uReview: The Band “Music From Big Pink”

12345678910 (29 votes, average: 9.62 out of 10)

A lot of times the comments folks leave here blow me away. Many have been the equal of any professional music writing I’ve encountered elsewhere, while others relate from a casual or personal level that you can’t find in corporate mags or journals. And as we’ve said before, your comments are why this site exists.

For a “uReview” review we’ll take a look at some classic and contended albums and leave it up to commenters. We’re starting out easy with Big Pink. So, what do you think?

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“Caledonia Mission”

:D CD Reissue | 2000 | Capitol | buy from amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1968 | Capitol | search ebay ]

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  • dk

    An undisputed classic. After ‘Sgt Pepper’s’ dropped, many groups fell into bad habits in the studio, substituting psychedelic noodling for solid songwriting. But ‘Music From Big Pink’ changed the game and pointed the way forward for popular music. This album influenced such stripped-down masterpieces as The Beatles’ ‘White Album’, The Stones’ ‘Beggars Banquet’ and The Byrds’ ‘Sweetheart Of The Rodeo’. But beyond that, it’s an album that still sounds like the American dream. Not bad for a bunch of guys from Canada…

  • Ogie

    North American rock n roll music…Music From Big Pink opened the world to the mixing of musical cultures under the token banner of “Rock N Roll”, but broke down any preconceived notions of what that genre would really mean. 1st and foremost, this album opened me up personally to innovation and experimentation without egos…that path lead me to R&B, Cajun, Southern Soul and eventually Jazz, from which all musical exploration can be valid.

    Not to say this is a Jazz album, but the ability to open a person’s ears to new sounds, can cause a domino effect on the learning experience when it comes to music.

    Robbie’s songs especially had, and still have, a haunting ability to linger in your mind long after you’ve listened to them. Some with hooks dripping with familiarity, and others with lines like “…you like it now, but you’ll learn to love it later” he was just solidifying his songwriting ability, and working it into the next step in The Band’s evolution, their self-titled follow-up.

    And oh my gawd, the singing….

    Thank whatever cosmic entity you embrace, that this album found the light of day!


  • David Snusgrop

    Truly one of the best albums ever made.

    The best album ever made is, of course, the Band’s second album. ; )

  • Dom Gagliano

    I’ve only recently become a Band convert and Music from the Big Pink is the one that realy pulled me in. Robertson’s songwriting skills are strong out of the gate but you also get the feeling that there are many more great things to come. A Classic for sure!

  • Kurt

    I’ll keep it simple: Richard Manuel is the greatest rock n roll singer of all time and this is the album that proves it. His soul pours out of his body every time he opens his mouth. God bless him.

  • Bill

    This will always be a classic. I saw the Band live at the Mississippi River Festival, outside St. Louis in the summer of 1969. For the encore Bob Dylan joined them for his first public performance since his motorcycle accident. I went and bought the album the next day. Even listening to it today there is a magic about it. The album was so different from anything at the time from the opening of “Tears of Rage” to “I Shall be Released.” To me it was so honest and emotional and many have described it was “the” American Epic. The Band sounds so loose in their playing, but they are so tight and together from all the years of playing together they knew where each was going in the songs. And while Kurt mentioned Richard Manuel the greatest rock and roll singer of all time, something must be said of Levon Helm being at the top of the white soul/country singers also. While their 2nd album has always been thought of as their greatest work, to me this is my favorite.

  • TBA

    Here’s the thing that kills me about this record – all three singers blend in and out of the mix like they are joined at the hip. Sure, you all know The Weight, and the way they trade off verses. But listen to We Can Talk, or maybe In a Station – some of the lesser known tracks – and remember how shocking an achievement this record is.

    Who had ever done a thing like this before? Sometimes, Levon sings, and they sound like a sloppy southern bar band. Then, Richie grabs the mike and gives it a romantic heart. But the secret weapon to me was always Rick Danko – the joker in the deck. His phrasing is really unlike anyone else’s, and sorta psychedelic in a way that nobody remembers the Band were able to pull off.

    Other things that this record did that were pretty new:
    -the half time drum thing (this is what everyone that tried to rip them off seized on)
    -that weird and strangled guitar tone that Robbie uses throughout. Partly Leslie, partly low volume
    -horns, but behind-the-beat horns, not Stax horns

    It’s easy to bitch about this record, because everybody’s mailman’s third cousin’s dog tried to copy this biscuit for the next six or so years. But look at it from the other direction: after these guys laid it down, it was all the sudden yesterday’s news to be the new Cpl. Pecker or Creeeem.

    and the Band never did this again. The brown rekkid is kinda cool, and the Rumor from Stage Fright is the missing song from Big Pink, but they pale before the masterpiece. Listen and learn, brudders.

