Customer Reviews: Rock Of Ages
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on January 1, 2004
The last four nights of 1971 witnessed a series of soulful performances by The Band at New York's Academy Of Music, the highlights of which were captured on "Rock Of Ages," an exceptionally unadulterated live recording. While many performers would come to rely on an entire orchestra in an attempt to make their live albums more appealing, The Band succeeded with only a modest horn section.
It sure isn't the sound quality that makes this album, but it's definitely the sincerity of every note. After that year's "Cahoots" was unjustly regarded as a disappointment, The Band reminded everyone why they could call themselves THE Band in the first place. They troop through their cannon of work with emotion and integrity. Though 'The Shape I'm In' may lack the grit of the studio version, and 'The Weight' may not be as well tuned as its counterpart, it is more than made up for by the loyally true feeling that is generated throughout "Rock Of Ages." The horns add a whole new musical layer to many songs; they give more sadness or emotion to the likes of 'The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,' and flavor on songs like 'Chest Fever;' the latter boasts keyboardist Garth Hudson's exciting, brilliant organ intro 'The Genetic Method,' which contains as many twists as there are crumbs in Hudson's beard. However, on some songs, the horns don't work so well and appear to overbearing. Meanwhile, 'Get Up Jake' is a fantastic track that was formerly only a B-side, while '(I Don't Want To) Hang Up My Rock 'n' Roll Shoes' preludes their next project, "Moondog Matinee."
Perfectly remastered, this 2001 edition of "Rock Of Ages" contains a bonus disc of unreleased cuts from the concert, including the essential hymnal 'I Shall Be Released' and four songs featuring a cameo by Bob Dylan. It's a mystery why these tracks were not included on the original release, except for "Like A Rolling Stone" in which it appears Dylan forgets some of his lyrics, mumbling inaudibly through parts of the song (or is it just bad sound?). But despite its flaws, this is a potent and strong concert recording. "The Last Waltz" documented their end--"Rock Of Ages" is the essence of their musical spirit.
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on July 9, 2004
Rock of Ages is a great live recording, capturing The Band during a New Year's Eve performance welcoming 1972. This has been a favorite live albums of mine since I discovered it in the mid 70's. This CD takes the original 2 album set and puts on a single CD. The re-mastered sound is great, and the performance is as vibrant now as it was then. One of the great parts of this set is the addition of a horn section on some of the songs. Both on upbeat songs such as "Don't Do It" and on quieter songs like "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down". I've always liked "Rock Of Ages" more than the farewell set "The Last Walz", probably because this is all The Band, as opposed to the guest appearances that define The Last Walz. As if the re-mastered original recording wasn't enough, this deluxe edition adds a whole additional CD of live material. This is a collection of songs the Band often played during this time frame, and includes some gems that weren't on the original recording ("Up On Cripple Creek" and "I Shall Be Released"). Plus 4 songs featuring Bob Dylan. The extra set is icing on the cake, and makes a great album even more essential. Highest recommendation!
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on November 27, 2001
While other rock groups of the late `60's and `70's attempted to elevate their work through "rock operas" and live collaborations with various philharmonic orchestras, The Band understood the powerful subtlety of their American roots-based music. "Rock of Ages" showcases marvelous live performances of The Band's best material from their first four albums (including much of the essential "Music from Big Pink" and the self-titled second album), supercharged by an all-star horn section blowing arrangements penned by the great Allan Toussaint.
Disk One comprises the original release of "Rock of Ages," and is worth the price of the set on its own. The Band at its best was always about collaboration and teamwork (which, as drummer/vocalist Levon Helm recounts in his revealing autobiography, "This Wheel's on Fire," regrettably is missing from the groups later efforts), and each member contributes to the power of the performances, whether it's Richard Manuel's soulful vocals, Robbie Robertson's high-wire guitar solos, Garth Hudson's lunatic keyboard and woodwind genius, or the rock-solid rhythm and joyous singing of Helm and bassist Rick Danko. The Band & Co. maintain an admirable level of energy and control, drawing on history ("The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down "), vaudeville ("The W.S. Wallcott Medicine Show," "Rag Mama Rag") , pieces of Americana ("King Harvest," "Across the Great Divide"), and the human condition ("The Weight," "Unfaithful Servant," "The Shape I'm In") to convey their unique musical vision. By the time they shift into "Chest Fever" and "Rock and Roll Shoes," the performers and audience alike are dancing on winged feet.
Disk Two will probably be of more interest to hard-core fans of The Band and Bob Dylan - the inclusion of the Dylan tracks is more of historical interest, as he rarely performed live during the time of the recording. My favorite tracks here are "Time to Kill" and "Rockin' Chair", the latter featuring a trademark falsetto harmony shift by Manuel that is at once heartwarming and hair-raising.
For performance alone, "Rock of Ages" belongs in any serious rock and roll collection.
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on March 9, 2005
When major magazines write about the better of the live albums by the Band, they write about "Last Waltz." This could be for any number of reasons. Nostalgia. The guests. The film. But when fans are asked to name their favorite, the nod usually goes to "Rock of Ages." Trust a fan.

