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The Band - Live at the Academy of Music 1971 (Capitol)

Star rating: 
4

The celebrated 1972 live double LP ROCK OF AGES that embellished many a decent record collection in the early 1970s, has been spruced up and expanded upon for this four CD (plus DVD) box set release. Capturing The Band at their peak, the four year-end concerts, which have subsequently achieved 'legendary' status, were recorded at New York City's Academy Of Music during the last week of 1971. The final New Year's Eve concert, which features a four-song encore, also sees Bob Dylan join the band for an impromptu and unrehearsed performance. 

The five discs are bound in a 48-page hardbound book with previously unpublished photos, a reproduction of the original Rock Of Ages review by Rolling Stone magazine's Ralph J. Gleason, liner notes by The Band's guitarist and main song writer Robbie Robertson, together with memories and appreciations by Allen Toussaint, who contributed the horn arrangements for the concerts, My Morning Jacket's Jim James and bizarrely Mumford & Sons, presumably a marketing ploy to get young listeners on board. 

Although this deluxe set doesn't include every moment from these four concerts, it does include on the first two discs every song that was performed during those four nights and quite possibly the best takes of each, followed by the complete and uncut New Year's Eve soundboard mix, which makes up the last two discs. The set also includes nineteen previously unreleased performances, including Strawberry Wine from the first concert and much of the final New Year's Eve concert including the Band classics This Wheel's On Fire, The Weight, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down and Across the Great Divide

To many, 1976's The Last Waltz has been acknoledged as The Band's defining moment, for which the original band is joined in San Francisco by one legendary figure after another, including everyone from Muddy Waters to Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell to Neil Young, Van Morrison to Dr John and Dylan to Diamond. The earlier 1971 winter concerts represented here could very well be seen then as the reason so many outstanding artists felt it a privilege to share the stage with this extraordinary band.
 
Produced by Robbie Robertson, along with co-producers Michael Murphy and Matt D'Amico, The Band's Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Richard Manuel, Rick Danko and Garth Hudson are joined by Snooky Young on trumpet and flugelhorn, Howard Johnson on baritone sax, tuba and euphonium, Joe Farrell on tenor sax, soprano sax and English horn, Earl McIntyer on trombone, J.D. Parron on alto sax and clarinet and of course Bob Dylan on vocals and guitar. A must for collectors of The Band recordings as well as music fans in general. 
 
Allan Wilkinson
Northern Sky