The Band - The Band (1969)

The Band were an influential and highly acclaimed rock band formed in the 1960s.

Coming out just over a year after their brilliant debut Music From Big Pink, The Band's self-titled second album confirmed their place as stars of the late-60s roots revival. Music From Big Pink had been notable for avoiding the popular psychedelic aesthetics of its time, but The Band took this even further - with its stripped-down arrangements and dry, rustic vibe, it made its predecessor sound positively psychedelic in comparison! Alot of this was down to producer John Simon, who helped The Band create a sound even more further removed from what their contemporaries were doing.
There are many notable developments that took place between the two albums. First of all, guitarist Robbie Robertson rose to become the band's lead songwriter. Whilst on the first album he had shared the songwriting with Richard Manuel (writing four to Manuel's three, alonside three Dylan songs and a cover), he wrote all twelve songs on The Band (four in co-operation with Manuel or Helm). The historical and rural themes in his lyrics paint a picture of a bygone America. The fact that four out of five of the members were Canadian made this quite extraordinary, but Robertson's scholarly passion for all things old America made for a truly convincing semi-concept album. They did make the right decision when they chose the only true southerner in the band (drummer Levon Helm) to sing the civil-war anthem "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" - that one wouldn't have quite sounded right sung by a Canadian.
Another thing which made The Band unique, and which was showcased best on the second album, was their multi-instrumental abilities. Robertson stuck to the guitar throughout, but the other four members were all multi-instrumentalists and frequently switched around. The fact that most of The Band was recorded live in the studio with very few overdubs made this even more interesting. Pianist Richard Manuel also played drums, sax and harmonica, bassist Rick Danko played trombone and fiddle, drummer Levon Helm played rhythm guitar and mandolin, and organist Garth Hudson also contributed clavinet, piano, accordion, melodica, sax and slide trumpet. Producer John Simon also contributed tuba, sax and electric piano. The instrument-swtiching is best demonstrated on "Rag Mama Rag" - on this song Levon Helm sings lead and plays mandolin, Hudson plays piano, Robertson plays guitar, Danko plays fiddle, Manuel plays drums and Simon lays down the bass-line on tuba. This ability to adapt and switch instruments gave the album plenty of diversity in its arrangements and sounds, despite the fact that it was mostly recorded without overdubs. The use of three vocalists (Helm, Manuel and Danko) added to the variety.
Stylistically, the album touches on all sorts of roots music forms, but never actually settles on any one genre. It is often referred to as 'country-rock', if only for its connection with rural America, but the truth is that no one stylistic label can be comfortably attached to it, apart from perhaps the purposefully vague term 'roots-rock'.
This album became The Band's best-loved work, and they arguably never bettered it throughout their career.

Music From Big Pink (1968) <|> Stage Fright (1970)
More from The Band



Rachel Ana Dobken (editor/designer/project manager) said...


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