Music From Big Pink
A pivotal record in rock history, Music From Big Pink has been credited with ending psychedelia, and infusing roots-based music back into the rock lexicon. The name of the album comes from the house in upper New York State where The Band holed up while they created the record. The shift in emphasis is evident from track one, where Music From Big Pink begins with an emotive reading of the Bob Dylan ballad ‘Tears of Rage’. The songwriting is more democratic than later albums, with three songs penned with Dylan (originating from the Basement Tape sessions) and the traditional ‘Long Black Veil’ accompanying compositions from Robbie Robertson and Richard Manuel.
The best known song is ‘The Weight’, an oblique tale of Biblical proportions, with an evocative opening guitar shimmer and a famous three part vocal hook at the end of the chorus. The other major highlight is ‘Chest Fever’, an organ-led funk workout, with Hudson quoting Bach in the introduction and a bizarre Salvation Army band recreation on the bridge. But that’s only the surface of the record; the two emotional Dylan ballads that bookend the album are highly effective, while the electric piano groove of ‘Long Black Veil’ fits in perfectly with the rest of the record. ‘To Kingdom Come’ features a rare but effective Robertson vocal, while Manuel’s three winsome compositions are all evocative.
While it’s not surprising, given that The Band had spent years under the tuition of Ronnie Hawkins and Dylan, Big Pink is still one of the most assured and ephocal debut albums in the history of popular music.