The Band: S/T and/or Music from the Big Pink

I have been holding out for nice copies of either of these. I have a later (not new reissue) pressing of Big Pink, and it sounds pretty good, but nothing special. I was advised to steer clear of the CAP Vaults reissues, and my gut tells me to skip the MFSL's. I have also had a hard time finding nice copies of either LP in record shops. Do early presses sound good, or is my pain and suffering all for nothing. Cheers -Don
Go for the RL versions. Read Michael Fremers reviews of these too. Cheers
RL = Robert Ludwig. Here's Fremer's column about The Band (S/T). It looks like the most recent MoFi reissue is the next best thing.

Here it is.
On Big Pink you should just get a Rainbow Capitol.I have the 70s MoFi,to me nothing to write home about or invest $$ in.On the self titled I've yet to hear anything I thought had great sound.I have an early German press,numerous green Capitols and 7 1/2 ips reel to reel all seem muddy.I believe they recorded this in a house in hollywood they rented from Sammy Davis Jr. maybe that's the problem.Anyway Fantastic music that I'd listen to regardless of recording quality.If you are having problems finding clean Rainbow cap of Big Pink e-mail me privately,Don,I have numerous dupes on this title.
Thanks- Just listened to my Big Pink. It's a Capital dark Purple/burgundy label.
Serial SKAO 2955. It sounds better than I had remembered, but my stereo has changed a bit too. The LP has a heavier feel, I bet it's an earlier pressing but of course not a Rainbow. It sounds as if neither Big Pink or the S/T is a great recording, perhaps S/T even less so. Still as Casey 33 says, GREAT music.
Thanks for the offer Casey33, will mull it over and PM you if I'm want to go with
the Rainbow.
Big Pink was recorded in Sammy Davis Jr.'s pool house! Look for the RL masters.
My Big Pink, bought in 1972, sounds excellent.
"my gut tells me to skip the MFSL's"

Not the more recent MoFis. MoFi Stage Fright, Big Pink, and Rock of Ages are all superb. Unfortunately I haven't heard MoFi TB.
Steer clear of the recent Capitol really issues. They suck period. I thought Big Pink was recorded in Woodstock in The Band's studio hence the name of the album since their studio was dubbed Big Pink.
There second album The Band was recorded in the pool house
Songs from Big Pink were recorded in Woodstock.
I appreciate that. I steer clear of those Capital Vaults reissues, period. My friend has Pet Sounds, and I bought Beach Boys: Today on Capitol. They're both terrible.
The original pressing of Big Pink is terrible....I sold it a few years ago. The first Mobile Fidelity issue was better, but still not very listenable. The latest MF version is the one to get....deep bass finally... and the tinny, harsh top end is gone. The SACD is also very good.
Mmm- maybe I will try the MFSL. Then to make this even harder, there are variations, in the same actual pressing label. I believe Fremer said The BAND S/T ORIGINAL is a Green label, but then only some are R. Ludwig.
Big Pink I believe is a Rainbow though. Like I said, my Big Pink dark red/ purple
label is pretty darned good. I'm certainly looking for better though.
Yeah I just bought the mfsl copy of Big Pink and tell The Band too. The Band is my favorite album by them.Jericho is a fantastic recording by them too but I'm not sure if it is available on vinyl. The cd sounds fantastic.
I my be hallucinating, I often do, but to my ears Nat King Cole never got recorded anywhere near as well as Sinatra on Capitol, which to me was a Class A Felony .
When Big Pink came out I never warmed up to it maybe because I bought it after I bought their second album which blew me away.In High school there were a few people who dug The Band,I think we considered us a cult.
But now Big Pink is one of two albums I listen to when writing sketch comedy. It moves move but it doesn't distract my creative thought if that makes any sense. The other recording I listen to is Echo by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
The Big Pink and The Band albums were bad news for musicians in the 60s (like me) because you realized how lame they made everything else seem (Clapton was supposedly rendered morose and depressed and tried to join the Band)…if you got to see these guys live you felt even worse. I think I actually destroyed a Band LP from playing it too much, and I knew at least one person who listened to only those 2 LPs. I liked all of their stuff, and my old the Band (or Brown Album as we called it) LP that survived and I listen to often must be from the early 70s although not likely the original run. In any case, that album still kicks utter ass on every level both musically and as an amazing sounding thing. I think I'm gonna go put it on now.
Don I just opened up Music from Big Pink and put
on side two. Pressing is very quiet,warped free
and the MFSL is impressive to say the least.
There is separation of instruments which makes
every instrument clearer and defined. There is
effortless bass and sparkling highs from an
occasional tambourine. If your analog front end
can unravel what's on this pressing I honestly
can't see how you would be disapointed.
I'm SO happy to see other Band lovers here on Audiogon! They are very special, as you all know. Music From Big Pink was so titled because that house (and it's famous basement) is where the guys got together to work on the music that ended up being on the album. The album was actually recorded in NYC and at Capitol's studio in Hollywood (located in the, ironically, basement of the round Capitol building on Vine Street). I passed by it frequently (Professional Drum Shop is also on Vine) when I lived in L.A., and always pictured them playing in the basement of that building in early '68.

