Band / Lenox 1976 Steve Hopkins Master / 2CD

Band / Lenox 1976 Steve Hopkins Master / 2CD / Zion
Live at Music Inn, Lenox, MA, USA 18th July 1976

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After releasing the masterpiece “NORTHERN LIGHTS-SOUTHERN CROSS”, the band has not been able to perform live activities quite easily, and even has been away from the stage for nearly two years. It was in June 1976 that the group who did not say that the live activity was aggressive from the beginning finally raised a heavy seat. Although the live tour that had been awaited was finally started, the finale was “THE LAST WALTZ” as a result. However, the nature of the live is totally different in this summer’s tour and “THE LAST WALTZ”. While the latter was a major event that brought a break to the band’s activities (as a result, it broke up), summer tours were conducted as part of the band’s regular live activities.
The most famous of these days is the radio broadcast in New York Palladium in September. At this point in time the “THE LAST WALTZ” project had started and the band organization had also changed to an expanded formation with the horn section added. However, when the summer tour began, the stage was unfolding with a solid formation of only five band members.

The radio section in September and “THE LAST WALTZ” were the ones that added the horn section as if to reproduce the success of the live album “ROCK OF AGES” in 1971, but the band in June and July The performance of only five people is a big attraction. It looks as if you are going back to basics. Radio broadcasts from July 17th at the Carter Baron Theater also have been released since this time, and now the Gray Zone Official CD has also been released. Of course it is a stereo sound board recording so it is definitely for everyone.
However, among enthusiasts, the sound source that has received much higher evaluation captured an audience recording of a live performed at the outdoor venue called Lenox’s Music Inn on the 18th of the next day. This is from the good-handed Steve Hopkins. The quality of the special case is guaranteed just to mention his name, but the quality is actually a high level recording that seems unusual. The sound pressure of the performance is almost like a soundboard itself, while absorbing the air atmosphere of the live performed while the sunlight shines at the outdoor venue. It is a masterpiece audience album that satisfies 100% of the mania that would not be enough by the good finish of the radio broadcast on the day before.

It is an audience recording that boasts such amazing sound quality, so press CD items have already been released in the past. More than 10 years ago from now on, the label “PLAYS ON” on the SCREAMER label. Certainly, the sound quality of the same title was also excellent, and it was one of the acclaimed magazines of that time. But this time the familiar KRW_CO borrowed the Hopkins Master, and the upper feeling of the version transferred to digital with the latest technology of 2019!
Compared with this version, even with that name board “PLAYS ON”, you will be reminded of a feeling of generosity that you can understand openly. Of course, the number of copies is not so much, and I’m sure I used a low generation sound source at that point. However, the master version this time is overwhelmingly high in freshness that slightly exceeds that. Compared to “PLAYS ON”, you will be able to clearly realize the ultimate “clearness” which is literally “one-skinned”. When it came to here, there was almost nothing to add in the limited press CD release.

While it was magnificent, it is also wonderful to hear the live sound that is unique to them than “THE LAST WALTZ”, which was far from the band’s original appearance, and the Paradem in September. The sound unique to that spacious band. A performance that makes the band reminiscent of such a return to the end of their activities, which had been through the 1974 tour with Bob Dylan (both Robbie Robertson) in both the sound and looks aspects (especially Robbie Robertson) Was playing on the stage. This is what lies opposite to “THE LAST WALTZ”. In the first place in July, it was time to decide not to stop the live activity, not to mention the same event.
That is why the early repertoire like “Tears Of Rage” has come back. Of course, Richard Manuel’s voice here is fierce, and it’s totally different from the atmosphere he used to hear in “MUISC FROM BIG PINK”. Still, there was the aim of the band at the time when I showed it to play this. In contrast to such Richard, Rick Danco and Livon Helm’s songs are full of the band through the whole show, and the loose taste of the performance without excess decoration. Isn’t this the sound they were able to possess?
In the finale ‘Life Is A Carnival’, Paul Batafield and Tuba player Howard Johnson, who also participated in ‘Rock of Ages’, jumped in. Especially in the blues harp of Batafield, it was almost as if it was an illusion that he was blowing in front of her eyes. Not only the stage at the end of the band, but also the best live sound source with great performance will be released to the ultimate stage. There is no more.

★ Amazing super high sound quality. Super upper version.

