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Popularly known as the "Brown Album," this is the collection people first think of when this august outfit's name is mentioned. The four-parts Canadian, one-part Arkansan quintet's sophomore effort boasts more soon-to-be-staples than any other Band studio recording, what with the likes of the Joan Baez hit "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," "Across the Great Divide," and "Up on Cripple Creek" standing out among the dozen uniformly memorable tracks. Lesser-known group originals such as the achingly lovely "Whispering Pines" and the cryptic "Unfaithful Servant," however, play crucial roles in giving this 1969 classic its unique flavor. Given the high standard established by The Band and its better-still 1968 predecessor, Music from Big Pink, it's not surprising the Band peaked early as a recording group. As with all the 2000 Band reissues, this remastered reissue boasts a number of bonus tracks, though all but "Get Up Jake" are alternate takes of album selections. --Steven Stolder
Limited Edition Japanese "Mini Vinyl" CD, faithfully reproduced using original LP artwork including the inner sleeve. Features most recently mastered audio including bonus tracks where applicable.
- a fantastic band cd
though i may not agree with mr john on a lot of reviews, he is bang on target on this one.this is a great album from robbie robertson and his talented canadian rock band.this superb album contains classics like the night they drove old dixie down,rag mama rag and up on cripple creek.i would ask you to get TO KINGDOM COME a double cd album of greatest hits from this same great band which i own,which gives a more thorough overview of this great canadian band.highly recommended.five stars....more info
- It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This
One of the other reviews on this site calls this recording the greatest album ever made. I avow that it is for me. It is the disc to which I isten the most often and have for close to forty years. Few bands have the three key elements: songwriting, virtuousity, and and rock. The Band always did. This album, in particular does. ...more info
- I Can't Help But Agree With You All...
I was looking for something else but ended up at this album by The Band. The first reviewer pretty much covered it. This is my favorite album of all time, too. I bought it when it came out, at a Sears of all places but this was before the megastores. There is just nothing missing from it, and it was timeless then and remains that way today. It was almost spooky how they had tapped into something so close to the soul of America and with love, pride, and faith. I swore I'd not fall behind as music evolved but there is just something about what is happening in music when young that is a natural connection. Rock and Roll got to the point it started to repeat itself and it's cool, but been there, you know. Something like this album simply transends any pretense and I hope people hearing it today make the same connection with the music and get that crazy feeling they have been there before. Best heard as a vinyl 33rpm record on any player at hand, it is in it's natural form.
There is so much great music in the world I am rather astonished I can name one album as my favorite. ...more info
- Great album that appeals across the spectrum
One reviewer questions whether The Band can be appreciated by people born not in the 50's and 60's. That is absurd. I was born in 1950 and enjoyed the Band immensely in the early 70's, attending 9 concerts in several different locations in Southern California, including the storied outdoor bowl in Santa Barabara where they started their concert before the sun went down; it was an unseasonably hot day in Santa Barbara, but an unforgettable one because of the music blowing up Santa Barbara's rather steep outdoor bowl and careening out into the evening sky.
I have played their music continually and frequently for the past 35 years, even though my tastes have changed dramatically to classical music. The Band persists.
My 18 year-old son and a couple of his local pals love their music and he even tries to interest his college friends in their music. Timeless music is a cliche, but when the Band was recording albums and playing live, it was very unique, especially in that era of rock n roll--it is unique in any era, I would argue.
I have this album, but since I also own To Kingdom Come, the ultimate Band album, and Stage Fright (and all their other albums) I play this album infrequently, but still enjoy it. It is interesting to read about other listener's favorite Band songs, some of which I like a lot, others seem second or third tier. It just shows you how universal their music is.
The tragedy is that they broke up too soon, a fact that R. Robertson finally acknowledged sometime in the 90's, since he broke up the group. Nevertheless, we are left with many great songs from one of the several essential rock n roll bands of all time....more info
- Simply A Masterpiece!
My dad got me into The Band many years ago when I was a kid, and though many groups have come and gone in my cd collection since then, I have never got tired of this legendary group. Robbie Robertson and the boys were not only great musicians, they were also some of the best songwriters ever. "King Harvest" and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" are more than just songs, they are incredible stories inspired by American history. "Unfaithful Servant", perhaps Rick Danko's finest vocal performance, is very moving as well. This is timeless music that set the standard high for all rock music that has come afterwards. ...more info
- This is not the gold disc or the Japan mini lp!
