The Band – The Band
Yes, it is ironic that a band so associated with Americana had only one American. The great and still active Levon Helm has that honor. Rick Danko, Richard Manuel (neither still with us), Garth Hudson and Robbie Robertson all hailed from that great land just north.
But look at other Canadian artists like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell and how insightful their music was into both the American culture and the American soul. They all just GET US!
This (their second one) was a hard album to pick, as I also adore their first album Music From Big Pink and of course The Last Waltz (film and soundtrack) and any number of their greatest hit collections.
They started up as The Hawks, backing Rockabilly star Ronnie Hawkins and later, of course, toured and recorded a bit with Bob Dylan. This was during Dylan’s phasing into his electric stage, where crazy controversy raged from the folk purists who did not take too kindly to this.
According to Wikipedia “Helm was so affected by the negative reception that he left the tour within three months and sat out the rest of that year’s concerts, as well as the world tour in 1966. Helm spent much of this period working on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.” Fascinating.
The first album has the amazing Dylan penned “I Shall Be Released” (A true fave) and of course, “The Weight.” My very short-lived camp band loved to play this one…
The Band played Woodstock, but apparently legal battles continue to keep them off any of the Woodstock movies and soundtracks, including the latest and great 40th Anniversary Re-release. What a shame… And of course the legal/songwriting credit battles between Helm and Robertson are nasty and legendary… Ah, the dysfunction of Rock n’ Roll.
This one has some of my favorite songs from The Band like “Rag Mama Rag,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
and “Up on Cripple Creek” (those last two and “The Weight” make up my top three.)
The influence of The Band runs pretty deep, inspiring acts like The Eagles, The Grateful Dead, Eric Clapton, Richard Thompson, John Hiatt, Counting Crows and The Black Crowes, to name a few… all bands and artists I love.
I also just previewed Northern Lights-Southern Cross, their last studio album with the original line-up and which, for some odd reason, I have never heard in its entirety. That is now on my shopping list… as is the tribute album, Endless Highway: The Music of The Band.
Listening to all these gems makes you fully realize how great of a band The Band was.