The Band – Rock Of Ages

Rock Of Ages (1972)

B-

1. Don’t Do It 2. King Harvest (Has Surely Come) 3. Caledonia Mission 4. Get Up Jake 5. The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show 6. Stage Fright 7. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down 8. Across The Great Divide 9. This Wheel’s On Fire 10. Rag Mama Rag 11. The Weight 12. The Shape I’m In 13. The Unfaithful Servant 14. Life Is A Carnival 15. The Genetic Method 16. Chest Fever 17. (I Don’t Want To) Hang Up My Rock And Roll Shoes

 

Mark Foley’s Cocks Of Pages is a haunting work of introspection that

Oh, wait a minute! That’s a completely different album.

The Band’s Rock Of Ages is a live double album from the 70s. What a rare and unexpected phenomenon! Nobody did those! I mean, wow!

On a less sarcastic note, Rock Of Ages is nowhere near as bloated as the behemoths that were to come like Frampton Comes Alive or Wings Over America or whatever, but boy is it ever SLOWWWWWW. The mid-tempo songs are slow. The slow songs are played slower than the slowness that already made them slow. The fast songs are… I’m just kidding, the Band don’t have any fast songs. But the only single song on this thing that they actually play faster than its studio counterpart is “Chest Fever,” and unsurprisingly it’s one of the two best performances on the album. Everything else is played at an agonizingly relaxed pace, noticeably several bpms slower than the original. “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” is played at like half the speed of the original, and the original wasn’t exactly a Minor Threat song to begin with. “The Weight” starts out normal but immediately begins getting gradually slower and slower and slooowwwwwwer, to the point that whenever the chorus comes around the singers sound like they’re running through quicksand just to catch up with each others’ vocals. You’re not supposed to get slower as you play a song, assholes! That’s a no-no!

Wouldn’t all this seem to run counter to the well-established precedent that bands typically play faster on stage due to adrenaline? Well, there’s a very simple explanation for why the Band don’t conform to this pattern: marijuana.

OK, so, I guess you want some informational stuff or whatever. Nerds. Rock Of Ages was recorded on New Year’s Eve, 1971. That night, the Band were accompanied by a four-piece horn section working off of horn charts written by Allen Toussaint. There was also a surprise appearance by the Bobster himself, who joined them to sing four songs after the clock had struck midnight. The Dylan performances weren’t included on the original double LP and weren’t released until a reissue of the album in 2001, which also included six other Dylan-less bonus tracks; I’m reviewing the 18-song original because that’s the one that came up when I Googled “the band rock of ages download rar.”

The positives: these guys knew what they were doing in terms of constructing a show that had ebb and flow to it and mostly avoid rote copies of the studio versions of the songs. The song choices are mostly commendable, too (but whoever the guy was with diarrhea in his ears who put “The Unfaithful Servant” in the setlist needs a good prison shanking. Plus I don’t think I really needed to hear “Caledonia Mission” redone as a mawkish 60s soul ballad). The horn arrangements are imaginative and for the most part add a lot to the songs (though “Rag Mama Rag” just isn’t as much fun with horns in place of fiddles). They had the good sense to play the B-side “Get Up Jake,” a delightfully breezy Robertson rocker that was left off of The Band because everyone was positive “Rockin’ Chair” was a much better song. They also bookended the set with two great covers: Marvin Gaye’s “Don’t Do It” and 50s rocker Chuck Willis’ “(I Don’t Want To) Hang Up My Rock And Roll Shoes.” “Don’t Do It” in particular is extremely tight and is just a great song; Robertson even miraculously manages to play a really good guitar solo, in spite of not only his limitations as a player but also the cheap sounding slapback echo with which his guitar is treated on this album. I’ll offer a caveat to my enjoyment of “Don’t Do It,” though: it sounds great in its own context, but play it back to back with the Who’s ferocious version that they recorded during the Who’s Next sessions and it sounds like it’s going about four miles an hour and is basically rendered pointless. So there’s that.

Negatives: SLOWWWWWW. Seriously, is it just because it was New Year’s and they were up past their bedtimes? Or did they always sound this tired? Even the audience sounds kind of bored; they go apeshit over “The Weight,” but there’s just dead silence between songs (which, again, probably has more to do with pot than it does with how much they may or may not have been enjoying the show). Nobody in the band ever even speaks to the crowd other than Robertson’s introduction of the horn playes at the very beginning. Dicks! Then, of course, there’s Garth Hudson wanking himself silly over behind his rinky-dink organ the whole time. He even gets a seven-minute solo spot pretentiously entitled “The Genetic Method.” I know the prog rock era was coming into effect at this time, so it wasn’t uncommon for a keyboard player to get a few minutes on stage to show off. But “The Genetic Method” doesn’t even feature any cool keyboard tones, and barely a semblance of actual melody until Hudson mercifully breaks into “Auld Lang Syne” at the end (presumably, that’s when the clock struck midnight). It’s just Hudson playing a bunch of random arpeggios and awkwardly fucking around with his pitch wheel with his keyboard set to “hockey rink organ.” It’s fucking torture.

Other than that blip, Rock Of Ages is hardly torture, but it sure does make me sleepy!



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