UPDATED - okay the reviews are all mixed together for all the various versions of the Band. If it is says Audio Fidelity and its $30 or so, this is the one you want!
Although this is one of the all-time greats, and this version is fine in every way, I know it is not the gold disc which came out a week or so ago, nor is it the limited edition Japan disc, as noted in the description. No way are they selling that for this price! Hopefully someone will read this and correct it....more info
Having just "gotten into" The Band, two things stand out:
1) Robbie Robertson was absolutely right in breaking the group up when they did. Drug addiction was tearing them apart physically, ultimately leading to the deaths of Richard Manuel and Rick Danko. Levon Helm was, and still is bitter about it, but he was wrong.
2) Robertson did not solely compose these songs. While the original chord progressions and perhaps even the lyrics were his, the intrumentation and varied sounds were absolutely not. These songs should have been credited to the entire group. Robbie was an opportunist and took advantage of the situation. Still, it's very obvious that these songs were a group effort.
Buy this record....more info
When the sixties were bogging themselves down musically, with feedback,and acid-imagery, this record by this band reminded us all of what it is really about....more info
- History as Mystery: The Band's time-defying masterpiece
Some albums are declared "dated" or "timeless" based on particular qualities (lyrics, instrumentation, production gimmickry) that either trap them in cultural amber or leave them curiously unscathed by musical faddishness. But The Band's eponymous second LP (now reissued with greatly improved sound, penetrating liner notes, and some decent but inessential bonus tracks) is that rarest of things: an album that exists OUTSIDE of time, or rather *in* but not *of* it.
Let me explain. This disc was written, recorded and released in 1969, but could just as plausibly have come from 1869. The songs (gorgeously played slices of Americana, all) do indeed speak of certain historical events - Stoneman's raids and a visit from General Robert E. Lee near the end of the Civil War in "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" to name one, the coming of rural trade unionism in "King Harvest (Has Surely Come)" to name another - but the music and performance stands eerily outside the continuum of actual CHRONOLOGICAL time, and instead gestures towards a permanent, idealized near-mythical imagining of American history.
It's rather amazing, really: Robbie Robertson and his cohorts, having fully absorbed the American folk tradition, have reorganized it as an impressionistic snapshot history of the United States in sepia-tone. Given the preternatural way in which every single song on the album fully and flawlessly evokes American folk images and myths while simultaneously remaining effortlessly modern - again, a product of its times but still not of them - it's either deeply ironic or perfectly predictable that this most American of albums was written and performed by four Canadians (plus one Razorback). I'm still not sure which.
What IS beyond doubt, however, is that The Band is a landmark in the history of modern American music, and one which the group themselves could never live up to in later years. It is one of the very few albums I've ever owned that has a palpable aura and mystique; absorb it in all of its impossible perfection and you will feel like a magic spell is being worked upon you. To embrace the sweet cadences of "Rockin' Chair," to join in singing the ragged communal harmonies of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," or to plunge into the darting guitar figures which represent the deceptive moral choice posited by "King Harvest"...to do these things is to delve into the joyful enigmas of the United States' own founding myths.
History as mystery. Not bad for an 11-song piece of vinyl, really....more info
- Review for Audio Fidelity Gold Remaster-Excellent remaster for the first time from the original master tapes
One of my favorite albums and one of The Band's best, their self titled second album sounds terrific in this remaster. The sound stage, dynamics and detail that are often missing from "modern" remasters are all here. Audio Fidelity has done a nice job with this reissue and Steve Hoffman's remaster nicely captures the warmth of the original recording and Hoffman uses the original master tape for the first time since the original pressing of the album (let's just say that one band member has had it all this time and wouldn't give it up).
If you're going to buy the regular remaster from 2000 that sounds pretty good as well and does have the advantage of the additional alternate takes for other tracks on the album but it doesn't sound as clear and warm as this edition.
