Robert Christgau, a music critic, was so disappointed with The Band‘s debut album that he planned to “castigate” their follow-up. After hearing the album he declared it better than Abbey Road. After reading that and hearing The Band’s second album I decided that Christgau was high when he listened to it.
I might not like this kind of Americana music. I do not like some of the vocals, especially when it sounds like Randy Newman. That guy has an awful voice. The first song “Across the Great Divide” sounds exactly like Newman.
And some of the songs sound as ridiculous as Newman songs like “Rag Mama Rag”,
“Shag mama shag now, what’s come over you
Rag mama rag, I’m a pulling out your gag
Gonna turn you a loose like an old caboose
Got a tail, I need a drag
I ask about your turtle”.
Why is he talking to a turtle? Why is mama gagged? It is really just a silly song.
I find it a bit difficult to differentiate the vocals between the three singers. I thought all the Newman sounding vocals were from Richard Manuel, but that turned out to be false.
“Whispering Pines” is one of the best songs and it is sung by Manuel and Levon Helm. It is a depressing song with lyrics about loneliness,
“Standing by the well, wishing for the rains
Reaching to the clouds, for nothing else remains
Drifting in a daze, when evening will be done
Try looking through a haze
At an empty house, in the cold, cold sun”,
and the vocals of Helm and Manuel make it more depressing. I think Manuel had a lot of darkness in him. He eventually committed suicide. I know this darkness. It never goes away. It keeps me alone and feeling hated. I do not have anyone to turn to on this earth. I am unloved.
Robbie Robertson is credited as the predominate writer on the album, but in that time the record company just gave someone the credit and it was so. Unfortunately, the artists did not know the after effects of that decision. The person who received the credit made the money when the song was used for commercials or by another artist. Manuel tried to get Robertson to do the right thing, but he eventually did not.
Overall, I like it better than their first album. It is not exactly my type of music because it leans too much toward country music. At moments it is good, but those moment are too few. 6/10.