The Shape I'm In
The Very Best of The Band
The UK The Band compilation The Shape I'm In was released in August 1998. From the review in The Sunday Times by Mark Edwards:
These days the Band are something of an acquired taste. Weíve got so used to programmed rhythms and real drummers who play to a computer-generated click-track that The Bandís slow-slow-quick-quick-slow approach can initially sound unsettling. On the slower songs Levon Helm seems to be using the drumsticks of Damocles Ė they hover in the air above the drums for aeons before finally crashing down and pushing the reluctant beat a smidgeon further on. But once youíve reacclimatised to the now novel idea of five hugely talented musicians playing off each other, the Bandís organic swirl quickly reclaims its place as one of the great sounds of the rock era.
This is the best single album compilation to date, and Hoskyns has written an admirable short essay on the Band, which, given the length available, is as good as you could expect. The choice of tracks is careful Ė these are probably the most-prominent eighteen Band tracks, though theyíre neither my Top 18, nor Hoskynís Top 18 (he lists his Top 20 in Across The Great Divide). Judging from their stage shows, itís pretty close to the eighteen most played, with the exception of "Twilight" and "Share Your Love With Me." Iíd argue that "Jupiter Hollow", "We Can Talk" and "Daniel & The Sacred Harp" are all worthy of inclusion in preference to "Ophelia," but The Band clearly disagree. "Ophelia" has been an almost-certain part of their set since 1975. I would have fallen over backwards to include at least one more Manuel composition (probably "We Can Talk").
The sequencing is interesting, especially as Hoskyns quotes Robertson on the brown album, saying that changing the song sequence would have been like shuffling the chapters of a book. I think Hoskyns (I assume it was him [*]) has sequenced it as an ideal Band concert set-list. They finish the show with number 16, "Chest Fever" then do two encores, track 17 "Share Your Love With Me" for the slow one, then "Donít Do It" as the final closer. Thereís a slow sequence Ė "I Shall Be Released", "Tears of Rage", "Acadian Driftwood" to calm the audience down before the rabble-rouser, "The Weight," gets everyone on their feet. In reality, it would have been asking a bit too much of Richard. They wouldnít have done three of his lead vocals in a row. Earlier on, you get three Levon leads in a row too.
[*]: The compiler and sequencer of The Shape I'm In was Mike McNally from EMI Records UK, who wrote the following in the Band guestbook in April 2000: "...while there was a danger of messing with the view of how these tracks should run I was aiming to deliver not a chronological history but one that captured the breadth, talent and soul of The Band -which sounds pretty easy if you say it fast but was not so easy in practise. 75 minutes can never be enough time. I am indebted to Barney (Hoskyns) for the great sleevenotes and for making sure I didn't leave off 'Acadian Driftwood' (which I had!) and for his other suggestions. Great album to work on and the music never pales."
The Band - The Shape I'm In: The Very Best of The Band - 1998 - UK CD Capitol 7243 4 95951 2 4