This exhaustive, rarity-laden six-disc collection tells a story that's long begged to be told: the tale of one of the most seminal yet underrated forces of rock 'n' roll's formative years. True to its name, A Musical History goes back to the embryonic days of the Hawks, who would later morph into the Band, collecting several songs -- highlighted by a burning version of "Who Do You Love" -- culled from their days as Ronnie Hawkins's backing band. That era is also represented by a handful of unreleased songs, notably the roadhouse-ready "Bacon Fat," that exhibit the burgeoning rootsiness that would endear the Band to Bob Dylan, who ultimately hired them to help propel what was arguably the most vital period in his career. Songs from both their stints with Zimmy pop up here and there, the pleading "Tell Me Mama" and a fierce live version of "Highway 61 Revisited" being the most compelling. But, to the credit of the musicians involved, the set's most stirring moments occur when they're working things out on their own. Early, radically different versions of songs like "Daniel and the Sacred Harp" and "Jemima Surrender" (the latter a real showcase for Levon Helm's earthy-yet-cerebral drumming) give insight into their restless nature as a collective, while song sketches for "Beautiful Thing" and "You Don't Come Through" attest to their willingness to get down-and-dirty. A Musical History offers up just about all the things you'd expect from a best-of, but the outtakes and oddities ultimately bring the most pleasure, from the gnarled blues shuffle of "Look Out Cleveland" to the easy-on-the-ears lope of "Strawberry Wine." Clearly a labor of love, A Musical History, which augments its five CDS with a DVD featuring nine live performances, isn't designed for the casual fan. But for the already converted, it's a little bit -- okay, a heaping helping -- of musical heaven.
A Musical History 4.3 out of 5based on
More than 1 year ago
Really this is quite magnificent. It's amazing how they make the band listenable even through their final period (on the fifth disc). There isn't much from the Last Waltz but that's what the Last Waltz box is for. Other than that, I don't think they missed anything really worth listening to. No sir.
More than 1 year ago
I love the band, but I still think that they haven't put everything that they have work on... or more of the people that they have work on... they work on an album, by john simon "should it add some of those tracks" they also worked with John Hammond, a really blues guitarist "check him out." They also work on an album by Jesse Winchester " a really hard to find album, love to see a reissue." and an album with Muddy Waters' Woodstock album... let me emphasies that some of the members worked on or with these artists and it would be interesting to hear their imput on some of those recordings... Oh I forgot they also worked with Eric Clapton's No Reason To Cry... these are some of the items that would really be interesting to hear... not just what they did with Bob Dylan and Ronnie Hawkins... but who knows maybe in another Boxed set...