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31
4.3 out of 5 stars
Music from Big Pink
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 15 November 2000
A fantastic introduction to the Band and their music. From the first 4 songs building up a raw feel until the classic interruption of the Weight, the music flows and keeps the listener on edge. As a sharp contrast to 'the Weight' and its slow progression, 'We can Talk' bursts in, in classic Band feel-good style - a rollercoaster of sounds and rhythms that makes classic driving music!! The middle part of this album culminates in one of the Bands best songs 'Chest Fever' which pulsates along with unbelievable energy. To end off, the music again slows down until the finale of 'I shall Be Released' wonderfully, emotively sung by Richard Manuel at his best. A classic album that shows the three vocal talents of Danko, Helm & Manuel at their most raw and naive yet posessing an unbelievable power and setting the mood of the next album - The Band. Musically inspiring and filled with the most vivd sounds and atmospheres. The extra tracks add some variety but the listener should appreciate the first 11 songs of the original album as a complete story in their own right.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
With their down-home gritsy lo-fi sound, and near legendary mystique, when 'The Band' finally dropped their debut it continued the genesis of a story that is still evolving to this day, even as the original members pass away (Levon Helm have only fairly recently passed on at the time of writing this). Having worked closely with Dylan for several years, some of his mystique had rubbed off on the band, so to speak.

Many people (Helm included, according to his testimony on the excellent Classic Albums DVD about their second album) see Music From Big Pink and The Band as two parts of the same pie. Personally I think The Band only recorded one out and out masterpiece, and that's their next one, simply called The Band. Whereas that album has numerous classics, such as 'Across the Great Divide', 'The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down', 'Up on Cripple Creek', the devastating 'Whispering Pines' and 'King Harvest (Has Surely Come)', with all the other tracks (even 'Jemima Surrender', the closest thing to filler on the album stands up pretty well) making a very strong showing.

Big Pink is, by comparison, much patchier and uneven. 'Chest fever' includes a short blast of Garth Hudson's famous keys intro, and the song itself was a live favourite, but in the studio it lacks something of the live energy, and sounds a little ponderous (to me at any rate). 'This Wheel's On Fire' (a title Helm used for his autobiography) is an oddity, which sounds the most dated of all the tracks on their first two albums, and I can't disassociate it from it's use as the theme to TV's Ab Fab!

The original album ends (some versions available now add numerous additional bonus tracks, out-takes and the like) with the tortured emotional falsetto of the tragic Richard Manuel, singing Dylan's 'I Shall Be Released' which, especially with hindsight, makes for a very sad and moving version of an excellent song. But it's only this and The Weight that are essential, in my opinion. For hardcore fans, this might seem like heresy, but most of this album finds me skipping to those two tracks, whereas The Band compels throughout. It is a bit of grower, so if you're unsure, start with The Band, and then try this.

So, a good album, in places brilliant. The Weight and I Shall Be Released deserve five or more stars, but the remainder of the material is neither brilliant, nor essential. The Band should be in every decent collection, but this is optional, and more for hardcore fans.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 16 April 2013
It really is 48 years since its release. The music is superlative. There has never been anyone quite like the Band and there brand of rural sounding rock and roll seeming to be rooted in a non specific past. The musicianship is wonderful.
This, their first album contains three of Dylan's basement tape songs. All of them great. Otherwise the album mostly showcases the emerging songwriting talent of Robbie Robertson. The cover of Long Black Veil is perhaps the weakest song but like the rest of the album is beautifully performed .
In the past I've owned this on vinyl and also have the non- remastered CD. I bought the download of the remastered album and I do think it worth the modest price even apart from the extra tracks which actually are pretty limited in what they add although do have curiosity value.
If was advising anyone who is tuning in to the Band for the first time I would advise them not to buy any of the compilations but start here to collect all their albums ( which are precious few) . At the very least buy this, The Band, Stagefright and Cahoots and maybe The Last Waltz. But by then you'll want the rest which are more patchy but sill contain rewards.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 17 August 2005
Largely influential on the currently voguish Americana and alt. country scene, this first album grew out of the music the Band were creating with Bob Dylan at the house Big Pink, near Woodstock NY in 1967, and includes several new Bob Dylan songs - I Shall Be Released, This Wheel's On Fire and Tears Of Rage, the latter two co-written with the members of the Band who sing them. Probably the best known song was the single The Weight, which also appeared in the film Easy Rider (but was not licensed for the soundtrack album). There is one cover, Long Black Veil, which was influential on Robbie Robertson's writing style, and which he learned from Lefty Frizell's version.
If you need to own one Band album, this is the one to go for. It was hugely influential, an album unlike any other, and caused huge ripples across the music fraternity, changing the way people like Eric Clapton experienced and created music.