Many of the usual suspects are here - "The Weight," "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," "Rag Mama Rag" - and that certainly isn't a bad thing, but the real treat is the horn section. It gives old songs a new feel, if I can be any more cliche. And the way they start out unexpectedly after introducing the horn players with the Marvin Gaye gem "Don't Do It" brings you in, sets you up, then knocks you out with later favorites like "Life is a Carnival" and "Stage Fright." At the time it was excellent and revelatory. Today, it's one of the best live albums of all time.

Overall: 9 out of 10.
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on December 3, 2001
So here it is: The Band performing together, which is what they're supposed to do, what they've always been best at. With the possible exception of "The Weight," whose original studio version is eternally unsurpassed, most Band songs find their definitive version somewhere in their live catalogue, and most of those versions are on this album. The much-appreciated addition of the white-hot horn section works extremely well, too...well enough to be repeated at the Last Waltz. Surely this is a better Greatest Hits collection for the Band than any other.
But it goes beyond that. Listening to their studio albums in order, it's quite easy to hear the disintegration of the teamwork, the buddy, clubhouse, we're-all-doing-what-we-love-together mood. I suppose it's because Robbie started caring less about writing great songs, and more about being the only guy who wrote ANY songs, which had two effects: he became much more corporate, attempting to background the rest of the group and make himself a star; and the songwriting suffered. By the time of "Cahoots" and even "Stage Fright," you can tell they're not having much fun. Except when they're live. And it's on collections like "Rock of Ages" that all the politics, all the Robbie-Levon feuding and royalty check resentments, take a back seat to getting up there and WAILING. And by God they do. The obvious highlight is Garth's transcendent "Genetic Method," but can you really choose a favorite? If you like the way these guys play -- and man can they play -- then the whole album is gold.
And by the way, Dylan's performances are also great. Listen to the crowd roar at his surprise appearance for "Down in the Flood," or his impassioned vocals on "When I Paint My Masterpiece," definitely his best reading of the song. And how about when he completely forgets the words in "Like a Rolling Stone" and just growls out a neutral vowel for a while? The fact that this doesn't detract at all from the performance is indicative of how great it really is. Surely, even in addition to their historical value, Dylan's performances and those of The Band belong on everyone's shelf, as a reminder of an age when rock had a soul.
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I ordered this 2 CD set of The Band in live performance just recently. For some reason, there are only 17 tracks in all on both discs. 10 on the first disc, and 7 on the second. Far short of the 28 tracks listed in the description here. The strange thing is, there are only 17 listed on the cover, the very same cover that lists all 28 here in the picture in the description. And I noticed that everything with Bob Dylan is missing. Very strange actually, I cannot remember a time where that has happened before. Ordinarily I would return something like this, or at least demand a partial refund, but in all honesty this is far from the best thing you can order as to The Band here on Amazon anyway. Though I realize that live concert albums are not expected to be up to the quality and fidelity of a studio performance, I still was disappointed in how badly what I did get sounded overall. In short, it didn't even sound good enough for me to be truly disappointed in being screwed out of the extra tracks I didn't receive. I love The Band, and have just about everything else by them already. I decided to order this set for I somehow missed it over the years and figured it would be cool to have something else live from them. (I already have another live CD from them that sounds far better than this one). I don't know if I was the victim of some kind of fraud, or a rare mistake, or just some kind of shortened version because of some lawsuit or something. But in any event, if you are thinking of ordering this set, make sure when you get it that its at least complete. And also keep in mind what I said about its overall quality to begin with...
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on December 30, 1998
Arguably the greatest live rock 'n roll album of all time, "Rock of Ages" serves as a showcase for not only the considerable skill of the Band's musicians themselves, but also of Alan Toussaint's prowess as an arranger. The horn arrangements Toussaint wrote for the songs presented here (with the exception of "The Weight" and "Get Up Jake," which appear here without horns) never interfere with the melodies or change the basic feel of the songs as they originally appeared. At the same time, the horn arrangements manage to be pervasive and intricate, weaving their way in and out of the Band's soulful grooves. Highlights include the album's opener, Marvin Gaye's "Don't Do It," a funky tune which rides on the strength of Rick Danko's bass line and Levon Helm's drumming.
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on June 3, 2001
This is the greatest live album ever... These performances that are documented here find a band whose creative well had dried up (only one song from their then-recent release, "Cahoots"), yet at the same time, the great Allen Touissant's presence here rouses the great creative spirit that permeated The Band! I've always considered great live albums to be those in which the artists are able to effectively re-create or re-interpret themselves, and in "Rock of Ages", The Band's rootsy Civil War songcraft is given new Stax-soul life by the syncopathed call-and-response brass lyricism... "The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show", "Rag Mama Rag", and "Across The Great Divide" are standouts... "The Weight" is slowed down, underlining its sense of moral (pun-intended) weight... The only weakness is Dylan's New Year's Eve intervention, his voice sounds jagged, and The Band itself sounds tired and looking forward to the end of the tour... Nevertheless, Zimmy's mere presence IS monumental and historical, being removed from the legendary Basement Tapes by a mere few years.
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Listening to The Band's fourth album you would realize they were in something of disarray; listening to Robbie Robertson's comments on the making of the album he felt alienated, separated from the other members and wasn't motivated to write. That's evident in most of the songs on that album and it's evident listening to the outtakes that they weren't in synch. You'd never know that listening to "Rock of Ages" the live album recorded after "Cahoots".

