Bob Dylan once called Robbie Robertson "the only mathematical guitar genius I've ever run into who doesn't offend my intestinal nervousness with his rearguard sound." I'm not exactly sure what that means, but I have been a big fan of Robbie's guitar playing since I first heard him on tapes from Dylan's 66 world tour.
His stinging guitar on that tour, which can be heard on countless bootleg recordings, has been discussed and praised for years by BobCats and critics across the world. I agree with every accolade that has been written about his playing.
His slash and burn licks on Tell Me, Momma and One Too Many Mornings propel the sound of the band along and add to the force of these classic Dylan songs. The extent of his rock and roll eduction from the Ronnie Hawkins days is clearly exhibited on these tracks. Can you imagine how loud and aggressive his guitar sounded to the audience in 1966?
That said, my favorite guitar work from Robbie is on The Band's second album. This is an album that I played to death when it was released in September of 1969. I had just moved back into my parent's house and I listened to it every morning for months. Every day my father would say: "Turn off that damn Bob Dylan."
Robbie is brilliant on the entire disk, but the highlight for me has always been his work on King Harvest Must Surely Come. Coming at the end of the album, it is a song that combines all the best elements of The Band: Richard's plaintive voice and piano, Garth's sweeping organ, Levon's subtle drumming, and Robbie's guitar. The pure tone of his guitar and his interaction with the piano and organ on the track is masterful. The guitar solo that Robbie lets go at the end of the song is some of the finest playing you will ever hear. This is the music of The Band at it's best.
You should have this on your iPod already. Dial it up and enjoy. If you don't own it already, the entire album is worth adding to your collection.