recording again as a unit. What a great break for me…

mwe3: Did you listen to them religiously, like I did for years?

Professor Louie: I always liked The Band but had many musical interests so they were just part of my listening to music that made up the fabric of American roots music for me. Fortunately for me, I had been playing with stars from other musical fields such as gospel, blues and some early rock & roll stars, so I had learned that musicians who have a work ethic are who I would like to be around.

mwe3: How did you meet up with Jules Shear?

Professor Louie
: When Sony wanted to get The Band recording again they were concerned about the material and had The Band hook up with different songwriters, Billy Preston, Los Lobos, Jules was in that mix…

mwe3: He’s a Woodstock legend too.

Professor Louie: Yes he was living here and still does.

: What did Jules contribute to The Lost Band Tracks?

Professor Louie: He is the writer or co-writer of all the songs and originally was on all the demos with The Band singing or playing .

mwe3: Did Jules contribute to the new CD?

Professor Louie: Yes. First of all, we would not have recorded them if he did not like the idea. Next, he made sure all the lyrics were correct. I called him to find out if he wanted to sing a lead vocal with us so he could be part of the project. He came into the studio very prepared and sang it down.

mwe3: I see Jules did vocals on “River Of Honey”.

Professor Louie: It was a great honor for us to have Jules, being the writer, sing a lead vocal with us and put his name as a performer on the recording.

mwe3: Can you say something about the way Jules worked with Jim Weider and Stan Szelest in The Band?

Professor Louie: At that time we were all working everyday. Jimmy and Stan never missed a session. Stan was one of the greatest rock piano players and musicians of our time. We all felt terrible when Stan passed. I am glad to have the opportunity to record his co-write with Jules, “Too Soon Gone”.

mwe3: “River Of Honey” is a good example of song writing team of Jules and Jim.

Professor Louie: Absolutely. Jimmy is always at it and a creative force and a fantastic guitar player.

: Did you change anything in the 2017 remakes or stick close to the originals?

Professor Louie: Garth Hudson has to get a lot of credit as he had a lot to do with creating the structures and the arrangements. On these recordings we're just trying to do justice to the songs and we stayed close to some of the arrangements but made them our own.

mwe3: Is “Long Ways Away From Tennessee” an attempt to give Levon a very Band-like track to sing?

Professor Louie: As a writer you are looking to write songs that you feel will be good for the singer so tailored to on is a better description then attempt. Lee was always good at singing story songs especially about the South. It would have been a good fit.

: It’s such a tragic song that has really played out in real-time these days. It’s a real tear-jerker. I can really see Levon or Rick Danko doing the vocals. Big mistake by Columbia reinforced.

Professor Louie: Columbia at that time really did not get the musical value of The Band and had no idea of how they got to that great musical place. The guys were true historians of music.

mwe3: You must have been thrilled when Jules turned up with “Baby Don’t You Cry No More”. That’s the bluesy side of The Band, like when they did "Baby Don’t You Do It".

Professor Louie: A good one and fun to play live. Gary Burke our drummer has written a horn arrangement for the song so it becomes more like The Band when they used the horns.

mwe3: “Too Soon Gone” is a classic. “When you make the mistake, just a little too late”… tragic but beautiful. Was that planned as a Danko vocal?

Professor Louie: Rick did sing that song once on the demo and then on the Jericho CD. So you are right there. That was one of the songs that did not get hung up in the business of publishing and writers and we were able to place it on the Jericho CD with Rick singing. Since I played with Rick so much, I always wanted to do a remake of the song as it is one of my favorites.

mwe3: My favorite track on The Lost Band Tracks is “Let’s Take This Planet For A Ride”. Jules wrote that by himself? Pure genius in action that would have made a great single. Is it about reincarnation? Plus Louie, your new vocal is great.

Professor Louie: Thanks so much. Dan Agnew from Funzalo Records put a fantastic “visualizer” film on youtube of the song.

mwe3: Are you playing The Lost Band Tracks on your upcoming shows?

Professor Louie: Yes, a few with full horn section.
I would also like to mention that without Mike Lembo and Dan Agnew of Funzalo Records, this project never would have happened for Professor Louie & The Crowmatix and Woodstock Records.

mwe3: So what’s next from Professor Louie & The Crowmatix?

Professor Louie: New album, new DVD...

mwe3: What’s coming on Woodstock Records as we barrel towards 2020?

Professor Louie: Professor Louie & The Crowmatix are playing more and more shows. Sometimes with a full horn section, we call them The Woodstock Horns. Gary Burke on drums, Miss Marie on vocals, Frank Campbell, bass, and John Platania, guitar are the members of this ‘rock royalty’ group. We are always working on new arrangements. We will spend most of 2018 on the road promoting The Lost Band Tracks and the music on our thirteen CDs. I am currently producing a great rockin’ blues band that hail from upper New York State, in Canton, New York, which is close to the Canadian border called The Waydown Wailers. Their CD to be released on Woodstock Records will be released sometime this spring 2018. /


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