Beautifully re-mastered this new edition has copious notes and is almost doubled in length with bonus tracks, mostly appearing for the first time. It is fascinating to hear alternative arrangements of some of the songs, such as Lonesome Suzie which turns up with a big band horn arrangement. Musically, it sounds great, but was discarded, rightly, for being inappropriate for the song. A couple of covers recorded for fun, never intended for release on the album, are included - the Stanley Brothers' bluegrass If I Lose, and a less successful stab at the Jazz Allum and Big Bill Broonzy blues standard, Key To The Highway.
Some of the songs were included on The Basement Tapes, the Bob Dylan and the Band album of demos and home-recordings made at Big Pink. Orange Juice Blues and Yazoo Street Scandal are alternative versions, but of especial interest are Katie's Been Gone and Dylan's song Long Distance Operator. These are presented here as full stereo studio recordings, but are clearly the same takes that appeared on The Basement Tapes, demonstrating that the eight tracks by the Band on that album had not been recorded at Big Pink at all but had been muddied up to sound as if they had. Long Distance Operator now spawns an extra verse, but unfortunately there is a mistake in the editing so that the first line of the last verse is missing. Clearly these and other Band tracks from that album and any others from the same period need to be rounded up and given a proper release in restored sound quality
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 21 April 2012
As a fan right from the start I will attempt to explain how and why Big Pink came to represent something of a watershed to many of us who were exposed to it for the first time back in 1968. Why and how it has come to carry such significance to us. Why so many of us rank Big Pink alongside The Brown album at the very pinnacle of The Band's recorded musical achievement. Why we perceive those who do not see it in such context as failing to see the entire picture as lucidly as they perhaps should. Why - in so far as history must surely end up judging - such a contention actually goes to the very core of what The Band represents.

I'll begin with a broad perspective on how we formulate judgements on these sort of things.

Let's take somebody who has just latched onto a particular artist. Any artist of significance. They naturally rate this artist highly and are genuinely earnest about acquiring a completely balanced perspective on this artist. In such an instance which would constitute the most reliable way for them to become acquainted with the catalogue of that artist? I guess it would be to do so as chronologically as possible? Clearly, not always the easiest way - nor the most affordable. However, in order to formulate a truly objective appreciation of a particular artist's development, both in its own right and in relation to its peers, surely the best way?

In other words, you can certainly have your favourite snatches of any artist but unless you have viewed everything through the appropriate objective lens then such favouritism remains merely that.

I'll venture a personal experience where I perceive relying on mere favouritism can tend to obscure such judgement.

I have spent many an hour on various websites defending the magnificence of the Beatles first album, 'Please Please Me'. What I have tended to find is that many of the Beatles more recent fan base are invariably only too eager to dismiss the - shall we call them in hindsight - rather naive and simplistic qualities of that first album. They compare it with the sophisticated intricacies and resonances of subsequent Beatles offerings, such as Revolver, The White Album, Abbey Road or any late sixties/early seventies Rolling Stones classic album and declare poor old PPM a non-starter by comparison.

In doing so they are - in my opinion - overlooking what simply has to be a crucial part of any such judgement. That is the comparison with what else was on offer at the relevant time.

In the Beatles case this is straightforward enough to demonstrate, of course - or at least it is for those of us who happened to be around at the time. We take it as read the pivotal importance PPM occupies in rock history. Before it, for example, no other popular artist had self-penned so many songs purely for an album. Further no other popular artist had so successfully merged pure pop with R&B and R&R. The fact is that at the relevant time - namely early 1963 - PPM was simply staggering in its consistent quality. It was, comfortably, the best pop/rock album up to that point in time. The best, in fact, until The Beatles next album - 'With The Beatles'. Indeed, as a little 'test the water' gauge on this, one needs only look at arguably the joint weakest track on that second album. The track "I Wanna Be Your Man" was given to The Rolling Stones by John and Paul and became the Stones' - up to then - most successful song. It also convinced Mick and Keef that they could try their hand at songwriting. A prompting of some significance I'm sure most would agree.

Thus, in the case of The Beatles, it would be extremely flawed reasoning to form a judgement on PPM - or its follow up - without placing such judgement in its historical context. Also without taking cognizance of all the ensuing limitations of what at that time the Beatles' peers were creating or, indeed, what it was humanly possible given the technology available for any contemporaneous popular music artist to create.

