The Band – Music From The Big Pink (1968)

frontcover1Music from Big Pink is the debut studio album by the Band. Released in 1968, it employs a distinctive blend of country, rock, folk, classical, R&B, and soul. The music was composed partly in “Big Pink”, a house shared by Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson in West Saugerties, New York. The album itself was recorded in studios in New York and Los Angeles in 1968,[6] and followed the band’s backing of Bob Dylan on his 1966 tour (as the Hawks) and time spent together in upstate New York recording material that was officially released in 1975 as The Basement Tapes, also with Dylan. The cover artwork is a painting by Dylan.

The Band began to create their distinctive sound during 1967, when they improvised and recorded with Bob Dylan a huge number of cover songs and original Dylan material in the basement of a pink house in West Saugerties, New York, located at 56 Parnassus Lane (formerly 2188 Stoll Road). The house was built by Ottmar Gramms, who bought the land in 1952. The house was newly built when Rick Danko found it as a rental. Danko moved in along with Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel in February 1967. The house became known locally as “Big Pink’ for its pink siding. The house was subsequently sold by Gramms in 1977, and since 1998, it has been a private residence.

Though widely bootlegged at the time, the recordings Dylan and the Band made were first officially released in 1975 on The Basement Tapes, and then released in their totality in 2014 on The Basement Tapes Complete. By the end of 1967 The Band felt it was time to step out of Dylan’s shadow and make their own statement.

The Band’s manager Albert Grossman (who was also Dylan ‘s manager) approached Capitol Records to secure a record deal for a group still informally described as “Dylan’s backing band”. Stanley Gortikov at Capitol signed The Band—initially under the name The Crackers. Armed with news of a recording deal for the group, they lured Levon Helm back from the oil rigs where he had been working, to Woodstock where he took up his crucial position in the Band, singing and playing drums. Helm’s return coincided with a ferment of activity in Big Pink as the embryonic Band not only recorded with Dylan but also began to write their own songs, led by guitarist Robbie Robertson.

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After meeting with producer John Simon, the Band started to record their debut album in Manhattan at A&R Studios, on the 7th floor of 799 7th Avenue at 52nd Street in the early months of 1968. The Band recorded “Tears of Rage”, “Chest Fever”, “We Can Talk”, “This Wheel’s On Fire” and “The Weight” in two sessions. Robertson has said that when Simon asked them how they wanted it to sound, they replied, “Just like it did in the basement.”

Capitol were so pleased with the initial recording session, they suggested the group move to Los Angeles to finish recording their first album at Capitol Studios. They also cut some material at Gold Star Studios on Santa Monica Boulevard. The songs on Big Pink recorded in L.A. were “In A Station”, “To Kingdom Come”, “Lonesome Suzie”, “Long Black Veil” and “I Shall Be Released”.

Dylan offered to sing on the album, but ultimately realized it was important for the Band to make their own statement. Instead, Dylan signified his presence by contributing a cover painting. Barney Hoskyns has written that it is significant the painting depicts six musicians. The cover of Music From Big Pink was intended to establish the group as having a different outlook from the psychedelic culture of 1968. Photographer Elliott Landy flew to Toronto to photograph the assembled Danko, Manuel and Hudson families on the Danko chicken farm. A photo was inserted of Diamond and Nell Helm, who lived in Arkansas. The photo appeared on the cover with the caption “Next of Kin”.

The initial critical reception to the album was positive, though sales were slim. In Rolling Stone, Al Kooper’s rave review of Big Pink ended with the words, “This album was recorded in approximately two weeks. There are people who will work their lives away in vain and not touch it.”  which helped to draw public attention to it (even though Rolling Stone referred to them as “the band from Big Pink” instead of just “the Band”). The fact that Bob Dylan wrote one and co-wrote two of the songs on the album also attracted attention.

In 1968, “The Weight” peaked at #63 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart in the US. The song was a bigger hit elsewhere, peaking at #35 in Canada, and #21 in the UK. The album peaked at #30 on Billboard’s Pop Albums chart in 1968, and then recharted as a #8 hit on the Top Internet Albums chart in 2000 (see 2000 in music). “The Weight” gained widespread popularity, from the Band’s performance of it at Woodstock on 17 August 1969 and due partially to its inclusion in the film Easy Rider, though it was omitted from the soundtrack because of licensing issues. A cover version by the band Smith was included on the soundtrack album instead.

