Leftfield Media 2019
Review by David Bowling
The 50th anniversary of Woodstock is now close to two months in the rear view mirror. A number of bands and artists have released previously unavailable music from the festival. Next month will bring the complete festival to CD with the issue of a 38 disc set, containing every note played; one disc for each artist. It will be one of the more pricier releases in music history, so if your budget won’t support the big one, there are a number of single disc releases containing complete individual performances.
The Band is one of the artists whose Woodstock performance has been a safely guarded secret. No songs appeared on the original album or in the film. Now their 11 song set is available for the first time, which contains some good and bad news.
The Band was one album into their solo career and were establishing their identity apart from being Bob Dylan’s backing band. As such, their set is very different from what it would become in a couple of years. Songs from Music From Big Pink, some Dylan tunes, and a few favorites all blend together in to a satisfying experience.
Six tunes from Big Pink form the heart of the performance. The set opening “Chest Fever,” “Tears Of Rage,” “Long Black Veil,” “This Wheels On Fire,” “The Weight,” and the oft forgotten “We Can Talk” are all simple and gritty performances, plus being performed outdoors give them a different feel.
Early in their career, before they had enough original material, they filled in with songs such as “Don’t Ya Tell Henry” and “Ain’t No More Cane On The Brazos,” which shows their early roots as a folk/Americana band.
The bad news is the sound. It tends to run from poor to good, but is worse and less consistent than most of the other music that has been released from the festival. The fine print also says “from a live recording,” which puts this music in a possible gray area. It will be interesting to compare the music contained here with what is to come in the future.
Woodstock by The Band finally presents their complete performance for the first time and that is reason enough to appreciate this release, despite its faults. Whether it remains the definitive release of this material remains to be seen.