Holland, 1945//Neutral Milk Hotel
—Ain't No More Cane ((Alternate Version) Take 2)
Forget the Allmans. The Best Live Album Ever is by The Band—and it’s not The Last Waltz. From my official nomination letter:
There was always something generous about The Band. The vocals, for starters: few other acts have ever had three lead singers. The Beatles had three, and so did the Beach Boys; they harmonized damn well, too. But what made The Beatles and The Beach Boys so spectacular vocally was that they could vanish into each other with their voices. They blended because they were consonant.
The Band was different. Levon Helm’s voice was a throaty Delta burr. Richard Manuel’s was a black-coffee moan. Rick Danko’s was a high, clear sob. They didn’t sound anything alike. When they sang, they stumbled in and out and over and under each other, Appalachian-style, making no attempt to neatly align every note. And yet the effect was at least as potent as Lennon-McCartney-Harrison or the Wilson-Love clan.
Usually with harmony, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. But with The Band you can hear always hear the parts and the whole at the same time, and the force and beauty of each is undiminished. A seamless blend is breathtaking, but you get more music for your money with The Band—more lines and phrasings and shadings per second, more to discover and delight in and return to. No other group is like that.
Read the rest here.