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Monday, 11 July 2011

The Band - Music From Big Pink

Capitol SKAO 2955 (USA), released in 1969

This is the debut album by The Band, who served a long apprenticeship in the 'roots music' part of the business, first as The Hawks, backing Canadian blues shouter Ronnie Hawkins, then latterly as the backing band for 'His Bobness', Bob Dylan!  Sometimes credited with introducing the 'electric phase' of Dylan's music, the group took a lot of flak from Dylan's 'pure folk' fans, even attracting audience boos and catcalls during some of the earliest concerts.  Be that as it may, this group of Canadians (with one transplanted Arkansas good ol' boy, Levon Helm on drums), revolutionised what then counted as 'rock 'n' roll'.  Gone were the bombast and posturing, in their place one found pure, honest and ethereal songs that harked back to the American Civil War and then further, evoking various facets of frontier life, along with just pure romantic subject matter.  With Robbie Robertson, guitar, Richard Manuel, keyboards, Garth Hudson, keyboards and occasional saxophone and  Rick Danko on bass, and with nearly everyone in the band singing lead and backing vocals, the sound was certainly unique.  The selections included on this first album included one by Dylan, 'I Shall Be Released', with two others co-written by Dylan with Manuel ('Tears Of Rage')and Danko ('This Wheel's On Fire').  Robbie Robertson contributes 'To Kingdom Come', 'Caledonia Mission', 'The Weight' (later covered by Aretha Franklin), and 'Chest Fever',  Richard Manuel  wrote 'In A Station', 'We Can Talk' (a parable dealing with the then generational gap and the anti-war movement), and 'Lonesome Suzie'.   A true landmark release.  

Of interest is the fact that the cover painting is by Bob Dylan.

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