Largo may be a musical term denoting a slow tempo, but for Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Joan Osborne, Taj Mahal, The Chieftains, Carole King and Cyndi Lauper among others, the word also refers to their collective project of the same name. On April 28, Mercury will release Largo, a 16-track self-titled concept album masterminded by producer Rick Chertoff (Osborne’s Relish, Lauper’s She’s So Unusual) and ex-Hooters Rob Hyman and Eric Bazilian, all of whom play various instruments on the CD.
The record was inspired by our mutual love of Dvorak’s Symphony (No.9) From the New World,” Chertoff tells ICE, “particularly the second movement, which is the Largo. Dvorak was an established European composer who heard American folk music in a way that no legitimate composer ever had before, which is to say that he thought it had real value. He’s the beginning of the line that includes [Aaron] Copland, [Duke] Ellington, [George] Gershwin and The Band.
The Largo is based on, among other things, what were known as plantation songs, or what we now call spirituals. For this record, we made his piece the sun which our musical planets revolved around; we let the spirit guide us as best we could, and just tried to have fun with it.”
When it came time to assemble the ensamble, Chertoff and company “picked musicians that we love, pure and simple. Rob and I were college roommates, and we used to listen to Taj’s first two albums all the time. We’re total Band fanatics, and Paddy Moloney (of The Chieftains) is one of our heroes as well. Joan, Taj, Levon–everyone on the record sings so beautifully. In fact, Cyndi lauper sings White Man’s Melody just like Billie Holiday.”