4. The Band, 'The Band' (1969)
Offering a rustic American (if 80 percent Canadian) corrective to the heady excesses of the Sixties, the Band's 1968 debut, Music From Big Pink, evolved naturally out of the group's Basement Tapes sessions with Bob Dylan. Forget the future, these multi-instrumentalists seemed to argue; the past is an even weirder place to hang out. The Band slipped its Dylan connection almost entirely with Pink's sequel. It's a masterpiece of resonant, literate Americana thanks in large part to Arkansas drummer Levon Helm's deep Southern limning of Robbie Robertson "story songs" such as "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" and "Up on Cripple Creek." Elsewhere, Richard Manuel and Rick Danko brought their own melancholy beauty to "Whispering Pines" and "The Unfaithful Servant."