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The Band's masterpiece & contender for one of the...,
This review is from: The Band (Audio CD)
greatest albums of all time. The Band's second, eponymous album perfectly showcased both their musical tradition & their present/future tense informed by rock&roll. They would make some great tracks after this (Stagefright, The Shape I'm In, Don't Do It- see The Last Waltz Box-Set), but this was the most complete vision of the band called The Band.
The Band had moved from being 'The Hawks'to being Dylan's electric band (see 'Live 1966' & Robbie Robertson's contribution to Blonde on Blonde), to something that stemmed from the experimental-tradition of The Basement Tapes- songs like Bessie Smith, Katie's Been Gone & Yazoo Street Scandal heading in this direction. Parting from Dylan- though they did work with him again, to great effect on Planet Waves- they produced one of the finest debut albums of all time with Music from Big Pink. Here we had some of the leftover rock akin to I Believe in You & This Wheel's On Fire (To Kingdom Come, Chest Fever), but a more developed sound that took in a myriad of musical traditions. Witness such complex/fragile songs as In a Station, Tears of Rage & I'll Be Released (& don't forget the sublime joys of The Weight...). Music from Big Pink blew my mind when I heard it & I couldn't see how anything else by The Band could better it...
But I loved the cover to this, especially the picture of The Band on the back of the booklet- I was expecting more To Kingdom Come-style moments. But The Band, recording in Sammy Davis Jr's Hollywood-Home (in a studio they built for themselves), had left rock'n'roll behind- Robertson bored of guitar solos & looking toward a more subtle, multi-layered sound. Living in a world of their own, they capitalised on the rush of their initial work & created this. An album, that in time, has become one of my favourite releases & easily ranks up there with the best albums of all time (& is it a coincidence that it lives in a world of its own, a place where many of my fave albums stem from? Examples including Sulk, Don't Stand Me Down, Astral Weeks, Loveless, Zen Arcade, Station to Station...)
The 12 original tracks, 24-bit remastered, are supplemented by 7 bonus tracks: alternative takes of tracks like Rag Mama Rag (The Band's biggest UK Hit), Up On Cripple Creek & outtake Get Up Jake. But they aren't really needed, more of academic interest, an unrequired bonus- it's those 12 tracks that count...
I love all these songs, it's too hard to pick out highlights- The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down & Up on Cripple Creek are slightly obvious faves (the former repositions those views of the South; the latter has yodelling in! Really...) I love Whispering Pines, Richard Manuel sounding more morose than Neil Young & Mercury Rev combined- a swirling dreamlike vision, perfect for those bleak nights, when dawn refuses to come 'round & you have nowhere to go...Rockin' Chair is a gorgeous acoustic-based track, which perfectly fits between the more upbeat songs Jemima Surrender & Look Out Cleveland. But the motherlode is KIng Harvest (Has Surely Come), which tells the story of a man in an America past: a Union man. Richard Manuel sings the verses in that perfect voice of his, so warm & emotional, but it's Robbie Robertson's ideas regarding an odd rhythm & guitarwork influenced by Curtis Mayfield & Stevie Wonder that takes this song elsewhere (the rich organ from Garth Hudson also). Nothing sounds quite like this, it's a tragedy this has to end- along with In a Station & To Kingdom Come, it's my fave Band-song.
This album is great value at this budget price, one that was made out of time with the world it was in (look at these guys- not exactly the Strawberry Clock Band or whoever...)- so it has become perfectly timeless. An album that has to be owned & one that predicts the best Grateful Dead albums (Workingman's Dead, American Beauty) & REM's Fables of the Reconstruction. The Band's masterpiece & contender for one of the...