Listening and exploring THE BAND 50th Anniversary Box Set.
First of all, it’s a beautiful product keeping that rustic vibe of the original release. It contains a portfolio of photographer Elliott Landy’s classic photos and a photo booklet with liner notes by music critic and author Anthony DeCurtis. The vinyl and CD have been remastered and mixed by Bob Clearmountain, I was apprehensive of this. Sometimes a remix can change the dynamics of the original, not here. I think the original album sounds terrific but I admit the new mix brings the living room sound even closer. It’s a sonic gem that only enhances their ensemble playing and singing. On a fine stereo system it sounds as if they are playing right beside you. I have listened to the original hundreds of time, on the original vinyl pressing, the first CD manufactured and the remastered CD from a few years ago, none match the power of this release.
There is also a CD of The Band’s set at Woodstock, until recently an almost impossible find. Their playing is not on point or up to their usual standards, but it was an unusual concert. Between the weather, the totally busted schedules and equipment problems it’s a wonder they sound as good as they do. It’s a bit creaky and rushed but under the circumstances, and its historical aspect, it’s marvelous. And for a Band fan a must. To hear them at their live best, listen to Rock of Ages or, of course, The Last Waltz.
The outtakes and alternative tracks are all wonderful but one is a pure revelation. On Rocking Chair, only accompanied by mandolin, Levon Helm, Rick Danko and Richard Manuel almost a cappella vocals are hauntingly beautiful. It is serene and heartbreaking. It is a jaw dropping moment for any Band fan. And for me, as I get older, very emotional.
I’ve always considered this album as a turning point for my musical path, critics have said it is the starting gate for the genre Americana. It’s a struggle to put into words the impact it had on the rock and roll culture in 1969 – and if listened to today it sounds deep, mysterious, familiar, vintage and timeless.
The Band: Levon Helm, Robbie Robertson, Gath Hudson, Richard Manuel and Rick Danko