Thursday, 28 December 2017

The Band FAQ - Peter Aaron

(This review first appeared in issue #68 of Shindig! magazine.)

Backbeat Books

Though they had a hand in destroying “all that psychedelic bullshit” and giving rise to The Eagles (er thanks guys!), there's no denying the influence The Band had on many leading musicians of the late '60s. Urbanist futurism was out, heritage and rural-living was in. Even The Beatles took notice ditching the satin Sgt. Pepper suits and Eggman garb in favour of more natural fibres.

It's a story that's been told in print before - Barney Hoskyns' Across The Great Divide, and the I-was-there memoirs of both Levon Helm and Robbie Robertson, so you wonder what there is to add. To his credit Aaron doesn't dig dirt or focus on the fissures that ultimately split The Band apart, nor does he take sides. He opts instead for a fact-heavy celebration of the music, and is particularly insightful when analysing what made the quintet so special as musicians. Key concerts, their gestation periods backing Ronnnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan, and a guide to their most essential bootlegs are also well covered, as is their reformation in the 1990s and the often overlooked solo releases.

Not quite so necessary is the chapter focused on the genres that fed into The Band's work as most readers will already have a good grasp on blues, jazz, soul etc. A minor quibble, and while this is not a book to devour, its concise chapters are great for dipping into. It'll certainly have you digging out The Band's albums and hearing them with a fresh appreciation.