In 2003, the album was ranked number 34 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. The laid-back feel of the album attracted the attention of other major artists. For example, Eric Clapton cites the album’s roots rock style as what convinced him to quit Cream, and pursue the styles of Blind Faith, Delaney and Bonnie, Derek and the Dominos and his debut album. George Harrison was also impressed by the album’s musicianship and sense of camaraderie, and Roger Waters called it the second “most influential record in the history of rock and roll”, after Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and said that it “affected Pink Floyd deeply, deeply, deeply.” (by wikipedia)

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None of the Band’s previous work gave much of a clue about how they would sound when they released their first album in July 1968. As it was, Music from Big Pink came as a surprise. At first blush, the group seemed to affect the sound of a loose jam session, alternating emphasis on different instruments, while the lead and harmony vocals passed back and forth as if the singers were making up their blend on the spot. In retrospect, especially as the lyrics sank in, the arrangements seemed far more considered and crafted to support a group of songs that took family, faith, and rural life as their subjects and proceeded to imbue their values with uncertainty. Some songs took on the theme of declining institutions less clearly than others, but the points were made musically as much as lyrically. Tenor Richard Manuel’s haunting, lonely voice gave the album much of its frightening aspect, while Rick Danko’s and Levon Helm’s rough-hewn styles reinforced the songs’ rustic fervor. The dominant instrument was Garth Hudson’s often icy and majestic organ, while Robbie Robertson’s unusual guitar work further destabilized the sound. The result was an album that reflected the turmoil of the late ’60s in a way that emphasized the tragedy inherent in the conflicts. Music from Big Pink came off as a shockingly divergent musical statement only a year after the ornate productions of Sgt. Pepper, and initially attracted attention because of the three songs Bob Dylan had either written or co-written. However, as soon as “The Weight” became a minor singles chart entry, the album and the group made their own impact, influencing a movement toward roots styles and country elements in rock. Over time, Music from Big Pink came to be regarded as a watershed work in the history of rock, one that introduced new tones and approaches to the constantly evolving genre. (by William Ruhlmann)

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Personnel:
Rick Danko (bass, fiddle, vocals)
Levon Helm (drums, tambourine, vocals)
Garth Hudson (keyboard, clavinet, saxophone)
Richard Manuel (keyboards, drums, vocals)
Robbie Robertson (guitar, vocals)
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John Simon (horn, saxophone, piano)

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Tracklist:
01. Tears Of Rage (Dylan/Manuel) 5.24
02. To Kingdom Come (Robertson) 3.23
03. In A Station (Manuel) 3.35
04. Caledonia Mission (Robertson) 2.59
05. The Weight (Robertson) 4.39
06. We Can Talk  (Manuel) 3.07
07. Long Black Veil (Wilkin/Dill) 3.06
08. Chest Fever (Robertson) 5.19
09. Lonesome Suzie (Manuel) 4.04
10. This Wheel’s On Fire (Dylan/Danko) 3.14
11. I Shall Be Released (Dylan) 3.19
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12. Yazoo Street Scandal (outtake) (Robertson) 4.02
13. Tears Of Rage (alternate take) (Dylan/Manuel) 5.32
14. Katie’s Been Gone (outtake) (Manuel/Robertson) 2.47
15. If I Lose (outtake) (Poole) 2.30
16. Long Distance Operator (outtake) (Dylan) 3.58
17. Lonesome Suzie (alternate take) (Manuel) 3.01
18. Orange Juice Blues (Blues for Breakfast) (outtake) (Manuel) 3.40
19. Key To The Highway (outtake) (Broonzy) 2.28
20. Ferdinand The Imposter (outtake) (Robertson) 4.00

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The “Big Pink” house in 2006

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The Band – King Biscuit Flower Hour (1976)

FrontCover1This was The Band near the end of their run. They were just weeks away from their final concert (which became the overstuffed movie The Last Waltz) and Robbie Robertson left the band shortly after. This recording shows them as seasoned vets, playing material they’d been comfortable with for years.” Note: per the Bill Graham Archive, the actual date of this performance is now assumed to be 17 July 1976, not 16 August 1976 as stated in Band books and on King Biscuit Flower Hour bootlegs.

