On February 12, Capitol/UMe will celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Band’s classic third album, Stage Fright, with a suite 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 photo booklet; digital, 2CD, 180-gram black vinyl, and limited edition 180-gram color vinyl packages.
All the Anniversary Edition releases were overseen by principal songwriter Robbie Robertson and boast a new stereo mix by Bob Clearmountain from the original multi-track masters. For the first time, the album is being presented in the originally planned song order. The box set, CD and digital configurations feature a bevy of unreleased recordings, including Live at the Royal Albert Hall, June 1971, a thrilling full concert captured in the midst of their European tour as the band was at the top of its game; alternate versions of “Strawberry Wine” and “Sleeping;” and seven unearthed field recordings, Calgary Hotel Recordings, 1970: a fun and loose, impromptu late night hotel jam session between Robertson, Rock Danko and Richard Manuel of several Stage Fright songs recorded while the album was in the mixing stage.
Exclusively for the box set, Clearmountain has also created a new 5.1 surround mix and a hi-res stereo mix of the album, bonus tracks and the live show, presented on Blu-ray. All the new audio mixes have been mastered by Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering. The set also includes an exclusive reproduction of the Spanish pressing of The Band’s 1971 7-inch vinyl single for “Time To Kill” b/w “The Shape I’m In” in their new stereo mixes and a photo booklet with new notes by Robbie Robertson and touring photographer John Scheele, who recorded the Calgary Hotel Recordings; plus a reprinting of the original Los Angeles Times album review by famed critic Robert Hilburn; three classic photo lithographs; and a wealth of photographs from Scheele and several other photographers.
By the time The Band was ready to record Stage Fright, in 1970, they were riding high from having released back-to-back albums that solidified them as one of the most exciting and revolutionary groups of the late 1960s. Seemingly coming from nowhere and everywhere in ‘68, their landmark debut album, Music From Big Pink, drew from the American roots music panoply of country, blues, R&B, gospel, soul, rockabilly, the honking tenor sax tradition, hymns, funeral dirges, brass band music, folk, and rock ‘n’ roll to forge a timeless new style that forever changed the course of popular music.
When they released their seminal eponymous second album the following year, “The Brown Album” as it would lovingly be called, not much more was known about the reclusive group. The band, made up of four Canadians and one American, was still shrouded in mystery, allowing for listeners and the music press to let their imaginations run wild about who these men were and what this music was that sounded unlike anything else happening at the close of the psychedelic ‘60s. 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, piano, horn), Levon Helm (drums, vocals, mandolin), Richard Manuel (keyboards, vocals, drums), Rick Danko (bass, vocals, fiddle) and Robbie Robertson (guitar, piano, vocals) – was an enigma, unlike any group that came before or after.
One of the few things known about the elusive band was that, along with neighbor and collaborator Bob Dylan, they called the rural artist community of Woodstock, NY home base, years before the sleepy town became a cultural flashpoint and shorthand for the emerging counterculture in the wake of the massive Woodstock Music & Arts Festival, held 40 miles southwest in Bethel, NY. The one band to actually hail from Woodstock, The Band famously played their second-ever show on the final day of the festival in front of nearly half a million people.
As a result of Woodstock, the small town became a Bohemian mecca of sorts and was overrun by the hordes of people it was now attracting. As a peace offering to their community, The Band rented out the Woodstock Playhouse to host a concert where they’d debut their new batch of songs they had been workshopping to their neighbors. Fearing that the show would only attract more outsiders and make matters worse it was turned down by the townsfolk. As a result, The Band ended up recording their next album on the playhouse stage, without an audience. Enter: Stage Fright.
As with the acclaimed 50th anniversary collections for Music From Big Pink and the self-titled record, Clearmountain and Robertson’s approach to remixing the beloved album was done with the utmost care and respect for the music and what The Band represents. “Doing new mixes on these songs with Bob Clearmountain has been a gift and special opportunity,” Robertson writes in the new liner notes.
“Glyn Johns and Todd [Rundgren] did a terrific job on the original mixes in England while The Band was on the Festival Express train tour across Canada with Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead. We had always been part of the mixing process before, which left something on this album feeling a little unfinished. Clearmountain has taken this music and given it the sonic lift it deserves. The album has become a whole new listening experience with the original song order and the depth of these mixes.” The result is a new mix that allows listeners to hear these timeless songs clearer than ever before. “There may be some purists that prefer ‘the way it was,’ and of course that’s always readily available,” adds Robertson. “I’m enjoying this new version, this story, this musical journey. It feels like a fulfillment and I know my brothers in The Band would definitely agree.”
