ARTIST: The Band
TITLE: Music from Big Pink
YEAR RELEASED: 1968
CHART ACTION: #30
SINGLES: The Weight (#63 US, #21 UK)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Tears of Rage, Long Black Veil, This Wheel’s on Fire, I Shall Be Released
LINEUP: Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel, Robbie Robertson
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Dylan’s famous backing band and Basement Tapes collaborators record their first album as a stand-alone unit, and it’s a quite impressive blend of styles.
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Everyone in the biz knew about The Basement Tapes (a series of famous Dylan demos that later became a record on its own), and there was a clamor to get his backing band in the studio.
Having spent countless hours on the road as backing musicians and also cutting a few random singles, they had a wealth of ideas and lots of styles up their sleeves. Manuel and Robertson were the main songwriters, but obviously everyone contributed ideas on sound and arrangement. A unique element of the group was that they employed both a piano player (Manuel) and an organist (Hudson)
Vocals rotated between the high pleading tenor of Manuel, Danko’s similar, yet gruffer voice, and Helm’s world weary country-folk stylings. That allowed a great versatility in styles and songwriting. The band is tight, the arrangements spot-on and the songs are high caliber. It’s a very rustic sounding album, one that deserved better in the marketplace at the time. Now, everyone knows it, or at least “The Weight”.
And my goodness, their version of “Long Black Veil” may be the definitive one, with apologies to Lefty Frizzell and Johnny Cash.
NOTES & MINUTIAE: While the famous “Big Pink” house is where these songs were written (and the Dylan demos recorded), the album was actually recorded in regular recording studios in New York and LA.
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with nine outtakes and un-used songs, including some of their originals that were on the Basement Tapes.
GRADE: A: Everyone knows “The Weight”, the rest of the album is something everyone should know as well.