BACKTALK

Music

The definitive history of the Band carries a lot of weight

SHANDA DEZIEL October 24 2005
BACKTALK

Music

The definitive history of the Band carries a lot of weight

SHANDA DEZIEL October 24 2005

Music

The definitive history of the Band carries a lot of weight

SHANDA DEZIEL

BACKTALK

Putting together the definitive box set of the Band—chronicling their time with Ronnie Hawkins, Bob Dylan and on their own-involved major detective work. To come up with over six hours of material, including a number of unreleased tracks and live performances, producers searched through basements, attics, archives and old studios that no longer were in business. “If you’re always in the same city or working out of the same place, everything doesn’t become as scattered,” says guitarist and songwriter Robbie Robertson, 62, who oversaw the project. “But, you know, we were scattered -and it shows.” Robertson’s referring to much more than the many different locations the band (consisting of him, Garth Hudson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Levon Helm) recorded in. Much ink has been spilled over the trials of the Canadian quintet that added so much to North America’s musical landscape. And the box set’s accompanying hardcover book fleshes out their tragic story, noting when certain members started messing with heroin-and when Robertson left Woodstock for Montreal, then Malibu, Calif., and the Band’s communal spirit began to wane.

The first CD has the most previously unheard songs, but the fifth disc is full of gems-including live tracks from Dylan and the Band’s 74 tour and an early version of Twilight, with Robertson playing piano and singing. (Danko takes the lead vocals on the released version.) “I had just written it and I’m playing it for the other guys, like I did

A Musical History documents the Band’s recording career from 1963 to 1976, with 37 previously unreleased tracks, a DVD with nine live performances that have never been seen in their entirety and a 108-page coffee table book. on everything,” says Robertson, who doesn’t know who would have pushed “record.” “I had just taken it out of the oven, and said, ‘Taste this.’ ”

The release of this collection dovetails with Martin Scorsese’s new documentary No Direction Home: Bob Dylan, which has rare footage of the Band (minus Helm) backing up Dylan on his controversial ’66 electric U.K. tour. In it, Robertson, then 22, never cracks a smile. “You don’t realize you are part of a musical revolution when it’s happening,” he says. “You just think, ‘Geez, I’m doing something here and people really don’t like it.’ But you don’t change a thing and eventually the whole world comes around.” During the Band’s 1974 tour with Dylan, says Robertson, “everybody acted like, ‘I knew this was the real deal’ and blah blah blah. But we were saying to ourselves, ‘Right, I think we had written your name down on the list there if I’m not mistaken.’ ” All is forgiven now, and with this box set, even the bandwagon jumpers are being rewarded.