The Band: Rock of Ages (2001)
Reissues and Remastered recordings are important because they provide themselves and the artists that created them an opportunity for reconsideration, often at a time where hindsight is available and productive. Last year, I completed my survey of The Ten Best Rock Live Recordings and The Band's Rock of Ages was justly included in the number three spot. Ahead of The Band were the Allman Brothers Band's The Fillmore Concerts and Little Feat's Waiting for Columbus (both which have also been reissued in expanded and sonically superior editions).
The original release of Rock of Ages documented The Band at the height of their creative power and demonstrated that they, like Little Feat, were a superior on the concert stage than in the studio. The performances on the original release of Rock of Ages were incandescent, expelled by a group of musicians creating in a white heat. The remastering of such has only sharpened that incandescence. Levon Helm's ride cymbal and Robbie Robertson's harmonic pings are no longer muddled in the mix. The remastering also resulted in greater definition for the horn section. While sonically very successful, this re-release includes outtakes from the original concert that rightfully earned that original designation.
Not that the outtakes are particularly bad. They are of the same quality as the music found on The Band's Live at Watkins Glen. I for the longest time wondered why "Up On Cripple Creek" was not included on Rock of Ages. It, along with "Loving You is Sweeter Than Ever," was a mainstay in the Band's shows. Its inclusion here answers my question. "Up On Cripple Creek" and indeed all of the other outtakes included (including the ones with Dylan) are wholly uninspired and certainly not performed at the same level as are the originally released "Don't Do It," "Life is a Carnival," or "Chest Fever." In fact, it is as if two separate bands were playing. I will value the outtakes for their necessary historical significance to the output of the Band, but the guys were certainly not at their best on those cuts.
Do not allow any of this petty invective to sway you, gentle listener, from purchasing this recording. It does not get any better than this. Just don't get your hopes up on the previously unreleased stuff.
Track Listing: Disc 1: Introduction; Don't Do It' King Harvest; Caledonia Mission; Get Up Jake; The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show; Stage Fright; The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down; Across The Great Divide; This Wheel's On Fire; Rag Mama Rag; The Weight; The Shape I'm In' Unfaithful Servant; Life Is A Carnival; The Genetic Method; Chest Fever; Hang Up My Rock And Roll Shoes (Total Time: 78:30). Disc 2: Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever; I Shall Be Released; Up On Cripple Creek; The Rumor; Down In The Flood; When I Paint My Masterpiece; Don't Ya Tell Henry' Like A Rolling Stone (Total Time: 45:14).
Personnel: Robbie Robertson: Guitar, Vocals; Rick Danko: Bass, Vocals; Richard Manuel: Piano, Drums Vocals; Garth Hudson: Organ, Saxophone; Levon Helm: Drums, Mandolin, Vocals.
Record Label: Capitol Records