The 50th anniversary reissue of The Band‘s acclaimed self-titled second album will be released on November 15. Founding Band guitarist Robbie Robertson oversaw the project with award-winning engineer Bob Clearmountain, and he tells Billboard that improving on the original mix proved to be an almost futile task.
“I went back to the original masters with Bob Clearmountain and we thought, ‘Let’s make this better for now for what we couldn’t do back then,'” Robertson explains. “Bob — who is one of the best in the world at doing the stuff — brings up the tapes and he starts to work and do his magic on it. Then I go to his studio, we’re listening to this and we’re like…’This is like taking a painting and saying, “Let’s enhance it.”‘ We couldn’t do that.”
What he and Clearmountain were able to do, Robbie says, was use modern technology to make the recordings sound more pristine, with less hum and hiss.
“You can hear more of the music, more of the air in it,” he maintains, “and present it so you’re inside of it more.”
In addition to the new mix of The Band, the reissue’s deluxe versions feature bonus tracks, including alternate takes, outtakes and instrumental mixes, as well as the group’s full performance from the 1969 Woodstock festival.
Robertson says he found some of the outtakes thrilling to hear, including an alternate version of “Rag Mama Rag,” which he notes had a “different feel [and] different instruments.”
As for the Woodstock set, Robbie recalls that the crowd had an interesting reaction to them.
“All of this madness and wildness and everything just settled down into this kind of Zen experience [when we started playing],” Robertson says. “And I thought, ‘Oh my, this is so not what they’re looking for.'”
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