Disc three: A Tree With Roots
D3T01. Four Strong Winds (Ian Tyson) (GBT)
D3T02. The French Girl (Take 1) (Ian Tyson/Sylvia Tyson) (GBT)
D3T03. The French Girl (Take 2) (Ian Tyson/Sylvia Tyson) (GBT)
D3T04. Joshua Gone Barbados (Eric Von Schmidt) (GBT)
A measure of sanity is restored to the proceedings with this abrupt u-turn back to Dylan's folkie roots, giving the nod here to fellow travellers Ian Tyson and Eric von Schmidt. "Winds" is an especially affecting take on this Ian and Sylvia chestnut; Dylan's treatment here the obvious inspiration for Neil Young's later version that so eloquently closed his Comes a Time LP (Neil also performed it during The Last Waltz concert prior - though it was cut out of the film). Tyson's "The French Girl" - a highlight of the recent "dorm tape" that caused such a stir here on the forum - isn't nearly as successful, Dylan never really finding the right delivery to adequately convey the pathos of the lyrics - despite two separate cracks at it. The calypso-tinged "Joshua" comes off a bit better, though Dylan cuts the proceedings short at around the 2:43 mark, explaining, "that's enough, it's a very long song".
D3T05. I’m in the Mood (Bernard Besman/John Lee Hooker) (TWR)
Dylan and the boys get down and dirty with this low-down John Lee Hooker blues burner which starts out promising enough, but starts to devolve a bit midway through as Dylan begins messing with the tempo and feel on his 12-string acoustic. Pleased nevertheless, he implores Garth "what do you say we hear some of that?" immediately at the conclusion.
"I'm In the Mood" is listed as sourced from the 1991 cassettes, where "Sign On the Cross" also appeared. I've been a bit tough on Tree With Roots lately, but I actually think they get it close to correct on "I'm In the Mood", adding clarity and taking a bit of the harsh edge off Dylan's 12-string. For some reason, less of the beginning is cut off in their version as well.
D3T06. All American Boy (Bobby Bare) (GBS)
Taking as its inspiration the 1959 Bobby Bare hit that satirized the Elvis Presley/Colonel Tom Parker relationship, Dylan changed enough of the lyrics and tune to feel justified in copyrighting it in 1973 under his own name along with four previously un-copyrighted basement tracks. Most Dylanologists now see this as a fairly transparent dig at manager Albert Grossman, whom Dylan had recently discovered was taking a greater percentage of his publishing royalties than he'd previously realized. Richard Manuel once again amusingly plays Dylan's foil with his cheeky asides.
D3T07. Sign on the Cross (GBS)
What more is there to say about this greatest of officially unreleased Dylan originals - other than that it lives up to the hype and then some. Symphonic in structure and scope, this is Dylan's first major Christian commentary - a product at least some of which must have been inspired by his early biblical explorations during this period. Even if it doesn't get you at first (took a while for me actually), stay with it and you'll find ample rewards in Dylan's impassioned vocal and 'blissed-out' closing sermonizing, supported brilliantly throughout by some of the Hawk's most eloquent playing during these sessions.
D3T08. Silent Weekend (GBS V2)
This tidy little rocker was in the last group of Dylan basement copyrighted tracks with its submittal in 1973. Heylin and Tree With Roots both place it earlier in the sessions, but it has to have been recorded here at the end - not only does it sound like Levon playing, but everybody else is present and accounted for on the track as well (though Garth's organ is a bit faint in the mix).
It was copied over by Robertson and Fraboni for consideration for the 1975 LP, but not used.
D3T09. Don’t Ya Tell Henry (TWR)
Here's the real basement "Henry" - the 'official' version recorded by The Band of course being a newly recorded remake done at their Shangri-La studios in Malibu at the time the LP was compiled. While that version adds a measure of polish and professionalism (with a great Levon Helm vocal), I think I might actually prefer the carefree atmosphere of the more slapdash basement original, with Rick Danko's baritone horn/trombone (depending on which source you trust) providing an amusing running commentary to the proceedings. Originally copyrighted along with "Sign On the Cross" (talk about strange bedfellows!) in 1970.
D3T10. Bourbon Street (TWR)
Continuing in the same musical vein as "Henry", this track vividly evokes the feel of staggering back to one's hotel room - empty bottle in hand - after a night of serious on-the-town carousing in the French Quarter. This was one of the last groups of Dylan basement compositions copyrighted in September of 1973 along with the previously covered "All-American Boy", "Silent Weekend", "Santa Fe" and the currently uncirculating "Wild Wolf".
D3T11. Million Dollar Bash (Take 1) (GBT)
D3T12. Yea! Heavy and a Bottle of Bread (Take 1) (GBT)
D3T13. Million Dollar Bash (Take 2) (The Basement Tapes original 1975 LP)
D3T14. Yea! Heavy and a Bottle of Bread (Take 2) (The Basement Tapes original 1975 LP)
Two takes each were recorded of our first two tracks, probably alternately in the order listed, rather than one take successively following the other. In both cases, Dylan's vocal approach differs substantially from first to second go-arounds - the firsts given a very animated, almost shouted, Echorec-drenched treatment, followed by a more relaxed, laconic delivery on the Take 2's - the ones chosen as "best" for the initial demo acetate and later LP. This approach would continue through both takes of "Crash On the Levee" from this same initial group of "official" sessions.
"Million Dollar Bash" take 1 is marred by some break-up/distortion in the left channel in the introductory instrumental section, probably the result of tape damage. The track volume suddenly increases and tonality darkens/hardens a bit around the beginning of the second verse. The TWR version of "Yea! Heavy" includes about 23 additional seconds at the beginning of the track where Danko plays a simple bass vamp and Manuel adds a little "doo-doo-doo" vocal bit, before we hear the sound of Dylan clearing his throat so emphatically, it suggests - as Sid Griffin amusingly puts it - "a small furry animal was in his oesophagus."
