Rock

Robbie Robertson on Reissue of The Band's 'Music From Big Pink': 'I Hear Things That I Never Heard Before'

The Band
Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns

The Band photographed in London.

Robbie Robertson is so busy these days that he doesn't "have a whole lot of time to reminisce." But the 50th anniversary of The Band's landmark debut album, Music From Big Pink, gave him reason to dip into the past and help prepare an anniversary edition that comes out Aug. 31.

Check out the specially created trailer for the set, which premieres below. 

Music From Big Pink (50th Anniversary Edition) comes in several configurations, including a box set with CD, pink vinyl and Blu-ray versions. Adding studio chatter and additional annotation, it offers a broader look at what's considered one of the most seminal debut albums in rock history, taking The Band from its previous incarnation as Bob Dylan's backing group and vaulting it into the limelight. 

"It's so deeply ingrained and so familiar," Robertson tells Billboard, "and revisiting it, knowing that this record has taken on a musical, historic place, I was listening to it differently, and with a lot of satisfaction. There is such a deep soul in that period of The Band, making music that still has the same magnet that I hoped it would have back then. When we made this record and played it for friends and for the record company, they had no idea what we were doing; You could see on people's faces that look of being so unsure of what they were hearing. It was a little bit spooky to me, but...it's stood that test of time very well."

Robertson also lauds producer Bob Clearmountain's work in creating the 50th anniversary edition from what was rudimentary, raw material. "It was recorded on four tracks...in a way that couldn't be messed with a lot," he explains. "There's not a lot of variables in it. It wasn't like now, when you've got things on 50 tracks and can play with them a lot. But Bob did such a majestic job. I hear things that I never heard before -- and I know this record pretty well. He did something that took me deeper inside of the experience of the music, without messing with it, which I was I was really hoping for. It just sound better, and it surrounds you more."

Robertson expects there will be 50th anniversary editions of The Band's other albums -- "They'll be making me roll up my sleeves again," he cracks -- at the appropriate times, which he'll wedge into a busy schedule of other projects. He's writing a sequel to his 2016 memoir Testimony, which will pick up from The Band's dissolution after The Last Waltz in 1976. Robertson is also working on the score to Martin Scorsese's next film The Irishman, about controversial labor union leader Frank Sheeran, and he has a solo album that he predicts will come as a surprise to listeners.

"I'm not finished yet so it's a little hard to describe, but it is one of the most violent and sexy records that I've ever been part of," he says. "I've really done something this time, and I'm very excited about that."