There were 2 reactions to seeing what today’s album is. You either thought to yourself “what is this? I’ve never heard of it.” or “Oh hell yeah this album rules!” Hopefully after today there are a few more people who have the latter reaction when they see this album than there were before.
I feel obligated to shout out member of the Fatstacks family and host of Talkin’ Bout Practice Coach Wyatt on this one. This album was already on my long list of albums to listen to in consideration for this month’s picks, but Wyatt tweeted at me about a number of albums worth consideration and Music From the Big Pink was one of them. One month ago I had never heard of this album, but when I first heard it, I ran it back and listened to it in full again. That’s how much I enjoyed it.
The titular “Big Pink” is just a pink house in which the Band wrote the album and they would record Basement Tapes with Bob Dylan. Despite being written in and named after a place in New York, the whole album feels decidedly Southern. Consisting of a distinct blend of country, rock, R&B, folk, classical, soul, and blues influences, Music From the Big Pink is able to present a colorful and wildly original piece of music that somehow manages to feel familiar and comfortable all the same. The folk influence is clear in the lyrics which is no surprise considering that the big man of folk himself, Bob Dylan, wrote and co-wrote 2 of the 11 tracks that make up the album’s 41 minute runtime (Dylan also painted the album cover, fun fact). Most of the songs on the album feel as though they could very well be cultural songs sang around the campfire and passed down through the generations while avoiding seriously retreading any beaten paths. The mix of styles keep the album fresh and fun and its originality is welcome without crossing into the territory where it might become largely inaccessible.
The instrumentals throughout this record are lush, organic, and lively. The fact that all of the instrumentals were recorded live without use of overdubbing likely plays into that fact and really furthers the campfire folk song aesthetic present throughout. The record is full of acoustic guitar, that kind of chimey, upbeat, almost western saloon feeling piano, splashes of fiddles and saxophone, and organ music which create an incredible mood and soundscape to perfectly compliment the rough and very human vocals and folk heavy lyrics. I’ll just jump the gun here and say that the instrumentals are what keep me coming back far more than the vocals, but more specifically I want to say that what wins the album for me is the aesthetic, if that makes any sense. Even if it doesn’t, I don’t really care.
Well there you have it. Running with the theme of extremely varied rock albums that has dominated the MTP this month, I feel that Music From the Big Pink is not only an outstanding album, but will work nicely as a kind of transition into a different style of music tomorrow. I’m excited to enter the last 3 days of this thing because it really gets shaken up from here on out and really ends with a bang. For the time being though, I hope you all enjoy The Band’s 1968 debut, Music From the Big Pink, as much as I have.
Here’s Benny, taking a load off.