These two late albums by The Band need little introduction. By the time they were originally released – Rock of Ages in ’72 and Islands in ’76 – The Band had made its mark both on its own and by backing of Bob Dylan. While these albums both included some solid music, they were far from the group’s best.
While it reached #6 on the Billboard charts upon release, the live Rock of Ages would quickly be forgotten after the stupendous fanfare swan song, The Last Waltz, and Robbie Robertson himself was never truly happy with Islands, always feeling it needed further development.
Capitol has now re-released both with extensive liner booklets and a handful of previously unreleased tracks. Islands includes two bonus tracks – the single version of “Twilight” and an alternate take of “Georgia On My Mind” – but still the album will only appeal to hardcore collectors.
The re-release of Rock of Ages is another matter altogether. Listening to it again after all these years, the music is indeed rock solid and it should find a home with new fans of The Band. Better yet, Capitol has dug deep into its vaults and added a second CD packed with 10 previously unreleased tracks from the 1971-’72 concerts. These include versions of “I Shall Be Released” and “Up On Cripple Creek” as well as four hot numbers with Dylan; “Down In The Flood,” “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” “Don’t Ya Tell Henry,” and “Like A Rolling Stone.”
These live tracks come two years prior to ’74′s Before The Flood, and are sparked by the same energy and emotion of those shows. While Dylan juggles with (and eventually drops) some of the lyrics to “Like A Rolling Stone,” these are still hot live versions and the addition of these four songs will make this reissue a must-have for all Band and Dylan fans.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Nov. ’01 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.