Across the Great Divide: The Band, “Time to Kill” from Stage Fright (1970)

“Time to Kill” found the Band — even as they went out into the world to face the mythos they had created in their initial sepia-toned absence — celebrating a bucolic world left behind.

Rick Danko takes the lead, with Richard Manuel tracing just behind, in a country-inflected hoot perfectly suited for Rick’s down-home sensibilities. Garth Hudson adds a red light-district piano to go with Manuel’s truck-driving rhythm. Composer Robbie Robertson’s guitar weaves in with a serrated economy, working in counterpoint to Levon Helm’s tough rhythm riffs — even as Danko plucks happily away on the bass.

The results are cheerily homebound, presented as if from a front porch where they’d just as soon have stayed — but for the siren call of fame. Stage Fright, released in the summer of 1970, would become the Band’s highest-charting album ever, and not by accident.

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They’d appeared that year on the Festival Express Tour, as well as a series of dates along the West Coast. Performances would continue at that pace into the fall, with the Band — in a moment that certainly echoes the sentiments of “Time to Kill” perfectly — occasionally booking a private plane to bring them back to Woodstock if their concerts were near enough.

The days of hiding out in Big Pink, or even in the cacoon of Sammy Davis’s pool house, were long gone. The Band belonged to the world now.

Across the Great Divide is a weekly, song-by-song examination from Something Else! on the legacy of the Band, both together and as solo artists. The series runs on Thursdays.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Blues Revue, American Songwriter and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now an editor at Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso