Music From the Big Pink (1968)

****

Armed with hauntingly beautiful harmonies, kinetic melodies, and plenty of weirdo moments, the now legendary Music From the Big Pink is the kind of album that probably sounded a lot more revolutionary in 1968 than it does today. Still, it’s hard not to appreciate the influence it has had on many of music’s most legendary figures; famously, Eric Clapton was so infatuated with The Band that he was too nervous to ask to join them.

There’s no doubt that when The Band was on, they were making some of the best music of the decade. The otherworldly guitar intro to the opening, Dylan-penned track “Tears of Rage” alone was probably enough to hook the ’60s youth looking for something different, and they stuck around for The Band’s surrealistic staple “The Weight” in which singer Levon Helm pulls into Nazareth before encountering “the devil and Karma walking side by side.” The Band also scored the first official release of one of Dylan’s greatest protest anthems “I Shall Be Released,” and smartly saved it for the end, where Richard Manuel’s falsetto laced vocals soar like a dove with nothing to follow it (what could?).

Other than these standouts, though, Music From the Big Pink is mostly just great music recorded in a big pink house in West Saugerties, New York from what began as a road band for Bob Dylan. I could have done without the Zeppelin-esque “To Kingdom Come,” by far the messiest track on the album that had the daunting task of following “Tears of Rage,” and there isn’t quite enough behind “Caledonia Mission” to make it anything more than forgettable. Even so, the rest of Music From the Big Pink makes for a rock solid album that, while far from one of the greatest ever recorded, remains a classic that should be recognized for its occasional moments of greatness.

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