名作「NORTHERN LIGHTS-SOUTHERN CROSS」をリリースした後のザ・バンドはライブ活動がなかなか行われず、それどころか二年近くに渡ってステージから遠ざかってしまいました。元々ライブ活動が積極的だったとは言えないグループがようやく重い腰を上げたのは1976年6月のこと。ようやく待ち望まれていたライブ・ツアーが開始されたものの、結果としてはそのフィナーレがあの「THE LAST WALTZ」だったのです。しかしながら、この夏のツアーと「THE LAST WALTZ」ではライブの性質がまるで違います。後者がバンドの活動に一区切りをつける(結果的に解散)一大イベントだったのに対し、夏のツアーはあくまでザ・バンド通常のライブ活動の一環として行なわれていたもの。
この時期で一番有名なのは9月のニューヨーク・パラディアムでのラジオ放送でしょう。この時点で「THE LAST WALTZ」プロジェクトがスタートしていましたし、バンドの編成もホーンセクションが加わった拡大フォーメーションへと変化していた時期。ところが夏のツアーが始まった時点では5人のバンドメンバーだけのソリッドなフォーメーションにてステージが繰り広げられていました。

1971年のライブアルバム「ROCK OF AGES」の成功を再現するかのごとくホーンセクションを加えていたのが9月のラジオ放送や「THE LAST WALTZ」でしたが、6月や7月の時点ではバンド5人だけの演奏というのは大きな魅力。まるで初心に帰るかのようにも映ります。この時期からも7月17日のカーター・バロン・シアターでのラジオ放送が存在し、今ではグレーゾーンオフィシャルCDもリリースされています。もちろんステレオ・サウンドボード録音ですので万人向けであることは間違いないかと。

これほどまでに驚異的な音質を誇るオーディエンス録音ですので、過去にもプレスCDアイテムがリリース済。今から10年以上前にSCREAMERレーベルの「PLAYS ON」がそれ。確かに同タイトルの音質も素晴らしく、当時の専門誌にて絶賛された一枚でした。しかし今回はホプキンス・マスターをおなじみKRW_COが借り受け、2019年の最新テクノロジーにてデジタルにトランスファーしたバージョンのアッパー感といったら!
今回のバージョンと比べると、あの名盤「PLAYS ON」ですら、あからさまに解るほどのジェネ落ち感を思い知らされてしまう。もちろんコピーの回数はそれほどでもなく、あの時点でロージェネレーション音源を使用したことは間違いない。しかし今回のマスター・バージョンは、それをも軽く超える鮮度の高さが圧倒的。「PLAYS ON」と比べると文字通り「一皮むけた」究極的なクリアネスをはっきりと実感させられることでしょう。ここまで来ると、限定プレスCDリリースに当たって付け加えることなどほとんどありませんでした。

壮大ではあった一方、ザ・バンド本来の姿とはかけ離れていた「THE LAST WALTZ」や9月のパラディアムよりもずっと彼ららしいライブ・サウンドが聞かれるのも素晴らしい。あのゆったりとしたザ・バンドならではのサウンド。ボブ・ディランとの1974年ツアー以降からサウンド面とルックス面の両方で(特にロビー・ロバートソン)垢抜ける一方だったザ・バンドが、彼らの活動の最後期においてこれほど原点回帰を思わせるパフォーマンスをステージで鳴らしていたとは。これこそ「THE LAST WALTZ」とは対極の位置にあるもの。そもそも7月の時点では同イベントはおろか、まだライブ活動停止の決断すら下されていなかった時期。
だからこそ「Tears Of Rage」のような初期のレパートリーが復活を遂げたのでしょう。もちろん、ここでのリチャード・マニュエルの声は衰えが激しく、「MUISC FROM BIG PINK」で聞かれたかつての雰囲気とはまるで違う。それでもこれを演奏してみせたところに、当時のバンドの狙いがあったのでは。そんなリチャードとは対照的に元気いっぱいなリック・ダンコとリヴォン・ヘルムの歌はショー全編を通してザ・バンドらしさが溢れており、それと合わさって過剰な装飾のない演奏のゆったりとした味わい。これこそ彼らが持ちえたサウンドだったのではないでしょうか。
そしてフィナーレの「Life Is A Carnival」ではポール・バタフィールドと「ROCK OF AGES」にも参加していたチューバ・プレイヤーのハワード・ジョンソンが飛び入り。特にバタフィールドのブルースハープに至っては、まるで目の前で彼が吹いているのかと錯覚しそうなほどの生々しさ。ザ・バンド末期のステージというだけでなく、演奏内容も素晴らしい最高のライブ音源が究極の域へと昇格してリリースされます。これ以上はありません。



Disc 1(57:45)
1. Intro 2. Don’t Do It 3. The Shape I’m In 4. It Makes No Difference 5. The Weight
6. King Harvest (Has Surely Come) 7. Twilight 8. Ophelia 9. Tears Of Rage
10. Forbidden Fruit 11. This Wheel’s On Fire

Disc 2(29:43)
1. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down 2. The Genetic Method 3. Chest Fever 4. Up On Cripple Creek
5. Life Is A Carnival (with Howard Johnson & Paul Butterfield)

Levon Helm – drums, vocals, mandolin, guitar, percussion
Robbie Robertson – guitars, vocals
Garth Hudson – organ, keyboards, accordion, saxophones
Rick Danko – bass, vocals, guitar, fiddle
Richard Manuel – piano, drums, organ, vocals


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