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Music From Big Pink

The Band

1968

For the all too brief time they were together, Bob Dylan & The Hawks just might have been the greatest rock and roll band of all-time (at the time anyway).  Their positively electrifying performances during Dylan's 1966 World Tour became legendary, not just because the new sound was so controversial to Dylan's legions of folk purists fans, but also because they were simply that bad ass.  They played with a hard-hitting and invigorating intensity that was at once abrasive, beautiful, melodic, soulful, resounding, and uplifting.

It was epic, but as everyone knows, everything changed after that tour, mainly because of Dylan's motorcycle accident.  The Hawks ended up forming their own band, christening themselves The Band.  They convened in a rural house in upstate New York affectionately named Big Pink, and began crafting this, their game changing and highly influential debut album.

Similar to the drastic change in Dylan's sound from Blonde on Blonde to John Wesley Harding, Music From Big Pink as very little (if anything) in common with the euphoric and invigorating sound sported on tour with Dylan as The Hawks.  The music is considerably more subdued, but no less soulful.  It's incredibly rustic and rural in tone, basically sounding like the antithesis of the vibrantly colored psychadelica that was incredibly popular at the time.  It also stood in stark contrast to the more stripped-down, direct and hard hitting blues sound of bands like The Rolling Stones and Cream. 

No, this was something else entirely, but to these ears, it isn't necessarily better than the aforementioned styles/bands.  It's earnesty and originality is certainly admirable and sincere, but the very nature of the music makes it somewhat underwhelming to listen to.  The music reveals its charms over repeated listens, and its uniqueness and soul becomes easy to embrace.

In a nutshell, these are modest, rural songs, but delivered with a unique brand of soul and rustic authenticity.  It's well done, and while I certainly enjoy this album and the pure/warming charm in evokes within me, I'd much rather listen to The Hawks wail away with Dylan, similar to how I would much rather listen to Blonde on Blonde than John Wesley Harding (although I love the latter album a lot too).  I also somewhat resent the influence this album had on people like Eric Clapton, who ditched Cream and incorporated a lot of the aspects of this sound into his solo 70s albums (all of which were inferior to Cream in my humble opinion).

That said, I respect and admire this album for what it is, and I find most of these songs to be affecting on a deeper level, even if I prefer earlier incarnations of their sound and the more popular sounds of the era.

8.5

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