Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Band released their self-titled sophomore album: September 22, 1969

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Release date: 22 September 1969
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Across the Great Divide / Rag Mama Rag (2/14/70, #57 US, #16 UK) / The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down / When You Awake / Up on Cripple Creek (11/1/69, #25 US) / Whispering Pines / Jemima Surrender / Rockin’ Chair / Look Out Cleveland / Jawbone / The Unfaithful Servant / King Harvest Has Surely Come

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US and UK)

Peak: 9 US, 25 UK


Review: One of the most celebrated Americana albums in history was recorded by a band who was 4/5 Canadian. TL As The Hawks, they supported Bob Dylan on tour during his infamous switch to electric. They also recorded with Dylan, resulting in a bootleg series known as The Basement Tapes which eventually saw official release in the mid-1970s. In 1968, The Band released its first album, Music from Big Pink. It was a “ramshackle musical blend and songs of rural tragedy” AMG which “defined the back-porch rootsiness that remains a central inspiration for the ‘alternative country’ movement.” TL In fact, at the time of the album’s release, Time magazine declared The Band “the new sound of country rock.” RV

That second outing “was a more deliberate and even more accomplished effort” AMG featuring “even better songwriting and ensemble playing.” NRR Part of this was attributed to The Band’s laid-back style of “passing their instruments around like it was a hootenanny.” TL “The arrangements were simultaneously loose and assured, giving the songs a timeless appeal.” AMG The performances are marked by Levon “Helm’s (and occasionally [Richard] Manuel’s) propulsive drumming to [Robbie] Robertson’s distinctive guitar fills and the endlessly inventive keyboard textures of Garth Hudson,” AMG who “manipulates his Lowrey organ in ways that continue to boggle the ear.” RV It was “all topped by the rough, expressive singing of Manuel, Helm, and Rick Danko that mixed leads with harmonies.” AMG

In regards to the songwriting, The Band benefited from Robertson taking the reins as writer or co-writer on all 12 songs. AMG He proved to be a “superb storyteller.” RV Though Canadian, he “tackled the astonishing scope of this American life” TL with lyrics painting “portraits of 19th century rural life (especially Southern life, as references to Tennessee and Virginia made clear), its sometimes less savory aspects treated with warmth and humor.” AMG He keyed in on “a series of American archetypes from the union worker in King Harvest Has Surely Come and the retired sailor in Rockin' Chair to, most famously, the Confederate Civil War observer Virgil Cane in The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” AMG

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

The Band’s Americana sound was crafted by a mix of “rock ‘n’ roll with country, bluegrass, rhythm-and-blues, and even gospel.” NRR By creating a sound which was “deliberately against the grain,” NRR The Band offered “an image of America largely absent in the popular music of its time.” NRR

“The album effectively mixed the kind of mournful songs that had dominated Music from Big PinkAMG with “the achingly wistful Whispering PinesTL and When You Awake with “rollicking uptempo numbers” AMG like “the joyful hoedown Rag Mama RagTL “and Up on Cripple Creek.” AMG

Up on Cripple Creek

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