Contact Us

Top 10 Band Songs

The Band
Capitol Records

The Band first gained attention as Bob Dylan‘s backing band during his whirlwind tour of Europe in 1966. They were known as the Hawks then. By the time Dylan joined them a year later in a ramshackle house in Woodstock, NY (where the singer-songwriter was supposedly recovering from a motorcycle accident), to record the songs that would become ‘The Basement Tapes,’ they were well on their way to making their first album as the Band. Their first two albums are the ones everyone should own, but they released plenty of great music before they broke up in 1977 after an all-star ‘Last Waltz’ blowout in San Francisco. These are the Top 10 Band Songs.


Band Shape I'm In
10

'The Shape I'm In'

From: 'Stage Fright' (1970)
 
 

By the time the Band recorded their third album in 1970, Richard Manuel's drug and alcohol abuse was starting to take its toll on both him and his bandmates. Robbie Robertson wrote 'The Shape I'm In' about Manuel, who sings lead on the song. The track's funky shuffle reflects the third LP's shift from the dusty Americana found on the Band's first two albums.

 
Band Northern Lights Southern Cross
9

'Ophelia'

From: 'Northern Lights - Southern Cross' (1975)
 
 

After 1971's 'Cahoots' album, the Band settled into a period of transition. Filling the next few years with live records and an oldies cover album, the group didn't have the same momentum as they did during their nonstop first few years. Chalk it up to a number of things, but in the early '70s, when artists released at least one album per year, the four-year break between 'Cahoots' and 'Northern Lights - Southern Cross' was downright troubling. There are some good songs on the Band's sixth album; 'Opehlia' is the best.

 
Band Life Is a Carnival
8

'Life Is a Carnival'

From: 'Cahoots' (1971)
 
 

The opening song on the Band's fourth album features a terrific horn arrangement by New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint. It's also one of the group's most musically ambitious cuts, a shuffling, funky blast of R&B that shows just how adept the Band were at mixing and mastering genres. It would be another four years before they made another record of original material (see No. 9 on our list of the Top 10 Band Songs).

 
Band Up on Cripple Creek
7

'Up on Cripple Creek'

From: The Band (1969)
 
 

No other record encapsulates Americana like the Band's self-titled second album -- from the famous black-and-white photo of the quintet that graces the cover to the rustic Civil War-era tone of so many of its songs. The slippery porch jam 'Up on Cripple Creek' was the album's first single and the Band's highest-charting song, reaching No. 25.

 
Band Music From Big Pink
6

'This Wheel's on Fire'

From: 'Music From Big Pink' (1968)
 
 

'This Wheel's on Fire' was written by Bob Dylan and Rick Danko and originally surfaced during the Band's fabled 1967 'Basement Tapes' sessions recorded with Dylan while he was recovering from a motorcycle accident. The version found on the Band's debut album is livelier and spacier, rolling through a piercing guitar solo and some wild keyboard effects courtesy of Garth Hudson.

 
Band Music From Big Pink
5

'Chest Fever'

From: 'Music From Big Pink' (1968)
 
 

In concert, 'Chest Fever' was usually paired with 'The Genetic Method,' an instrumental intro played by multi-instrumentalist Garth Hudson. It turned the song into a spotlight-hogging centerpiece. But it sounds almost as magnificent on the original studio version from the Band's debut album, which features a searing dual vocal by Richard Manuel and Levon Helm.

 
Band Stage Fright
4

'Stage Fright'

From: 'Stage Fright' (1970)
 
 

After 'The Band' painted a sepia-toned Americana hue over late-'60s rock 'n' roll, main songwriter Robbie Robertson wanted to wash away the ancient stain on the Band's third album (see No. 10 on our list of the Top 10 Band Songs). Musically, 'Stage Fright' is the group's most diverse record, but it lacks the interplay found on its first two classic LPs. Still, it features some great songs, including the dynamic title track.

 
Band Music From Big Pink
3

'I Shall Be Released"

From: 'Music From Big Pink' (1968)
 
 

Like 'This Wheel's on Fire' (see No. 6 on our list of the Top 10 Band Songs), 'I Shall Be Released' was originally recorded during 'The Basement Tapes' sessions with Bob Dylan, who wrote the song. But it's the Band's version on their debut album, featuring a gorgeous vocal by Richard Manuel, that stands as the definitive one. So much heartbreak and hope for redemption.

 
The Band The Band
2

'The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down'

From: The Band (1969)
 
 

After 'Music From Big Pink,' which was mostly made up of songs the Band were working on when they were holed up with Bob Dylan in Woodstock, the group started working on a new set of songs penned by Robbie Robertson about the South. Specifically, the Civil War era. Taken together, the 12 tracks tell stories about the people and places affected by the conflict -- some farmers, some soldiers. 'The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down' is the album's most vividly rendered cut and its centerpiece.

 
Band The Weight
1

'The Weight'

From: 'Music From Big Pink' (1968)
 
 

'The Weight' has taken on almost mythical status since its release on the Band's debut album. Everyone from Aretha Franklin to the Black Keys has covered it. And it remains one of the finest compositions of the past 50 years. Robbie Robertson loaded the song with references both obvious (all those Biblical ones) and not-so-obvious (who's this Fanny anyway?) and a hook that's as timeless as it is golden. An American classic.

 

Best of the Web

More From Around the Web

Leave a Comment

It appears that you already have an account created within our VIP network of sites on . To keep your points and personal information safe, we need to verify that it's really you. To activate your account, please confirm your password. When you have confirmed your password, you will be able to log in through Facebook on both sites.

Forgot your password?

*Please note that your points, prizes and activities will not be shared between programs within our VIP network.

It appears that you already have an account on this site associated with . To connect your existing account with your Facebook account, just click on the account activation button below. You will maintain your existing profile and VIP program points. After you do this, you will be able to always log in to http://ultimateclassicrock.com using your Facebook account.

*Please note that your points, prizes and activities will not be shared between programs within our VIP network.

Please fill out the information below to help us provide you a better experience.

Register on Ultimate Classic Rock quickly by logging in with your Facebook account. It's just as secure, and no password to remember!

Not a Member? Sign Up Here.

Sign up for an account to comment, share your thoughts, and earn points to get great prizes.

Register on Ultimate Classic Rock quickly by logging in with your Facebook account. It's just as secure, and no password to remember!