59 of 62 people found the following review helpful
Essential listening - a perfect album in every way,
This review is from: The Band (Audio CD)
N.B. The official review above is somewhat misleading as it is written as if Joan Baez composed "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" from this album; she did not. Robbie Robertson, guitarist of the band is the composer for anyone who didn't already know. Anyway, now to the important stuff...
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. Listen to "Whispering Pines" or "Rockin' Chair" off this album and you will know what I mean... indeed, buy the "Classic Albums" dvd of this to see just what sort of impact Richard had on the music and people involved with the Band. For those of you who do not know the Band, Richard committed suicide back in 1986 while touring with the reunited (ex-Robertson) band.
Let's not forget the force of the other vocalists and musicians within however, because each made a massive impact upon the music that came out of the "Big Pink" and "Band" sessions. The most impressive songs on this album are, without doubt "Across The Great Divide", "...Dixie...", "Unfaithful Servant", "Whispering Pines", "Rockin' Chair" and "When You Awake", all bona-fide classics. The other songs are just as impressive once you know the Band's music, but are a little more dense in scope and may take a few listens to fully appreciate.
Helm, a superb drummer, singer, and mandolin player, sings "Dixie" with the kind of passion nobody from out of the South of the US could. It's undeniable and frighteningly haunting. Similarly, Danko (also deceased) puts in superb vocal performances on "When You Awake" and "Unfaithful Servant".
All the musicians (except Robertson, who wrote nearly all the songs) are exceptional multi-instrumentalists who exhibit the kind of genius (and that includes Robertsons' guitar playing and songwriting) that maybe just one part of every classic band has; the disturbing thing is that every member of this band has it in spades.
The music itself is breathtaking in scope, not because of its component parts (although they too are magical), but because of the force and complexity of the textures that these musicians created... created, may I add, in the midst of post "St. Peppers" flimsy and whimsical psychedelia, and not scarred in any way by it (as much of the late 60's, early 70's music was). The underbelly of the songs is based upon Helm's substantial drumming, Danko's persistent and beautiful bass and Garth Hudson's complex textures of hammond and Clavinette.
This is timeless music for timeless troubles, music we can all grasp something from, whether it is hope, empathy, sadness, (envy!), or simple inspiration and respect.
Once of the very few "perfect" rock albums, in my opinion far greater than any album that came out of the '60's or 70's and simply one of the most awe-inspiring examples of songwriting, storytelling and musicianship that you will ever bear witness to.
Timeless and essential.