Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Retro Review: The Band "The Band" circa 1969

The Band

--Carrboro Ninja

In 1969 The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were laying the foundations which would incite bar room quarrels for decades to come over whom the best-ever rock band was and the Motown nebula was spawning R&B stars by the dozens. The face of popular music was being crafted as one of the most artistically influential and culturally imperative eras of all time yet for every standard, there develops and alternative. Bursting from the mainstream fray there came pioneers who blazed a trail of experimental jazz fusion, deep south blues, and country rock, a trail which would later be paved and well traveled by all who embarked for the new genre of music to which it lead...Southern rock.

No album so singularly possessed the DNA building blocks of what would come to define Southern rock as did the 1969 self-titled release The Band. The first two tracks right out of the gate canter with a mash-up of New Orleans jazz and notey high stepping honky tonk. The prevalent horns and thick-cut guitar licks of "Across the Great Divide" are the first to establish a style for the album and weigh it heavily with jazz tone. "Rag Mama Rag" follows with a polar-opposite beatnik country tempo layered with fiddle and dance-hall piano to pull the listener head-over-heels in the other direction.

Given a retrospective 2010 viewpoint, the two influences stand gallantly apparent...as if looking at an old picture of an unacquainted night and day at the same party. If these first two tracks were jazz and honky tonk walking through the door, the third track, "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down", was the introduction that lead them to becoming inseparable friends within the Southern rock culture. "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" simmered down the flash and fervor of the album's beginnings into a common blues thread to sew a cloth of tragedy which could only be donned by a Southerner. Adding even more textures to their American quilt of influence, "Up On Cripple Creek" introduces slap base funk and screams of the time and place Motown inspirations which thrived around The Band as they constructed the album.

Within this collage of 1960's pop music trends, the parts and pieces for a new genre were present. The vessel that granted the genesis to Southern rock was the success and acclaim of "The Night...", "Up on Cripple Creek" and the album in whole which occupied a top 10 spot on the Billboard album charts for 1969. The current respect for the album by publishers of lists is far and wide having been named #45 on Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Albums of all time as well as recognition as one of the 100 best albums ever by Time Magazine and aptly so, The Band has stood as a blue-print for Southern rock music across the decades, a blue print that is being unrolled and studied even today.

album back cover
The Band

Post Script;
Thursday 2/11/2010 a trio of local bands represent well the modern class of Southern rock as it is currently being revived and played in Raleigh, NC. Tir Na Nog's weekly home grown music series "Local Band, Local Beer" hosts Raleigh's Bright Young Things, Durham alt-country/rock Luego, and a group from Boone, NC whose sound is eerily reminiscent of The Band circa 1969, Naked Gods.

1 comment:

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