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Unlike most music fans this reviewers introduction to the Band came many years ago through the Bob Dylan live album "Before the flood" where Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson perform eight classic Band songs and support his Bobness in delivering some of the most blistering, sharp rock versions of a range of classics, with Highway 61 Revisited in particular being absolutely raucous. No matter how good this live set is it was approaching the Band from the wrong end of the lens. It is hard to describe today how their first two albums "Music from the Big Pink" and "The Band" completely revolutionised music. The first album released in 1968 at the height of the "psychedelic" era, harked back to something deeper in American life and music which has been charted so brilliantly in Griel Marcus's "Indivisible Republic" a book on the sources for work that Dylan and the Band produced on the legendary "Basement tapes". Look at the cover of their second album and that is not a bunch late 60s hippies; its more a picture of civil war era Americans that could have been taken a day after the Battle of Spotsylvania. Thus musicians as diverse as Eric Clapton, Richard Thompson and the Grateful Dead listened to the Band and took two steps backs and totally changed direction. Even today Band influences can be found everywhere on the cutting edge in Mercury Rev (Hudson played on Deserters songs), Fleet Foxes and My Morning Jacket.

The reason for this huge shadow the Band has cast can be found in this excellent retrospective of their career ranging from "Big Pink" to "Islands". You could argue that some tracks could have been drawn from "Rock of Ages" their great live album but frankly nearly every Band song you want on set is here. Thus all the classics are here including the great cover of Dylan's "I shall be released", the Easy Rider anthem "The weight" itself subject to endless cover versions, the tale of the fall of the old south "The night they drove old Dixie down" with Helms magnificent emotive vocal, the almost funky Little Feat style "The shape I'm in" and the brilliant "Stagefright" mixed by the young Todd Rundgren, the story of Robertson the reluctant musician who "got caught in the spotlight, but when he gets to the end, wants to start all over again". The songs not off the first albums also shine particularly the storming version of Elvis's "Mystery Train, the rocking "Endless Highway" and the heartbreaking ballad "It makes no difference". You also have in my view the greatest Band song ever namely "Acadian Driftwood" which charts the forcible displacement of the Acadian people after war between the French and the English in Eastern Canada during the 18th century. The Band members take turns in singing the verses and that verse which concludes with the line "set my compass north, I've got winter in my blood" reduces you to a jibering wreck every time it is played, as does the songs French language ending.

With the sad deaths of Manuel and Danko all the remaining Band members namely Robertson, Hudson and Helm have gone on to have distinguished careers. Robertson in addition to his intriguing music projects is hugely active in the area of prison reform and in particular in matters of aboriginal prisoner rights. These five gentlemen are some of the finest and most influential musicians to come out of the USA and the Band truly deserve the epithet of legendary.
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The BAND is my favourite group of all time. I first heard their music in the late 60's while watching the road movie 'Easyrider' and just had to find out who they were and more importantly, what else had they recorded. I discovered the albums 'Music from Big Pink', and 'The Band' and I was dumstruck by the originality of their lyrics and melodies.
Over the following ten years or so I purchased most stuff by The Band up until their split in the late 70's. It's only in the last twelve or so years that I've read the books and watched the videos and very recently bought the later albums post The Last Waltz which are all pretty good actually. (I'd somehow got the impression back then that they were well below PAR.)
Sadly, 3 out of 5 original Band members are not with us any longer and to most, their music has long since disapeared into oblivion.
'To Kingdom Come' is the most complete 'best of' album, in my opinion. Whether your after something for the Ipod, or an introduction to a unique group of individuals who collectively changed the face of music forever. You won't be disapointed.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The Band are famous as Bob Dylan's musicians but they also (eventually) had their own career, brilliantly represented on this collection, which includes extensive liner notes. The music they made on their own was very different to Bob's.
The collection begins with a live cover of Chuck Berry's Back to Memphis, previously unreleased. Next come six tracks from The Band's debut album, Music from the Big Pink. The six tracks chosen include covers of I shall be released and Long black veil as well as four original songs, the most famous of these being The weight. The others are Tears of rage, To kingdom come and Chest fever.
Five songs are taken from their eponymous second album, including their only American top thirty hit, Up on Cripple Creek. Nevertheless, the most famous track on this album is The night they drove old Dixie down. Although this is the original version - and it is brilliant - it was Joan Baez who had the hit single. The other three songs from this album are Rag Mama rag, Unfaithful servant and King harvest has surely come. Sandwiched between these tracks is a live recording of a cover of Loving you is sweeter than ever, the Four tops classic.
The Band were a rebellious bunch and decided that things were getting way too serious so their next album (Stage fright) was intended to be a lightweight, fun album - however, it didn't work out that way due to line-up changes. Nevertheless, one of the tracks (The W S Walcott medicine show) is a much lighter type of song and shows what might have been. Other tracks from Stage fright included here are the title track, The shape I'm in and Daniel and the sacred harp. This completes the first CD.
The second CD opens with a cover of a Motown song originally recorded by Marvin Gaye in 1964. This is followed by four tracks from their fourth album, Cahoots, then just one track (Mystery train) from Moondog matinee, a set of R+B covers. This sounds like an interesting album and I'd certainly like the chance to hear the whole album. Another live recording, Endless highway, is followed by Get up Jake, originally recorded for one of their earlier albums but not released.
Three tracks from Northern lights Southern Cross and three tracks from Islands including a Christmas song complete an outstanding collection.
This compilation is worth tracking down if you are interested in guitar rock music of the late sixties and early seventies. No subsequent compilation does as much justice to The Band as this one. All the original albums have been re-released on CD, so if you can't find this collection you can get all the tracks and many more besides.
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