on November 29, 2003
The Band's "Greatest Hits" is one of the very few compilation albums that those interested in the group would be fortunate to buy before actually buying the original albums themselves. The reason for that is solely because this Greatest Hits package is from the Band Remaster series of 2000; each track here represents the amazingly sharp and high quality job the sound engineers did in restoring The Band's original catalog of work. Each track here will prove to new fans that, if they're interested in dipping into the career of this remarkable group, they should definitely choose the CD's from the 2000 editions. This is most notable on the tracks from "Stage Fright"--'The Shape I'm In' and that album's title track far outweigh the relatively flat sound heard on earlier remastering attempts. To be specific, Garth Hudson's wildly immaculate keyboards, the effects on Rick Danko's vocals, and Robbie Robertson's unusual guitar work are finally heard the way they were meant to be.
But other than that, it has to be said that the track selection is classic--but predictable. The sequencing is a bit uneven as well...in other words, Richard Manuel's glorious, hymn-like vocal and piano on 'I Shall Be Released' somehow doesn't fit placed between the wonderfully bizarre 'Chest Fever' and the "drunkard's dream" 'Up On Cripple Creek' (which was ironically The Band's only Top 30 hit in the US). Also, the relatively mediocre 'Time To Kill' was obviously only included because it was a minor hit for "Stage Fright." Perhaps it could have been better replaced by 'The Rumor.' The classic duet between Manuel and Van Morrison on '4% Pantomime' (from "Cahoots") is missing, and the albums "Moondog Matinee" and even the swan song "Islands" could have been represented much better.
But in the end, despite the standard compilation album bringdowns, "Greatest Hits" serves best as a clue to new fans that the 2000 Remastered Editions are the best way to go.
on April 25, 2005
The Band is one of pop music's most glorious accidents. This was a group of road musicians that lived from nightclub to nightclub, and had little likelihood of rising much above that scene, until Bob Dylan rather whimsically decided to make them his onstage backup band to perform his newfangled "rock" songs in the mid-60s. Then, because they were neighbors in upstate NY, they played on the demos that became "The Basement Tapes." Anyone who spent that much time with Bob Dylan might well decide, "hey, I should be a songwriter," and that's what some members, chiefly Robbie Robertson, did. When it came time to record their first album, what blossomed was their road-hardened musicianship, combined with the Dylan-bred desire to make of each recording a new thing unlike anything else that has existed before. Thus, amazing tracks like "Tears of Rage" and "The Weight" came into being. Along with covers of yet-unreleased Dylan songs like "This Wheel's On Fire" and "I Shall Be Released," the "Music from Big Pink" album essentially changed the course of American pop for a few years. If Jimi Hendrix was the most influential US musician in 1967, by 1969 it was the Band, and that's a radical shift.
It turned out they didn't have a bottomless well of great songs in them, but the quality at the beginning is astonishing. Robertson (with some help from Richard Manuel) was able to fill the Band's first two albums and most of the third with nonstop classic songs. They stumbled badly with their fourth album, made a great album of covers and a great live album, both taking advantage of their superb musical skills, had a partial creative comeback with their seventh album, and then ran aground for good--Robertson essentially admitting he was out of ideas by planning the grandiose "Last Waltz."
If the question is, "are these the Band's 18 best songs," the answer is not quite. "Time to Kill" doesn't belong here, nor does "The Saga of Pepote Rouge"--the weirdest choice of the bunch. I might argue with the inclusion of "Rag Mama Rag" over "Whispering Pines," "Unfaithful Servant" or "Across the Great Divide" from the second album; and you could argue for "In a Station" or "Lonesome Suzie" instead of "Chest Fever" from the first album. "Stage Fright" seems underrepresented--where's "W.S. Walcott's Medicine Show," or "Sleeping"? I could lose "Ophelia" to make room for those. Also, why no selections from the live "Rock of Ages" album? Not only do you miss "Baby Don't Do It," but the live version of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" is a tour de force, and belonged on this instead of the studio version.
