A pink house seated in the sun of Overlook Mountain in West Saugerties, New York. Big Pink bore this music and these songs along its way. It’s the first witness of this album that’s been thought and composed right there inside its walls.
Those words were inscribed on the inside cover of The Band’s debut album Music From Big Pink, which was released on this date in 1968. The landmark LP, whose songs were crafted in the basement of its namesake Upstate New York home at the time to Rick Danko, Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel, established the group among the most influential and groundbreaking musicians of their generation. This installment of Saturday Stream revisits the Music From Big Pink via its expanded reissue and several choice covers.
Bob Dylan recorded extensively in 1967 with The Band at Big Pink, later resulting in the 1975 The Basement Tapes collaborative LP. Dylan (who painted the album cover artwork seen below) co-wrote “Tears Of Rage,” which opens the debut record and playlist and features Manuel on lead vocals. Other songs on the John Simon-produced album featuring the late keyboardist’s delicate range include “To Kingdom Come,” “In A Station,” “Chest Fever,” “Lonesome Suzie” and “I Shall Be Released.” Danko’s lead vocals can be heard on “Caledonia Mission,” a cover of “Long Black Veil” and the Dylan co-write “This Wheel’s On Fire.” Drummer Levon Helm and Danko handled the verses on the now beloved classic “The Weight.”
The 2000 Music From Big Pink expanded reissue tacked on additional nine tracks, including alternate versions of “Tears Of Rage” and “Lonesome Suzie.” The bonus content also showcased the Robbie Robertson-penned “Yazoo Street Scandal” and “Ferdinand The Imposter,” and his collaboration with Manuel, “Katie’s Been Gone.” Covers of “If I Lose” by Charlie Poole, “Key To The Highway” by Big Bill Broonzy and Dylan’s “Long Distance Operator” were also released. A 1967 demo made by Danko and Manuel of “Orange Juice Blues (Blues for Breakfast)” was also part of the expanded reissue.
Following the bonus content, the playlist below presents an additional eight bonus tracks comprising covers of many of the songs making up the original Music From Big Pink LP. The Band’s music is interpreted by Jimi Hendrix, Jerry Garcia Band with Bruce Hornsby, Neil Young with The Sadies (and Garth Hudson), Aretha Franklin, Widespread Panic and Blood, Sweat & Tears, alongside Lefty Frizzell’s original “Long Black Veil” recording. Listen here: