The Band are an acts whose heavyweight reputation promises far more than it actually delivers. For all the revisionist history since, in truth they only released two truly world class albums, Music From Big Pink and their eponymous second. That said, those two albums are probably responsible for influencing more Americana acts than anyone else except maybe Bob Dylan and Neil Young. It wasn’t just limited to America either, as following the release of Music From Big Pink, rock and roll general took a turn for the rootsy, as their music caused a wave of interest among their fellow musicians when this album was released. At the time opening with a low-key number like “Tears Of Rage” was nothing short of revolutionary. It could be argued that the album doesn’t actually hit its stride until “The Weight”, but from that fifth number onwards Music From Big Pink is one of the key albums of the late 60s.
From the titanic keyboard intro to “Chest Fever” to the golden harmonies on “This Wheel’s On Fire”, it’s almost impossible not to be blown away by the musical abilities of the five individual members of the band, but then again they had been operating as a well-drilled musical unit for five years previous to the release of this album, acting as a backing band to a whole host of diverse acts, so musical excellence was to be expected.
On reflection I find Music From Big Pink to be The Band’s strongest album, despite the fact that it has been eclipsed by its follow-up in the eyes of the public and the music press. It seems to be much more comfortable in its own world, whereas its follow up sounds like it’s trying too hard to be a musical history lesson.
In many ways The Band’s influence far outweighed it’s output. They presented a different way of doing rock and roll that acts had been looking for, but had struggled to put their finger on. If you’re looking for the album that kicked off the whole Americana shebang, then look no further the Music From Big Pink.