The Band

TrackAlbum/Single
Daniel And The Sacred HarpStage Fright
It Makes No DifferenceNorthern Lights, Southern Cross
Jupiter HollowNorthern Lights, Southern Cross
King Harvest (Has Surely Come)The Band
The Night They Drove Old Dixie DownThe Last Waltz
Rockin'’ ChairThe Band
The RumorStage Fright
Up On Cripple CreekThe Band
We Can TalkMusic From Big Pink
The WeightMusic From Big Pink

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Contributor: Peter Viney

The best of The Band up to 1976 and The Last Waltz only. Yes, I’ve got nothing from Cahoots, Moondog Matinee, Rock of Ages nor Islands. For my articles on most of these songs see:
The Band website, the definitive Internet resource

The Band biography (iTunes)

TopperPost #3

11 Comments

  1. Barrie Ivil
    Jul 6, 2013

    It Makes No Difference is one of my all time favourites! A great, great song with an emotion wrenching vocal from Rick Danko. An excellent choice of songs here with No Difference being the “toppermost!”

  2. Rob Millis
    Sep 17, 2013

    I was going to put my 10 up versus Peter’s Topper 10 and it started well: I’d have Forbidden Fruit and Ring Your Bell from NLSC instead of Peter’s two, and maybe forego Daniel & TSH in favour of Time To Kill…but then wondered if I’d really cull Rocking Chair for Across The Great Divide, or The Weight in favour of Tears of Rage. And that still doesn’t leave room for All La Glory, so maybe Forbidden Fruit might go…

    I can’t do 10 so I’m not playing. I’d need the first three LPs, Get Up Jake and Didn’t It Rain? as a bare minimum.

    I’ll tell you one thing: Band anoraks often wonder if Stage Fright is quite as good as the first two albums. Given how much of it I’d hate to leave out of this 10 song allowance, I can now confirm it most definitely is.

  3. Peter Viney
    Sep 17, 2013

    The Band was one of the first Toppermosts which is why I left it at the list and links. A pertinent article I did a couple of years go for The Band site is linked – “A Return to Big Pink 2011”

    The Band were so good that it took them four albums to get to the dreaded third album syndrome on Cahoots. For a while, Stage Fright got cast in that role, unfairly. However, if you look at the set lists for the 1990s Band, three songs from ‘Stage Fright’ are always there: The Shape I’m In, Stage Fright, The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show (and Atlantic City and Blind Willie McTell from the 90s Band are good enough to argue a place in the list). For those who doubt “Northern Lights Southern Cross”, then both It Makes No Difference and Ophelia got played every time the 90s Band appeared.

    “Stage fright” had internal issues, demonstrated by the two rival mixes by Todd Rundgren and Glyn Johns which appear variously on different CD versions of the album. The Band were beginning to pull in different directions, and the lack of attention to overseeing the mixing follows through to the tracklist. Rolling Stone and Robert Christgau’s guide started the “third album syndrome” snottiness, but that’s long since been dispelled.

    John Bauldie said ( Q April 1991):
    “ Stage Fright, the third Band LP from 1970, may well be the greatest of their records. There is more of Robbie Robertson’s wonderful guitar playing on Stage Fright than any other LP; there is The Band’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll song, The Shape I’m In; The Band’s greatest Americana song, The W.S. Walcott Medicine show; the best of The Band’s trademark “interactive” vocals, on Daniel and The Sacred Harp and The Rumour; and the best of Robbie Robertson’s gentle ballads, Sleeping and All La Glory.”

    I can’t better Bauldie’s description, but will note that Sleeping is a trademark Richard Manuel melody. Side Two, all Robbie Robertson songs, is perfectly sequenced, and as good a record side as any in their catalogue. I suspect Side One is politics. It starts with Strawberry Wine, a well-performed but generic rocker, co-written by Levon Helm, one of his very rare compositions, and politics places it first. then we leap to the exquisite Sleeping (co-written with Manuel) … the contrast is wrong. Compared to Side Two, I think both Time To Kill and Just Another Whistle Stop are slightly lesser, though in the sense that King Lear is not quite as good as Hamlet. But look at the lead vocals, one each in turn … Levon … Richard … Rick. Then it finishes with All La Glory. Love the songs, don’t like the sequence. The sequence on side two is perfect.

