I have a CD copy of this album from 1987 (I think) with the catalogue number CDP 7 46493 2 , made in USA. Matrix reads: C105443 CDP 46493 10001 Manufactured in USA by Laservideo Inc. Does anyone know which release this is?
What do you get when five guys who lock themselves in a rented house, in Hollywood, in 1969? Probably more than you could ever hope for ... with true musical visionaries collaborating and doubling on instruments to bring forth one of the classic musical achievements of all time.
As far as I am able to discern, the sketch goes something like this: -Of the twelve tracks, Robertson wrote eight, collaborated with Richard Manuel on three, and co-wrote one with Levon Helm. -Richard Manuel sings lead on five of these songs, Levon on four, with Rick Danko taking the lead on three ... though these leads are often shared by the other members. -Robbie Robertson and Garth Hudson can be heard only as background voices off in the distance. -Manuel not only sings, but plays baritone sax, mouth harp, accordion, soprano, tenor and baritone sax, drums, and piano. -Levon Helm steps out from behind his drums to play mandolin, and instrument he’s love since childhood, guitar, and yes, drums. -Rick Danko can be heard playing trombone, violin and bass. -Robbie Robertson seems content to direct and play guitar. -And that fabulous tuba, along with baritone and pack horn, well that’s Mr. John Simon, the only non band member in attendance. -Robertson engineered about 90% or more of the album, with the entire band producing it.
From here the band [or The Band], shape and reshape the songs, not so much refining and polishing them, but giving them a life that breathes, a life that changes with each listen ... an effect that happened with Dylan, Crosby Stills and Nash, and The Beatles, where songs that seemed prominent on first listen, give way to songs that once seemed to be supportive, yet over time shine like diamonds, becoming part of a body of work that seems more dense and consistent with each spin.
Now don’t go thinkin’ that it’s all about the musical notes, because the album is filled with haunting imagery, making many of the numbers sound like reworked folk classics, rather than newly constructed pieces of country brilliance, depicting the social and physical landscape of America at the time ... and all through the eyes of a group from Canada, who sparked lightening in New York, and then found themselves putting all these pieces of the puzzle together, 3000 miles away, in California.
Music doesn’t get made this way much anymore. Certainly other groups have attempted this feat, but the closeness and lack of elbow room only leads to infighting, and a production that’s lackluster at best. But this was 1969, egos were in check, there was enough tension in the world as it was, The Band needed not push each other in any direction other than to make a defining album that’s stood the test of time, and inspired countless others.
*** All of this happened at the home of Sammy Davis Jr., with Sammy's pool house being turned into the studio and workspace for this adventure.