Top positive review
One person found this helpful
on 31 March 2017
Having just finished Testimony (see book reviews), I realised I had never reviewed this masterpiece. However ambivalent I am about Robertson, this is, along with Highway 61 and Blonde on Blonde, the best American album by a white band. It is stunningly original, brilliantly recorded and played. Most importantly all of the songs are so good and fresh they still sound great. They are so good, the Band decided to shelve Get Up Jake, which is so good my head spins.
While other bands were pursuing psychedelia, blues, country, etc. the Band set out to create their own music, a bewildering synthesis of American styles. 4 of 5 members were Canadian and all of the songs were written, one way or the other by Robbie Robertson - proof that there is no 'Canada' or that American music is so strong it can accommodate outsiders. Take your pick.
The Band had no sound until Music From Big Pink. They backed Ronnie Hawkins, a small time rockabilly act, and then fluke into backing Dylan during his infamous going electric phase.They cooked one up and it is remarkable. All 5 musicians are top flight and no show offs. Three of them are good singers with unusual voices. Robertson is an outstanding writer and tasteful guitarist. But the alchemy of the sound - so intimate, woody and authentic, makes this a cohesive masterpiece.
It even had hits, like Cripple Creek and Dixie. It has stand out rockers (Look Out Cleveland, Jemima Surrender), ballads (When You Awake, Whispering Pines) even a rag (Rag Mama Rag). When this came out, it hit hard - it sounded like it was from another world. I saw them play most of these at Woodstock, and they were the best band there, even though they did not make the film for some bizarre reason.
If you have never heard the Band, start here. This is the perfect album, original, intelligent, brilliantly performed and still wonderful.