  • Anonymous

    Alot of people are making some excellent points in regards to the Band’s Music From Big Pink. I’d like to add just a few to this growing list:

    During the Pink sessions Robertson decided to cut out all guitar solos – This Wheel’s On Fire may have a very brief solo. A radical notion considering this is 1968 with psychedelia at a peak and progressive rock on the horizon. Robertson had soloed at live shows for years and was frankley tired of it. Guitarists from other groups never wanted to take the stage before or after the Band during their mid 60’s Dylan tours – Michael Bloomfield had once said this. Robertson was that good – a powerful live performer who had once soloed his ass off. He was also one of the first in rock to write about history in an articulate manner – American history specifically. Tales would be told from an outsider’s point of view or even someone looking in from behind the scenes. Robertson had a very unique approach to songwriting. Last, in the late 60’s the Band along with Bob Dylan and the Beatles were the precious few whose music was taken seriously by rock critics. Critics would analyze their music and songwriter looking for all kinds of hidden meanings and truths to life. The critic’s opinion is meaningless but it’s funny how they would stumble over themselves when it came to the Band. The Band stood outside rock music as something unique and totally original. They did not act like rock stars and took no part in the scene.


    It was once famously said that Bob Dylan, The Band, the Beatles (the White Album) and the Beach Boys (Wild Honey) pulled the plug on psychedelia and signalled the way of the future: simpler forms of roots music.

  • One of the best albums of all time but not the best album by The Band.

  • jan

    levon is the man!

  • Everett

    Both ethereal and infused with wonderfully raunchy rock-and-roll fire, only superseded by their follow-up.

  • Tunk

    I wore this and the Band albums out on my record player as a kid in high school. In many ways it has influenced every musical thought I have ever had, and as a bass player I still hear the drive and changes in all that I play today. Those days were a wonderful time to be introduced to the best music in the world.

  • Duncan Walls

    I remember seeing the first articles about the group in Hit Parader and the listing of the member by all their names, which was how the first Capitol 45 was labeled. I saw it at a J.M Fields way back when and couldn’t get it that night but by the next week I was in to buy the whole LP. I have owned at least 5 copies of the vinyl, two cassetees, and three CD issues including one from 1985, a Japanese small LP CD issue from1992(?) and the expanded issue from the mid-1990s. I have never ceased to enjoy every note evry time I listen to this LP…it really is one of my top ten recordings of all time.
    I even went so far as to buy Music From Li’l Brown, the semi-cash in black rock band LP on Ode that Lou Adler cobbled together…I don’t remember being too impressed…but it has been 40 years now since I’ve eard it, so who knows? Didn’t they do ONE Dylan cover on :L’il Brown just to give us something to compare it to?

  • Daniel

    This is among my all-time favorite albums. As a mere college student, I’ve only fairly recently begun to truly explore the full depth and breadth of recorded popular music, but I already know this album is an unstoppable classic. This is the kind of music that stops you in your tracks and changes your whole outlook on music and life. It did that to me within the first couple of times I heard it. What’s truly remarkable is that it has the same effect on people today as it did when it was new.

    So, what’s the secret? The first words that come to my mind are words that were once applied to the music of British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams: “One is never sure whether one is hearing something very old, or very new”. The songs sound as old as the hills, and yet new and modern as well, something truly remarkable. These guys had a real musical vision that they pursued with incredible focus.

    Not only did they have a grand vision, the Band had musicianship to match. They are the only group I have ever heard whose ensemble musicianship is comparable to that of the Beatles (I wouldn’t lay money either way). They had that amazing group alchemy that let them combine into a beautiful whole while still allowing every member’s individual personality to shine through.

    Although it seems almost antithetical to single out one member of the Band, I’d like to do so in the case of Levon Helm, who I think is among the best musicians I’ve heard. Not only is his voice amazing, but he is right up there with Ringo as one of the most criminally underrated drummers ever. You can’t duplicate the sounds coming off his drum skins. Someone once called him “the only drummer who can make you cry”, and I’d agree. One of my favorite percussion moments of all time is on this album – Levon’s fill into the final verse of “The Weight”. It’s just 4 notes, played in a straight unsyncopated rhythm that contrasts with the earlier syncopated fill’s he’s been doing, and it really gives the sense of turning the page and moving on. It’s a perfect moment. I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it.

    So, simply put, Music From Big Pink is one of the best albums ever, and one whose influence is still being felt over 40 years on. Not much more you can add to that, except to say that anyone who doesn’t own it should get it today.

    By the way, I just discovered this blog the other day and my list of Albums To Get has increased considerably in length since then…great work! Keep it up!


    This album begins with a dirge.How unusual-who but the Band would do this ? Tears of
    Rage is one of the most heart wrenching songs I know and deals with a topic I don’t think any other rock group ever wrote about-the generational divide from the parents perspective. Richard Manuels voice,when he sings “but oh what kind of love is this that goes from bad to worse” is so perfectly ruefull. A poor quality (picturewise) video of The Band performing this at Woodstock can be seen on Youtube and should on no account be missed.
    On the happier side of things we have “We can Talk” with Levon and Rick Danko trading vocals over funky drums and pumping joyful keyboards. I have no idea what they’re singing about but its pure pleasure all the way.
    I also want to mention “In a Station” with its dreamy atmosphere and chorus.
    This album is great all the way through though.I first listened to it in 1972 and last heard it about five months ago and it han’t dated at all. Great stuff !

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