The Band - Stage Fright (1970)

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


After the massive critical success of their first two albums, The Band went on their first tour as a headlining act, and appeared on the cover of Time magazine. However the resultant anxiety from fame and fortune led to a new direction in lead songwriter Robbie Robertson’s lyrics, taking on darker themes of fear and alienation, most notable in the title song of their next album, Stage Fright, recorded and released in 1970. In comparison to Music From Big Pink and The Band, Stage Fright was where the group’s unity began to fray. Not musically, where they were as tight and creative as ever, but rather emotionally… Drugs, alcohol and money had become distractions. Richard Manuel, who in their early days was sharing the song writing with Robertson, only got himself two co-writing credits, and when he sang “The Shape I’m In” it was clear that the lyric was more than a little auto-biographical (though it was actually written for him by Robertson). Their unique vocal harmonies that had been a highlight of the first two records were curiously absent, as Manuel, Levon Helm and Rick Danko mostly sang their lead vocal spots solo (with the notable exceptions of the vocal teamwork on “Daniel And The Sacred Harp” and “The Rumor”).
But despite these subtle cracks beginning to appear, Stage Fright was certainly a very strong album, almost as good as its predecessors. It covered their broad Americana pallette, overall moving in a slightly more rock-oriented direction. The instrument-switching they had become known for was present, with every member playing at least two different instruments each. In particular on three songs Helm gave up the drum seat to Manuel, and himself contributed second rhythm guitar parts. There was a bit more focus on electric instruments, no doubt due to their recent experiences playing on the road.
Overall, Stage Fright was a different sort of album to the two classics that came before it… but it was nevertheless a fine record, featuring some of their greatest songs, and is today considered one of their strongest works. On its release, it actually became their highest charting, making it to #5.

The Band (1969) <|> Cahoots (1971)
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