Featuring horn charts written by Allan Toussaint and some of Robertson's best songs performed live, "Rock of Ages" although an imperfectly recorded and mixed album represents the band in terrific form and perfectly in synch as players. The album has never sounded great--it's a victim of the decade it was recorded in with a live recording that that isn't quite as well recorded as The Last Waltz. Of the two of them, though, I've always felt "Rock of Ages" was the better live document of the band.

How does the Mobile Fidelity version sound compared to the regular CD? There isn't as big a difference as some remasters but it does sound quite nice and, to my ears, an improvement compared to the other CDs but how much of a difference will be system dependent. This edition features the original mix mastertapes (the recent boxed set has some remixes on it). The reissue of this album from 2001 was expanded with 11 additional tracks. As with most of their reissues, MFSL has elected to go with the original line up of the album so there are no bonus tracks here. We do get a replica of the original booklet that came with the LP version. The album is presented with all the tracks on a single double layer SACD but the SACD layer presents only the original mixes as well no multitracks.

Which should you buy? Well the price difference makes either the original mastering (which can be found used)or the remaster more cost effective but the difference in sound quality between the Mobile Fidelity and either one of these isn't huge (there are differences of course but they are primarily cosmetic except for the larger dynamic range, lack of peak limiting on the Mobile Fidelity--if those things matter than this is the edition for you).

The album comes packaged in a gatefold sleeve with a booklet featuring pictures, etc.
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on August 31, 2001
Well, whoever said that is totally right refering to this album.
For a long time I've been hearing all-but-studio takes of the band. I got to know their hits from Dylan's "Before The Flood" and "The Last Walz" and it was all great, then I got Rock Of Ages, and it rocked so much that I had to find out how these guys sound on their studio albums. The conclusion is so simple: The Band are amazing, they are brilliant and talented musicians, Robinson is one of rock's best writers and they're all creative and smart, but when they're on stage this time, on Rock Of Ages, it different: They have this bond on this album that just can't be repeated. They sound like they're haveing such a good time collaborating live and they just... fly. Another great thing is the horn section that's adding a great dramatic feel, the horns work perfectly with The Band, but (unfortunatly) it's not all the same when Dylan's on stage. not that it's bad, but it's a bit messy, specially on "Like A Rolling Stone" (the reast of them are great selections and good performances). All in all, whether it's your first Band album or not, I recommend it very much.
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