......Moving onto the case of The Band, we find things are significantly different.

The Band's creative arc never mirrored that of The Beatles. True, their musical development did not begin an awful lot later than The Beatles - possibly only a matter of a few years or so at most. The crucial difference was that by the time The Band formally released their first recorded offering in 1968, namely Music From Big Pink, they were already comfortably the finished article, possibly as tight and accomplished as it was possible for any combo to be. What's more, they were able to dip selectively into the full repertoire of rock music's, by then, already formidable legacy and marinate it with their own vast range of contemporary and traditional musical influences. By so doing they created a sound that, whilst in itself no more unique than that of The Beatles, carried a maturity that was entirely unique.

A major part of that maturity evolved from an instinctive democracy that seemed to permeate every pore of that first album. Each tiny part of Big Pink appeared to exist simply to serve the whole. It was as if each vocal, each harmony, each instrument - in fact each and every contribution - was teetering on some invisible tightrope between dominance and subservience; competing frantically for every available space yet never less than complementary or utterly accommodating to the other.

Meanwhile, the products of these precarious balancing acts [the ensuing finished album tracks] - no matter how memorable and distinctive they happened to have been - were, in effect, always going to be there as merely a part of an integral whole. It meant Big Pink was not simply a collection of outstanding yet ultimately disparate songs. Rather, like the group who'd created it, the album was a genuine entity where everything fused together seamlessly to create a whole that was simply magical.

The instinctive `metaphorical' jettisoning from this notional entity of This Wheel's on Fire and I Shall Be Released by some fans - myself included - was to come later. As it stood at the time of its inauguration, it was to be little wonder that The Band's contempories had never before heard such a sound, let alone that they were never able to approach the mark it set.

Nor was such unmatched accomplishment the only quality that distinguished Big Pink from anything else around.

Possibly even more distinctive and defining was its inherent authenticity. The sound conveyed everything about where it was from. The singers and performers on Big Pink sang of their everyday life; the everyday trials and tribulations of the community they were so clearly an integral part of. Crucially their words and sentiments were not mere posturing. In contrast to the vast majority of their white contempories with their - by comparison - sometimes limp offerings, these fellows were the real deal. True representatives of their own bretheren.

This wasn't Joe Cocker asking you to lend your ears for him to sing you a song or Eric Clapton waiting for some mystical love to shine in. It wasn't even John Lennon dissecting the pitfalls and/or merits of a revolution. Rather these were ordinary Joes, country cousins and kinfolk singing from all corners of their front parlour - often at the same time - in some deliciously raw and previously unheard yet unmistakable harmony of the rural American community they had emanated from. The music they were making was simply an extension of that community.

Earthy yet heavenly; bleak yet uplifting; stark yet comforting.

Significantly, too, they were also inviting you, their audience, to become a part of what that music - their music - was offering. Its joys and heartaches; its mundanity and its mystery; its suffering and its healing. Even if it were only for the magical interludes when you were listening to them extolling it, then it was still more than enough for it to sink its teeth into your psyche and draw you right in to its very heart.

"Come let me show you how...to milk a cow" was no idle aside. Rather this was a fully blown invitation for you to get those city hands of yours carressing those cow's teats for all they were worth.

Forget anyone else, this was the nearest to complete Soul - and, for that matter Blues and Gospel - that any white artists had ever got; have ever got. The community they extolled was opening up before your very ears - and eyes. Imprisoned in some inner city bedroom you simply couldn't ask for more from a piece of long playing plastic than for it to transport you heart and soul into the backwoods and homesteads of rural America.

Big Pink - and its successor The Band - were a reflection of an artistic entity at the very zenith of its individual and collective power and sensibility. They were performing and singing about - and within - an environment in which they had become steeped; about which they were genuinely passionate.

And it showed.

In every note, in every chord, in every pause came evidence of that conviction. It may not have been the easiest listening music in which you'd ever attempted to immerse yourself. It may not have contained a solitary moment of what we might term pure pop or rock. However, once you had allowed its rhythms and pulses, its front parlour harmonies and sentiments, its craftsmanship and sheer mastery of the idiom to invade your own sensibilities then you could not help but become convinced that you were in the presence of some unique musical entity wherein the sum of the constituent parts amounted to far more than seemed at all humanly possible.

Not surprising the attachment grew stronger with each play. And there were hundreds and hundreds of those playings. One after the other as the album's ambience entered your every orifice. And lingered for all time.