The big difference between this and the previous reissue aside from the master being used for the first time in years is that this has only the original 12 tracks for the album plus "Get Up Jake" an outtake from the sessions that should have been on the original album. The outtakes that were on the reissue of the album aren't here but that's a small issue for me as this album has never sounded this good on compact disc before....more info
- The Band's Magnum Opus
Perhaps no musical group exemplified an anti-counter cultural approach to music better than The Band did in various ways. They influenced many people who were influential in their own right either at the time (Eric Clapton and George Harrison's approach to music) or would be in years to come (i.e. Roger Waters' approach to concept album writing with Pink Floyd) not to mention being one of the begetters of 1970's style "folk country." And while more could be said about them than that, there is plenty to say about this album and that is where the review will be focused.
The album opens with "Across the Great Divide" and it sets the tone for the very down home Americana feel of this album full of uniformly excellent songs. The latter song contains the story of a man who tries to explain himself to his woman and recounts to some extent the recklessness of his "younger days" as he tries to persuade her to not kill herself. It is not as grim as it sounds in words I assure you.
The second song is "Rag Mama Rag" which is a fun quirky song with fiddles, an offbeat drum pattern, a mandolin, a fiddle instead of bass, and the bass parts played on a tuba. The lyrics of the song were about a woman who only wants to play ragtime music...there may be a sly message in that but whatever. That brings us to one of the best songs on the album.
"The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" is musically and lyrically a masterpiece. It is ironic a Canadian songwriter (Jaime Robbie Robertson) could write such an empathetic tune about the old South but it the power of the song cannot be denied. It was delivered with conviction by the only American in the group (the southerner Levon Helm). Garth Hudson gets some very textural sounds with a melodica overdubbed via his Lowrey organ, which sounds like a harmonica starting with the second verse of the song. It is an example of the multifaceted talents of the Band's members -all of whom except Robbie Robertson played multiple instruments. I never get tired of hearing this song, singing it, or playing it on guitar. It is followed by "When You Awake", a song with lyrics are about family and remembering with grandfatherly advice being given.
From there the album moves to "Up on Cripple Creek" which is a song with a very "back porch" feel which is (I must say it) deliciously sleazy in a way. Garth Hudson is playing a clavinet through a wah wah pedal to create the sound of a jew's harp. When mixed with Danko's bass playing, it gives a significantly low range to the tune about a narrative of a man who wants to lookup an old girlfriend for "assistance" if you will and how in many areas she completes him. "Whispering Pines" follows, which Robertson co-wrote with Richard Manuel. The song has a completely different tempo than the one preceding it and Manuel delivers a very wrenching vocal performance vocally and on piano.
Following "Whispering Pines" is "Jemima Surrender" which has a heavier tempo with boogie-woogie piano (played not by Manuel but by Hudson), Manuel on drums, Levon Helm not on drums but rhythm guitar, and Robertson on lead guitar. (The alternate take --half the songs on the album have an alternative take on this CD- has the members on their usual instruments for a completely different approach to the song.) The song is about the singer wanting a girl named Jemima to give in and...well...that is all I will tell you about it.
"Rocking Chair" is possibly my favourite song on the album. It is unconventional musically for the group in that there is no drums (Helm is on mandolin on this tune), Hudson plays accordion, Robertson is on acoustic guitar, and the timekeeping is done solely by Danko's bass and that is adequate. The lyrics I find to be quite haunting now in the wake of having lost my childhood best friend last year and for other reasons not to be mentioned here.
"Look Out Cleveland" is a up tempo rocker sung by Danko with some aggressive lead fills by Robertson backed by Danko's equally aggressive bass picking and is about "a storm coming through" which ends up devastating everything. (Compared to everything else on the album, this song stands out in its strident phrasing.)
From there the next song is "Jawbone" and it opens with a very slow start and alternates time signatures from verses to the pre-chorus to the chorus and back again with lyrics about a thief who is unrepentant. The album next moves into "Unfaithful Servant" which is sung by Danko and is a slow creeper about...well...exactly what the title says and the narrator tries to examine the reason for the faithlessness involved.
The album ends officially with "King Harvest" which is a frantic tune sung by Manuel. The song has an unusual sound even for an album of songs many of which are distinctive in that sense. The shifting tempos from verse to verse gives a distinctive sound as does Robertson's stinging lead playing which shows a pleasing restraint to it. The lyrics show the tensions of paradoxical attachments (city and country, past and present, etc) and is a tale about a union man who is feeling the pinch ala Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath" and wraps up the album quite strongly.
