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If nothing else, with a name like the Absolute Whores, the band must have a good sense of humor! BTO and the Guess Who are certainly Canadian classics. If you aren't familiar with Blue Rodeo, you should check out their "Five Days in July" album. "Five Days in May" from that release has some tasty guitar work.
50’s Rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins had a band in which members came and left regularly. He picked up drummer Levon Helm in Arkansas just as Levon was graduating from High School in 1958, and took him with him as he traveled to Canada for work. Ronnie had discovered that an American Rock ’n’ Roll band could make a living playing bars and dance halls up north, so there he went. As various members left his band (The Hawks), he hired replacements from the local Canadian musicians who hung around the Canadian night spots. One by one, Robbie Robertson joined the Hawks on guitar, Rick Danko on bass, Richard Manual on piano, and, finally, Garth Hudson on organ. Garth was playing organ in the family funeral parlour during wakes. Garth asked his family for permission to join a R & R band and go on the road, getting it only after The Hawks agreed to pay Garth for music lessons! His family didn’t want to see his Classical musical education going to waste. In 1960, this final line-up of The Hawks was in place.
The Hawks went on the road with Ronnie all over Canada, occasionally going down into the States do work. After a couple of years as Ronnie’s band, Levon proposed to the other Hawks that they leave Ronnie and work for themselves. So was born Levon & The Hawks, who played every bar, dance hall, and honky-tonk in the south and mid-west, and up and down the eastern seaboard of the U.S.
They were making a name for themselves, and many in their audience were other musicians, coming to see what all the fuss was about. One such musician was bluesman John Hammond Jr. (son of Columbia Records A & R man John Sr., who had signed Billie Holiday and other Jazz great to the label), who had a record contract with Vanguard records. He was singing blues in the rural, southern style, as a solo artist accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. He wanted to get himself a backing band to accompany him on the road, so went to check out The Hawks, whom he hired. John’s manager was Albert Grossman, who also represented this new kid named Bob Dylan. Albert’s secretary went and saw The Hawks play out on Long Island, New York, and reported back to Albert how good they were.
The Hawks went into the studio with John for his next recording session, and those tracks are available on various Hammond collections and album reissues. Dylan had added some musicians to his previously solo only recordings, and took them with him for his infamous 1964 Newport Folk & Jazz Festival appearance, where the purist Folk crowd booed him, accusing him of "selling out". Dylan, thought of as a folkie, had actually started playing music in High School before getting into Folk, performing the popular music of the day, Rock ’n Roll. Hearing about The Hawks from John Hammond and Albert Grossman, he went to check them out for himself. John Hammond soon found himself without The Hawks, Dylan having stolen his band!
The Hawks went on the road with Dylan as he started his long world tour in 1965, in support of his surprise hit single, "Like A Rolling Stone". The Folkies continued their booing, and drummer Levon Helm, not enjoying it, left the band he had been the leader of, traveling to the Gulf Coast, where he found work on an oil rig. Dylan and The Hawks travelled to England and Europe to perform, and came home for a rest before heading back out on the road in the U.S. But while at his new home in Woodstock, Dylan crashed his motorcycle, and was laid up with a broken leg. The rest of the tour was cancelled. Dylan, being pressured by Columbia Records to get back on the road and into the studio to record a new album, instead avoided all contact with anyone and everyone other than those he wanted to see.
Dylan was still writing songs, and needed to get them published and perhaps recorded by other artists, as a means of generating income, if nothing else. Needing to have demo versions of his new songs, he suggested to The Hawks, who were still on retainer to Bob and living at The Chelsea Hotel in NYC, that they move up to Woodstock. They went up, found a little place to rent, and moved into the house they christened Big Pink. Recordings of the new Dylan songs commenced, and the tapes, made in Dylan’s living room and in the basement of Big Pink, were sent to his publisher in New York, who distributed them to interested parties looking for song material to record themselves. Those songs DID start getting recorded, and released, amongst them "The Mighty Quinn" by Manfred Mann, "Too Much of Nothing", by Peter, Paul, & Mary, and "This Wheel’s on Fire" by Brian Auger and Julie Driscoll. (The original recordings by Dylan and The Hawks became legendary, and were later released on LP as the first Rock ’n’ Roll bootleg---The Basement Tapes.).
The Hawks gave Levon a call, telling him to come up to Woodstock, that Capitol Records had offered them a record contract. Reunited as a 5-piece, they continued recording with Dylan, and began, Richard, Robbie, and Rick individually, and with Bob as well, writing their own material in preparation for making their Capitol Records debut album. That album was completed in the early Spring of 1968, and ready to be released. But what name to use for themselves? The Hawks wasn’t right---they weren’t Ronnie Hawkins band. They played around with ideas, The Crackers (southern hillbillies) being one. Up in Woodstock, the locals had taken to just calling them the band, and when the album hit the shelves, the name on the cover was just that---The Band, and the album was the most amazing debut album I’ve ever heard---Music From Big Pink.