You'd find yourself reading the words of the back cover over and over again searching for some hidden clues as to what these fellows were about, which bit of the respective songs each of them was singing, where they had come from, where they were going. Frustratingly, you'd find little to quench your thirst. All you had to go on was the music and vocals spitting out from what seemed like different parts of that little mono record player before you. There was a complete absence of fuss or hype. It left you craving for the merest snippet. Your intrigue at the stark simplicity of their collective name would soon cede to a glaring realisation. What else, after all, could these guys possibly have been called?

Then there was the utter appropriateness of their own names - Danko, Manuel, Garth, Jaime and Levon. 'Levon' for Chrissakes!! You just couldn't make this sort of stuff up, so authentic did it all sound. And then the few brief sentiments uttered by the guy on guitar, Jaime 'Robbie' Robertson, about them enjoying it all 'just enough to smile at one another when we're playing'. It was like some snatched insight into the mental rigeurs of a bunch of musical geniuses. What else would they do, you'd reflect knowingly, smiling to yourself at the logic of it all. Not only was all this utterly convincing. For those to whom such things mattered - and as you might expect with these sort of things that was regrettably a minority - it was intoxicating, enchanting. In short it became vital.

Meantime, the downside was there as well, of course. Invisible, undetectable yet nevertheless looming all the time in the background.

Not surprisingly, The Band as a collective power could never surpass such an epiphany; such bona fide genius. With Big Pink and its bedfellow The Band they had succeeded in establishing a ceiling that nobody before nor since has got near.

Their achievements had soared beyond merely the sound their music had created. Somehow, the sincerity and sheer downhomeness of their songs and performances on those albums had married together to create an aura of ordinary folk community, rustic life and American history that had resulted in something unique. An art form within an art form as it were. What's more, they had taken it as far as it could go. In the process they had set a mark that was to become unattainable not only for others but also for themselves. Thereafter, inevitably, they, their music and that art form waned. As unerringly as an arrow falling from the apex of its arc, they - and we - were all destined to head towards planet earth.

As they and, hence, their music grew away from the very togetherness and lifestyle that had helped forge it; that had created and sustained it. Inevitably, inexorably it was to lose its substance. The integrity and purity of Big Pink and The Band - those albums' very essence - had been but a tangible manifestation of what was a living breathing entity. Now the inherent pressures and trappings of fame meant The Band were struggling to hold that together.

Sure, their subsequent offerings were still of the very highest order. Fact was even at their lamest these fellows were peerless musicians and vocalists. Many individual tracks were remarkable. There still came moments of exquisite beauty. Stagefright, their third album contained a string of magical songs and performances that were a testimony to artists of such stature. Rock of Ages was ludicrously accomplished and unleashed My Brother Jake for goodness sake. Moondog Matinee was a nostalgic delight. Northern Lights, meanwhile, presented luscious textures that just soothed the soul.

The difference was in the tales these subsequent albums told; in the windows they opened.

No longer did those tales carry that indefinable authenticity of Big Pink and The Band. No longer did those windows open up to reveal a consistent cinematic landscape. What had once somehow sucked you into its tapestry until you had felt an integral part of it, now merely enthralled you with its isolated layers of brilliance.

That validity which had singled those masterpieces out; that had set them apart was - understandably - gone. Those very ingredients that had made Big Pink and The Band such complete entities, once so available, were now proving more than elusive even for these multi-talented folk.

The sobering fact was no longer did the new material speak for an entire breed of people. Rather it spoke just for the singers and performers and - while that made perfect sense for someone in their position and could still sound at times like heaven - it was simply no longer enough to sustain the aura. The Band's first two creations had made them immortal. Now, manifestly, they were showing they were not. Remorselessly, life was calling in its dues.

A sense of duty is an instinctive thing. Mostly we display it in respect of family and those closest to us. The need to protect them and defend them. To be responsible for them. It is part of the bond.

To feel something akin to that for what is merely a rock album is most probably a preposterous notion. Nonetheless, that I feel such a bond for 'Music From Big Pink' is quite evident from what I find I've written here. This is not least in response to what I have perceived since first discovering this site as a tendency of some to relegate the importance of Big Pink. The intensity of my sentiments may or may not be shared by others. And in the overall scheme of things that, frankly, matters not. What does matter, as far as I'm concerned, is that what I see as the unique majesty of Music From Big Pink has now been represented in a manner which I hope has done it some form of the justice I believe it merits.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Hats off to the brilliantly named Band. There are not many groups who could make themselves seen and heard from behind the bright light of Bob Dylan, but these guys managed it.

