The Band - Music From Big Pink
Robbie Robertson- Guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
Rick Danko- Bass Violin,Lead Vocals, backing vocals
Richard Manuel-Piano,Drums, Lead Vocals Backing Vocals
Garth Hudson-Organ, Saxophone
Levon Helm-Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals, Drums, Guitar
One of my musical dreams has always been to craft an album or piece of music that is pure classic. Not Classic Rock or anything really relating, but an albums that is just perfect and memorable in every way. But of course that is a common dream, and few ever accomplish it, let alone a group consistently doing it. However, one band who has, would be The Band. A group who’s sound captures each of their personalities, many feelings, and a classic, homey and almost comfortable sound. One that no band has been able to duplicate, nor imitate.
During this point in time, The Band had contained few original members. With the exception of Levon Helm, each remaining member of the group hailed from Ontario, Canada. Not an expected place to see American fame coming out of. But, soon enough they would relocate to the U.S.A., where fame was waiting for them.
During the sixties, The Band (Though known as The Hawks, at the time) would capture the opportunity of a lifetime. They would play with the Folk and soon to be Rock God, Bob Dylan. Each current member of the group were fans of Dylan, and would be happy to be playing beside him. Bob Dylan grew fond of them, he would even commonly play with them in his past time. In fact, The Basement Tapes were formed because of his liking for them. But in time, The Band would make some changes, and make their own material.
The Band’s first effort would be entitled Music From Big Pink. For those who do not know, Big Pink was the house The Band lived in within New York. The house had a decent size, was a dirty shade of pink, and was right on the bank of a mountain. The group rehearse in the house, and write many of their well known songs inside of the basement. The album holds numerous amounts of Band classics. Not only fabulous playing is inside, but some of their greatest and most emotional lyrics also. The lyrics show signs of each members personalities, and even have almost a theme. But nothing specific, nor anything easy to point out. But none the less it always seems to connect each one of the tracks. From “Tears of Rage" to “I Shall be Released". There is surely something.
Tears of Rage
This slow opening has a high school slow dance theme to it. Very mellow, and on the borderline of cheesy, but it does not cross it. The vocals are sang very well, and the guitar playing, though not technically fabulous, performs solid lead interludes while still supporting great rhythm. The drumming has a very random timing to it, but the bass playing matches up very well. Which some how makes the two harmonize with the rest well. The keyboard playing is also quite interesting. It is mainly rhythm. Oddly enough, it also seems to take the role of the bass, while the bass is chasing the odd drum beats. The lyrics are nicely done, and sang in a desperate manner. Which seems to suit them very well. Great song.
To Kingdom Come
A wonderful upbeat follow up. The song has a great mix of Beatles and possibly Byrds or even Country Joe McDonald and The Fish. The song contains an weird form of attitude; sung in an almost excited way. Instrumentally there is not anything to complain about. The guitar playing is much better than the previous track. It is more lead based, and sounds similar to Buffalo Springfield’s Stephen Stills. Other than that highlight the vocals once again sound great, and every element jells pretty will. The song does seem to go by rather fast though.
In a Station
Here is a more unique song. The song is slightly slow, and is filled with a different set of tones and/or instruments. I believe I hear the sound of a harpsichord in the background. The guitar playing is once again rhythmic, and is much more easy to hear. The bass playing is the best yet, very rhythmic. It provides the perfect foundation for the rest of the band to expand more than it has so far. The vocals once again are stupendous. I believe this vocalist (Manuel?) once sang for School House Rock. Good song, absolutely nothing to complain about.
“Caledonia Mission" is a nice classic with some easily seen Country and Gospel influence. The lyrics are some of strongest yet, and are very interesting. Manuel’s voice sounds fantastic, and is especially good during the chorus. The chorus is mainly where the song switches from Country to Gospel or possibly Soul. The pounding piano chords add more to the vibe than any other instrument. And the rest of the playing is flawless. Though the recording, like the rest of the album, isn’t too special.
“The Weight" - The bands most legendary track, my favorite track, and of course the top highlight of Music from Big Pink. “The Weight" is the climax of The Band’s lyrics, music playing, and overall song writing. From when the song starts off, it is incredibly catchy, and timed perfectly. The instrumental playing is simple, but completely necessary in the exact form it’s in. Though, I could not tell you what the lyrics are exactly about, I am certainly interested in finding out. The chorus is rather odd, but it is suiting in a way. The vocal harmonies are very strong and soothing. Definitely one of The Band’s strong characteristics. Through this epic, there are two main singers. One being Manuel, the other possibly being Robertson. Excuse me if I am wrong. I am not very knowledgeable to the history of The Band, or simply The Band in general. This song is completely perfect, and most certainly one of the greatest songs made during the 60’s, let along possibly ever. Excellent!
We Can Talk
It would be very hard for anyone to come up with a follow up to “The Weight", but none the less The Band attempts to, and does pretty good. The follow up would be an upbeat, catchy piece. The instrumental work is rather excitable in a way. Very chaotic at time, but overall good. The instrumental work is quite intelligent though. Certain players cut out at perfect timing, put great emphasis on where it occasionally should be. The vocals are also a little different from the other tracks. The backing vocals are at times very powerful and filled with diversity. Altogether making the song much more interesting than it once may have been.
Long Black Veil
Here is a good song. Definitely one of the highlights. The songs playing is much more clean than the album’s previous tracks. The lyrical writing style is very interesting. Filled with various tricks and humorous situations. The vocalist is different once again, I believe. He, along with the back vocalists, do a fabulous job harmonizing. The lead instrument is the organ. Though played in a simple manner, it provides a perfect rhythm along with the bass for the vocalists. Very good song.
This song opens up with something that sounds like it’d be coming from Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. The organ is just belting out notes, and resembling a medieval sound more than ever. That interesting factor fades out, and the vocals come in. They are most certainly the main point. The vocals are sung in complete unison, and aren’t anything spectacular. At certain times, the vocals step out, and the organ takes a small solo. The song also goes through numerous tempo and key changes. Showing the great jam ability The Band has. On top of that all, the drumming is outstanding, and definitely a plus. Pretty good.
A ballad. The song is very slow, and soothing. Also, subtle in a way. The playing is nothing very special. The organ does play some nice rhythm though, and there is also some satisfactory harmonica playing. The lyrics are pretty good. Once again nothing that special though. Robertson does throw some interesting interludes and fills though. Overall, nothing worth praising, but okay.
This Wheel’s on Fire
To many, this is a definite highlight. To me, it is just a little better than okay. The lyrics and vocals express a very different emotion, and vibe. I like the melody, it is certainly different. The instrumental work is also unique. Some of the licks and riffs imitate traditional Japanese phrases and such. The organ effect is quite eerie, and really adds to the song. The guitar playing is quite chaotic. A little too chaotic. But overall, the song is pretty good.
I Shall be Released
The conclusion to a great album. Being the goodbye track, it is of course slow, epic like, and depressing. Manuel’s voice is quite annoying, especially when combined with the backing vocalists. The piano work is done very tastefully. And the rhythm section could not be any better. Robbie’s guitar plays quite a small role, so he sticks to rhythm and simply plays numerous chord progressions. The lyrics are once again very good, and worded perfectly. There are few moments that The Band does not get 100% approve with their lyrics. The song is pretty good, but most importantly end a great album.
Well, right now, this song falls short of a 5/5 for me, and gets a 4.9/5
. But my rating will probably eventually change.