There are also alternate takes of six of the songs on the CD release as well as an outtake of a song that would appear on future albums (referring to "Get Up Jake"). But the twelve songs on the album as originally released are the focus of this review and they all cohere well making this album a must have for anyone who likes good music.
- Not bad, but still sounds digital!
I had high hopes for this remaster from Audio Fidelity. And for sure, it is not bad, and has it's merits. However, it is doubtful that this remaster was done from the true original analog master tapes, and even the liner notes are silent as to the source used, relying only on engineer Steve Huffman's name, gained through exhausting self-promotion.
Sonically, it exhibits a smiley-face eq with prominent bass and a tipped up brightness on top, with elements of digititis on high transients betraying the likely DAT source. Or maybe Huffman just needs a better digital setup? Mobile Fidelity has their own, proprietary all analog tube mastering chain and only use true analog masters.
Audio Fidelity should maybe use the excellent engineers of MOFI for their product. This one is good, but not enough of an upgrade over the current Capitol remaster to be worthwhile. Still sounds too digital, unlike the now defunct DCC. Pass....more info
- Don't Miss This Album!
"The Band" was the Band's second album, and probably their most consistent and influential. At the time of its release in 1969 nothing quite like it was heard before; apart from, of course, their first album "Music From Big Pink", which is as close as it gets to being an equally strong release.
What makes the Band's early album so great is the simple fact that they have it all. Great songs, concerned lyrics, 3 outstanding lead-singers, brilliant musicians, inventive arrangements and tight playing.
All songs on this album are very memorable, many of them classics like "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down", "Across the Great Divide" and "Up On Cripple Creek".
Some of the quieter song that may not hit you the first times you listen to them, may grow to be favourites like they did for me. "When You Awake" and "Rockin' Chair" belong to that category. A shame the Richard Manuel eventually lost faith in himself as a songwriter, but on this album he still contributes to the song-writing on songs like "Whispering Pines", "Jawbone" and "When You Awake".
He may have felt it too burdening to live up to Robertson's prolific songwriting.
The bonus track features the great outtake "Get Up Jake", known from the "Rock of Ages" live album.
The other bonus songs are alternate versions of songs on the original; all interesting and most of them almost as good as the originally released versions.
A highly recommended album!...more info
- The Best non-British Rock Record Ever Made
I wasn't born in this country. Although I've lived here most of my life, there are still times when I feel like an outsider, as when someone tries to tell me that American football is a better game than soccer. Whenever I get hit with such an absurdity, there's always one route through which I can reconnect with this country, and start to understand it.
The Band's self-titled second album encapsules everything you need to know about America. No one has ever described the American psyche more perfectly. No roots or Americana act of the past decade comes close to approaching its cohesiveness or down home feel. It's undoubtedly the best non-British rock album ever made; it may be the best one by anyone other than the Beatles. Few records have ever worked on so many levels - musically, lyrically, and most importantly, the ambience.
Quick history lesson: By the time the Band released their first album in 1968, they had spent many years as a backup act, most notably for Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan. All that time on the road gave them an almost telepathic ability to interact, and though they were a rock band, they integrated American music in all of its forms, from Dixieland to folk. With three lead vocalists, and the ability to play a multitude of instruments, they had an arsenal of weapons from which to choose. They were four-fifths Canadian, a fact which makes their ability to nail American culture so perfectly even more amazing.
Although not a concept album, the songs that guitarist Robbie Robertson wrote for 1969's "The Band" seem to take place mostly in the American South and West, sometime between the Civil War and the Great Depression - the time of Pax Americana, when the nation was struggling to find its identity. The characters in the songs - retired sailors sitting on their front porch, defeated Confederate soldiers, farm workers, petty thieves - all seem to be part of events over which they have no control. If this is history, it's history told by those who lived through it, not by those who made the decisions.
The best-known song here, "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," illustrates the point. The song is told in the voice of a Confederate soldier involved in a little-known, but historically accurate, action. A series of riveting images, it conveys as much in three-and-a-half minutes as Ken Burns' entire PBS mini-series. Significantly, it's sung by Levon Helm, the Band's only American member, and a Southerner to boot.