All this really means is, you should get this (as I write, it's $7.99. They're practically giving it away!), but then go out and buy the first three albums, plus Rock of Ages, Moondog Matinee and Northern Lights, Southern Cross, and appreciate the unlikely little miracle that was The Band.
on December 11, 2000
This album is good start for those who have not heard much of The Band's work before (also the Brown Album is a good start too). But this collection will not satisfy fans like myself; let me list just a few songs missing: "This Wheel's on Fire", "We Can Talk", "Unfaithful Servant", and "Don't Do It". It would have been much better if this collection would have been expanded to two discs.
on April 24, 2002
First of all, The Band only had two bonafide hits. One of those (their magnificant live cover of Marvin Gaye's "Don't Do It") isn't even included in this collection! With that out of the way, let's get down to bidness...
As far as single-disc collections go, this is not bad. Yes, everybody out there could probably think of a song that should have been included, but, with five strong studio albums, one has to pick and choose when making selections. My personal gripes are the afore-mentioned absence of "Don't Do It" and the presence of the weak cover of "Ain't Go No Home" in the place of the great "Mystery Train" from Moondog Matinee.
This collection works for two groups of people. It's ideal for those who own nothing by The Band and have no idea where to begin. There have been many comments about the heavy leaning of the set towards the first three albums. This is justified in that The Band recorded their strongest material on those three albums. After all, who would want a Dylan compilation with equal numbers of tracks from Blonde on Blonde and Under the Red Sky? All of their "hits" are here in one handy little package.
The second group (I'm included in this category) consists of those people who want a quick road trip CD. This really is a great, concise CD to play when you're on a trip with people who have (gasp!) never really heard The Band.
It's almost guaranteed that most who hear this collection will want to delve deeper into The Band's catalog. After all, every one of their studio albums has something to offer. So, instead of overly criticizing this collection, we should be encouraging people to give this a spin. Who knows where it could lead from there...
on June 26, 2005
If you're a casual fan of The Band, and just want one disc in your collection, this is for you. And if you're looking for a place to start, well, this is it as well.
Not a literal hits compilation, "Greatest Hits" brings together 77 minutes of highlights from The Band's classic albums (released 1968-1975).
The Band were an idiosyncratic outfit, blending folk, rock, country, R&B and a little bit of soul and gospel, and their tenure as Bob Dylan's legendary touring band made them a supremely tight and versatile ensemble. And this disc includes all of their best-known recordings, from the surreal folk-rock narraive "The Weight" to the vivid "Saga Of Pepote Rouge".
This is all highlights, really. The Band's wonderfully evocative cover of Bob Dylan's "When I Paint My Masterpiece", all acoustic guitars, violins and ringing mandolins, is worth the price of admission by itself, and originals like "Acadian Driftwood", "Up On Cripple Creek" and "The Shape I'm In" are equally spellbinding.
And the musical variety is amazing, spanning gospel-flavoured New Orleans soul, country & western, straight-ahead R&B, and of course the vivid folk pastiche "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down", a song which must have come to Robbie Robertson straight out of the 19th century.
This is one of the finest compilations on any artist. The quality of the music assembled here is unbelievable, and everybody with any interest in music owe it to themselves to get acquainted with The Band.
Five stars easy. Very highly recommended.
on June 13, 2001
While this compilation does an okay job of presenting a fairly decent cross-section of the classic lineup Band's recordings, there's several caveats that make it much less than it could have been. Firstly, the track listing misses out a great many essential Band recordings. Granted that one disc was never going to tell the whole story, there's still some curious omissions (although I'm delighted by the presence of Ain't Got No Home from the sorely underrated Moondog Matinee, and Acadian Driftwood, the last great Robertson song). Secondly, the sound has been sonic-reduced and gussied up, but it also seems to have taken some of the guts out of the music. There's something rather thin about the sound of Danko's bass, and the drums are often far louder than they were on the original recordings. Thirdly, the title: 'Greatest Hits'? How hackneyed can you get? And if there was one thing the Band never were, it's hackneyed. All in all, if you want the 'hits' (defined as 'Those Songs They Always Play On Radio'), okay; but you'd probably be better off buying Big Pink or the brown album and diving in head-first, since once you hear this music you'll want to own it all anyway.
on June 8, 2004
I bought this CD from a local CD shop. I had to actually go to the store to figure out the tracklisting of this CD because for some reason, AMAZON doesn't list it.
Anyhoes, excellent compilation, although it does lean heavy on the Band's first 2 albums, Music From The Big Pink and The Band.
