Sunday, January 7, 2007

Whispering Pines

The Band is one of those bands whose songs I've heard over the years but never realized it was them who sang them, until I recently happened to stumble across an episode of VH1 Classic's "Classic Albums".

This particular episode featured The Band's 1969 self-titled 2nd album (also known as "The Brown" album). While showcasing more well-known songs (songs I had heard over the years on Classic Rock radio stations) such as: The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Up on Cripple Creek, and The Weight (which is actually from their previous album), they also played a tidbit from a song titled Whispering Pines.

I was blown away after hearing just that small tidbit! I immediately set out to get my hands on the full song...and that full song has now become one of my all-time favorites (thus the blog post).

Lead vocals on The Band's songs were usually shared between Levon Helm (Drums), Rick Danko (Bass), and Richard Manuel (Piano). The last name on that list was The Band's first name in great vocals, and was the voice behind Whispering Pines. With masterful, thoughtful, abstract lyrics written by lead-guitarist Robbie Robertson (lyrics which presumably were trying to capture Manuel's own feelings of loss and loneliness); Richard Manuel's achingly beautiful vocalization of those lyrics; and somber musical backing; everything comes together perfectly to create more than just a great song - Whispering Pines creates an atmosphere and feeling of not only sadness, but of hope, that is real, that is sincere, and as such will stay with you from the moment you hear it.

Needless to say, I'm glad I came across that VH1 Classic show (not to mention, afterwards, they aired The Band's filmed swan song "The Last Waltz"...directed by Martin Scorsese - you may have heard of him). You can count me as a new fan of an old band whose talent was so rich and varied they really didn't need to call themselves anything other than, simply - The Band.

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