As The Band continues honoring each of its studio albums with a 50th anniversary edition, the latest in line is Cahoots.  The Super Deluxe collection of this 1971 record is as thorough in its presentation as its peers- with a newly remixed and remastered version of the original, a Blu-Ray audio version, a ’71 Paris bootleg, a 7” single, bonus cuts and alternates, plus the requisite extensive booklet, and additional artwork.  In other words, it’s got just about everything, which alone makes it attractive.

Where this one differs from its predecessors starts with a request from The Band’s guitarist, songwriter, and singer who’s been overseeing the series of reissues, Robbie Robertson, to engineer Bob Clearmountain.  The prior three- Music From Big Pink, The Band, and Stage Fright- are albums whose initial and historical recording process and subsequent success necessitated a conscious, kid-glove handling when ushering them into the present.  Clearmountain and Robertson achieved a well-received outcome with those, enhancing and highlighting what was inherent in the originals, and inconspicuously elevating that; like meticulously cleaning up an old oil painting.

With Cahoots, Robertson essentially handed Clearmountain the brushes and paints.  Treating the original mix almost like a sketch, Clearmountain was free, especially on the Blu-Ray audio version, to create something brand new, yet still true to The Band’s pencil lines on the canvas.  He’s done wonders. 

It’s a lively, warm, and detailed effort; accentuating the growth of The Band as arrangers in lieu of song material that wasn’t perhaps as impactful as that of its preceding trio.  “Life is a Carnival” is the track, for sure, as Clearmountain finds just the right space in the jaunty classic for each in the quintet; drummer Levon Helm’s beat is the zenith of impossibly complex simplicity, and is showcased here better than ever.  “4% Pantomime,” with an impromptu guesting from Van Morrison, finds its patented groove, then swings it harder and stronger, with a building conclusion that symbolizes the spirit of the entire new mix; vibrant and assuring.  The ’71 bootleg taken from a Paris show is not complete, but the majority of that concert, presented with an admitted sonic patina.  Still, the performance itself is so indicative of The Band’s great live appearances at the time, definitely it warrants inclusion.

Thankfully, Robertson entrusted Clearmountain with this gift of a challenge.  At 50, finally, aurally and aesthetically, Cahoots has the proper colors, the proper frame, the proper lighting, so to speak, to be experienced and appreciated in the best form.