By: Gary Graff
The Band revisits one of the seminal moments of its career with today's (September 17) release of "Live at the Academy of Music 1971," a four-CD/one DVD box set taken from its late-year stand at the famed New York venue that produced the lauded 1972 live album "Rock of Ages."
The box set includes all four of the concerts, newly remixed by the group's Robbie Robertson, Bob Clearmountain and Robertson's son Sebastian, with 19 previously unreleased songs and footage of two songs filmed by Howard Alk and Murray Lerner.
It also features Bob Dylan's guest appearance at the New Year's Eve show during the stand. Robertson tells us that putting the set together reminded him of just how good The Band was at its peak:
"I knew that the guys in The Band, I knew that we were in a very particular place when we recorded this. It was as if...there was an audience there, but we were playing to one another and for one another, and it was very much like a circumstance that we had at Big Pink, when we were doing 'The Basement Tapes' (with Bob Dylan); we're just doing stuff for one another, we were impressing one another because we'd been playing together pretty good that year, and this was kind of a culmination of that."
"Live at the Academy of Music 1971" also allowed Robertson to correct a sound mix he felt he had "missed" originally in 1972 -- first with collaborating engineer Phil Ramone and then later, when he tried to remix it a first time for the eventual "Rock of Ages" release:
"When the record was finished...it came out to glowing reviews. It was like one of the great live albums of all time because the performances came through and you would hear that...It was very well-received. The record is very good, all of that stuff, and everybody was happy except me. And I knew deep down that this could've been, it should've been, much better. But...this was the best I could do under the circumstances at the time, so I just had to live with it. Then a few months ago the record company gets in touch with me...and says, 'We have found all the original tapes, almost all the original tapes, from the Academy of Music. Would you like to put together a set of these?' and I was like, 'Oh, mama! This is music to my ears.' So I explained to them that I never was completely satisfied with this and I would find it an honor to come back and make it what it should have been all along."
"Live at the Academy of Music 1971" also comes with a 48-page hardbound book featuring unreleased photos, a new essay by Robertson and appreciations of The Band by Mumford & Sons and My Morning Jacket's Jim James.
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