The Band – [Album]

Monday, 14 October 2013

With the recent, unfortunate passing of Levon Helm last year, interest in the musical history of the Band is at an all-time high. Although they have always been mainstays on classic rock radio, their timeless material is now being played even more than ever. As always seems to be the case when a notable musician dies, Helm’s legacy is being presented as much more important now than it did in the twilight of his musical career. I have no idea if his death has anything to do with the release of this grandiose live set, recorded over four nights at New York’s Academy of Music back in 1971, or not. This could have been in the planning stages long before Helm’s death, as many of these archival releases do take a long time to put together, but I’m glad that is has been released no matter the reasons why.

Back in 1971, shortly after the release of their fourth studio album, Cahoots, The Band were booked to play a series of four shows in New York City leading up to and including New Year’s Eve and a decision was made to record the shows for a live album. It was sort of the norm back then to do a live album after three or four releases; everyone from the Grateful Dead to Blue Oyster Cult to Foghat did it, and the Band was no different. Guitarist Robbie Robertson decided to make these shows a little different and hired New Orleans jazz musician Allen Toussaint (who had played on their most recent single “Life Is A Carnival”) to write horn charts for most of the songs.

The end result of the four-day concert series was the Rock Of Ages double live album, which was released in the late summer of 1972. The album was a hit, a top ten album in Canada, the US and the UK. It received rave reviews upon its release and deservedly so; has become a classic. This new 2013 Live at the Academy of Music 1971 is an expanded, remastered version of the Rock Of Ages album that has now been released in two different versions. There is a deluxe 4 CD version which contains the entire New Years Eve concert from the ’72 run, plus a DVD containing 5.1 mixes and some rare footage from that evening, but the version being reviewed here is the standard 2 CD edition of the album.

Essentially, this 2CD edition is the 2001 expanded CD reissue of Rock of Ages in a different running order and with a few bonus tracks tacked on to ensure those who already own it will want to get it again. The previously unreleased tracks, “Strawberry Wine” and “Smoke Signal,” are both sung by Levon Helm. It's not a surprise that the two new live tracks would be Levon tunes really,  I’m sure these were chosen by Robbie Robertson as a tribute to his deceased drummer.

If you have never heard Rock Of Ages and you are a Band fan, you should pick this up. The Band, as amazing as they were in the studio, was also a great live band and this twenty-nine song collection is the proof. Having the added horn section really brings some of these songs to life: the cover of the Motown classic “Don’t Do It” with the horns is just incredible. It’s also interesting to hear an earlier, slowed down live version of “Up on Cripple Creek” that is about two-thirds the tempo of the version they performed on The Last Waltz in 1976. Dylan fans will also be interested in this due to the last four songs on the second album. In 1971 Dylan was on a self-imposed hiatus, but on New Year’s Eve he joined the Band at the end of their set, performing “Down In the Flood,” “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” Don’t Tell Henry” and “Like A Rolling Stone” with the best backing group he ever played with.



Live At The Academy Of Music 1971 is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

Sean Palmerston is the publisher of

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