"Dylan (initials) 1968" on front cover; does whether or not it is there have anything to do with first pressing cover or not? The Discogs listing does not mention it. I have only seen one early cover without it. Anyone knows for sure, I for one would appreciate it. Thanks.
Tonight Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado, I bring you the review you’ve all been waiting for ‘Music From Big Pink’ by the Band. But before I begin, I must relay a couple of Band Stories to whet your appetites.
I was in attendance for the Bands Show at Bill Grahams Fillmore Auditorium on April 17th, 1969 ... the first ever live performance. Randy Tuten had created the most wonderful poster for the show, and in those days there was a Poster for the concert, a handbill that matched the poster, and tickets that varied in colour for each night, but never the less were miniature versions of the poster as well. Such cool things were done in the 60’s. Along with Randy Tuten were a host of other major players in the music and entertainment world. The performance would be remembered for many reasons, the first being that it was really bad, the second was the mysterious illness [nerves/cold] of Robbie Robertson. The show was stalled for over two hours while Bill Graham searched out a hypnotist to see if he could bring the ailing Robertson around, which he did and the show went on. If this had been my initial experience with the Band, I probably would never have bought another album...but I knew their work, so all was well.
Secondly, on September 9th of 2006, I was in Woodstock, New York at the Studio of Levon Helm for one of his ‘Midnight Rambles.’ If you have the chance to go to one of these, please do so, before we lose another member of this great group. Levon is there of course, but you never know who is going to wander in and play with him for a couple of hours before someone else of major stature wanders in and picks up without missing a beat. It’s a perfect evening. So before the show we’re riding around trying to find the house in the picture, yes, the Big Pink House. We’ve got the album out, comparing each house we pass to see if this is it. I don’t know what our intentions would have been if we’d actually found it ... but alas, we didn’t.
‘Music From Big Pink’ is probably the best album from the Band, coming out in 1969. The music was uncharacteristic for the time. I say that because psychedelic music was winding down, and the influences of country, blues, R&B, soul, folk, the sounds of Americana, those showed and introduced to us by the likes of Bob Dylan [remember him, he penned three of the songs here], Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield, to name a few, where showcased here in all of their perfection and splendor. The record had a rough sound to it, not like most people were used to during those times, and I believed that was one of the reasons sales were so poor in the beginning. However, there was a little movie called ‘Easy Rider’ which featured the song ‘The Weight’ and this sparked new interest to be sure.
If I were to say the arrangements, the selection of material, and the order the songs were stacked on the record was chaotic, I’m not sure if I could explain that. But they were, you’re just going to have to give it a listen to hear what I’m talking about. I mean, go from ‘The Weight’ to ‘We Can Talk’ to ‘Chest Fever’ and you’ll find that each song is different in character, tempo and style, yet they’ve been handed to us seemingly without concern for the contextual flow. But a great album was delivered non the less, and if I’m not mistaken, I believe that Rolling Stone rated the album somewhere around number 30 or so, on it’s list of ‘The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time.’ If you get hold of a later incarnation of the album, you’ll find that there are an additional eight tracks that were left off of the original recording.
The Band were a splendid group of guys, all bringing different musical influences to bear on this recording. There is nothing sweeter then the voice of Richard Manuel, who died much too young. Rick Danko, was a major influence as well, but I’m breaking The Band into it’s components here and that’s not what I should be doing. The Band was The Band, they had just finished backing Dylan [which gave them a legendary mysterious status], and were a unit unto themselves. This group was never stronger than the combination of it’s members, and each of the musicians played off the others in such a sparkling manner. Watching The Band breakup and reform, see the solo efforts that lacked the flavor and only hinted at a mythical past, and then the loss of members, was very sad.
Give this disc a spin, and by the time you’re digging ‘Chest Fever’ you’ll know what I’m talking about.
*** The Fun Facts: As of 2010 you could / could have owned the original painting by Bob Dylan used as the iconic cover art for The Band's 1968 debut release. According to The Band's homepage, it is suggested that anyone is interested, the painting from the cover of Music From Big Pink is for sale at a cost of a mere $18 million.