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Released: July 1, 1968

Rating: 4.596 (average of 13 ratings)

Genre: folk rock

Quotable: --

Album Tracks:

  1. Tears of Rage
  2. To Kingdom Come
  3. In a Station
  4. Caledonia Mission
  5. The Weight
  6. We Can Talk
  7. Long Black Veil
  8. Chest Fever
  9. Lonesome Suzie
  10. This Wheel’s on Fire
  11. I Shall Be Released

Total Running Time: 42:22


sales in U.S. only ½ million
sales in U.K. only - estimated --
sales in all of Europe as determined by IFPI – click here to go to their site. --
sales worldwide - estimated ½ million


peak on U.S. Billboard album chart 30
peak on U.K. album chart --

Singles/Hit Songs:

  • The Weight (8/18/68) #63 US, #21 UK

Notes: The 2000 CD reissue “included nine bonus tracks…Among the new material, there were alternate takes of ‘Tears of Rage’ and ‘Lonesome Suzie’ (the former only marginally different, the latter a completely different approach to the song); versions of four songs previously released on the 1975 album The Basement Tapes (‘Yazoo Street Scandal,’ ‘Katie’s Been Gone,’ ‘Long Distance Operator,’ and ‘Orange Juice Blues [Blues for Breakfast]’); covers of country and blues material (‘If I Lose,’ ‘Key to the Highway’); and one original song probably from the group's initial demo session (‘Ferdinand the Imposter’).” WR


Rated one of the top 1000 albums of all time by Dave’s Music Database. Click to learn more. Mojo Magazine’s 100 Greatest Albums NME Magazine’s 100 Greatest Albums One of Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

Music from Big Pink
The Band
“Although the five musicians who came together in the late '50s and early '60s to back up Canadian rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins probably had played thousands of shows and had made numerous recordings, none of these public appearances gave much of a clue about how they would sound when they released their first album as the Band in July 1968. If people at that time had heard the 1967 sessions later dubbed The Basement Tapes that the musicians had made with Bob Dylan, they would have been better prepared. As it was, Music from Big Pink came as a surprise. At first blush, the group seemed to affect the sound of a loose jam session, the arrangements giving alternating emphases to different instruments, while the lead and harmony vocals passed back and forth as if the singers were making up their blend on the spot. In retrospect, especially as the lyrics sank in, the arrangements seemed far more considered and crafted to support a group of songs that took family, faith, and rural life as their subjects and proceeded to imbue their values with uncertainty.” WR

Tears of Rage, the leadoff track, was a lament by parents about a rebellious child; The Weight considered various acts of kindness that went wrong; and I Shall Be Released, the closing track, expressed the hopeless hope of a prisoner who determined his salvation by viewing the world in reverse (‘I see my light coming shining from the west unto the east,’ he sang, as if the earth were spinning in the opposite direction from its usual course). Other songs took on the theme of declining institutions less clearly, but the points were made musically as much as lyrically.” WR

“Tenor Richard Manuel's haunting, lonely voice gave the album much of its frightening aspect, even when he wasn't singing lead (especially his moans in ‘The Weight’), while Rick Danko’s and Levon Helm’s rough-hewn styles reinforced the songs’ rustic fervor. The dominant instrument was Garth Hudson's organ, which could be icy and majestic, his other keyboards introducing novel sounds, while Robbie Robertson's unusual guitar work further destabilized the sound.” WR

“The result was an album that reflected the cultural and political turmoil of the late ‘60s in a way that emphasized the tragedy inherent in the conflicts. Nevertheless, Music from Big Pink came off as a shockingly divergent musical statement only a year after Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, when rock had moved toward ornate productions. Bob Dylan, the Band's mentor, had begun a move back to a simpler, if more ambiguous style with John Wesley Harding six months earlier, and Music from Big Pink initially attracted attention because of the three songs (‘Tears of Rage,’ This Wheel’s on Fire, and ‘I Shall Be Released’) he had either written or co-written. Soon, however, as ‘The Weight’ became a minor singles chart entry, the album and the group made their own impact, influencing a movement more toward roots styles and country elements in rock. Over time, Music from Big Pink came to be regarded as a watershed work in the history of rock, one that introduced new tones and approaches to the constantly evolving genre.” WR

Review Source(s):

Last updated March 28, 2010.