The Band – The Band (1969)

“If The Band single-handedly created Americana with their debut album, on their self-titled sophomore effort (aka ‘The Brown Album’), they honed everything that made Music From Big Pink so quietly epochal. Initially, the group relocated from their iconic Woodstock home to a New York studio in order to work up the 12 songs that formed their self-titled second album, but the pro facilities didn’t suit the group’s laidback, down-home approach. … The Band’s second album came after a difficult period. Bassist Rick Danko had broken his neck in a serious car crash and had taken time to recover. The move from East Coast to West Coast proved an invigorating change. Crossing the vast expanse of North America was apt: The Band was almost simply titled America, and its songs are populated with characters from the continent’s past; like the lucky hopefuls who set off west in search of the American Dream in the mid-1800s, The Band struck gold. Truckers, sailors, Civil War soldiers: it’s the sort of roll call that would feel contrived in lesser hands, but Robertson and co’s deft performances and innate knack for storytelling allowed these disparate characters – like the wide array of instruments the group rotated through – to coalesce, working up a collection of songs that, as Ralph J Gleason put it in his Rolling Stone review, are ‘equal sides of a 12-faceted gem, the whole of which is geometrically greater than the sum of the parts’. First-time listeners usually gravitate towards ‘Rag Mama Rag’, ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ and ‘Up On Cripple Creek’ – and with good reason. Drummer Levon Helm’s vocals are the apogee of white soul, infectious and intimate at the same time. … Yet repeated listens are richly rewarded with The Band’s more subtle charms. ‘Whispering Pines’, with Richard Manuel taking lead, is a lament that haunts the listener long after the song is over; Danko’s higher, more emotive register comes to the fore on ‘When You Awake’, an exercise in nostalgia that also shows how much the group matured in the year since they released their debut. Without a Bob Dylan co-write in sight (in fact, Robertson gets a full or co-writing credit on every track), the album finds The Band doing what they did best: creating space between instruments, letting the music breathe and allowing for each individual personality to shine through, while all working in service to the group’s unified vision. …”
udiscover (Video)
New Yorker: Robbie Robertson Offers His Story of the Band
The Band: The Brown Album (Audio)
W – The Band (Album)
Discogs (Video)
YouTube: Don’t Do It (Live), King Harvest, Up On Cripple Creek, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
YouTube: “The Band” Album 12 videos

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Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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