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The Band – The Band

The Band 1969 Album

The Band

(1969), 9.5/10
This is the iconic Band album; it’s often referred to as the Brown Album, due to the earthy tones on the cover. Even more than the previous album, it witnesses the group digging into increasingly rich interpretations of traditional music forms. The diversity on The Band is astounding; the album ranges from the hoe-down of ‘Rag Mama Rag’ and funk of ‘Up On Cripple Creek’ to the stateliness of ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ and the languidness of ‘Rockin’ Chair’.

Robbie Robertson, who emerges as The Band’s main songwriter on the record, delves explicitly into American history in tracks like ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ (a humanistic Southern perspective on the Civil War, prompted by a visit to drummer Levon Helm’s parents) and ‘King Harvest (Has Surely Come)’ (a tale of depression era poverty) while the souls of most of the other tracks are grounded somewhere in a bygone era. There’s also a tangible Biblical flavour to songs like ‘Unfaithful Servant’ and ‘Jawbone’, which adds a further sense of authority to proceedings.

The Band is stacked with classic songs; ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ is the most iconic, but the more overlooked ‘King Harvest (Has Surely Come)’ is just as weighty, concluding with a terrific minimalist solo from Robertson. The more lighthearted ‘Rag Mama Rag’ and ‘Up On Cripple Creek’ are both wonderful, packing in some interesting textural experimentation; producer John Simon’s tuba provides the bass line for the former, while Garth Hudson cranks out funky leads with his clavinet hooked up to a wah-wah pedal for the latter. Pianist Richard Manuel contributes the beautiful and fragile ‘Whispering Pines’. There’s also a solid core of tracks in the next tier down, with the time signature hopping piano hook of ‘Jawbone’ and the bass line of ‘Look Out Cleveland’ both showcasing the musicians’ versatility.

The Band is an iconic album, full of iconic songs.

4 thoughts on “The Band – The Band Leave a comment

  1. One of my favorite albums, not just by The Band, but ever. I love how eclectic it is. The musicianship is obviously going to be top notch with this group of guys, and I just kind find weakness with it. The songs flow together and despite there not being a them lyrically or topically it has always felt like a concept record to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I must have bought this three or four times on vinyl and twice on CD. Timeless. Brilliant but unshowy musicianship and lyrics full of little gems.
    Snow’s gonna fall and the frost gonna bite
    My old car froze up last night
    Ain’t no reason to hang my head
    I could wake up in the morning dead
    (and that’s a kind of afterthought line as When You Awake fades out.)

    Liked by 1 person

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