During the transfer from the original reels to the cassettes. In Sid Griffin's Million Dollar Bash, Joel Bernstein relates as to how when he's transferred the wide stereo Basement Safety, by being careful to set the levels on each side so they peaked at zero, it resulted in no distortion in the audio whatsoever.
The "official" Take 2's of "Million Dollar Bash" and "Yea! Heavy" have been included on every Basement Tape iteration available, including the original 10-song mono demo, the Basement Safety, the Fraboni reels, the Band Roadie Reels, and the 1991 cassettes. The two-bar instrumental intro to "Yea! Heavy" seems to have been truncated a bit at the start on the original tape.
The official versions are both in narrow stereo on the 1975 LP. In each case, they've done a good job achieving a nice, even tonality, with no after-the-fact overdubs or other unnecessary futzing. This is one of those "less than audiophile standard" recordings where the iteration in the vinyl format actually works to its advantage, covering up some of the imperfections in the recording, while also lessening somewhat the effect of the very heavy compression applied.
D3T15. I’m Not There (I'm Not There soundtrack)
Along with "Sign On the Cross", this is the other unfinished 'lost basement classic'. After an unassuming start - a forlorn Dylan singing alone strumming his acoustic with just Danko's bass in support, the very beginning cut off - the performance seems to organically blossom and grow until by the end the listener is enraptured in its mood of deep longing and regret - the dummy lyrics here and there only adding to the mystery.
And thanks to the eponymous named 2007 film and its director Todd Haynes and music supervisors Jim Dunbar and Randall Poster, we finally have a glimpse here of what the true basement tapes sound like - unprocessed and unadulterated. That's because these gentlemen had the foresight and vision to tap the 'Basement Safety' - the 15 ips straight stereo transfer from the original reels that Elliot Mazur made in 1969 - for the version in the film and on the soundtrack - and to not mess with it in doing so. For this, they were apparently able to gain the cooperation of Neil Young - in whose possession the tape had been since Mazur brought it out to him to hear in 1971, and for that we can all be thankful.
Because here is finally revealed a certain quality - a level of intimacy and detail not heard in prior iterations - that Garth Hudson somehow managed to capture in the original recordings. And also, of course, a certain amount of hiss - the inevitable by-product of a group of mic feeds simultaneously recorded to a 2-track deck at 7-1/2 ips. In fact, one suspects a similar level of hiss is present in all the original basement recordings.
Now, a lot of people seem to have a problem with hiss. But the fact of the matter is that even with today's advanced processing technologies, it's impossible to completely eliminate hiss without in some way compromising high-end detail and resolution. So you pick your poison - full resolution with attendant hiss, or a compromise of sorts where the tonality is altered to some degree to mitigate it.
To backtrack a bit, though not chosen for the original 10- or 5-song demo tapes, "I'm Not There" has found its way onto every subsequent basement tape iteration, including the aforementioned "Safety", the Fraboni reels, the 1986 Band Roadie Reels, and the 1991 cassettes. It was of course skipped over for the official LP, but included on all the major recent grey market collections, though strangely, they all seem to be from the same narrow stereo source. On the Genuine Bootleg Series, they've added a fade at the beginning to mitigate the truncated start. It sounds pretty good there, and also not half bad on Tree With Roots.
But then you hear the official, wide stereo I'm Not There soundtrack version, and your jaw just drops.
D3T16. Please Mrs. Henry (1975 official LP - vinyl version)
Charming and funny paean to a "lady of ill repute", the down-in-the-dumps singer too broke to afford the normal service toll. On the official release, pretty sure I hear an overdubbed low harmony on the chorus that's not on the original version, as well as some piano embellishments added on to the original piano part (most notable coming out of the chorus back to the verse).
By the way there is a great cover by Manfred Mann's Earth Band on their classic 1972 self-titled LP - they really had a way with Dylan's stuff...
D3T17. Crash on the Levee (Take 1) (GBT)
D3T18. Crash on the Levee (Take 2) (GBT & 1975 official LP)
Later re-recorded in 1971 with a different arrangement as one of the add-on tracks to his Greatest Hits Vol. 2 collection, the two takes of "Crash On the Levee" follow the same pattern as the earlier "Million Dollar Bash" and "Yea! Heavy" - Dylan leaning heavily into the Echorec almost to the point of distortion on Take 1, followed by a bit more sedate and laconic approach on the "official" Take 2.
Take 2 - the mono official version sounds fine on the original LP with especially nice definition on Garth's organ fills, and doesn't include any extraneous overdubs.
D3T19. Lo and Behold! (Take 1) (TWR)
D3T20. Lo and Behold! (Take 2) (1975 official LP)
The two takes here follow the pattern previously established where the approach on the first take is a bit looser and more off-the-cuff, before things settle down into the more polished take 2 that was chosen for the demo acetate and later LP. Sound wise and in Dylan's vocal approach there's less to differentiate them this time, though Dylan has a hoot with some of the lyrics in take 1 - laughing his way through virtually an entire chorus before adroitly recovering his footing.
D3T21. You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere (Take 1) (GBS)
Take 1 of "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" is the notorious 'speaking in tongues' version, starting off with "Now look here dear soup, you'd best feed the cats" and only getting more absurd from there. These are obviously dummy lyrics to fill the space before Dylan is able to come up with the goods later on, but even with that there's a certain fascination in hearing him string random words and phrases together just for the rhythm and sound of them. You almost wonder if he's making it all up on the spot - surely he didn't write this stuff down in advance...or did he?
At any rate, both this and the successively recorded take 1 of "Too Much of Nothing" are unique among all the Dylan basement compositions in that they don't appear anywhere else other than the Fraboni reels compiled for the official LP. Not uncoincidentally, there are no extent 'wide stereo' versions - they're appearing only in mono on all the grey market collections.