The new Band MFSL SACD's are good, as are the new LP's. I think the original MFBP had a rainbow Capitol label, but it's the next pressing (mastered by Ludwig---why didn't he do the original rainbow label version?), the green label Capitol, that Fremer recommends. I'm looking for a Mint (only) copy, if anyone has one to sell.

The master tapes for the second ("brown") album have been missing for years, so I don't know what source MFSL used for the new LP and SACD. Steve Hoffman's version on DCC claimed to use the original masters, which is not true. Shame on somebody. The sound of the album is very in-the-room "small"---there is no electronic studio reverb and echo added to the mic feeds to the recorder. The multi-track was right in the room (yes, the pool cabana of Sammy's house, which they rented for the duration of the album's recording) with The Band, operated by the album's producer John Simon. A great, great album. Both it and MFBP in my Top 10 albums of all time.

There is another "small" sounding album The Band are on, and it too is musically great---Planet Waves, they backing Bob Dylan. MFSL has had the album on it's list of upcoming SACD releases for about a year, so I asked the MFSL guy at their table at the recent T.H.E. Show in Irvine the reason for the long delay. They just hadn't gotten to it yet was the answer. There is an out of print Sony SACD of the album that I found at Amoeba (just around the corner from the Capitol building!) recently. I bought in case MFSL ends up cancelling their new version. Ya never know!
format aside, and purely on their musical terms i've always preferred big pink to the s/t, though they're both great. for one thing, the dylan songs (esp. tears of rage) are among his very best + richard manuel's stuff is subtly brilliant. the second album, which is all robbie robertson's songs, sounds a little less spontaneous and earthy and a little more self-consciously cerebral, polished and uniform in tone. timeless stuff nonethelss, though I could live without hearing up on cripple creek again.
As time goes on, I find myself liking MFBP more than the 2nd myself. Robertson's brown album songs seem a little too contrived and deliberated to me now, unlike when I was younger. But it was the ensemble playing and the singing I was listening for and to back then, whereas now it's more the song itself (the chords especially) that need to satisfy my musical longings.
Thanks Qdrone- Music from the Big Pink is such a great record. I'm leaning toward the newer MFSL version, but also keeping an eye out for a Green label RL press.
Yeah I thought the new The Band MFSL was mastered from the master tapes but no.Damn trickery across the top of the record the band reads Mobile fidelity sound labs not original master recording.
I'll give it a spin tonight and comment on the sound. No I'm not going to drag out my original copy or my Simply Vinyl copy and compare them just the sound of this pressing.
Wolf, I just saw your above posting from 6-30 (I don't know how I missed it before!), and know all too well what you mean about The Band being bad news for musicians in the late 60's, Clapton included. I've tried to help non-musicians understand just how influential, how revolutionary, how transformative The Band and their first two albums were, usually unsuccessfully. They and those two albums completely changed the approach to making music of every "good" R & R musician of that time I have ever known!

I think the sound of the brown album, which Fremer describes as muddy, is actually really cool. It's very organic sounding, very woody, the drums sounding real "thumpy", which is how the Gretsch drums (and Ludwig snare) Levon is playing were tuned. I have two sets of Gretsch myself, and have tuned them and damped the heads to make them sound as much like Levon's do on the album as possible. For Jazz fans, it's the sound of calfskin heads, like Gene Krupa's in the 30's. When Levon started playing in Arkansas in the 50's, plastic heads had yet to be invented, and apparently Levon tried to keep his plastic-headed drums sounding much as the calfskin-headed drums from his early days had.

