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26 of 27 found the following review helpful:
A GREAT Live Album Jul 09, 2004
By L. Lawhead
Rock of Ages is a great live recording, capturing The Band during a New Year's Eve performance welcoming 1972. This has been a favorite live albums of mine since I discovered it in the mid 70's. This CD takes the original 2 album set and puts on a single CD. The re-mastered sound is great, and the performance is as vibrant now as it was then. One of the great parts of this set is the addition of a horn section on some of the songs. Both on upbeat songs such as "Don't Do It" and on quieter songs like "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down". I've always liked "Rock Of Ages" more than the farewell set "The Last Walz", probably because this is all The Band, as opposed to the guest appearances that define The Last Walz. As if the re-mastered original recording wasn't enough, this deluxe edition adds a whole additional CD of live material. This is a collection of songs the Band often played during this time frame, and includes some gems that weren't on the original recording ("Up On Cripple Creek" and "I Shall Be Released"). Plus 4 songs featuring Bob Dylan. The extra set is icing on the cake, and makes a great album even more essential. Highest recommendation!
34 of 38 found the following review helpful:
"The Last Waltz" Was The Band's End--This Was Their Life Jan 01, 2004
By Bud Sturguess
The last four nights of 1971 witnessed a series of soulful performances by The Band at New York's Academy Of Music, the highlights of which were captured on "Rock Of Ages," an exceptionally unadulterated live recording. While many performers would come to rely on an entire orchestra in an attempt to make their live albums more appealing, The Band succeeded with only a modest horn section.
It sure isn't the sound quality that makes this album, but it's definitely the sincerity of every note. After that year's "Cahoots" was unjustly regarded as a disappointment, The Band reminded everyone why they could call themselves THE Band in the first place. They troop through their cannon of work with emotion and integrity. Though 'The Shape I'm In' may lack the grit of the studio version, and 'The Weight' may not be as well tuned as its counterpart, it is more than made up for by the loyally true feeling that is generated throughout "Rock Of Ages." The horns add a whole new musical layer to many songs; they give more sadness or emotion to the likes of 'The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,' and flavor on songs like 'Chest Fever;' the latter boasts keyboardist Garth Hudson's exciting, brilliant organ intro 'The Genetic Method,' which contains as many twists as there are crumbs in Hudson's beard. However, on some songs, the horns don't work so well and appear to overbearing. Meanwhile, 'Get Up Jake' is a fantastic track that was formerly only a B-side, while '(I Don't Want To) Hang Up My Rock 'n' Roll Shoes' preludes their next project, "Moondog Matinee."
Perfectly remastered, this 2001 edition of "Rock Of Ages" contains a bonus disc of unreleased cuts from the concert, including the essential hymnal 'I Shall Be Released' and four songs featuring a cameo by Bob Dylan. It's a mystery why these tracks were not included on the original release, except for "Like A Rolling Stone" in which it appears Dylan forgets some of his lyrics, mumbling inaudibly through parts of the song (or is it just bad sound?). But despite its flaws, this is a potent and strong concert recording. "The Last Waltz" documented their end--"Rock Of Ages" is the essence of their musical spirit.
13 of 13 found the following review helpful:
The Band's Best Nov 28, 2001
By Gary Popovich
"Retired Banjo Picker"
While other rock groups of the late `60's and `70's attempted to elevate their work through "rock operas" and live collaborations with various philharmonic orchestras, The Band understood the powerful subtlety of their American roots-based music. "Rock of Ages" showcases marvelous live performances of The Band's best material from their first four albums (including much of the essential "Music from Big Pink" and the self-titled second album), supercharged by an all-star horn section blowing arrangements penned by the great Allan Toussaint.
Disk One comprises the original release of "Rock of Ages," and is worth the price of the set on its own. The Band at its best was always about collaboration and teamwork (which, as drummer/vocalist Levon Helm recounts in his revealing autobiography, "This Wheel's on Fire," regrettably is missing from the groups later efforts), and each member contributes to the power of the performances, whether it's Richard Manuel's soulful vocals, Robbie Robertson's high-wire guitar solos, Garth Hudson's lunatic keyboard and woodwind genius, or the rock-solid rhythm and joyous singing of Helm and bassist Rick Danko. The Band & Co. maintain an admirable level of energy and control, drawing on history ("The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down "), vaudeville ("The W.S. Wallcott Medicine Show," "Rag Mama Rag") , pieces of Americana ("King Harvest," "Across the Great Divide"), and the human condition ("The Weight," "Unfaithful Servant," "The Shape I'm In") to convey their unique musical vision. By the time they shift into "Chest Fever" and "Rock and Roll Shoes," the performers and audience alike are dancing on winged feet.
Disk Two will probably be of more interest to hard-core fans of The Band and Bob Dylan - the inclusion of the Dylan tracks is more of historical interest, as he rarely performed live during the time of the recording. My favorite tracks here are "Time to Kill" and "Rockin' Chair", the latter featuring a trademark falsetto harmony shift by Manuel that is at once heartwarming and hair-raising.
For performance alone, "Rock of Ages" belongs in any serious rock and roll collection.
13 of 15 found the following review helpful:
Skip "The Last Waltz"... THIS is the greatest live album!!! Jun 04, 2001
By Carlos R. Pastrana
This is the greatest live album ever... These performances that are documented here find a band whose creative well had dried up (only one song from their then-recent release, "Cahoots"), yet at the same time, the great Allen Touissant's presence here rouses the great creative spirit that permeated The Band! I've always considered great live albums to be those in which the artists are able to effectively re-create or re-interpret themselves, and in "Rock of Ages", The Band's rootsy Civil War songcraft is given new Stax-soul life by the syncopathed call-and-response brass lyricism... "The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show", "Rag Mama Rag", and "Across The Great Divide" are standouts... "The Weight" is slowed down, underlining its sense of moral (pun-intended) weight... The only weakness is Dylan's New Year's Eve intervention, his voice sounds jagged, and The Band itself sounds tired and looking forward to the end of the tour... Nevertheless, Zimmy's mere presence IS monumental and historical, being removed from the legendary Basement Tapes by a mere few years.
6 of 6 found the following review helpful:
Orgasmic. Dec 31, 1998
Arguably the greatest live rock 'n roll album of all time, "Rock of Ages" serves as a showcase for not only the considerable skill of the Band's musicians themselves, but also of Alan Toussaint's prowess as an arranger. The horn arrangements Toussaint wrote for the songs presented here (with the exception of "The Weight" and "Get Up Jake," which appear here without horns) never interfere with the melodies or change the basic feel of the songs as they originally appeared. At the same time, the horn arrangements manage to be pervasive and intricate, weaving their way in and out of the Band's soulful grooves. Highlights include the album's opener, Marvin Gaye's "Don't Do It," a funky tune which rides on the strength of Rick Danko's bass line and Levon Helm's drumming.
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