I’ve never been a huge fan of The Band other than whenever they were somebody’s backing group, and I at least partially hold their precedent to blame for that recent (and hopefully waning) wave of obnoxious bearded-hipster folk-rock revival acts that dress like they just returned from a Civil War battle. But I also recently read Robbie Robertson’s memoir, Testimony, and really enjoyed it, so that sort of softened me up to revisiting some of The Band’s music.
Those first two albums are the keepers. After that, everything’s a mixed bag of hit-or-miss, but their third album Stage Fright from 1970, has enough going for it to warrant inclusion in any self-respecting roots-rock fan’s collection. After first being reissued (along with their other albums) in 2000, appended with a handful of alternate takes, it’s getting the deluxe version treatment again with an expanded multi-format edition due out Feb. 12. In addition to the original album (recorded on the stage of the Woodstock Playhouse in upstate New York, without an audience), newly remastered, the set also includes a recording of a late-night hotel room jam session and the audio of a Royal Albert Hall concert from 1971. There’s other stuff, too, like a reproduction of a 7-inch and booklet with a bunch of pretty old pictures, but you get the general idea.