ARTIST: The Band
TITLE: The Band
YEAR RELEASED: 1969
CHART ACTION: #9 US, #25 UK
SINGLES: Up on Cripple Creek (#25 US), Rag Mama Rag (#57 US, #16 UK)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, King Harvest (Has Surely Come), Across the Great Divide
LINEUP: Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel, Robbie Robertson. Producer John Simon played horns and piano as well.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: When people think of “Americana” music, they think of this album, and for good reason.
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: A trip through the past may not have been the thing that many in the 60’s thought they wanted, but when the Band came out with this album, many realized it was what they needed.
Writing songs about people from the past, using old-time arrangements, but also utilizing modern rock-and-roll flourishes (including the fantastic clavinet with wah-wah pedal on “Up on Cripple Creek”), the Band’s masterpiece evokes the past and stands the test of time. It sound fresh and fun all these years forward.
The songs by Robbie Robertson (he wrote or co-wrote all of them) are strong, but the arrangements and vocals by the entire group are fantastic, perfectly encapsulating each song. The group split vocals between Levon Helm, Rick Danko and Richard Manuel perfectly according to their vocal strengths. The use of Danko’s quivering tenor is especially evocative on the songs he sings.
Some songs do take a while to sink in – the moodier, quieter songs like “Whispering Pines”, or the unusual like “Jawbone” (that song is mostly in 6/4, which ain’t normal) are examples – but this is an album that fans of every genre should have. It celebrates American music.
NOTES & MINUTIAE: One of the best episodes of Classic Albums tackles this one.
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, an outtake that should have been on the album except for time, and alternate cuts.
GRADE: A+: Noting that a few songs take time to sink in because of the immediacy of many cuts, this is one of THE classic albums in the rock genre.