A Musical History [5CD + DVD]
List price: £51.99|
Our price: £49.99
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Average customer rating:
5 out of 5
Media: Audio CD|
ISBN/ASIN : B0009G01C2
Manufacturer : Emi|
Release data : 26 September, 2005
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A selection of product reviews
Most lavish boxset?
This must be one of the most lavish boxsets, certainly in the world of pop/rock, ever released. Instead of the usual discs and paperback booklet which comprise most boxsets, we have a proper ninety odd page hardback book printed on high quality paper and choc full of photographs. The discs, five music cd's and a DVD are snugly housed in the back of the book, and there is even a nice red bookmark!
What of the music? Well I've always been slightly ambivalent about The Band, somehow never quite believing them to be quite as great as the critics hailed them to be. I believe there were five truly great American bands of the 60's: The Beach Boys, The Byrds, The Velvet Underground, The Doors, and Creedence Clearwater Revival; bands such as Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead and The Band themselves all fell slightly short. It's difficult to know what marks a band out from being great as opposed to merely good. Having great original songs is one obvious factor, together with musicianship, influence, great stage presence and that indefinable 'star quality'. Led Zeppelin are about the only band I can think of who are indisputably great without having more than a handful of really great original songs, but Zep had the other qualities in abundance.
The Band have quite a number of great songs and are obviously excellent musicians, but they do lack something. For a start, despite having three vocalists they do lack a truly distinctive singer/frontman. Think of all the great bands and all have a distinctive singer and/or frontman. Jim Morrison, John Fogerty, Lennon, Jagger, Plant, Daltrey, Ray Davies, etc. Nor can the Band compete with the Beach Boys, the Byrds or the Beatles as a harmony group.
Robbie Robertson was an excellent songwriter, but ultimately lacked the variety and true originality to be classed as truly great. One only has to compare the consistency of his songs with Dylan's for example.
All the Band's notable songs are included here: The Weight, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Up On Cripple Creek, Rag Mama Rag, The Shape I'm In, Stagefright, Life Is A Carnival, et al - and their two most acclaimed albums: Music From The Big Pink and The Band are included in their entirety apart from one track; admittedly some of the songs are not in their original studio incarnations, being either live versions or alternate takes; which is something we have come to expect from box sets.
It's noticeable that as the history moves through their less acclaimed later albums the number of songs taken from each is reduced as the quality dips. Having said that some of my favourite Band songs, such as Ophelia, Arcadian Driftwood, Christmas Must Be Tonight and Twilight are included on the last disc, although the latter is unfortunately a rough Robbie Robertson solo recording rather than the officially released version.
The first disc is similar to that on the Creedence box set in that it features The Band largely before they were known as The Band, beginning with them supporting Ronnie Hawkins. There is some interesting stuff here, but as you'd expect much of it is generic and inconsistent. It is however, this disc, together with the DVD, that makes this set distinctive from previously released Band box sets. Much of the book text, interesting as it is, has already been published in their CD re-releases. The DVD is worthwhile, but probably won't be played that regularly as The Band were not especially interesting stage performers. The Last Waltz concert film is available anyway, making these video performances somewhat redundant.
Apart from a handful of tracks with the Band backing Ronnie Hawkins, the group's history is completed by a number of their tracks cut with Dylan. Most of these are already available on The Basement Tapes, Planet Waves, Before The Flood or Dylan's bootleg box set, but a few are previously unreleased.
Obviously this set is aimed fairly and squarely at fans of The Band, but apart from the first disc and the DVD there is very little that they won't already have. If you have all their cd's and are contemplating selling them to get this, which is what I did, then that might be worthwhile, as everything of note they did is here in one form or another and you then get rid of their lesser tracks of which there are a fair few on albums such as Cahoots and Islands. Ironically the only Band disc I've now kept, apart from The Last Waltz, is the covers album Moondog Matinee, as although a number of tracks are featured here, some of my favourites have been omitted.
History As It Should Be
This is a sensational package. It is beautifully presented, informative and contains a good mix of rarities and all the tracks you would expect. The book is worth the money, the music is worth the money so you get twice what you paid for. Rush out and buy it while it is still available.
comprehensive but yet.....
surely this collection is more than the average fan could possibly want. Do we really need Bob Dylan tracks just because they are playing on it? Although Can You Please Crawl Out Of Your Window is fairly rare on cd, only being available on the Essential Bob Dylan. I personally dont want to hear rough Ronnie Hawkins tracks either. Another gripe : "Right as Rain" was good enough to be on the now deleted Best Of Vol 2, but is not good enough to be one of the over 100 studio tracks here? What is wrong with compilers, they always seem to leave something good out!