Given that this edition of the Band was on its last legs, it’s a pleasant surprise that this recording finds them sounding tight and enthusiastic; Robbie Robertson’s guitar work in particular is sharp and incisive, Garth Hudson’s keyboard work is marvelously evocative, and Levon Helm’s drumming and vocals are first-rate (Rick Danko and Richard Manuel are in fine voice as well). Unlike The Last Waltz, this captures the Band without special guests or a horn section, and many of these songs actually sound tighter and more powerful without the gingerbread, especially “The Weight” and “Up on Cripple Creek,” while Hudson’s keyboard showcase “The Genetic Method” gives one of the group’s secret weapons a chance to run wild to impressive effect. (allmusic.com)

Recorded live at the Carter Baron Amphitheater, Washington, DC; July 17, 1976
Complete King Biscuit Flower Hour show
Very good to excellent FM stereo

TheBand1976Personnel:
Rick Danko (bass, vocals)
Levon Helm (drums, vocals)
Garth Hudson (organ)
Robbie Robertson (guitar, background vocals)
Richard Manuel (piano, vocals)

Front+BackCover1Tracklist:
01. Don’t Do It (B.Holland/Dozier/E.Holland) 5.40
02. The Shape I’m In  (Robertson) 4.09
03. It Makes No Difference (Robertson) 7.23
04. The Weight (Robertson) 4.55
05. King Harvest (Has Surely Come) (Robertson) 3.45
06. Twilight (Robertson) 3.28
07. Ophelia (Robertson) 3.50
08. Tears Of Rage (Dylan/Manuel) 5.59
09. Forbidden Fruit (Robertson) 6.11
10. This Wheel’s On Fire (Dylan/Danko) 4.01
11. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (Robertson) 4.03
12. The Genetic Method 3:59 (6.7MB)
13. Chest Fever (Robertson) 4.31
14. Up On Cripple Creek (Robertson) 5.56
15. WS Walcott Medicine Show (Robertson) 4.05

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Bob Dylan + The Band – Planet Waves (1974)

FrontCover1Planet Waves is the fourteenth studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on January 17, 1974 by Asylum Records in the United States and Island Records in the United Kingdom.

Dylan is supported on the album by longtime collaborators The Band, with whom he embarked on a major reunion tour following its release (documented on the live album Before the Flood) (the tour started a couple weeks before release—though Asylum did want the album out first). With a successful tour and a host of publicity, Planet Waves was a hit, enjoying a brief stay at #1 on the US Billboard charts—a first for the artist—and #7 in the UK. Critics were not as negative as they had been with some then-recent Bob Dylan albums (namely Self Portrait and Dylan), but still not enthusiastic for the album’s brand of laid-back roots rock.

The album was originally set to be titled Ceremonies of the Horsemen, a reference to the song “Love Minus Zero/No Limit”, from the 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home; the release was delayed two weeks when Dylan decided to change the title at the last minute. Another, earlier working title was Wedding Song.

The cover art is drawn by Dylan himself. Written on the right side of the cover image is the phrase, “Cast-iron songs & torch ballads,” apparently signaling Dylan’s own conception of the album. On the left side is written “Moonglow”, which is sometimes interpreted as a subtitle. The initial release also included an insert which reportedly set out excerpts from Dylan’s personal journals. (by wikipedia)

BobDylanTheBand1974Reteaming with the Band, Bob Dylan winds up with an album that recalls New Morning more than The Basement Tapes, since Planet Waves is given to a relaxed intimate tone — all the more appropriate for a collection of modest songs about domestic life. As such, it may seem a little anticlimactic since it has none of the wildness of the best Dylan and Band music of the ’60s — just an approximation of the homespun rusticness. Considering that the record was knocked out in the course of three days, its unassuming nature shouldn’t be a surprise, and sometimes it’s as much a flaw as a virtue, since there are several cuts that float into the ether. Still, it is a virtue in places, as there are moments — “On a Night Like This,” “Something There Is About You,” the lovely “Forever Young” — where it just gels, almost making the diffuse nature of the rest of the record acceptable. (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)

ForeverYoungPersonnel:
Bob Dylan (guitar, piano, harmonica, vocals)
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The Band:
Rick Danko (bass)
Levon Helm (drums)
Garth Hudson (organ)
Richard Manuel (piano, drums)
Robbie Robertson (guitar)

BackCover1Tracklist:
01. On A Night Like This 2.57
02. Going, Going, Gone 3-27
03. Tough Mama 4.17
04. Hazel 2.50
05. Something There Is About You 4.45
06. Forever Young  4.57
07. Forever Young 2.49
08. Dirge 5.36
09. You Angel You 2.54
10. Never Say Goodbye 2.56
11. Wedding Song 4.42

All songs written by Bob Dylan

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