Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Band

6-4-09 The Band – "The Band"

It’s taken me nearly 40 years to hear this album. In the fall of 1969, I was much more interested in The BeatlesAbbey Road” or The Rolling Stones or “Woodstock”. I always liked the fact that it was produced by John Simon, and I liked his productions (the first Leonard Cohen album, the “You Are What You Eat” soundtrack etc.) – so I knew to buy an inexpensive used LP of it at some point in the last decade. I very recently got the ’00 re-mastered CD of it and played it in my car yesterday.

I certainly had a circuitous route to The Band, through nearly every other type of music made over the last 4 decades. I would never have got here if it weren’t for my investigation of country & western music over the last 8 – 10 years. Somehow, that lead to my investigation of Bob Dylan & The Band “The Basement Tapes” (and a book about that subject) to “Music From Big Pink” (after a Japanese music magazine – “Record Collectors” – called it one of the 10 greatest albums of all time).

The straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back was my picking up and reading a re-printing of the book about The Band by Levon Helm, “This Wheels On Fire”. It was a very ‘fun read’. Made me want to hear more music by The Band.

Well, I like “Music From Big Pink” better than this album. This album has the famous songs – “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” (although I equally remember the popular Joan Baez version) and “Up On Cripple Creek”, which I always considered a ‘novelty song’ at best. Must’ve been that clavinet run through a wah-wah peddle. (The ’00 re-mastered CD has alternate versions of both tracks, I must add). There’s only one ‘new’ song here, “Get Up Jake” – all the other CD bonus tracks are ‘just’ alternate takes.

But as this album didn’t enter my pantheon of understanding until yesterday, June 3, 2009 – it still doesn’t feel like ‘the classic’ that “Music From Big Pink” definitely is. I think there is a “Classic Albums” DVD about it, so maybe I should try and find a used copy of that and give it a look – those British documentaries are always made very well.

Always sniffing around for a bit more Bob Dylan info, I picked a cheap used copy of “Rock Of Ages” – the 2CD live album by The Band – the new re-mastered CD has a whole ‘nother disc now, with 4 x Bob performances added. One could also go and find an inexpensive used 2CD “Before The Flood” if you wanted even more live Bob Dylan & The Band.

The verdict – I’ve been in the pond too long, I think. 10,000+ other albums got to me before “The Band”. I’m still in the honeymoon phase of my Band fandom. I love “The Basement Tapes” and am happily chewing on “Music From Big Pink”, enraptured with it’s subtleties (yes, I own 3 x different LP versions of it!). Now that I’ve played “The Band” once – just the proper album…I’ll play it again, maybe dig out the LP of it, and spin that too. Then I’ll get around to the 7 x bonus tracks on the re-mastered CD. So, we’ll see…I may get there yet.


Jim said...

In my 40 years music listening I have found one thing; musicians with thick beards have never made music I have wanted to hear. You might get away with a mustache or neatly trimmed vandyke, but that's as far as it goes in my universe.

Ron Kane said...

They were a pretty hairy bunch og guys. But almost everybody was back then. I think it was a Matching Mole record that listed musicians in "beard length order".

Not totally sold on the 2nd Band album, so rest easy. But I definitely understand why "Music From Big Pink" is so highly revered.


Brian Ware said...

So what's your verdict on "Rock Of Ages"? I really enjoy that album, although I only have the single disc version. It's a solid "best of" collection and the addition of the horn arrangements really adds a kick to the performances. I also really like their 1975 LP called "Northern Lights, Southern Cross".