Monday, January 31, 2011


I think I just might have heard the greatest love song ever -- It Makes No Difference. A few times each year, I go through this phase where I re-discover an artist or band I've not heard in a long time, and I put that music in constant rotation. This time, it's The Band. I've always been interested in Americana music, and listening to the music of The Band is as American as you can get. What sparked off my current obsession was of course The Last Waltz, which is still and will always be the greatest concert film of all time (get the amazing blu-ray version). And then I heard The Band (their second album). While Music From The Big Pink was a spectacular debut, this one is far superior, and I'll be damned if The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down isn't the best song about the South ever written and performed. Here are some stuff from their albums' liner notes which I think best explains the band and their unique and organic art:

The Band were singularly unique in the annals of North American music. As an ensemble they played with a second sight born out of years spent on the road, backing up Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan and trying to establish a career on their own as Levon and The Hawks and eventually The Band. In Robbie Robertson they had a writer and guitarist of unparalleled gifts who was able to tap into the wellsprings of American mythology and folklore. In keyboardist/accordionist/saxophonist Garth Hudson they had a consummate tone painter and one of the most masterful musicians ever to play in a rock & roll band. In pianist Richard Manuel, bassist Rick Danko and drummer Levon Helm they had three vocalists possessed of disparate temperaments and timbres who complemented each other brilliantly while being capable of passionately conveying any emotion imaginable. At their best they sounded like five strong, independent, secure individuals who had a bond as a community that benefit from their individuality. Collectively, they summoned up an aesthetic that embraced the gamut of American roots musics from ragtime to shape note singing; from country to gospel; from blues to early rock & roll. The resulting music was as timeless and fresh as ground spring water.
- Rob Bowman, August, 2000

And to leave you with something to ponder on:

The Last Waltz is an eloquent toast to the glories of American rock & roll, especially those artists in the 1960s who took rock from it primitive foundations to a studier, more flexible form of musical and sociological expression. Without intending it, Robbie Robertson & Martin Scorsese had captured the end not just of The Band but of an entire rock & roll era.
- David Fricke, New York City

PS: Recommended reading about The Band can be found in Greil Marcus' excellent book Mystery Train.