* Prices may differ from that shownMore Offers
For a time, everything was psychedelic. Cream were at their peak, Hendrix was lord of all he surveyed and, according to His Holy Bobness, Everybody Must Get Stoned. Then Bob fell off his bike and disappeared for a while...He spent months knocking around in Woodstock with his touring band, regrouping and rediscovering strange songs and folk tales from the 'old, weird America'. Dylan's next record would be the sparse 'John Wesley Harding'. The backing band, now calling themselves simply THE BAND would release their debut 'Music From Big Pink', consolidating their growing reputation with this, their second album. 'The Band' is the definitive statement in American roots music. Recorded in Sammy Davis Jnr's pool house, it's a document of restraint, harmony, story telling and good old fashioned song writing. You know some of these songs even if you don't: The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down and Rag Mama Rag are probably the most famous. The striking thing about The Band was their ability to switch instruments and the vocal interplay between the three singers, Levon Helm, Richard Manuel and Rick Danko. If you like country, folk, rock, roots or blues, there's something here for you.
Following the incredible Music From Big Pink comes this album, often referred to as the Brown Album, which is even better than the last one, encompassing more of a laid back feel and getting bakc even further to roots rock. This for me is the defining The Band album, as it showcases their talents of creating a perfect soundscape for the lyrics and vocals that they create. The vocals themselves should also be commented on, as they are made to be almost non-harmonics, with each voice given its own space and not necessarily falling into one, which often happens and leads to a loss of singularity and becomes false.
This album comes with a collection of outtakes and alternate tracks, although mainly the latter for this release, as they did not seem to delve into the same degree of material as the last album, perhaps realising that they had a focus and needing to stick to that. And perhaps that is a good thing, as this means that each track has its own voice and enables the listener to have each track as a work of art rather than simply the whole.
The key tracks for me on the album are Rag Mama Rag, which is a nice upbeat tune that you can simply sit back to and enjoy as it does not try and force you to think too much, but just gives the impression of the good life. Then we have The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, which was a track often used for live performances and rightly so, as this track that revolves around the civil war does feel as if it has a sense of a long old history that fits in well with the material. Then for me Up On Cripple Creek is always a good listen as it concerns slightly comedic lyrics that create a narrative piece taht is both humourous and yet retains a sense of humility in that the instrumentation allows it to keep this. The penultimate track also, The Unfaithful Sevant, breaks up the tempo and allows us to delve into this story of what we assume to be a break up of a relationship, with the servant being the other half of the relationship. The final track, King Harvest (Has Surely Come) is the best track on the album and does hark back to the weight on the previous album in that it gives a sense of the vocalist really living the tragedies that he speaks of, about losing crops and Union leaders taking away their rights and going against the task that they should be carrying out.
The outtakes following the main album involve one outtake and six alternate takes, which although mainly similar to the final versions, do contain slight differences that for the most part are unlikely to provide too much food for thought. But despite this, they are worthwhile and in a sense provide the listener with a history of the creation of each song and the album, with each part becoming stronger and building to the strong single unit that it became.
Overall ten, this is a great album that should definetly be in any collection of The Band albums, but also in most collections even if you do not have a great love of roots/folk-rock, as this album does break down barriers and brings together a huge amount of elements from a variety of genres to create an eclectic and expansive album. The vocals and lyrics are tight and as always with a Band album, the instrumentation can hardly be touched interms of beauty and strength.
I discovered The Band through being a fan of Bob Dylan. The story goes that one night they were at a venue and were asked who they were, and they answered, "We're The Band," as they were still with Dylan at the time.
This is a nice foray into traditional American, semi-country music with a very homely feel and some really moving and profound lyrics. It's easy to listen to but also stimulating and thought provoking.
The song which introduced me to their music was The Night They Drove Old Dixie down, and when I started listening to this album, I realised there were a few other tracks I know and I suspect the same would apply to most people who are just starting to get into the music of The Band. Examples are Rag Mama Rag, When You Awake, Up On Cripple Creek and King Harvest (Has Surely Come).
A very modest, unassuming but absolutely brilliant gem of an album I strongly recommend to fans of real music.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Across The Great Divide
2 Rag Mama Rag
3 Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
4 When You Awake
5 Up On Cripple Creek
6 Whispering Pines
7 Jemima Surrender
8 Rockin' Chair
9 Lookout Cleveland
11 Unfaithful Servant
12 King Harvest (Has Surely Come)
13 Get Up Jake
14 Rag Mama Rag
15 Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
16 Up On Cripple Creek
17 Whispering Pines
18 Jemima Surrender
19 King Harvest (Has Surely Come) (2)