The Band

Best of a Musical History

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A Musical History was one of the best box sets of the last ten years: a thorough and revelatory biography of the Band, telling their story from their beginnings as a backing band for Ronnie Hawkins to their disbandment after The Last Waltz. Released in the spring of 2007, about two years after the appearance of the original box, the single-disc excerpt The Best of a Musical History isn't nearly as good as its mammoth five-disc parent, largely because it tries to serve to audiences equally: it tries to please casual fans who just want the hits, while trying to win over serious fans curious about the rarities on the box yet unwilling to acquire the whole set. As such, this 19-track set sprawls all over the place, containing a smattering of Band standards ("The Weight," "Life Is a Carnival," "King Harvest [Has Surely Come]," "Stage Fright," "I Shall Be Released"), fan favorites that aren't quite rare ("Orange Juice Blues," "Don't Do It"), genuine rarities ("He Don't Love You [And He'll Break Your Heart]," by Levon the Hawks; Bob Dylan's "Can You Please Crawl out Your Window?"), and five unreleased tracks, highlighted by a roaring live version of "Slippin' and Slidin'" and Rick Danko's "Home Cookin'." All of this music is good and the set does indicate the rich breadth of the Band's music. Many of the band's classics are here, but this doesn't contain enough great rarities from the box set to be a true "best-of the box." It merely is what it says it is: a sampler of the box, nothing more. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

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