As you said, the brown album is just insanely great. The musicianship, the ensemble playing (which remains unequalled in R & R to this day), the singing, just made nearly all other contemporary music sound, you put it right, lame. It's just amazing how different it is from MFBP, while still obviously being from the same group of musicians and singers. MFBP was recorded in proper studios, and is infused with the standard fake reverb and echo, sounding much bigger and glossier than The Band actually sounded. The brown album was recorded "dry", and is exactly what The Band sounded like live. Totally unlike any other Band/Group I have seen/heard live, and I've seen a bunch!
Yeah- Perhaps they should have put that out as part of their SILVER series. I totally agree with you on that. If it's NOT an Original Master Recording, don't charge the premium. I'm starting to get the impression that Music from Big Pink, may just be a better recording. If memory serves, MF reviewed both MFSL's, and gave MFBP a better rating. Please share your thoughts, I know you liked the MFSL MFBP. Cheers -Don
Oh, and by the way.....Neil Young's Harvest album is Neil trying to sound like the Brown Album. He ditched Crazy Horse, and put together a good band with a Southern rhythm section. Drummer Kenneth Buttrey played in the same style as Levon, and also tuned his drums thumpy. The Harvest album was recorded in Neil's barn on mobile equipment, again like the Brown Album, also without the standard gratuitous electronic reverb, the mics capturing the sound of the barn, creating a woody sounding album. Everybody, Clapton and Young included, wanted to sound like and be as good as The Band. None of them succeeded, IMO!
First the good on The Band MFSL it is quiet and
not warped but it is in no way in the league with
There isn't the instrument separation as in the
MFSL MFBP,it still sounds murky.The organ is lost
in the mix on some songs like Across the Great
Divide.The 24 bit cd re master has separation
galore but it does sound like a digital
recording. Until they find the master the RL
pressing is our best bet.
The 2nd (S/T, "brown") album has less separation between instruments than MFBP because The Band set up in Sammy's cabana casually, with all the instruments in that one room, only gobos (floor-standing acoustical partitions) separating the drums, piano, organ, and guitar and bass amps from each other. So the mic(s) on each instrument captured the sound of not only the instrument it was on, but the others as well. When the multi-tracks tapes were mixed to stereo, there was no way to eliminate the "bleed" between tracks.
I just again watched the clip of Clapton and Harrison talking about Music From Big Pink. Here's the great quote about it from Eric: "I listened to this album (MFBP), and I thought, this is it---this is where music was supposed to have gone for a long time, and it hasn't really got there. And now it's finally.....someone's finally gone and done it."

The album so effected Clapton he broke up Cream, the biggest band in the world at the time.
Oh (not him again!), one other detail ya'll may (or may not ;-) find interesting: The distinct and huge difference in the sound of the snare drum heard on MFBP vs. the brown album is not from the room, the manner of recording, or anything of that sort. The snare drum on MFBP is a metal-shelled (either brass or aluminum-alloy) Ludwig Supraphonic with metal snare wires, the one on most of the brown album a wood-shelled snare with, perhaps, gut snares (that's what the drum came from the factory fitted with, and is what it sounds like on the album). The difference in sound between metal and wood shelled snare drums is just what you would expect, and indeed what you hear on the two albums.
I think the mics "bleeding" may represent what music is supposed to sound like, as I've heard very few albums from 1969 that have the coherency or overall tone that is as appealing (to me anyway) as the Brown album. Robertson did surprise the Band by grabbing all the songwriting credit (Levon remained pissed off about that forever), but I somehow doubt the pool house had much to do with how hip the tone was…I think it was more about experienced guys paying attention to detail with the knowledge that people were going to be listening pretty close to that stuff, and a remarkable attention to precise song specific arrangement instead of the dense "everybody fill up the available space" sound of lessor bands.
Absolutely. Over-playing was rampant in '69 (actually, it still is)---I have no doubt that's the first thing Clapton heard, the economy and taste with which all members of The Band played, the opposite of Cream (Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker may have had talent, but economy and taste were not in their vocabularies).

And then there are the songs. Bands like Cream used the "song" merely as a platform from which to take off, to display their virtuosity. The Band (and other "good" musicians of that and every era) play in a musical style, their parts created and designed to make the song sound better, not make themselves sound better. That ability is required and expected of studio musicians, but is very rare in Rock Bands.

Last, but certainly not least, is the singing. Three unique singers, all with very different voices, whose parts circle each other, weaving in and out, rather than blending into two and three part chords. Totally unlike any other Group I've ever heard. God I love The Band!
Interesting stuff indeed. I ordered the MFSL Big Pink today. Will soon compare it to my early pressing of Big Pink. I believe mine is a second run, since it's NOT the rainbow Capitol. As I mentioned above, it's a shade of purple to me.
FWIW, and I'm sure my opinion isn't worth that much.. I bought my first copy of "The Band" (the RL mastered, green label Capitol) around a year ago at a record show. It was not the best copy, far away from a 1A, but was a purchase in order to make an ultimate conclusion later on. I recently received my MFSL version. If you're like me and want to have a very good copy but are unwilling to pay top dollar for the best, get the MOFI. For $30.00, it's really a no brainer compared to anywhere close to what I'd perceive a 1A copy to be, (which I heard at an a MF event around a year ago.)