This and earlier, similar clues lead me to believe that Robertson and Fraboni collapsed the tracks to mono or very narrow stereo at the time they copied them over from the original reels - unlike the straight stereo transfer that was done for the Basement Safety. It appears that I earlier misinterpreted one of the sources, which stated that the tracks were "panned in" when transferred over - thinking the intended meaning was maintenance of the original wide stereo panning. Instead, "panned in" in this case appears to literally mean "panned in"; i.e., narrowed.
Why they would do this when copying them over rather than waiting until final mix down is a mystery to me. At the very least, it indicates that the decision to collapse the tracks to mono/narrow stereo was made very early in the process. Being that these reels are probably the only version of the basement tapes that are actually currently now in Sony/Columbia's possession has some interesting implications for any attempt at an official expanded "Bootleg Series" release.
D3T22. Too Much of Nothing (Take 1) (TWR)
In Performing Artist - the Music of Bob Dylan, Paul Williams specifically cites "Too Much Of Nothing" as being somewhat less inspired than Dylan's other output during these sessions, and I'm inclined to agree. Here also, Robbie Robertson threw a curve at everybody and picked this Take 1 for the official LP rather than the later Take 2 that was selected for the original acetate. Though in this case, they've lathered so much studio goop on it that it's hardly recognizable as the more sparsely arranged original recording they made in the Big Pink basement in 1967 (though again, you could argue it needed something to make it come to life).
So we get overdubbed drums and piano, probably two more voices supplementing the original two-part harmony between Dylan and Danko in the chorus, and a big slathering of studio reverb.
D3T23. This Wheel’s on Fire (Bob Dylan/Rick Danko) (TWR)
The above successively recorded tracks (excepting "Too Much of Nothing" and substituting next-to-be-recorded "Tears Of Rage") constitute a virtual 'murderers row' - i.e., the best known and most iconic of all the material laid down by Dylan and the Hawks at Woodstock in that halcyon summer of '67. The first of these - "Wheels On Fire" - was actually a Dylan-Danko collaboration of course - though like the Dylan-Manuel co-written "Tears of Rage", they didn't actually work on the song together - rather, Dylan first furnished the manuscript of lyrics and his Band-mates were then charged with coming up with the music. In each case, Rick and Richard came through with flying colours - in due course carrying them over (in vastly different, more elaborate arrangements) to their first Capitol LP (which might have more accurately been titled "Music Inspired by Big Pink" - none of it was actually recorded there, excepting possibly an early take of "Caledonia Mission".)
"This Wheel's On Fire" of course was chosen as the closing track of the 1975 official LP, where it appears in a mono mix with acoustic guitar fills in several places by Robbie; a busier piano overdub from Richard supplementing the original sparely composed part, and additional harmonies in the chorus from Richard and possibly Levon.
D3T24. You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere (Take 2) (GBS)
Take 2 of "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" is the much beloved version covered umpteen times by various artists, the Byrds beating everyone to the punch with their Sweetheart of the Rodeo nod. The narrow-stereo official LP treatment is a little less heavy-handed this time, the only after-the-fact addition being Robbie's electric guitar overdub.
D3T25. I Shall be Released (Take 2) (GBS)
In perhaps the greatest oversight in the selection of the 1975 official LP tracks, the original "I Shall Be Released" - an absolutely incandescent recording with one of Dylan's best-ever vocals - was of course left off. Not sure if Robbie's ever offered any justification for this, though Sid Griffin theorizes that its omission - along with "Quinn the Eskimo" - may have been due to their "over familiarity".
Of course, they later made it up to us in 1991 with the awful sounding version on the first Rare and Unreleased Bootleg Series set that sounds derived from a 'several generations down' source at best. Gee, thanks Columbia...
Disc four: A Tree With Roots
D4T01. Too Much of Nothing (Take 2) (GBS)
This more stately re-recorded version does away with the corny "rising pitch" device in the verse on the 1975 official LP 1st take.
D4T02. Tears of Rage (Take 1) (Bob Dylan/Richard Manuel) (GBT)
D4T03. Tears of Rage (Take 2) (Bob Dylan/Richard Manuel) (GBT)
D4T04. Tears of Rage (Take 3) (Bob Dylan/Richard Manuel) (GBT)
With "Tears Of Rage" we reach the last in the current series of major Dylan (or Dylan and collaborator - Richard Manuel in this case) compositions, and the only basement track where there's three more-or-less complete extant recorded takes (Take 2 ends a bit abruptly, but we still get a full 2-1/2 minutes here.) It also starts a new basement reel onto which multiple takes of "Quinn the Eskimo", "Open the Door, Homer" and "Nothing Was Delivered" all seem to have been successively recorded. The known whereabouts of this reel at different points in time has some interesting implications for sound quality differences both here and with the immediately succeeding recordings.
Take 1 - which has a little more forward momentum than the two succeeding ones - was the one initially chosen for the 5-song second mono demo to come out of the sessions, afterwards duly copied over to the original 14-song acetate. Both it and the 3/8 time (I think) 'waltz feel' Take 2 were then copied over to the "Basement Safety" later in 1969.
Next we come to the "Fraboni reels" compiled for the official LP release in 1975, where Robbie or whomever apparently decided point-blank that the previously unused dirge-like Take 3 would be the one selected for the LP - Takes 1 & 2 apparently not even given further consideration, as they weren't copied over (if my reference source lists are indeed accurate). And the relative muddiness/lack of definition in the mono version on the official LP would seem to indicate that again a generational source was used. Whatever then became of the original reel???
Okay - fast forward to 1991 and all of a sudden on cassette #3 of the "1991 cassettes" up pops the contents of this entire reel, all in wide-stereo, clean, nice fidelity versions. I guess someone managed a thorough dig through one of Garth's trunks finally...lol. The grey market Genuine Basement Tapes (GBT) and Tree With Roots (TWR) versions are obviously sourced here, and both sound way better than any 'official' version.
