Robbie Robertson mines the 1971 Academy of Music concerts that yielded one of rock's greatest live albums
Watch this preview for the five-disc CD/DVD "Live at the Academy of Music 1971," to be released on Sept. 17, 2013
When the Band took the stage at New York's Academy of Music on Dec. 28, 1971, they were determined to catch lighting in a bottle – the essence of the groundbreaking music with which they changed the course of '60s rock and cleared a path for today's roots-oriented Americana movement. With a four-night stand that would climax on New Year's Eve with a surprise onstage appearance for their former boss, Bob Dylan, the Canadian-American quintet was recording every note for a projected live album, with Phil Ramone engineering from a remote recording van outside, and a full horn section, arranged by Allen Toussaint, employed to recapture the sweep of Band studio classics.
The double LP that emerged the following year, "Rock of Ages," has rightly been lauded as one of rock's towering live albums. With riveting performances that confirm the Band's power as one of the finest live ensembles of the era, and immaculate sound thanks to the meticulous recording, the set distilled the concerts' power and nuance. Yet what fans heard then was only a thin slice of the entire experience. Dylan's post-midnight set was nowhere in sight or sound, and the approximation of a single show couldn't cover all the material played over those nights – a songbook that drew from their first four albums, including "Music From Big Pink," the debut set that had a direct influence on such peers as Eric Clapton, the Beatles and scores of other contemporaries.
Now Robbie Robertson, the band's guitarist and most prolific songwriter, has revisited the master tapes and soundboard mixes to present a comprehensive document of the series, including the entire New Year's Eve concert. For Robertson, "Live at the Academy of Music 1971" is the chance to finally get it right. "I never got the opportunity to get the mix right and pay respect to this music the way I felt about it," Robertson told Alan Light for an upcoming MSN feature. With this box set, I could really dig in, and it was tremendously fulfilling to me. Now I feel like I can sleep at night."
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