On July 1, 1968, The Band’s landmark debut album, Music from Big Pink, seemed to spring from nowhere and everywhere. Drawing from the American roots music panoply of country, blues, R&B, gospel, soul, rockabilly, the honking tenor sax tradition, hymns, funeral dirges, brass band music, folk, and rock ‘n’ roll, The Band forged a timeless new style that forever changed the course of popular music. Fifty years later, the mythology surrounding Music from Big Pink lives on through the evocative storytelling of its songs including “The Weight,” “This Wheel’s On Fire,” “Tears of Rage,” and “To Kingdom Come,” its enigmatic cover art painted by Bob Dylan, the salmon-colored upstate New York house – ‘Big Pink’ – where The Band wrote the songs, and in myriad descendant legends carried forth since the album’s stunning arrival.
On August 31st, Capitol/UMe will release Music from Big Pink in newly remixed and expanded 50th Anniversary Edition packages, including a Super Deluxe CD/Blu-ray/2LP/7-inch vinyl box set with a hardbound book; CD, digital, 180-gram 2 LP black vinyl, and limited edition 180-gram 2 LP pink vinyl packages. All the Anniversary Edition configurations feature a new stereo mix for the album, produced by Bob Clearmountain from the original four-track analog masters, achieving a striking clarity and incorporating some previously unreleased chatter from the studio sessions. The 50th Anniversary Edition’s CD, digital, and box set configurations also include five outtakes and alternate recordings from the ‘Big Pink’ sessions and a previously unreleased a cappella version of “I Shall Be Released.”
Exclusively for the box set, Clearmountain has also produced a new 5.1 surround mix for the album and the bonus tracks, presented on Blu-ray with the new stereo mix in high resolution audio (96kHz/24bit). All the new audio mixes have been mastered by Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering. The box set also includes an exclusive reproduction of The Band’s 1968 7-inch vinyl single for “The Weight” / “I Shall Be Released” in their new stereo mixes and a hardbound book with a new essay by noted music journalist David Fricke and classic photos by Elliott Landy. For the album’s new vinyl editions, Chris Bellman cut the vinyl lacquers for the album’s new stereo mix at 45rpm at Bernie Grundman Mastering, expanding the album’s vinyl footprint from one LP to two. The black and pink vinyl LPs were pressed at GZ Vinyl / Precision.
Before naming themselves The Band, the group’s members shared an extensive collaborative history. Between 1960 and 1962, then-teenaged multi-instrumentalists Levon Helm (drums, vocals, mandolin), Robbie Robertson (guitar, piano, vocals), Rick Danko (bass, vocals, fiddle), Richard Manuel (keyboards, vocals, drums), and Garth Hudson (keyboards, horns) first performed and recorded together as members of Ronnie Hawkins’ backing band, the Hawks. In late 1963, the Hawks struck out on their own and became Levon & the Hawks, playing and recording under this name in 1964 and 1965.
While Music from Big Pink achieved moderate success upon release, peaking at No. 30 on the Billboard 200 chart, it is recognized as one of the most important albums in popular music history. In his 1975 book Mystery Train, Images of America in Rock ‘n’ Roll Music, Greil Marcus explained, “The richness of ‘Big Pink’ is in The Band’s ability to contain endless combinations of American popular music without imitating any of them. The Band don’t refer to their sources any more than we refer to George Washington when we vote, but the connection is there.”
In 1989, The Band was inducted into Canada’s Juno Hall of Fame and five years later they were accorded the same honor by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2008, The Band was honored with The Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Three members of The Band, Richard Manuel, Rick Danko, and Levon Helm, have passed away, but The Band’s legacy lives on, in their recordings and in their tangible influence on popular music, wowing not only Bob Dylan, but many other music greats, including Eric Clapton, George Harrison, and Miles Davis. Making Americana music before the term even existed, Rick, Levon, Garth, Richard, and Robbie collectively constituted the only ensemble to ever rightfully earn the sobriquet The Band.
2018 stereo mix (included in the box set and available individually)
1. Tears Of Rage
2. To Kingdom Come
3. In A Station
4. Caledonia Mission
5. The Weight
6. We Can Talk
7. Long Black Veil
8. Chest Fever
9. Lonesome Suzie
10. This Wheel’s On Fire
11. I Shall Be Released
12. Yazoo Street Scandal (Outtake) [Bonus Track]
13. Tears Of Rage (Alternate Take) [Bonus Track]
14. Long Distance Operator (Outtake) [Bonus Track]
15. Lonesome Suzie (Alternate Take) [Bonus Track]
16. Key To The Highway (Outtake) [Bonus Track]
17. I Shall Be Released (A Cappella) [Bonus Track]
Author: Buddy Iahn
Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites.