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Review: “Live at the Academy Of Music 1971” by The Band is must-own material

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Band CD

“Live at the Academy Of Music 1971” by The Band
GRADE: A+, Hear here: robbie-robertson.com

The Band is probably most famous for its 1978 live album “The Last Waltz,” thanks, largely, to a myriad of star guest appearances and the documentary movie of the same name directed by Martin Scorsese. But The Band’s best live release has always been the 1972 double album “Rock of Ages” – until this week. Enthusiast of The Band, and the whole Americana genre the group pretty much invented, should now skip straight to the newly released box set "Live at the Academy Of Music 1971."

Band 76

The Band take the stage for their final live performance before a crowd of 5,000 at Winterland Auditorium in San Francisco, Nov. 27, 1976. The Band consists of five members, Richard Manuel on piano, Levon Helm on drums, lead guitarist Robbie Robertson (smiling), bass guitarist Rick Danko, and organist Garth Hudson (not shown). (AP Photo/John Storey)

The four CD and DVD set adroitly covers the four superb concerts that closed 1971 at New York City’s Academy Of Music, resulting in the much slimmer and inferior sounding “Rock of Ages.” The group's Rick Danko (bass, violin, vocals), Levon Helm (drums, mandolin, vocals), Garth Hudson (organ, accordion, saxophones), Richard Manuel (piano, keyboards, drums, vocals) and Robbie Robertson (guitar, vocals) have never before sounded so beautifully vibrant in a live context.

The majestic, multi-disc set features The Band’s greatest songs – “The Weight,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” “Up on Cripple Creek” – and many more treasures including previously unreleased performances. All are played with just the right amount of raw edge and richness; goosed by the smart, sultry horn arrangements of New Orleans music hero Allen Toussaint. Bob Dylan’s guest appearance is an added pleasure, especially when he leads The Band through the definitive version of his song “Down in the Flood.”

As for the DVD, it’s the New Year’s Eve show presented in a 5.1 Surround mix and augmented with stirring, still photos plus actual video footage of The Band playing "King Harvest (Has Surely Come)" and "The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show" on December 30. The set is presented in a handsome, 48-page hardbound book filled with previously unseen photos plus other fun stuff like notes from Robertson and My Morning Jacket leader Jim Jones.

If you’re a longtime fan of The Band or have just heard of them through acolytes such as Mumford & Sons, “Live At The Academy Of Music 1971” is must-own material.

 



Wade_Tatangelo_by_Mike_Lang_HT_06212013 Wade Tatangelo has been an entertainment reporter, columnist and reviewer for more than a decade at publications nationwide. He is a Hershey, Pa., native who grew up in Tampa and graduated from the University of South Florida. Wade joined the Herald-Tribune in 2013. He can be reached by email or call (941) 361-4955.
Last modified: September 27, 2013
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