Though they were predominantly Canadian, the Band wrote the proverbial book on what would come to be known as Americana roots-rock. After years of backing everyone from rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins to Bob Dylan, they emerged as a creative force in their own right at the end of the 1960s. They were just in time to spearhead a movement away from the acid-rock excesses of the '60s, toward a simpler, more down-home musical mindset heavily informed by folk, country, and blues. GREATEST HITS offers a definitive look at the Rushmore-like legacy they left behind through their classic recordings.
Garth Hudson's quirky Lowery organ sound (quite distinct from the Hammond most rock organists favored) wheezed and ground; Robbie Robertson's terse, blues-influenced guitar licks snapped at the singers' heels; and Levon Helm's syncopated, hillbilly-funky drumming turned the time ever so slightly askew. Atop it all, the rough-hewn harmonies of Helm, bassist Rick Danko, and pianist Richard Manuel carried Robertson's masterfully crafted tales of an America more imagined than remembered, coming off like preachers tossed off the pulpit for carousing and general rowdiness, but still obviously close to God's heart.
The Band began as the Hawks, backing up rockabilly cat Ronnie Hawkins. In the mid-1960s, they became Bob Dylan's ensemble of choice, aiding him in his epochal switch to an electric rock-based format. When they emerged as an independent recording entity at the end of the '60s, they helped usher in a move towards earthy roots-rock as a generation shied away from the clamor and excess of the psychedelic era. The mostly Canadian group synthesized a wide variety of traditional American styles in a unique hodgepodge that took full advantage of each member's unique multi-instrumental abilities. THE LAST WALTZ film and album provided their 1978 swan song, but the Band began anew in the '80s without songwriter/guitarist Robbie Robertson.
Q (5/01, p.129) - 4 stars out of 5 - "...A fine compilation drawn from the 7 studio albums they recorded between 1968 and '77....Listen to it while polishing Grandpa's pocket-watch."