Keno's Classic Rock n Roll Web Site
GREATEST HITS ALBUM REVIEW
Released - Sept 26, 2000 on Capitol Records. Produced by John Simon and The Band
Levon Helm - Lead & Backing Vocals,
Harmonies; Drums; Mandolin; Bass on "Ain't Got No Home"
John Simon - Tuba, Sax, Electric Piano, other
All songs written by Robbie Robertson, except where noted below
One thing I could always remember about The Band, was that no matter what they put out, it seemed the music press loved the shit out of them. The general public seemed to dig them too, by not anywhere as much as the press did. So although their albums sold well, they sure were not known as a singles band and had few such hits. But they were a highly respected band, even when they were just known as the backing band for Bob Dylan, and before that, Ronnie Hawkins, too.
For whatever reason, this band always seem to be so many years older than they really were; they not only looked older (by that, I mean they looked as if they were from the 19th Century!), but more so, most of their music seemed real old time. So many of their songs just gave you that feeling, perhaps the many different instruments that they would play was the reason for his, or maybe the way Garth Hudson would play his organ - or accordion, or a few other instruments that he dabbled in for that matter. Then again, maybe it was the style in which chief song writer Robbie Robertson handled his lyrics.
The Band's two most known and famous songs, and my two personal favorites by them, are of course found on this greatest hits album, "The Weight" and "Up on Cripple Creek". Both were written by Robertson, and are a perfect example of songs with that old time feel; but did these two songs really have anything to do with the old days? "The Weight" for example, more so gives you this feeling, you just know Levon Helm, who sings the opening lead, is singing of the old wild west of the mid 1800s, right? That's what I've always gotten from it. Yet when this was first released, other folks felt the lyrics went all the way back to biblical days, with the town of Nazareth, and the talk about the Devil, and ol' Luke "waitin' on the Judgment Day", all pointing to some kind of religious song. But as Robertson later explained, the Nazareth he wrote about was not a connection to Christ, but the town in Pennsylvania, and the home to the Martin guitar factory. He also let it be know that every person named in the song were real, modern day people, in fact, all of them were friends of the band, and the names used in the song were even their real first names. This song really had nothing to do with the old days after all!
With "Up on Cripple Creek", once again you just knew this was a song set to times long in the past. After all, when this song was written, Cripple Creek, Colorado was nothing but a ghost town (present day gambling was not legal there yet), so there wasn't any way somebody would write a present day song about working up on "that mountain", as there wasn't any work there in the late 1960s. Yet in the days of the late 1800s, with the gold rush (and the town) going strong, many drifters (who the person in the song is one of) did work up in the many mines there. Yet by the time you get to the second part of the song, this person is singing about listening to Spike Jones on the box, so again, is Robertson just teasing us with these lyrics, as it sure can't be anything but the mid 20th Century that the song is in by the time it closes out. But I guess it don't really matter, as Robertson is not only all over the place time-wise, but geography wise, too - from Cripple Creek, to Lake Charles, Louisiana, to California. Guess the bottom line is the the song is just a masterpiece, and nothing else really matters.
Of the 18 songs found on this collection, I only rate one other a ten, that being the excellent "The Shape I'm In". No, the Band was never a favorite of mine, but I did dig them to a point, and still, overall this LP and its combined songs score high in the ratings, and proves that for a band that didn't have a lot of hit songs, they still had a lot of well know, great deep cuts that were good enough to get a lot of air play on the radio. Bottom line, it was the combination of a somewhat unusual sounding band (rock wise), along with unusual sounding harmonies, was what got them noticed, so they didn't need any huge hits to be well liked.
- Keno 2006
To listen to some soundclips from THE BAND GREATEST HITS or to purchase it click on: The Band Greatest Hits
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