This is an unusual album for 1968. Bob Dylan’s backing band decided that they would create their own material without him. They got to work and created this album. It is now widely seen as a classic in its own right, and motivated Eric Clapton and George Harrison, among many others to move away from Psychedelia and onto something more independent of that scene at the time. Still, history is history and it demands to be observed, so let’s jump on in and have a listen to it.
We begin with Tears Of Rage which begins with organ and fuzz guitar, before launching into an excellent and artistic piece of music that is awesome. The singing here is nothing like Bob Dylan himself would do and is deep and soulful instead. It is a brilliant listen, and sounds like a piece that is moving and quite original. This is quite different to the music of the time, and also to what came after it. The drum fills here sound quite interesting and good, as does the rest of The Band. It is a really excellent song about love breaking up. The organ and guitar really sound good here. A great start to this album, and rather intense, but joyful listening. Sounds a bit like what Eric Clapton would do later on as a solo career.
Next is To Kingdom Come which begins with lovely piano and guitar. Falsetto singing emerges and this is a sort of Southern American tune. The whole thing is marvellous and is a reassuring listen. With lyrics and musicianship driving this along rather than Psychedelic jams, this is definitely different compared to most of the music at the time. A fine listen, we can sense already how really great this album is. A great Fender Telecaster sounding solo is here as well, adding flavour to this song. Nice tune.
In A Station has a cool keyboard sound in it, to begin with, before launching into a very original piece that sounds really amazing. This is uplifting and heartwarming listening. The melodies and vocals are centrepiece here, and although these guys were likely influenced by the trends of the time, it sounds different. A response to trends, rather than explicitly following them, makes this album and indeed, the song, shine. It also sounds somewhat like the Grateful Dead too. Imaginative, colourful and exploratory, this is a nice piece of music. Great to hear.
Caledonia Mission begins with some old school piano, before going straight into an interesting story of sorts. It has a Country Blues sort of feel to this song, and the music and lyrics are really top-notch here. A fresh and inspired listen, The Band do terrifically here. Not bad for guys who were a backing group for the much more famous Bob Dylan. It demands listening and is another great song from this album. A funky guitar riff finishes this off, nice.
Next up is The Weight which begins with nice acoustic guitar, before the rest of The Band kick in. The whole piece sounds extraordinary and is a real highlight of this album. The music here is wonderful. Acoustic guitar, piano, drums and great singing top this off. A fine and fantastic composition, the lyrics are about Christian concepts and despite if you are religious or not, this is a really great listen. A fine tune, and something to bring a smile to your face about. These guys were brilliant at what they did. Very different to much of what has been created in musical history.
Following is We Can Talk which begins with organ keyboard, piano and other great elements of musicianship here. The songs here are really superb and timeless, and this is another brilliant piece of music that is original and lovely. The singing here is really great too. The guitar parts here are just gorgeous, showcasing a unique talent and a great musical quality of the song. A nice three minute Pop song.
Long Black Veil begins with a delicious organ sound, tambourine and acoustic guitar, before kicking into a story that is a rather dark and disturbing story about murder. Regardless of this, it is a lovely tune and just sounds really great. This is another top song that sounds nicely crafted tune about said dark matter. Beautiful, yet different. The Band have made an excellent album here, no question about it.
Chest Fever sounds very much like a Yes song in the intro with the Psychedelic organ playing away. It sounds very good and likely inspired many musicians afterwards. Before long, singing and drums enter and we go to a different musical place. The guitar here is fuzzy and subdued, and the whole piece is a very nice song. Catchy, artistic and different, this album is such a piece of art that it is like painting a picture. It goes into a rather midsection that is deliberately discordant, before going back into the main song. The organ solo in the second half is very well played. Very 1960s, but looking ahead to the future here. Some image evoking lyrics are here, too. The musicianship here is divine, a very good song.
Following is Lonesome Suzie which is a very Beatlesesque piece that just sounds top. This is another outstanding piece of music that sounds really incredible. It is a great song that sounds incredible and moving and is totally reassuring to said lover. A slow but not dull ballad sort of piece with organ, quiet guitar parts and a downtempo drumbeat, this is really excellent. An incredible song, and very gorgeous to hear, this is a great song. The vocal at the end is awesome.
Next is This Wheel’s On Fire (a Cream reference?) which begins with some interesting organ sound, along with some great guitar work here. Another artistic and incredible listen, this is ear candy for those who have a nostalgic taste in music. There are some pretty guitar fills to match the rest of the band here. Overall, a very interesting and well-played piece. The sounds here are definitely different, especially for the time. Great song and an interesting listen.
I Shall Be Released begins with a piano part, before launching into a gorgeous song with expert drum sounds and lovely acoustic guitar. It is a great song and a very good way to finish off this incredible album. A very good listen, especially lyrically. A fine and reassuring listen, this is incredible stuff. Gentle and enjoyable music, this is a top song. Enjoy it to the full.
This is a unique, incredible and artistic album that launched The Band’s own career and showed the world that being original did not need to sacrifice talent in 1968. A great listen, and deservedly in the history books for being just that. Check this out now if you need something different. 50th-anniversary re-releases are available as well.