The Boxing Lesson
Box sets grow up and out
The BandLive at the Academy of Music 1971 (Capitol/UMe)
A glance at the back of this hardback volume whets appetites for Last Waltz-style visuals, but the latter portion of this 4-CD/1-DVD set houses a 5.1 Surround Sound mix and only two brief video snippets. Of course, witnessing the Band over the shoulder of Southern sidewinder Levon Helm on a hayride through the "W.S. Walcott Medicine Show" sells this deluxe expansion of the Canadian Mounties' 1972 live landmark Rock of Ages in a song. The biblical audio amended a second disc of outtakes on a 2001 reissue, but now the entirety of both shows for the NYC stand unfurl another raw blueprint for Americana. Five feral voices become a Civil War of harmony and soul, whether it's Helm carrying "The Weight," Rick Danko igniting his and Dylan's "This Wheel's on Fire," or doomed Richard Manuel and Robbie Robertson sawing floorboards on "Rockin' Chair." Garth Hudson's organ intro to "Chest Fever" choirs up a space orgy of sound. At the moment rock & roll turns from religious ecstasy to spiritual possession ("I Shall Be Released") and speaking in tongues – Helm and Danko yodeling together at the end of "Up on Cripple Creek" – Ahab himself shows up (Dylan) to harpoon the final four songs after Allen Toussaint's firehouse horn arrangements have sounded the cannons.