But all The Band essentials are here: The Weight, Up On Cripple Creek, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, The Shape I'm In, It Makes No Difference, etc.
And the best part - Its digitally remastered!!!
A++ on the compilation!
on October 11, 2002
The Band is by all accounts seminal, legendary, and awe-inspiring. What else would you expect from a group that could get away with naming itself "The Band"? For some reason, however, the great songs just haven't yet been sequenced in a coherent "hits" package. Maybe it's just not possible.
To those unfamiliar with The Band, the individual songs on this CD will probably not seem drastically different in approach and style. To those people, I'm sure, it all sounds vaguely like what is categorized these days as "Americana". For those who have had a chance to wade deep into the aural landscapes of the albums, this effort at plucking songs for a retrospective probably isn't any more satisfying than previous compilations.
If you really want the most accurate retrospective, I'd suggest "The Last Waltz", which is the soundtrack to Martin Scorsese's film documenting a final concert at which the Band invited old friends and mid-70's highlighters to join them in one last shebang. Mavis Staples singing in "The Weight" on that album is an astonishing vocal performance.
Don't get me wrong; these selections are all worthy, and those who put them together did an admirable job in trying to incorporate the popular hits with those that struck a chord primarily in Band junkies. But if you're a close listener, I just don't think this selection, or any sampler of this band's oevre, can ever be as satisfying as listening to "Music from Big Pink", or "The Band", without adornment.
I will say, though, that those who bought earlier "greatest hits" compilations should be happy to know that "Acadian Driftwood" is included on this CD. That song shone like a jewel in the otherwise leaden "Northern Lights - Southern Cross".
For those not familiar with the Band but have been hooked by hearing "The Night they Drove Old Dixie Down" or "Up on Cripple Creek" on the radio, buying this CD should not be a disappointment. The men who comprised this group are each among the finest, most creative, most emotive artists that have ever played rock music. But there's a case to be made that this group's great albums, like the aforementioned "Music from Big Pink" and "The Band", are so cohesive and powerful standing alone, that a greatest hits effort can only seem haphazard and spotty in comparison.
on September 27, 2000
The Band has been rather mercilessly packaged and re-packaged since its breakup in the late 1970s. This greatest hits collection faces a rather daunting task -- collect the best moments of one of the greatest of all American rock groups.
Capitol's re-packaging of the Band's monumental first two albums and their less stellar followups deserves some praise; this one seems much more like a moneymaking ploy. Four tunes each from "Big Pink" and "The Band" anchor this compilation, with the remaining 10 tunes scattered from "Stage Fright" to "Islands."
Still -- it's all about the music, and you can't go wrong with selections like "The Weight," "Tears of Rage," "Up On Cripple Creek," etc. "King Harvest (Has Surely Come)" doesn't usually make it to these compilations so it's nice to see it here. Likewise with "Acadian Driftwood."
The re-mastering job sounds much better on the later tracks, particularly "Life Is A Carnival." To my ears, the tracks from the first three albums had a bit of a pronounced tape hiss. Too bad "The Last Waltz" is on another label -- it would have been good to hear some of those selections (particularly "Evangeline") here.
A greatest hits package could probably serve most bands (KISS and Foreigner come to mind) but not The Band. If any of these songs interest you, skip this and head for the original albums. This is just for the first-timers.
on January 11, 2005
Why? Well, The Weight, I Shall Be Released, Up On Cripple Creek, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, It Makes No Difference, and Arcadian Driftwood are here, plus others.
Listen to this album and experience beautifully written lyrics, beautiful musical collaboration, and a variety of voices and vocal styles.
Stories are told through these songs. I particularly admire The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down because it tells remarkably heart felt story of the Civil Wars effect on the South. Coming from a Canadian band, this seems odd at first, but to hear it is to know compassion and humanity.
It Makes No Difference may be my favorite song though, as the story of a break-ups ravaging effect is beautifully evoked: "...and the Sun don't shine anymore...and the rain falls down on my door..."
There is terrific, funny juxtaposition I love on When I Paint My Masterpiece, which tells of a trip to the Coliseum in Rome, where he has a vision amidst the ruins of: "...dodging lions, and wasting time..."
For lovers of the film The Last Waltz, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, and of course, Bob Dylan, this album serves as a terrific collection of superb music from a legendary band.