A superb re-rendering with outtakes that were such for a reason.
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.
Personnel: Robbie Robertson: Guitar, Vocals; Rick Danko: Bass, Vocals; Richard
Manuel: Piano, Drums Vocals; Garth Hudson: Organ, Saxophone; Levon Helm:
Drums, Mandolin, Vocals.