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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
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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.
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on 20 September 2014
What a great band The Band was, what great songs they wrote and delivered. If you love rock, country, Americana, or just great music, buy it.
Good notes included (in every sense of the word!)
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on 11 July 2017
As good as I remember first time round, wonderful compilation.
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on 20 July 2017
Classic music. Great service.
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on 13 July 2017
Classic stuff
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VINE VOICEon 31 December 2002
The Band were five hot bar musicians who'd taken loud raucous r'n'b to perfection whilst backing Bob Dylan in the mid 60's. After Dylan's crash (literal or otherwise) they retired to Woodstock where they dicovered fresh air, household chores and history. The began to play music at a lower volume, with a sense of camaraderie and sheer joy that has been unequalled since. This is their second and best album. The most noticeable and most often noted aspect of the album is its timeless quality. These songs, mostly by Robbie Robertson, sound like a bunch of rediscovered folk songs celebrating a long vanished America. They have a resonance missing from most rock'n'roll and a quality which is rare indeed.
The finest of the Band's three main vocalists, Richard Manuel, his voice rich and warm as good brandy, tops and tails this album with the uptempo comedy of 'Across the Great Divide' and the agonised brilliance of 'King Harvest (Has Surely Come)' about a poor farmer. He is also at the heart of this album with the heartbreakingly beautiful 'Whispering Pines'.
Levon, drummer and sometime mandolin player has a much earthier voice and he delights us with the bawdy nonsense of 'Rag Mama Rag','Up On Cripple Creek' and the tragic tale of Southern defeat 'The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down'. This song is probably the key note of the album and is as moving as pop music can be.
There is so much more on this album - not least Rick Danko's 'Unfaithful Servant'- and the playing is little short of miraculous, skilled, unselfish and rivetting. Perhaps in this field it is Garth Hudson who most earns the plaudits he is everywhere, governing the musical tone of each song. Perfect.
As for bonus tracks - they are good and it is nice to hear the studio version of 'Get Up Jake' but they cannot improve on perfection and I usually turn the cd off after 'King Harvest'
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on 6 September 2000
After returning from the Reading festival I collasped upon my bed and weakly looked around me. In the corner of my room, at the front of my Vinyl collection was the cover of this album - finally - I knew why they where looking so miserable. Soaked, muddy, wet and bearded the photograph perfectly captures the tiredness and the sense of adventure which constitutes the unequal spirit of this album.
'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. Stories based in the reality of the American South and the univerisal verities of the human soul.
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There are albums that should be included in everybody's collection. Now by this i don,t mean albums that are purely subjective(Though you could say all albums are) . By that i mean the obscure things like Fra Lippo Lippi,s "Songs" or Downy Mildews debut album. Then there are albums like The Bands eponymous second album. True classics ( 45th on Rolling Stones list of the best 500 albums of all time though there are some right clinkers in amongst that lot) universally accepted as great albums by all and sundry.
Released in September 1969 the album saw Robbie Robertson take over the mantle as the groups principle song-writer. For the debut album "Music From The Big Pink" song writing duties had been shared between Robertson and Richard Manuel but there are only three shared song-writing credits -the gorgeous ballad "Whispering Pines", "Jawbone" and "When You Awake". Actually that's not strictly true as "Jemima Surrender" is penned by Levon Helm and Robertson.
This album is viewed by some as concept album about old America- it,s traditions , people and places features suitable instrumentation. Rick Danko plays bass, fiddle and trombone while Levon Helm plays drums, mandolin and rhythm guitar. Garth Hudson , a true multi instrumentalist, though it,s fair to say Danko and helm are too, contributes organ ,clavinet, piano, accordion, saxophones, trumpet and bass pedals. The playing and singing by the three vocalists Robertson, Helm and Danko-especially the harmonies is exemplary and helps makes this album such an enriching musical experience.
Of course it helps that the level of song writing is so extraordinarily good. There is a wealth of traditional and (For then) contemporary styles absorbed into these songs. Indeed The Band is possibly the finest Americana album ever released , many years before Americana became a justifiable musical tag , thanks to music magazines like Uncut. Songs like "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down", "When You Awake", "Across The Great Divide" and "King Harvest(Has Surely Come)" resonate with empathy and ravaged emotion . The vocal performances are simply stunning with on Levon Helms rougher edged tones on "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" and "Whispering Pines" being especially outstanding .
Some reviewers of this album have been sniffy about other supposed classics as a way of heaping ever more fulsome praise on The Band which seems a rather disingenuous method of lauding it. By any criteria this is a tremendous album, and fully desrves the most lavish fulminations anyone can heap upon it. It should be, as is stated earlier in any discerning music fans collection. There is however, no need to slag of other bands to prove the point .The Band more than eloquently speaks for itself.
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Sounding like it was recorded in Uncle Bob's Basement and Garage (they used a house in the Hollywood Hills owned by Sammy Davis, Jr and padded it out with blankets and wood) - The Band's self-titled second album delivered on the promise of their 1968 debut "Music From Big Pink" in a huge way. Today it's revered as an Americana classic and this cool little CD remaster from 2000 hammers that home big time. Here are the rag mama rags...