    In “Across The Great Divide” Barney Hoskyns chose Acadian Driftwood from NLSC as his favourite track, and I’ve heard many people argue that. Personally, I think it tries just a tad too hard to replicate the Night they Drove Old Dixie Down’s narrative appeal.

    I was aware that Jupiter Hollow was an unusual choice, but Garth Hudson spent months with Robbie “sweetening” the album after the other three had lost interest, and the song is an exploration of the qualities of then new synthesizer in multiple layers, but tied to a great melody and lead vocal. Link to my specific article on Jupiter Hollow

    So often reviews come down to “only up to this album …”. Given the long gap between The Last Waltz and Jericho by the 90s Band, without Robbie Robertson or Richard Manuel, a Band (90s version) list beckons …

  4. Rob Millis
    Sep 18, 2013

    Bauldie has a point. Stage Fright manages to be nearly as much of a classic platter as the first two without anywhere near the supply of what in terms of familiarity and awareness can be classed as hits, and there is definitely more of a chance for the instrumental personalities of the members to shine through. We can all make convenient arguments out of circumstances but let me offer this thought: it is the last Band LP that Richard Manuel wrote for and they were never as good again. NLSC was a return of sorts, but I still don’t consider it up there with the first three.

    I agree on Acadian Driftwood. Far too “paint an instant Band classic by numbers”, like The River Hymn on the dreaded Cahoots.

  5. Peter Viney
    Oct 10, 2013

    This week’s release of “Live At The Academy 1971” changes things somewhat. It comes in a 2 CD set of remastered and remixed source material from the four shows which formed “Rock of Ages” in 1972. But you really need the De Luxe Box Set which has 4 CDs and a 5.1 surround DVD. The extra 2 CDs are a soundboard mix just of the New Year’s Eve show by Sebastian Robertson (Robbie’s son). They are stunning … they are unlike the Rock of Ages set, in sequence, all one show and are full of energy. Great, great mixes. It changes my oft-stated opinion that with The Band studio versions are the most desirable. Time To Kill and The Shape I’m In stand out as better live. The dull Smoke Signal is at least brilliantly played.

    • Ben Turkel
      Oct 12, 2013

      Peter, I haven’t bought “Live at the Academy” in either 2 or 4 disc versions due to the packaging. I really wish this would have been released in some type of jewel case. I see that “The Last Waltz” box set was just re-released in a fat boy case. That’s perfect. Hopefully, this set will be re-released in this format after the initial pressing.

      I agree very much with the comments regarding “Stage Fright”. It is a great album in its own right. It definitely has a different feeling than the first two, but it contains some of their best performances.

      I just watched “Ain’t In It For My Health” and found the scene with Levon and Billy Bob very interesting. Billy Bob asked Levon about “Stage Fright” and Levon dismisses SF and says that it was all over after the first two albums. I must respectfully disagree.

  6. Peter Viney
    Oct 12, 2013

    If Stage Fright was so easily dismissed, why did they do The Shape I’m In, W.S. Walcott Medicine Show and Stage Fright cheerfully on nearly every 90s Band live show? I think on most shows that makes it equal with Big Pink (The Weight, Chest Fever, Caledonia Mission on most 90s shows). They were also fond of Life Is A Carnival, and from Northern Lights Southern Cross, Ophelia seems to have been one of Levon’s favourite songs to do, just as It Makes No Difference was Rick’s. The dynamic did change, but I’d say the 1972 year off (right after Live At The Academy) is the major shift.

    • Jerry Tenenbaum
      Mar 13, 2014

      The lesser efforts of The Band after the first 2 are better than most of what other bands create. Their work until they stopped in ’76 continued to be highly regarded. The danger is comparison since MFBP and The Band were spectacular. Spectacular is hard to meet or beat. I’ll leave it at that.

      • Ilkka Jauramo
        Mar 17, 2014

        Spectacular? – For the first: a strong word for a low key music. For the second: I would use the words ‘historical momentum’ because their heydays didn’t last too long.

  7. Ian Ashleigh
    Oct 25, 2013

    I found this on You Tube, Levon Helm is on drums and also on stage are Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Richard Thompson, Allen Tousaint and Ray LaMontagne performing The Weight. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

  8. David Lewis
    Mar 13, 2014

    Gosh, 10? only 10?

    Well, how about a couple of suggestions: Life is a Carnival, Shape I’m in, and Promised Land would make my 10. I think 4% Pantomime would too. And … and … and…

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