D4T05. Quinn the Eskimo (Take 1) (GBT)
D4T06. Quinn the Eskimo (Take 2) (GBT)
"Quinn" owns the distinction of being the first "serious" basement-era track Dylan performed in public and released on an album - the occasion of course being his 1969 Isle of Wight performance as heard originally on Self Portrait ("Minstrel Boy" may also have been a basement track, but at any rate, what finally appeared on the recent Bootleg Series collection was only a quick informal knock-off). One might surmise the reason he made it part of the set was the popularity of the smash cover version by Manfred Mann the previous year.
At any rate, the two takes recorded at Big Pink are fairly similar. Take 1 - taken at a bit faster tempo with some tasty organ fills from Garth - was the one originally selected for the 5-song 1968 demo and subsequent 14-song acetate. These being part of the famous "lost reel" alluded to in the previous post, when both takes were transferred to the Basement Safety later in 1969; it was apparently from a generational source.
Take 1 was then copied over to the Fraboni reels for consideration for the 1975 official release, but then inexplicably left off the LP. Is this because we already had the live Dylan recording on Self Portrait? Patience, patience, young jedi - a mere ten years later it finally materialized on the first major Dylan archival Columbia release Biograph; a horrid sounding, generationally sourced version of Take 2 that doesn't even play at the right speed, clocking in about three seconds too slow. Leave it to those nasty bootleggers to finally locate and release the originally recorded wide-stereo versions that appeared on the 1991 cassettes.
D4T07. Open the Door Homer (Take 1) (1975 official LP (mono) & GBT
D4T08. Open the Door Homer (Take 2) (GBT)
D4T09. Open the Door Homer (Take 3) (GBT)
Continuing with the "lost reel", we find three attempts at our next entry. The sprightlier, faster tempo Take 1 was eventually chosen for the original demo, but not before Dylan drawled his way through a brief Take 2 (prematurely terminated less than a minute in), and then went back to his earlier "laconic" delivery for a slowed down Take 3, Dylan's inadvertent giggling in the first chorus somewhat spoiling the more sombre mood established.
All three takes were copied over to the Basement Safety from a generational source (odd that they thought it necessary to preserve the fragmentary Take 2 while passing over the likes of "Tiny Montgomery" and "Sign On the Cross"). Only Take 1 was copied over to the Fraboni reels, later appearing on the official 1975 LP in a decent sounding undubbed mono version.
D4T10. Nothing Was Delivered (Take 1) (1975 official LP & TWR)
D4T11. Nothing Was Delivered (Take 2) (TWR)
Another very well known basement track, first covered by the Byrds again on Sweetheart Of the Rodeo, who thought highly enough of it for it to close the LP. Interesting how their version doesn't really key off either of the two complete basement takes - both of which feature a very 'New Orleans' piano part triplet feel - but rather employs a steel-guitar laden very countrified feel in the verses before changing to a rock feel in the chorus.
At any rate, the slower-tempo, drum less Take 1 is definitely the keeper take here, chosen both for the original 5-song demo tape and the later official LP. I suppose it's Manuel who moves over to the drums for Take 2 with Garth sliding over from organ to piano, but the ham-fisted fills in a couple of places that turn it into somewhat of a botched take are not normally characteristic of Richard's playing. But it can't really be anyone else, as all the other guys must be playing on their typical instruments. (Note - Levon claims to have played on a version of "Nothing" recorded at Woodstock, but it definitely can't be him here. If anything, he might be playing on the non-contiguously recorded shuffle-feel Take 3, a half-minute snippet that again doesn't really sound like him.)
D4T12. Goin’ to Acapulco (Mixing Up the Medicine)
I love Paul Williams' comments about "Goin' to Acapulco" in Performing Artist. He notes that while it's every bit as bawdy - and even more explicit - in its lyrics as "Please Mrs. Henry" or "Don't Ya Tell Henry" - there's never a smirk in Dylan's vocal this time, and it actually ends up being of all things...a love song.
Like several of the later-recorded basement tracks, this hadn't been booted prior to being issued on the official LP, and - surprise, surprise (at least to me, as none of the sources had pointed this out to my knowledge), it's one of the very few significant Dylan basement compositions that wasn't copied over to the Basement Safety. At any rate, it's much drier on the wide-stereo boots than the very ambient narrow-stereo official version, meaning they likely slapped on some studio reverb for its appearance on the LP. For me, it's much more emotionally resonant in the more spare sounding boot versions.
D4T13. Gonna Get You Now (TWR)
"Gonna Get You Now" is a quick Dylan bluesy knockoff, fun but slight. More cowbells!
D4T14. Wildwood Flower (A.P. Carter) (GBT)
D4T15. One Kind Favor (Trad. arranged by Dylan) (GBT) aka See That My Grave Is Kept Clean
D4T16. She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain (Trad. arranged by Dylan) (GBT)
Levon likely made his debut with the boys on the "Dylan autoharp" session comprised of the three songs listed here. Not only are they distinguished by Dylan's chosen instrument, but also the smooth country croon that he pulls out of his bag of vocal tricks all of a sudden - previewing the voice of Nashville Skyline two years later (though in its lower register, he tends to sound a bit more like Leon Redbone).
"Wildwood Flower" is of course the country classic originally made famous by the Carter Family. The recording is marred a bit by some right channel bass dropout about halfway through, but it's still a spirited, affectionate treatment.
Blind Lemon Jefferson’s "Grave" was of course originally covered by Dylan on his debut Columbia album, but it sure didn't sound anything like this there. This is up there among the very top unreleased basement tracks, the icy calm of Dylan's vocal lending the already dire lyrics that extra touch of foreboding and doom. Marred only by the beginning of the song being cut off (an all too common issue with these recordings), it's an indelible performance.
Finally, the boys barely get it together for this casual take on the old traditional railroad work song, Dylan struggling with remembering some of the lyrics. Levon's light touch on the skins is definitely appreciated here.