The Band are the finest self-contained Rock ’n’ Roll ensemble there has ever been, bar none. While The Beatles, their peers and same age, had stagnated and actually become a lesser performing ensemble, The Hawks had been on the road as a working band, playing six night a week, continuing to improve to the point where there was not a better Rock ’n’ Roll band in existence. There were purely recording ensembles their equal---The Muscle Shoals Rythym Section (aka The Fame Studios house band), heard on all those great Jerry Wexler-produced records on Atlantic: Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Dusty Springfield, Solomon Burke, etc. And The Funk Brothers (The Motown house band, which included the greatest bass player of all time---James Jamerson). And The Wrecking Crew, the Los Angeles recording group heard on all the Phil Spector-produced records, most of The Beach Boys 60's albums, The Byrds albums, Frank Sinatra albums, and thousands of 60’s hit records. But those were professional studio players, the highest paid musicians in the world. The Band had NO competition, none. It is extremely unlikely there will ever be another Rock ’n’ Roll band their equal.
Triumph ( 70's thru early 90's)
What an awesome band out of the cool blue North and what a sound for a three piece band!!!
Rick Emmett I was definitely one of the greatest rock vocalists of all time.
I have spent countless hours over the years listening to Triumph and still do.
I consider them one of the best rock bands to ever come out of Canada😎
BACHMAN-TURNER OVERDRIVE (BTO)!!!
CRASH TEST DUMMIES
GLAM Bands: Loverboy, Honeymoon Suite, Trooper (shallow but fun on the radio/car)
JANE CHILD; not sure this qualifies as rock but some good tunes out there....
The GUESS WHO!!!
The TRAGICALLY HIP, +1 on their being drastically under-appreciated!
THREE DAYS GRACE
If I could have only 100 albums, two of them would be the first two Band albums. If I could have only 10 albums, two of them would be the first two Band albums. If I could have only 2 albums, they would be the first two Band albums.
If I'm buried in a coffin, I want those two albums buried with me. If I'm cremated, I want those two albums burned up along with the body. I want to be able to hear those two albums for all of eternity. They say "You can't take it with you". If that's true, I don't wanna go.
Astro, I bought Music From Big Pink upon it's release in '68 on American Capitol, and the s/t album (the "Brown" album) on same in '69. In '70 I got hired at the best record store in San Jose (Discount Records, owned by Columbia/CBS at the time. To get hired you had to pass a Classical music test. A former bandmate of mine was already working there, and was a music major at San Jose State. He gave me all the answers, which I memorized! When I got hired at Tower in '87 there was also a test, but by then I knew the answers on my own ;-), which imported and stocked import LP's. I got copies of both albums on British Capitol, and they were much better I thought at the time, the vinyl being thicker and flatter than the U.S pressings, and noticeably quieter (Capitol LP's were notoriously warped and noisy). For years that was it, 'cause I never got into Japanese pressings.
In the '80's Mobile Fidelity released Music From Big Pink on LP, which sounded different than the British LP, though not necessarily better. MF never did the Brown album, as they said the master tapes had gone missing. But MF's competitor Audio Fidelity (remastering engineer Steve Hoffman) did, claiming the source for their Gold CD release was "The Original Master Tapes". As is true of other's of that label's releases, that claim is hardly possible. Being a CD, it doesn't sound like any of the LP's.
Recently Mobile Fidelity has released the two albums on both 180g LP and SACD. I have them all (as well as The Band's 3rd and 4th albums, nowhere near as good as the first two, unfortunately), but have yet to hear them. My living accommodations have been "in transition", a situation having changed only a few days ago. Can't wait to hear them all!
However, in his coverage of the Brown album (THE Band album for many people, though MFBP is at least as good and in some ways superior), Michael Fremer has been citing the original U.S. Capitol LP pressing (mastered by Robert Ludwig, identifiable by the "RL" etched into the LP's runout groove space by the label) as the best sounding he has heard. I coulda kept my original LP after all!
As an aside, the famous Levon Helm drumset sound on the Brown album, attributed by many including Michael to the vintage Ludwig kit Band Organist Garth Hudson found on Santa Monica Blvd. in Los Angeles, is NOT that of the vintage kit, but of Levon's 60's Gretsch kit, the kit seen in pics on the LP's gatefold cover interior of the album's recording sessions, done in the pool house of the home they rented from Sammy Davis Jr. expressly for the recording of the album. Levon DID play the vintage kit on stage for awhile in the 70's, but his Black Diamond Pearl Gretsch kit is what's on stage at The Last Waltz.