Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Rock's most versatile group? The Band

I am not a musician. I just don't have the gift, but I do think I have a solid appreciation of music. Maybe because I can't play music, I appreciate it all the more. Who knows?

I particularly enjoy musicians who are versatile. There are folks out there who can play both a tuba and a piano and make beautiful sounds come out of both. It's a gift.

One group I really enjoy is The Band, and they get my vote for most versatile rock and roll band. Don't believe me? Let's take a look at some of the credits from their self-titled second album.

For example, keyboardist Garth Hudson gets credited for the following instruments: organ; clavinette; piano; accordion; soprano, tenor, and baritone sax; and slide trumpet. Levon Helm is credited with playing drums, guitar, and mandolin. Each member of the group is credited with playing multiple instruments.

An easy counter-argument to this is that the liner notes on rock albums are notorious for over-stating the musical versatility of artists (anybody who has ever listened to a Captain Beefheart album can attest to this).

However, The Band could really play. Go listen to their first two studio albums and "The Last Waltz" and that should be all the proof a person needs. Or listen to the work they did with Bob Dylan like "The Basement Tapes" and "Before the Flood."

It's all tremendous. Too bad more of their stuff doesn't get played on the radio. I hear "The Weight" and "Up on Cripple Creek" every now and then, but that is about it. Maybe their individual anonymity (can you name at least four of the groups five members?) caused them to get lost in the shuffle somewhat.

Or maybe this is another case where virtuosity gets trumped by the mainstream.


Joltin' Django said...

"The Last Waltz" is my second fav music doc (after U2's "Rattle and Hum"). Robbie Robertson is a Bolshevik for sure; however, I love his drunken stagger (and stammering) when The Band plays its "last" song at the beginning of "The Last Waltz."

Anonymous said...

Truly one of the best bands. And btw, Levon Helm will be at the Ryman in Nashville July 18!

Chris said...

"...when The Band plays its 'last' song at the beginning of 'The Last Waltz.'"

When it comes to 'The Last Waltz' album, my only beef with it is that they did not include that 'last' song you refer to (for those of you who don't know, it's their version of Marvin Gaye's 'Baby Don't You Do It'). It's brief and ends with a thud, but it's great.

josh said...

Definitely my favorite recorded version of the song - I also think it's looney to have not included it on the album.

Anonymous said...

Their second album is their best, but the organ on 'Chest Fever' on their first album is classic.