D4T17. It’s the Flight of the Bumblebee (TWR)
On "Flight Of the Bumblebee" the boys kick back on the front porch for a bit of relaxed improvised country blues, Dylan extemporizing the title and lyrics from a riff Manuel was playing from the famous interlude of the Rimsky-Korsakov turn-of-the-century opera Tale Of Tsar Saltan.
D4T18. Confidential (Dorina Morgan) (TWR)
"Confidential to Me" is a doo-wop styled ballad first recorded by the Fleetwoods before Sonny Knight took it to #17 on the charts with his cover in 1956. Dylan later revived this track as part of his long-running "Never-Ending Tour." With lead guitar, organ and piano all present but no bass, it's likely Danko of all people on the sticks here - once again demonstrating the Hawk's astounding versatility as musicians.
D4T19. Odds and Ends (Take 1) (GBT)
If I have any complaints at all about one of my top five collections of recordings of all time, it's that - especially in its abbreviated "official" format - it's just a little ballad-heavy. Well, with "Odds and Ends" they finally cut loose and kick out the jams. Take 2 was thought hot enough to lead off the official 1975 LP, though Take 1 is no slouch either - possibly judged the lesser because the band (especially the drums) is recorded a bit better in Take 2 with Dylan's vocal sitting in the mix a little better as well. But why they thought they had to overdub piano on to it for the LP release God only knows - for me it only detracts from the overall impact of the track. I also miss the count-in present on the boots that they excised for the official release.
D4T20. Nothing Was Delivered (Take 3) (GBT)
Another very well known basement track, first covered by the Byrds again on Sweetheart Of the Rodeo, who thought highly enough of it for it to close the LP. Their version employs a steel-guitar laden very countrified feel in the verses before changing to a rock feel in the chorus.
Take 3 is a rocked-up, half-minute truncated version, appears between the two takes of "Odds and Ends" on the 1991 cassettes, leading one to believe it was a quick impromptu run-through called out by one of the guys during the break. Again, if it was indeed recorded at this juncture, I don't think it's Levon playing on the track - the drumming being more in Richard's emphatic, heavy-handed style. Too bad they didn't get around to recording a complete rock version, as this has real potential.
D4T21. Odds and Ends (Take 2) (Musical History "official" version)
If I have any complaints at all about one of my top five collections of recordings of all time, it's that - especially in its abbreviated "official" format - it's just a little ballad-heavy. Well, with "Odds and Ends" they finally cut loose and kick out the jams. Take 2 was thought hot enough to lead off the official 1975 LP, the drums are recorded a bit better in Take 2 with Dylan's vocal sitting in the mix a little better as well.
Along with the typical remasters, there's the additional choice here of the version that appeared on The Band's Musical History archival collection. To my ears, this is the best remastering of an "official" basement track to yet surface, with a nice spaciousness not present in any previous version.
D4T22. Get Your Rocks Off (GBT)
This slow-jam blues ended up being the last track added to the original 5-song mono demo - the second group of tracks from these sessions to get copyrighted and then circulated for possible cover versions (though it strangely was left off the 14-song acetate derived from the first two demo tapes).
Nonpareil Dylan 'coverers' Manfred Mann finally appropriated it as the title track of their 1973 LP - giving it their usual eclectic pop/jazz/metal rendering. It also made it onto the fantastic Coulson, Dean, McGuiness, Flint Lo and Behold LP the prior year - which included no less than six basement tracks and is for my money the best Dylan-exclusive cover project ever released.
D4T23. Clothes Line Saga (GBT)
There's only one actual take of "Clothesline", with different releases handling it different ways. Called "Answer to Ode" on the Basement Safety box, this is of course a very clever parody of the then smash country hit "Ode to Billie Joe" by Bobbie Gentry, with Dylan further trivializing the nonchalant reactions of the principles in the subject track to the tragedy of Billie Joe McAlister's death.
The mono official 1975 LP version truncates the false start, where Dylan stops himself about 26 seconds in to verify the tape is running, before starting over from the top. There are those "basement aficionados" who feel slighted by this, maintaining that every last bit of audio laid down during these sessions is crucial to the "vibe" of the recordings, but in this case, I personally don't mind the edit, as the truncated part doesn't really add anything of value.
D4T24. Apple Suckling Tree (Take 1) (TWR)
D4T25. Apple Suckling Tree (Take 2) (TWR)
This fun little romp owes something I think to "Froggie Comes a Courtin'" or one of those other classic 'Americana' folk opuses, but I'll leave that to the Griel Marcus aficionados to ponder over. Take 1 is a bit rough, but they polish it up a bit for the Take 2 version that appears in narrow stereo on the official 1975 LP. Again, the official version to me sounds a bit over processed and lacking some of the vitality of the grey market versions.
D4T26. All You Have to do is Dream (Take 1) (GBT)
D4T27. All You Have to do is Dream (Take 2) (TWR)
This comely little tale of domestic bliss is one of the true enigmas of these sessions. Even though it sounds like a very structured and arranged Dylan composition - with two extant takes no less - it apparently has never been copyrighted. And it appears no one rated it very highly either - it not having been copied over to the Basement Safety or the Fraboni reels (though perhaps the reel it had been recorded on had been misplaced or forgotten about at that time). And in fact, only Take 2 is listed as appearing on the 1986 Band Roadie Reels - though it seems reasonable to assume that Take 1's absence in that listing is probably a clerical error.
