At a time when most popular music was permutating the basic guitar-bass-drums line-up, The Band were blending those instruments with reeds, horns and keyboards. Using a tuba as the bass on Rag Mama Rag, no less The sound is simultaneously rough yet sophisticated. The singing blends sweetness and hard edge. Rural but definitely not country.
For music lovers born in the 50s and 60s (and maybe earlier) this album is an absolute sure-fire must-have. For those born later, I wonder whether it sounds as compelling - years of multi-track recording and studio wizardry have raised the taste for smoothness so this one might be a tad too grainy for them.
The version I have is the unremastered CD. I wonder about the additional tracks on this one - more can sometimes diminish the perfect integrity of a great album. If record companies want to give the fans a little extra, bless them, then I personally would prefer them on a 2nd CD. Like an appendix.
Each Band member with a different characteristic. Robbertson, the clever guitarist, expressive in the lyrics of many of the songs (one thing that comes to mind is the Last Waltz where he and Clapton on playing 'Further On Up The Road' and the enjoyment in both their eyes.) The dry, awakening sound of Levon Helm's voice, emphasising each point from the thought provoking lyrics, 'Up On Cripple Creek and Look Out Cleveland' my two faves from the album. The bass guitar and harmonies provided by Danko, not to mention those piercing black eyes boaring into your musical mind, especially on 'The Unfaithful Servant.' The hard hitting piano solos from Manuel that live on in 'Jawbone.' And last but by no means least, Garth Hudson, on the fancy organ, clavinette, accordion, slide trumpet and any others you can think of.
As you can probably guess, this album is in prime position in the top slots of my CD collection.
For those who haven't got this, I urhe you to buy it, for those who HAVE, then I demand you to listen to it...NOW!
Having had this album for a couple of months I find myself in a far more settled place in which to write a review that I know I can stand by for good. This band is absolutely essential, in the way that the Beatles, Elvis, Cash, Springsteen, the Stones, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye etc. etc. are essential. They captured in its purest form a method of storytelling that still has as much potency and passion now as it ever did back in the late 1960's. This, in my estimations (as well as many, many other musicians and music-lovers) forcefully eclipses any of the "classic" albums at the time (St. Peppers and Pet Sounds being the most acclaimed) in every single way.
From the stunning sway of "Across the Great Divide", right through to the undeniable anguish of "King Harvest", each song tells a vivid and engaging story, sung with such passion and played with such amazing talent, that this is simply the most artistically important album of the 20th century (in my eyes at the very least; I know at least some people agree).
If nobody knows the members of the Band, prepare to be engaged in the kind of enthralling empathy that no other band I have come across has yet instilled in me...
The Band consists of three vocalists; Richard Manuel (Pianist), Rick Danko (bassist) and Levon Helm (drummer), of which Richard was most definitely the lead. His voice is truly inspiring, breathtaking, and (once you know his fate) absolutely heartbreaking.... Read more ›
'Across The Great Divide' is as good an opening track as there ever was. Whilst it's tempting to laugh at the track as sounding like the theme tune to an American sit-com. the lyrics are equally self-depreciating and humorous. Witness the singer's nervousness as he shakyly asks - '...tell me hun, what you done, with the gun'!
Rag Mama Rag must surely be in line for a rap sample. sooner or later!. The violins, harsh and abrasive, immediately lead you into its story - sleeping bags, turn-offs, and bad comedians.
Up On Creeky Creak is classic music, the Night they Drove Old Dixie Down - moves the listener, as a story of sorrow and a chronical of a time that has clearly past.
What makes this album great is both its undeniable sense of fun - its jaunty 'rag' rythms, and the over-riding sense of sorrow. Whispering Pines encapsulates this perfecly. The music on everytrack effortlessly complements the changing lyrical moods. Whispering Pine's eriee organ surrounds the track, dronwing the singer's longing - 'Standing by the well, wishing for the rain...'
The Band on, 'The Band', succeed in covering a massive range of musical styles and emotions - a faculty which no doubt leads to comparisons with the Beta Band et al. What really moves the listener though is the stark simplicity, and the chance to witness stories of life and stories of defeat.... Read more ›
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