The Band

I have a confession to make: I had a really hard time staying awake when I was trying to listen to “Music From Big Pink” back in the spring.  It wasn’t that I didn’t like it…maybe I was just overwhelmed with work and grad school.  But I kept dozing off while I was listening to it, and then I would wake up and restart it from the point where I nodded off (recently I listened to it on an elliptical at the gym, and fortunately I stayed awake, otherwise the consequences would have been painful). So when I bought this album from Amazon for $7.49, I was worried I would have the same problem,  which is why I enlisted the help of a friend at work, the Conspiracy Theorist, who is quite a fan of the Band.  Actually, the most excited I have ever seen him at work was one day when he was asked to cover the band director’s class and he found a copy of “The Last Waltz” in the music DVD library and he forced the kids in the class to watch it with him.  So I asked him what he likes about the Band the other day, and he said that he thinks the musicianship is top notch and that the group actually plays together as an ensemble.

And after listening to this self-titled album and “Big Pink” again the other day, I would have to say that I agree.  It may be because the members of the Band actually lived together and recorded both albums in the house they were living in, eschewing the traditional recording studio thing, that this group is such a cohesive musical unit.  Of course, for “Big Pink” they recorded it in the big pink house in Woodstock, New York, but for the Brown Album they rented a house in Hollywood Hills from Sammy Davis Jr.  This album is much less of a stylistic grab bag than “Big Pink”, this one coming across as mostly folky and bluesy.   Actually, was almost entirely written by Robby Robertson, which is probably why it seems more cohesive as a whole.  Bob Dylan is missing from the Brown Album, and while his influence can still be felt on songs like “King Harvest (Has Surely Come”, this record is certainly Robby Robertson’s baby.  And actually, speaking of influence, Richard Manual’s vocals seem to have had a large amount of influence on Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows who sings in the same thin, slightly out of tune, almost crying kind of way.  Very cool.

Well, I would be remiss if I ended this blog entry without talking about the song “Look Out Cleveland”.  Actually, I really would rather talk about the city of Cleveland than the song (which is a great song, but it would be better if the second line didn’t mention Houston).   See, being from northeast Ohio, I have a strange, passionate, undying love for the city of Cleveland.  Despite years of losing sports teams, and several broken hearts from the years the Indians, Browns, or Cavs actually came close (the 1997 World Series still hurts the most), I still get excited for every new season.  Growing up about 45 minutes from Cleveland, my family would head into town to see Indians games at the old Municipal Stadium or to see shows at the Playhouse Square when I was a kid.  Later on in high school, C-town was a great escape from small town life and it was a short drive to Coventry Road to hang out a trendy coffee shop or downtown to see a show at Peabody’s or the Agora.  Actually, I saw my first adolescent rock show in Cleveland when the Artistic One and I scalped tickets to see Pearl Jam in the spring of 1994 (of course, we ran into Lord Bacchus and Lightning 101 at the show too).  In college, Gear Head and Black Cloud were living in Cleveland, and there were several debaucherous nights partying down in the Flats and on West 6th Street.  So yeah, Cleveland holds a lot of good memories for me, and I still try to get up there at least a couple times each year to hang out and see the sights.  And one of these days, one of the Cleveland teams will break through and win a championship!  At least, I can dream it will happen…

Other lists: “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” is #249 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All-Time.

My favourite track: “Look Out Cleveland”

Honourable mention: “King Harvest (Has Surely Come)”

Quote: “I work for the union ’cause she’s so good to me, and I’m bound to come out on top…that’s where she said I should be!”