Missing tracks that will be released on The Basement Tapes Complete, The Bootleg Series Vol. 11
1. Edge of the Ocean
2. My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It (Clarence Williams)
3. Roll on Train
4. Mr. Blue (Dewayne Blackwell)
19. I Shall be Released (Take 1)
1. Blowin’ in the Wind
2. One Too Many Mornings
3. A Satisfied Mind (Joe Hayes/Jack Rhodes)
4. It Ain’t Me, Babe
5. Ain’t No More Cane (Take 1) (Trad. arranged by Bob Dylan)
6. Ain’t No More Cane (Take 2) (Trad. arranged by Bob Dylan)
7. My Woman She’s A-Leavin’
9. Mary Lou, I Love You Too
10. Dress it up, Better Have it All
11. Minstrel Boy
13. What’s it Gonna be When it Comes Up
19. Wild Wolf
22. If I Were A Carpenter (James Timothy Hardin)
1. 2 Dollars and 99 Cents
2. Jelly Bean
3. Any Time
4. Down by the Station
5. Hallelujah, I’ve Just Been Moved (Trad. arranged by Bob Dylan)
6. That’s the Breaks
7. Pretty Mary
8. Will the Circle be Unbroken (A.P. Carter)
10. She’s on My Mind Again
15. Northern Claim
16. Love is Only Mine
22. 900 Miles from My Home / Confidential
Sunday, 5 October 2014
Wednesday, 1 October 2014
The following post was being saved for last place on the blog as the final twelve posts will be my favourite bootlegs in descending order.
As everyone now knows the Basement Tapes will be released on Vol 11 of Columbia’s official Bootleg series. Because of this I had decided not to post ‘A Tree With Roots’ but after some requests and reading the work put into analysing all the various sources of the Basement Tapes by ‘Get Rhythm’ of the Steve Hoffman forum I have decided to go ahead.
If the officially released track ‘I’m Not There’ is anything to go by then the six disc official release will be a quantum leap on the sound quality available on this bootleg (which as Get Rhythm’s analysis has shown does not always have the best available sound for each track. I have edited his notes and used them here after each track name. The best bootleg version is shown in brackets ie. TWR = A Tree With Roots, GBT = The Genuine Basement Tapes etc.
The audio is taken from the Scorpio source and the artwork provided was adapted for my own use as the track listings and titles on the original artwork were subject to a few errors.
For those who want to sample only a few tracks before buying the official release take a look at the previous post Bob Dylan – The Complete Safety Tape (by far the most popular post on this blog) or wait for part two of A Tree With Roots containing disc three and four, which overall have by far the best sound quality
A Tree With Roots
The Genuine Basement Tape Remasters
Scorpio GBS 67
Silver CD > EAC > WAV > mkwACT > SHN
4CD Dylan bootleg set released in 2001 on both the White Bear and the Wild Wolf label, later in the year on Scorpio then again in 2002 in box format by Vagabond Wilbury Records, with minor additions. These bootleg sets were originally sourced from a Dylan fan compilation that circulated with limited distribution and all have the same audio but with different packaging
It's a complete overhaul of the basement tapes, 108 tracks in total, completely remastered with a major leap forward in sound quality compared to the original 5CD set. It's also put together in a much more organised and logical sequence. The original pressing was limited to 500 copies.
Disc one: A Tree With Roots
D1T01. Lock Your Door (GBT)
A mere 20-second fragment that leads directly into "Baby"
D1T02. Baby, Won’t You be My Baby (GBT) .
One of the more intriguing 'unfinished' Dylan compositions in this whole group of recordings - cutting off abruptly as it does at the 2:49 mark.
D1T03. Try Me Little Girl (TWR) .
Another unfinished Dylan original whose idea may have originated with the James Brown R&B ballad "Try Me" (though the two songs are nothing alike). This is a simple piano-driven R&B number is a very interesting case, as it appears in wide stereo on GBT with Dylan again panned left, but in a much narrower stereo on TWR.
Which of course then begs the question - did Fraboni/Robertson actually do their 'stereo narrowing' on at least some tracks at the time of transfer from the original reels (there certainly wouldn't have been any further mixing, as it wasn't selected for the LP)?
D1T04. Young but Daily Growing (Trad. arranged by Dylan) (TWR)
This English folk ballad had been in Dylan's repertoire for quite some time at this point - informal 1961-vintage recordings of him performing it both live at Carnegie Chapter Hall in New York and in Bonnie Beecher's apartment in Minneapolis are in circulation. It's one of the 12 basement recordings to appear on the Genuine Bootleg Series (GBS) Volume 2.
D1T05. Bonnie Ship the Diamond (Trad. arranged by Dylan) (TWR)
On this and the next three Red Room recordings, Dylan gets up from the piano bench and straps on his 12-string acoustic for his first - but hardly the last - basement foray into the folk balladeer tradition. This musical style was foreign to the R&B, country, and rockabilly-bred Hawks, but here as elsewhere they prove to be quick studies and pitch in gamely enough...
This traditional ballad was inspired by the fate of the Canadian whaling ship Diamond, whose crew mostly perished after being caught in the ice off the coast of Greenland in 1830.
D1T06. The Hills of Mexico (Trad. arranged by Dylan) (TWR)
Another minor-key traditional ballad, that's become something of a folk circuit staple. Dylan tells Garth he "doesn't have to take this one down - you're just wasting tape" after cutting the song off abruptly at the 2:56 mark - fortunately Hudson never bothered to go back and erase what they'd already laid down.
D1T07. Down on Me (Trad. arranged by Dylan) (Basement Reels)
Another traditional folk song originating in the 1920's that was popularised by Big Brother and the Holding Company with their remake that same summer. The 40-second fragmentary basement recording is lower fidelity among all the sources than most of the other stuff here, and is probably one of the things that would get excised in an official release (though aficionados would argue tracks like this contribute to the informal overall flavour of these recordings).
D1T08. I Can’t Make it Alone (GBT) .
A minor key, piano-based ballad, with Dylan's voice again panned wide left.
D1T09. Don’t You Try Me Now (GBT)
Dylan again on piano for another R&B ballad - Dylan again panned wide left.
D1T10. One for the Road (GBT)
Possibly inspired by the Sinatra saloon classic, but in this case a country-styled ballad weeper. The versions on both GBT and TWR begin with the whirring sound of the tape machine getting up to speed. Wide stereo with Dylan fully left again.
