Information on the Band's A Musical History box set
by Wu MitchellSubmitted by e-mail, November 2005
First, the studio version of 'Don't Do It' was mastered from the original 'session' tapes (if you can call it a true session - it was never meant for official release). The master was previously believed to be lost, but as Robertson told Rolling Stone Magazine, original tapes he believed to be gone were being discovered AFTER the 2000/2001 remasters were pressed for release. The original master for 'Don't Do It' is one they found after a worn acetate pressing was used for the "Cahoots" reissue.
Second, seven tracks from The Band (aka "The Brown Album") were included in A Musical History but they've been re-mixed from the original multi-track tapes. As Sandoval has said in the past, they were able to find the original master tapes for every album EXCEPT The Band. When they mastered the 2000 reissue, they settled on a production copy, presumably one-generation removed from the original. For the box set, they went back to the multi-tracks and tried to match the original mixes. They come close but there are obvious differences when heard through headphones. The tonality and levels of some instruments aren't the same, and the placement varies a bit.
Listen to the last part of Robbie's guitar solo on 'King Harvest' where he's bouncing back and forth between two notes before he hits a higher one and descends all the way down. The instrument you should pay attention to is Garth's organ. On the box set's new mix, it has been pushed into the left channel while in the 2000 remaster it's dead center. It's also worth noting that 'King Harvest' doesn't fade out until after the last note on the box set, while on the 2000 remaster the fade-out is noticeably earlier.
Also listen to the bass notes on 'Across the Great Divide' when Richard sings the words "across the great divide" for the first time. On the 2000 remaster the bass is more left. On the box set set it moves right to dead center. Back track to where Richard sings "try and understand your man" and listen for that unison note where there's a bass note, a held note on the horns and a chord on the guitar. On the 2000 remaster the guitar is buried deep in the mix and in the left channel. On the box set, the guitar is pushed up in the mix and now shifted towards the center. The bass note is also pushed up on the box set's new mix.