The Band

The Band

Capitol, 1969

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


Music From Big Pink, released in 1968, was one of the better debut albums in rock ‘n’ roll history. So what did The Band do for an encore? The answer was to release one of the best rock albums of all time.

The Band’s sophomore effort, simply titled The Band, was just about a perfect rock album. The Band continued to build on the song structures and textures established on Music From Big Pink. They took almost mystic folk traditions and through a subtle rock ‘n’ roll styling and beautiful vocals, created a sound that was different from anything else that was being released in 1969. Even today, The Band’s sound remains unique and instantly recognizable.

The Band, also called The Brown Album at times, was comprised of 12 chapters in a creative ongoing story. People, places, myths, traditions and ballads were set to music with preciseness and beauty, which enabled each song to be distinctive yet part of a well-crafted whole. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The lead track, “Across The Great Divide,” is a song of emotional distance yet is presented in a positive way through the beauty of the story telling lyrics and wonderful harmonies. “Rag Mama Rag” is a quirky, fun song complete with mandolin, violin and Garth Hudson’s stellar organ work. Hudson did not have the vocal capacity of the other members of The Band but his keyboards were the instrumental glue that binded their music together. “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” could have been written in 1869 as it tells a story of the Civil War. Joan Baez later took this song and stripped it down to its basics and had a huge hit.

Robbie Robertson showed his guitar virtuosity with some brilliant fills on “When You Awake.” The harmonies on the chorus accentuated the beauty of the group’s combined voices. “Up On Cripple Creek” was a rare single hit for The Band. A sensitive lead vocal by Levon Helm led toward the forceful harmonies that drive the song. Richard Manuel took the vocal lead on the haunting “Whispering Pines.” It was a song containing multiple textures that could be explored as the song progressed.

The Band raises their energy level during the second half of the album. “Jemima Surrender,” “Look Out Cleveland” and “Rockin’ Chair” show that The Band could rock when they put their minds to it. “Rockin’ Chair” does not feature any drums on the track. Regular drummer Levon Helm switches to the mandolin and Garth Hudson picks up the accordion to create a memorable sound. The ballad, “The Unfaithful Servant,” featuring Rick Danko’s lead vocal and “King Harvest (Has Surely Come),” brings The Band back to a full group setting and closes the album in style. Rolling Stone Magazine would rank The Band as one of the 50 Best Albums of All Time.

Today, 45 years after its release, the albums remains a timeless creation and a lasting testament to one of the most versatile and talented rock groups to ever enter a recording studio.

Rating: A

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© 2014 David Bowling and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol, and is used for informational purposes only.