Released September 2000 - "The Band" is an expanded CD reissue on Capitol 525 3892 (Barcode 724352538928) and breaks down as follows (71:57 minutes):

1. Across The Great Divide
2. Rag Mama Rag
3. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
4. When You Awake
5. Up On Cripple Creek
6. Whispering Pines
7. Jemima Surrender [Side 2]
8. Rockin' Chair
9. Look Out Cleveland
10. Jawbone
11. The Unfaithful Servant
12. King Harvest (Has Surely Come)
Tracks 1 to 12 are their 2nd album "The Band" - released September 1969 in the USA on Capitol Records STAO-132 and January 1970 in the UK on capitol Records E-ST 132.

13. Get Up Jake (Outtake - Stereo Mix)
14. Raga Mama Rag (Alternate Vocal Take - Rough Mix)
15. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (Alternate Mix)
16. Up On Cripple Creek (Alternate Take)
17. Whispering Pines (Alternate Take)
18. Jemima Surrender (Alternate Take)
19. King Harvest (Has Surely Come) (Alternate Performance)

GARTH HUDSON - Organ, Clavinette, Piano, Accordion, Soprano Tenor & Baritone Sax and Slide Trumpet
RICHARD MANUEL - Vocals, Piano, Drums, Baritone Sax & Mouth Harp
LEVON HELM - Vocals, Drums, Mandolin & Guitar
RICK DANKO - Vocals, Bass, Violin & Trombone

Compiled by Cheryl Pawelski and Andrew Sandoval - the 16-page booklet has fantastically comprehensive liner notes by ROB BOWMAN that feature interviews stretching back twelve years (from 2000), photos of tracking sheets, mix instructions, American 45s and Picture Sleeves, trade adverts, colour snaps from the session in the house - and even a Time Magazine cover from January 1970. It's very well done as befits an album of this stature. But the big news is a great remaster by DAN HERSCH and ANDREW SANDOVAL. Recorded outside of a conventional studio in a loose manner and with `feel' being all-important - the tracks vary in sound quality. And you have to say that this remaster allows the whole lot to `breathe'. On tracks like "King Harvest (Has Surely Come)" and the beautiful "Whispering Pines" where hiss is more than evident - the transfers haven't tried to supress it - but given it space to shine - it's properly lovely.

Almost a mission statement as to `this is how we sound - love it or lump it' - the openers "Across The Great Divide" and the single "Raga Mama Rag" establishes that `Band' sound and feel. The joviality abates for the epic "Virgil Cane" Civil War ballad "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" with Levon Helm sounding literally like a beaten soldier from the South. It's one of Robbie Robertson's finest songwriting moments. Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson do a great vocal trade off on "When You Awake" but Manuel's lead on "Whispering Pines" is probably most people's crave - a gorgeous melody with all those croaking voices harmonizing and that organ giving it a church on Sunday backdrop. It ends Side One perfectly.

We go into boogie mode for "Jemima Surrender" - a top-notch chugger with the group sounding like they're enjoying themselves while discovering a special chemistry ("I'll bring over my Fender and play all night for you..."). But the biggies are the two finishers - Rick Danko sings "The Unfaithful Servant" where "that train is comin'..." and the malevolent "King Harvest (Has Surely Come)" is handled by Richard Manuel. There's even traces of Little Feat's funky sound in its 1969 grooves. The extra tracks provide a fabulous insight into the recording process - beginning with a real find - an outtake called "Get Up Jake" considered at the time as one too many for the album - its great. Listening to a string of Alternate Takes of songs you've known for decades is a strange and exhilarating experience - the acoustic "Dixie" is unbelievably intimate with its false starts and great sound. A keyboard-funky "Up On Cripple Creek" follows - but the real prize has to be another version of "Whispering Pines" which is just as achingly beautiful as the finished cut (even when it breaks down mid-take because of a `squeaky chair'). The loose guitar jam of "King Harvest" feels like eavesdropping on "union man" Americana. Wicked...

Dirt cheap from most online retailers - this is one of those occasions where you don't have to pay through the CD nose to get that great combo of top music and quality sound. And if ever a group deserved such a sweet outcome - then The Band are it...
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on 8 July 2015
Resembling a bunch of outlaws from the Wild West on the front cover this was The Bands second album following 1968's Music from Big Pink and what a masterpiece it is too.Most bands would be happy to have one maybe two good vocalists but The Band had four for as well as Robbie Robertson and Rick Danko you also had Richard Manuel and Levon Helm handling vocal duties not to mention their incredible musical prowess(was there any instrument they couldn't play?!) Kicking off with the jaunty Across the Great Divide we get Rag Mama Rag,The Night They drove Old Dixie Down,Upon Cripple Creek,Unfaithful Servant,King Harvest will surely come-all brilliant songs which hark back to America during The Civil War and which probably explains the monochrome front cover.An incredible record from an amazing bunch of musicians.And i almost forgot to mention the sterling work of Garth Hudson.
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