Having first come across them on `Planet Waves',and the `Before the Flood' concerts, two of my favourite Dylan albums, I decided to listen to their output sans Dylan. And I was really glad I did.

The band had a distinctive sound all of their own. They took a mixture of a variety of sounds, blues, folk, country, rock, soul, anything else they liked the sound of, and blended it into a sound uniquely their own. Utilising the three very distinct voices of Levon Helm (my personal favourite of their lead singers), Manuel and Danko, and the multi instrumental talents of all the band, they painted rich pictures from a wide musical palette.

This debut album, named after the house in which the album was created, is a stunner. The Band had been playing live together for a few years, and were a pretty tight outfit. The songwriting is excellent, and the album just brims over with creativity.

Difficult to pigeonhole, they were a unique outfit and this album is an essential part of any American music lover's collection. An excellent debut from an excellent band. Five stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Hats off to the brilliantly named Band. There are not many groups who could make themselves seen and heard from behind the bright light of Bob Dylan, but these guys managed it.

Having first come across them on `Planet Waves',and the `Before the Flood' concerts, two of my favourite Dylan albums, I decided to listen to their output sans Dylan. And I was really glad I did.

The band had a distinctive sound all of their own. They took a mixture of a variety of sounds, blues, folk, country, rock, soul, anything else they liked the sound of, and blended it into a sound uniquely their own. Utilising the three very distinct voices of Levon Helm (my personal favourite of their lead singers), Manuel and Danko, and the multi instrumental talents of all the band, they painted rich pictures from a wide musical palette.

This debut album, named after the house in which the album was created, is a stunner. The Band had been playing live together for a few years, and were a pretty tight outfit. The songwriting is excellent, and the album just brims over with creativity.

Difficult to pigeonhole, they were a unique outfit and this album is an essential part of any American music lover's collection. An excellent debut from an excellent band. Five stars.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 13 December 2009
Good to see someone still pushing SACD.If you already have the DVDA version of this album this probably is a luxury purchase as it lacks the 5.1 mix of that release or the bonus tracks of the standard CD. The SACD version however is excellent and lacks the pops and crackles of the DVDA stereo (and the packaging is beautiful).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Hats off to the brilliantly named Band. There are not many groups who could make themselves seen and heard from behind the bright light of Bob Dylan, but these guys managed it.

Having first come across them on `Planet Waves',and the `Before the Flood' concerts, two of my favourite Dylan albums, I decided to listen to their output sans Dylan. And I was really glad I did.

The band had a distinctive sound all of their own. They took a mixture of a variety of sounds, blues, folk, country, rock, soul, anything else they liked the sound of, and blended it into a sound uniquely their own. Utilising the three very distinct voices of Levon Helm (my personal favourite of their lead singers), Manuel and Danko, and the multi instrumental talents of all the band, they painted rich pictures from a wide musical palette.

This debut album, named after the house in which the album was created, is a stunner. The Band had been playing live together for a few years, and were a pretty tight outfit. The songwriting is excellent, and the album just brims over with creativity.

Difficult to pigeonhole, they were a unique outfit and this album is an essential part of any American music lover's collection. This remaster is pretty good, with a good clear sound and decent separation. The liner notes are interesting. Also included are a few other tracks recorded at the time not released as part of this album, but would surface later on Bob Dylan's `Basement Tapes' album.

An excellent debut from an excellent band. Five stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Hats off to the brilliantly named Band. There are not many groups who could make themselves seen and heard from behind the bright light of Bob Dylan, but these guys managed it.

Having first come across them on `Planet Waves',and the `Before the Flood' concerts, two of my favourite Dylan albums, I decided to listen to their output sans Dylan. And I was really glad I did.

The band had a distinctive sound all of their own. They took a mixture of a variety of sounds, blues, folk, country, rock, soul, anything else they liked the sound of, and blended it into a sound uniquely their own. Utilising the three very distinct voices of Levon Helm (my personal favourite of their lead singers), Manuel and Danko, and the multi instrumental talents of all the band, they painted rich pictures from a wide musical palette.

This debut album, named after the house in which the album was created, is a stunner. The Band had been playing live together for a few years, and were a pretty tight outfit. The songwriting is excellent, and the album just brims over with creativity.

Difficult to pigeonhole, they were a unique outfit and this album is an essential part of any American music lover's collection. An excellent debut from an excellent band. Five stars.
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