D1T11. I’m Alright (TWR) .
Another fragmentary recording clocking in at about a minute, which in this case is very unfortunate because this song has real potential (Griffin isn't far off when he suggests it might have been perfect for the Faces to cover). Wide stereo again, Dylan left.
D1T12. Song for Canada (Pete Gzowski/Ian Tyson) (GBT) aka One Single River
Dylan was on a real Ian Tyson kick during these sessions, recording no less than three of his compositions. Of course, Ian and Sylvia duly repaid the favour by covering several basement tracks later. This first one here is often referred to as "One Single River" after the catchphrase at the beginning of the chorus. This is one of my personal favourites among all the earlier basement performances.
D1T13. People Get Ready (Curtis L Mayfield) (GBT) .
Robbie Robertson in particular was inspired by the sweet Chicago soul of the Impressions; in fact, his early composition "You Don't Come Through" (often referred to as "You Say You Love Me") that the Hawks took a couple cracks at recording during these sessions sounds like a transparent effort to write a Curtis Mayfield song.
This heartfelt rendition of the Impressions classic has a 'rough around the edges - wee hours of the morning' feel, but is all the more affecting for it. Wide stereo - Dylan left joined by Richard Manuel in places, with Rick Danko harmonizing in the right channel.
D1T14. I Don’t Hurt Anymore (Donald I Robertson/Walter E Rollins) (GBT)
For the next three Red Room recordings, the guys take a quick U-Turn away from their brief soul foray into an area where Dylan & the Hawks were both comfortable - honky tonk-styled country of both the knockabout and serious variety. This of course foreshadows the more serious commitment Dylan would make to that genre in the ensuing several years following...
We start with a casual romp through this big 1954 hit for Hank Snow, Dylan kicking things off with his out-of-tune 12-string after abruptly deciding to raise the key a step in the preamble. Wide stereo again, with Dylan left and Rick Danko's high harmony on the right.
D1T15. Be Careful of Stones That You Throw (Benjamin L Blankenship) (GBT)
A sincere rendition of this Bonnie Dodd-composed morality play that would have been known to the guys from Hank Williams' "Luke the Drifter"-persona version.
D1T16. One Man’s Loss (TWR)
This cacophonous stomp is the outlier in this grouping of recordings - Sid Griffin in fact suspects that it might have been recorded at an earlier point closer to the start of the Red Room activity. Dylan's vocals are very faint at first and seem to shift around a bit in the stereo field before settling in on the right and becoming more audible as the track progresses.
D1T17. Baby Ain’t That Fine (Dallas Frazier) (TWR)
Composed by Dallas Frazier (who also wrote "Elvira" and "Mohair Sam") this very pleasant Tex-Mex foray is one of the few tracks among these recordings that achieve a balanced distribution of elements in the stereo field, the vocals not panned all the way to one side for a change.
D1T18. Rock, Salt and Nails (Bruce Phillips) (GBT)
This cover of the Utah Phillips-composed slow country ballad is often cited by aficionados as one of the key performances among the unreleased basements.
D1T19. A Fool Such As I (William Marvin Trader) (GBT)
A way more relaxed and better version of the Hank Snow/Elvis Presley hit that Dylan later covered again during the Self Portrait sessions - eventually coming out on the execrable Dylan outtakes LP. During the preamble, Dylan actually raises the key again on the spot - announcing "C" to his band mates - further evidence that he was using a capo on his guitar.
D1T20. Silhouette (Bob Crewe/Frank C Slay Jr.) (TWR)
D1T21. Bring it on Home (TWR)
D1T22. King of France (TWR) .
The sonic signature and feel changes suddenly with this basement reel - almost as if they've broken camp at Dylan's house in the preparations for the move to Big Pink, and just decided to quickly lay down a few off-the-cuff things in the living room before heading over.
These were among the quirkier selections by Rob and Robbie for the Fraboni reel - "Silhouette" being just a few choruses of the Ray's 1957 doo-wop hit, "Bring it On Home" a totally improvised acoustic blues jam, and "King Of France" a distortion-marred Dylan electric piano exercise that contains the germ of an interesting composition, but is never further developed. GBT skips "Silhouette" altogether, and their version of "Bring It On Home" is slightly sped up. TWR appears again to have gotten hold of the Fraboni reels for their versions, and they sound as good as possible here.
D1T23. 900 Miles from My Home (Trad. arranged by Dylan) (TWR)
This abrasive 45-second fiddle and mandolin-fuelled blast through the familiar folk staple is one of those things that leaves the unitiated scratching their heads wondering "what the hell was that"? For others though, it stands as just one more example of the incredible range of stuff the guys were trying out here, and for that alone feels like an essential part of the basement story.
D1T24. Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad (Trad. arranged by Dylan) (TWR)
A heavily distorted piano-driven romp through another familiar folk standard, also recorded by Woody Guthrie, Elizabeth Cotton, and the Grateful Dead. If nothing else, the guys sure sound like they're having a blast recording it!
D1T25. Spanish is the Loving Tongue (GBT) .
The gang finally begins to achieve a measure of audio coherency with this classic cowboy ballad first published as a poem by Charles Badger Clark in 1915, before songwriter Billy Simon added the music sometime later. A Dylan favourite, he also recorded a not nearly so cogent version during the Self Portrait sessions (later, another Dylan reject), and then a couple of beautiful solo piano versions - one of which of course saw release as the B-side of "Watching the River Flow" in 1971.
The group achieves a very full ensemble sound here, with, as Griffin puts it, an "achingly sincere" Dylan vocal topping it off.
D1T26. Po’ Lazarus (Trad. arranged by Bob Dylan) (Basement Reels)
Originally a recording by folklorist Alan Lomax in 1959 of a work song sung by a group Mississippi penitentiary inmates. Later appropriated for the soundtrack of O Brother Where Art Thou, earning James Carter - its originator - a nice series of royalty checks.