If "Dixie" is the heart of "The Band", the last two songs take the album to another level. "The Unfaithful Servant" may be the saddest song I've ever heard. Intentionally ambiguous, (the time, place, and exact offense are never specified), it's the story of a once-trusted servant dismissed from his job. Rick Danko enunciates each lyric as if his life depends on it, wringing emotion from every line. Garth Hudson's saxophone solo is appropriately mournful, and Robertson picks his strings like a buzzard attacking a carcass.
"King Harvest (Has Surely Come)" closes the record, Richard Manuel's vocal relating tales of desperate farmers trapped in the Great Depression. It's full of stunning images ("I'm glad to pay those union dues - just don't judge me by my shoes"), and when Hudson's organ illustrates the line "Listen to the rice when the wind blows 'cross the water," you honestly hear it. The song ends with one of Robertson's most expressive electric guitar solos, a masterpiece of restraint that suddenly explodes.
"The Band" may have more packed into it than most history theses, but it's hardly bland. There's a playful sexuality running through many of the songs that somehow comes across as naive, not lewd. Consciously or not, the back cover photo makes the Band look like they're from 1929, not 1969. The record is that timeless.
- They must have played at Lincoln's Inaugural
When I say that this is the most thoroughly American
album I ever heard, I am very much aware that The
Band is 80% Canadian.And it doesn't matter, there
is a combination of twangy anglo harmonies, energetic
playing and make-your-feet-move energy that's just
Best yet, it's an American sound that's undiluted by
a lot of 'virtuoso' solos on guitar or drums or a bunch
of electronic gimrackery. The subject matter helps too.
Rag, Mama, Rag just sounds like it belongs in some
low-ceilinged country joint on a Saturday night. The
Night They Drove Ol' Dixie Down and King Harvest almost
sound like history lessons.
I seem to remember that this album and the equally
luscious Big Pink didn't get a whole lot of air
play. Too offbeat, I guess. But everybody I knew back
then had these two albums and the covers were the ones
with the most wear and tear and the disks had the
most turntable-induced hiss.
Stand the test of time? Well, my, yes. And next to the
blues, there's nothing more home-grown.
--Lynn Hoffman, author of THE NEW SHORT COURSE IN WINE and
the forthcoming novel bang BANG from Kunati Books.ISBN 9781601640005...more info
- the greatest American prog album ever!
Everyone knows this is a masterpiece. But I have never read that this music is actually PROGRESSIVE ROCK, American style. Forget Happy the Man or Kansas or whatever. They were imitations of European styles. But The Band is, indeed, very progressive. It is to America what Genesis was to England. (Do I hear a guffaw?) First, just like Genesis incorporated traditions from Britain's culture (church hymns, folk music, and a very English humour), The Band drank deeply from all things Americana. They speak with the voices of bluegrass, and soul, and the blues. Sure! The songs aren't that long, but many an Italian prog lp presented the listener with short tunes. Not only that, but Garth Hudson beats Rick Wakeman to the keyboard punch with every chord. And is this music complex? Listen To "Rockin' Chair." Listen to "Whispering Pines." So...my diatribe is over. But think about it when mentioning the great prog bands of North America (four of the band members were Canadian!). In my humble opinion, The Band is the prog masterwork from this side of the ocean. It is our Foxtrot.
- the second (and last?) great album by THE band
Critical darlings, it is unfortunate that The Band is not more well-known. Music from Big Pink and this album capture the immensely talented group in all their glory. If we are to believe Levon, Robbie polluted the true ensemble feeling by appropriating most of the credit for himself, and that's a shame, because the depth and diversity of musical talent here is truly extraordinary. What other rock group could boast THREE great vocalists? Add to that the extraordinary classical training and understanding of Garth. And Robbie--well, he's Robbie. Awesome, awesome guitarist, and his antics and ego amuse us.
This album and Big Pink both have some great moments and some fascinating innovations (on this album, Jawbone and King Harvest stand out for me as the most structurally unique and hypnotic). But the true masterpiece here is Whispering Pines. With haunting vocals by Richard Manuel, it makes Pet Sounds seem like amateur hour. So many of this world's greatest musical talents have been taken from us too young, and so many by suicide, too. Ian Curtis. Jeff Buckley. Nick Drake. Manuel. Perhaps they gave so much to us in their music they had nothing left for themselves. This album is totally worth it for Whispering Pines alone, but every track is excellent....more info