Album #127 – Music From Big Pink

Album #127

This album inspired a generation of artists to change the way they make music. American roots music became apart of rock like nothing before. The Band were creating something magical with this album. They created a new sound which many artists wanted to duplicate. This album started that journey. The Band had backed up Bob Dylan and Ronnie Hawkins (they were called the Hawks when they toured with Hawkins). But, sick of touring and backing others, they decided to record an album together. They moved to Woodstock, New York and recorded some sessions with Bob Dylan. These became known as The Basement Tapes. Eventually, they had enough material to record their own album. They named the album after the house where it all started, Big Pink. Bob Dylan supplied the cover art and they covered his song I Shall Be Released and he co-wrote Tears of Rage and This Wheel’s On Fire with bassist Rick Danko and pianist/drummer Richard Manuel respectively. This album is different from the other folk albums I have listened to because it is more Americana. It is more country and bluegrass based. Drummer Levon Helm’s southern upbringing adds to this. Danko, Helm and Manuel all share lead vocals and sing harmonies. Their voices are all beautiful and many of today’s artists cannot hold a note to these guys. They had soul and emotion. Their voices were and are distinct, yet unforgettable. Robbie Robertson wrote several songs and plays guitar and takes too much credit for their sound. His lyrics are beautiful and invoke imagery of historical figures, places and events. His songs provide a glimpse into life in Old Time America. Garth Hudson provides a wacky assortment of instruments into the mix including sax, organ, piano, keyboards and accordion.  Hudson in some ways shaped the sound of this group. John Simon produced this album and their second album (which is also on the list) and helped define their sound. You take all of these elements and you have one of the best albums of all-time. The Band have influenced so many musicians and their mark is left on so much music. I am proud to say that they are 4/5s Canadian (Levon Helm is American). This album identifies as much with Canada as America. Canadians have always been good at making folk music and this album proves it.Other Highlights include: The Weight (their signature and most well-known song), Chest Fever (a showcase of Hudson’s eccentric yet amazing talent), In A Station, Long Black Veil and We Can Talk. Overall, I give this album 5.5 out of 5.

Next: Truth by The Jeff Beck Group

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