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. Theres
a great story behind the songs on this six track EP release on Woodstock
/ Funzalo Records and its 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, Its 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
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. www.woodstockrecords.com
mwe3.com 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 wasnt 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.
mwe3: 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.
The major labels became more reckless and unresponsive after the CD
Professor Louie: I dont 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: Im 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
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: Its 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
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: Hes 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?
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.
mwe3: 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.
Its such a tragic song that has really played out in real-time
these days. Its 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 Dont You Cry No More. Thats the bluesy
side of The Band, like when they did "Baby Dont You Do
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
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.
My favorite track on The Lost Band Tracks is Lets
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 whats next from Professor Louie & The Crowmatix?
Professor Louie: New album, new DVD...
mwe3: Whats coming on Woodstock Records as we barrel
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.