When The Band pulled into the unfinished Bearsville Sounds Studios in Bearsville, New York in early 1971 to record Cahoots, their fourth studio album in as many years, they were still basking in the success of and acclaim for their first three history-making records. The Band’s landmark debut album, July 1968’s Music From Big Pink, drew inspiration from the American roots music melting pot of country, blues, R&B, gospel, soul, rockabilly, the honking tenor sax tradition, hymns, funeral dirges, brass band music, folk and good ol’ rock ’n’ roll to foment a timeless new style that forever changed the course of popular music. When they released their seminal eponymous second album, The Band, the following year in September 1969 – or “The Brown Album,” as it would lovingly be called – not much more was known about the reclusive group. Even so, August 1970’s Stage Fright, recorded over 12 days on the stage of the Woodstock Playhouse in upstate New York, cemented the fulfilled promise of those initial back-to-back albums that solidified The Band as one of the most exciting and revolutionary groups of the late 1960s, who were able to carry their avowed excellence directly into the 1970s without interruption.
Indeed, The Band, made up of four Canadians and one American, was still purposefully shrouded in mystery at the turn of the decade, allowing for listeners and the music press to let their imaginations run afield about who these men were and what this music was that sounded unlike anything else happening as the psychedelic ‘60s officially wound down. Dressed like 19th century fire-and-brimstone preachers and singing rustic, sepia-toned songs about America and the deep south, The Band – Garth Hudson (keyboards, accordion, horns), Levon Helm (drums, vocals, mandolin, guitar), Richard Manuel (keyboards, vocals, drums), Rick Danko (bass, vocals) and Robbie Robertson (guitar, piano, vocals) – was still somewhat enigmatic as the ‘70s began to unfold and unravel around them, but there’s no denying how The Band was able to forge such an ineradicable impact on the music scene at large heretofore unmatched by any group that came before them, or since.
On December 10, Capitol/UMe will celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Band’s classic fourth album, Cahoots, with an assembly of newly remixed, remastered and expanded 50th Anniversary Edition packages, including a multi-format Super Deluxe 2CD/Blu-ray/1LP/7-inch vinyl box set along with digital, 2CD, 180-gram half-speed-mastered black vinyl and limited-edition 180-gram black vinyl packages. All the Anniversary Edition releases were overseen by principal songwriter Robbie Robertson and sport a new stereo mix by Bob Clearmountain from the original multi-track masters. The box set, CD and digital configurations boast a bevy of unreleased recordings, including Live at the Olympia Theatre, Paris, May 1971, a rousing bootleg partial concert consisting of 11 tracks culled from the initial throes of a European tour that found The Band perched at the top of their live game; and early and alternate versions of “Endless Highway” and “When I Paint My Masterpiece” along with six other early takes, outtakes, instrumentals, and stripped-down mixes.
Exclusively for this box set, Clearmountain has also created new Dolby Atmos and 5.1 surround-sound mixes of both the album and four bonus tracks, presented in high resolution on Blu-ray, alongside the new stereo mix. Every new audio mix has been mastered by Adam Ayan at Gateway Mastering. The lift-top box set also includes an exclusive reproduction of the Japanese pressing of The Band’s 1971 7-inch vinyl single for “Life Is A Carnival” b/w “The Moon Struck One” in their new stereo mixes; a 20-page booklet with new notes by Robbie Robertson and extensive insider liner notes by Rob Bowman; three classic photo lithographs, one each by Barry Feinstein, Richard Avedon (his infamous eyes-closed group portrait from the back cover) and noted New York artist/illustrator Gilbert Stone (who painted the still stunning stretched-out portrait of The Band on the album’s front cover); plus a wealth of additional material and other historical data from the original recordings sessions. The limited-edition 180-gram black vinyl release that features a tip-on jacket also contains a photo lithograph by Barrie Wentzell that’s unique to the package.