The Band Releases ‘Rock Of Ages’ 50 Years Ago Today
Watch videos of “The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show,” "Don't Do It" and more.
Rock of Ages: The Band In Concert live album arrived 50 years ago today. The compilation was culled from The Band‘s 1971 New Year’s run at the Academy of Music in New York City. In honor of the milestone, JamBase takes a look at the landmark live record.
The Band — guitarist Robbie Robertson, bassist Rick Danko, drummer Levon Helm, keyboardist Garth Hudson and pianist Richard Manuel — performed at NYC’s Academy Of Music (later renamed the Palladium) from December 28 through New Year’s Eve 1971. For the occasion, Robertson once again tapped New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint to write horn arrangements for several of the songs The Band planned to play from across their catalog throughout the run.
Toussaint had previously written horn lines for “Life Is A Carnival” off The Band’s studio album proceeding Rock Of Ages, 1971’s Cahoots! Adding to the live album’s legend, the charts penned by Toussaint in New Orleans for the Academy concert were lost in transit and new arrangements were written in a cabin near Robertson’s home in Woodstock, New York. Check out a video featuring Robbie Robertson talking about collaborating with Allen Toussaint below:
The Rock Of Ages live album begins with an introduction from Robbie. “We’re gonna try something tonight that we’ve never done before,” he said. “We’d like to bring out the best horn men in New York to help us do it.” Robertson then introduces the horn section of Howard Johnson, Snooky Young, Joe Farrell, Earl McIntyre and J.D. Parron.
All told, the horns performed on 11 of the tracks that would end up on Rock Of Ages including classics like “The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” the aforementioned “Life Is A Carnival” and more. The horns also appear on The Band’s iconic cover of the Holland-Dozier-Holland-penned Marvin Gaye Motown hit “Don’t Do It.” The Band, however, would go it alone for favorites including “The Weight,” “Stage Fright,” “The Shape I’m In,” and the Danko/Dylan co-write “This Wheel’s On Fire.”
Bob Dylan would join his frequent collaborators on New Year’s Eve, performing “Down In The Flood,” “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” “Like A Rolling Stone” and more which were included on an expanded version of Rock Of Ages, which can be streamed below along with recently released official video from the concerts including “The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show,” “King Harvest (Has Surely Come)” and “Don’t Do It”: