Sunday, November 16, 2008


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.


  1. OH, No, Man!

    My FAVORITE ALBUM and an Absolute Favorite of my guitar influences! ("King Harvest" being my favorite song of the Set.) "STAGE FRIGHT" is a Very Close second choice, however.

    The only music act I've seen more than the Band is Dylan. Funny thing about the Band is that they are even Better live. It's as if you just can't fit it all into a studio, even with 30IPS, two-inch Quad tape!

    While all music is math (Higher math, as in Very much Higher), they tell me, Robertson is a "mathematical" player, in that it's percussion as much as melody line.

    No sense trying to integrate parts of the style into one's playing, it's a Whole; a singular universe, as it were. The scales are simple. The application is matchless. (how about Robbie on that Gibson? Like wearing high-heeled sneakers! Though he apparently did drive Fender half crazy, came out right.)

    Nice to see this as I was thinking not long ago how Robertson gets overlooked these days.

    With my Compliments,

  2. I agree R.T. After this album and Music from Big Pink, my next favorite is Stage Fright. Love that Danko vocal.
    Thanks for tuning in.

  3. I love his lyrics as much as his music. "Stagefright" is one of my all-time faves, as you know, Bump.

    "Your brow is sweatin' and
    your mouth gets dry,
    Fancy people go driftin' by.
    The moment of truth is right at hand,
    Just one more nightmare you can stand."

    But also think of something like "Acadian Driftwood" and it's historical story put to awesome music; perhaps the best combo of all of RR's talents.