In the spring of 1971, The Band set off to Europe where they hadn’t played since their tumultuous tour with Bob Dylan in 1966, where they were booed every night as the folk rock purists felt betrayed by Dylan who had gone electric, backed by The Hawks who would soon after become The Band. Not having played there in five years, the guys were understandably weary and didn’t know what to expect, but instead of boos they received a rapturous response at their first concert in Hamburg, Germany and would go on to play for one enthusiastic crowd after another. “Each member of The Band was on a musical high. Everybody playing and singing at the top of their game. Each night, from Amsterdam to Paris to Copenhagen, the spirit kept rising,” remarks Robertson.
When it came to the band’s concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall, they wanted to document it so EMI taped it on a 4-track machine. For the first time ever, this concert recording is being released as Live At The Royal Albert Hall, 1971, an exhilarating 20-song set that captures the band firing on all cylinders and delivering rousing performances of songs from their then-recently released third album alongside their most popular tracks from Music From Big Pink and “The Brown Album” such as “The Weight,” “King Harvest (Has Surely Come),” “Up On Cripple Creek,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” “Across The Great Divide,” “Chest Fever,” and inspired covers of Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” and the Stevie Wonder-penned, Four Tops hit, “Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever.” With the help of Clearmountain, these recordings have been restored nearly five decades later, allowing listeners to experience what Robertson call “One of the greatest live concerts The Band ever played.”
Whereas this electrifying concert showcases The Band playing as good as they ever did, The Calgary Hotel Recordings, 1970 offer a glimpse into a different kind of performance, the kind of fun, spur-of-the-moment jam sessions that were bound to happen whenever the guys were together in a hotel room or backstage on tour.
As Robertson started to run through some of The Band’s new songs recently recorded for Stage Fright, photographer John Scheele, who was traveling with the group on the Festival Express, hit record on his portable cassette recorder and captured the spontaneous performance late at night on July 3, 1970 in Calgary, the last stop of the legendary tour. The field recordings, which feature Robertson on guitar and vocals with Danko harmonizing and playing rhythm and Manuel joining in on vocals and harmonica, are a fascinating document that lets fans hear the friends letting loose and having a good time together doing what they loved to do.
Released on August 17, 1970, Stage Fright features two of The Band’s best-known songs, “The Shape I’m In” and the title track, both of which showcased inspired lead vocal performances by Manuel and Danko, respectively and became staples in the group’s live shows. Recorded over 12 days on the stage of the Woodstock Playhouse, the album was self-produced by The Band for the first time and engineered and mixed by Todd Rundgren with additional mixing by Glyn Johns.
Coming off the heels of the band’s monumental debut and sophomore records, Stage Fright cemented The Band as one of the most exciting and important musical acts of the ‘60s and ‘70s. As noted music critic Robert Hilburn wrote in his glowing review for the Los Angeles Times, “Like the first two albums, the new one features a staggering display of musical prowess – superb instrumentation, precise vocals and rich, timeless lyrics,” adding, “At least five of the songs, including ‘The Rumor,’ ‘Daniel and the Sacred Harp, ‘The Shape I’m In’ and ‘Time to Kill’ rank comfortably alongside ‘The Weight,’ The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ and a few others as the best things the group has ever done.” Stage Fright peaked at #5 on Billboard, surpassing The Band’s first two albums, and went gold.
For the 50th Anniversary collection, the sequence has been changed to present Stage Fright with the originally planned song order. “On the album, we used a different sequence to feature and encourage Richard and Levon’s songwriting participation,” Robertson reveals. “Over time, I pined for our first song order, because it pulls you right into the Stage Fright scenario.”
Fifty years on, lifelong fans and those just discovering The Band can experience the album in a whole new way, sounding better than ever, or for the first time.
Stage Fright (50th Anniversary Edition) is out on February 12. Scroll down to read the full tracklisting and pre-order it here.
“The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show”
“The Shape I’m In”
“Daniel And The Sacred Harp”
“Time To Kill”
“Just Another Whistle Stop”
“All La Glory”
“Strawberry Wine” (Alternate Mix)
“Sleeping” (Alternate Mix)
Calgary Hotel Room Recordings, 1970
“Get Up Jake” (#1)
“Get Up Jake” (#2)
“The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show”
“Rockin’ Pneumonia And The Boogie Woogie Flu”
“Before You Accuse Me”
Live At Royal Albert Hall, June 1971
“The Shape I’m In”
“Time To Kill”
“King Harvest (Has Surely Come)”
“Look Out Cleveland”
“I Shall Be Released”
“Up On Cripple Creek”
“The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show”
“We Can Talk”
“Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever”
“The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”
“Across the Great Divide”
“The Unfaithful Servant”
“Don’t Do It”
“The Genetic Method”
“Rag Mama Rag”