The tape catches Dylan in the process of teaching the guys the song on the spot, but just as it gathers momentum, it cuts off around the one-minute mark.
D1T27. Santa-Fe (TWR) .
Pleasant little ditty that somehow found its way onto the official Bootleg Series Rare and Unreleased collection in 1991 in lieu of obviously superior choices like "Sign On the Cross" or "I'm Not There" (what the hell were they thinking anyways???).
D1 T28. Instrumental Jam
Disc two: A Tree With Roots
D2T01. On a Rainy Afternoon (GBT)
Yet another one of those half-composed, half-improvised Dylan efforts that one gets the feeling with a little more work put in and care taken with the recording, could have really been worthwhile. And yet even with Dylan's distorted vocal barely rising above the din it's still a very interesting diversion.
D2T02. Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies (Trad. arranged by Dylan) (TWR)
Back into the folk world for this somewhat free-form vocal excursion apparently owing something to the traditional "Come All Ye Fair and Tender Maidens" (also known as "Silver Dagger"), but if anyone can tell what Dylan's half-coherent warblings actually signify, you're way ahead of me here. Still, there's something about the densely arranged, acoustic soundscape that's quite evocative - lending it an ethereal, lilting quality. After a bit of chatter, it morphs into about 27 seconds of a basic blues progression at the end, which Dylan cuts off abruptly, saying his 12-string "ain't meant to do this type of thing."
D2T03. Under Control (GBT) .
Very dense, half-improvised blues excursion, Dylan's vocals buried a bit in the din in the far right of the wide stereo mix.
D2T04. Ol’ Roison the Beau (Trad. arranged by Bob Dylan) (TWR)
A good ole 19th-century Irish drinking song, that took on new life in various later-day political campaigns and musicals. The band gives it a rollicking, zydeco-style treatment, aided now by a less congested, more balanced recording - though putting Dylan's vocals together with the bass on one side maybe wasn't the best signal routing choice.
D2T05. I’m Guilty of Loving You (TWR)
Another apparently half-finished Dylan original with tons of potential. In fact, with its mood of ruminative longing, almost sounds like prime early 70's Van Morrison; maybe an outtake off of something like His Band & Street Choir or Tupelo Honey. Chopped off unfortuitously right around the 1:07 mark - too bad this was never developed further.
D2T06. Johnny Todd (Trad. arranged by Bob Dylan) (TWR)
A sailor's song originating in Liverpool that later found its way into German chanteuse Marlene Dietrich's cabaret act. Though such traditional fare again is far from the Hawk's wheelhouse, they give it an energetic, spirited treatment; Richard Manuel's strident piano licks setting the tone.
D2T07. Cool Water (Bob Nolan) (TWR)
Originally recorded in 1941 by the great Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers, this is one of several original versions of basement tracks that Dylan later featured during his "Theme Time Radio Hour" hosted programs, introducing it as "one of the most mysterious songs ever written about facing the barren waste without the taste of water." Dylan and the Hawks take it at a slower tempo with a more basic arrangement, though still a very sympathetic rendition.
D2T08. The Auld Triangle (Brendan Francis Behan) (GBS) aka Banks Of The Royal Canal
Among most aficionados' short list of the most essential unreleased basement tracks, this prison ballad was originally written as "The Auld Triangle" by Irish poet and playwright Brendan Behan for his play The Quare Fellow in 1954. Everything just seems to fall into place here - gorgeous, very affecting Dylan vocal supported by excellent ensemble work by the Hawks, all captured in excellent audio by Garth. Certainly Rob Fraboni and Robbie Robertson were impressed enough to transfer this one over to the Fraboni reel for further consideration in the compiling of the official LP.
D2T9/T10. Belshazzar (Johnny Cash) (TWR).
D2T11. I Forgot to Remember to Forget (Charlie A Feathers/Stanley A Kesler) (TWR)
D2T12. You Win Again (Hank Williams) (TWR)
D2T13. Still in Town (Hank Cochran/Harlan Howard) (TWR)
D2T14. Waltzing with Sin (Sonny Burns/Red Hayes) (TWR)
D2T15. Big River (Take 1) (Johnny Cash) (GBT)
D2T16. Big River (Take 2) (Johnny Cash) (GBT).
D2T17. Folsom Prison Blues (Johnny Cash) (GBT)
D2T18. Bells of Rhymney (Idris Davies/Peter Seeger) (GBT)
This is what I love about these sessions, from traditional folk forays on the last reel, then all of a sudden straight back to Memphis and Sam Phillip's Sun Studios. With Richard Manuel apparently on hiatus for the day (must have been on quite a bender the previous night), the boys show some great rockabilly chops on both ballads and up-tempo numbers, with Dylan compatriot and 'mutual admiration society' member Johnny Cash especially favoured (Cash's "Still In Town" is particularly affecting). The folk standard "Bells Of Rhymney" that winds up the proceedings is the outlier in this group - a sympathetic reading, but lacking the epic scope of the Byrd's majestic rendering.
D2T19. I Can’t Come in with a Broken Heart (TWR)
Hey - wait a minute - weren't these guys just playing folk songs a few minutes ago? Sure, but that gets old after a while - why not mix it up with this grungy, minimalist homage to the then up-and-coming Velvet Underground? Robbie was familiar with them from apparently poking his head in on a show for about five minutes the previous year (not his scene), and Dylan of course knew Andy Warhol from having previously been the subject of one of his "screen tests."
All distorted guitars and distorted vocals - with a healthy dose of tape distortion to top it off - a first take ends abruptly following a massive overload of (you guessed it) distortion, but they pick it back up and get through about two minutes before it kind of mildly slows to a conclusion.
D2T20. I’m a Fool for You (Take 1) (GBT)
D2T20. I’m a Fool for You (Take 2) (GBT)
This is another one of those nascent Dylan compositions that would have been really worthwhile with a little more work, harkening back somewhat to the stately grandeur of his Highway 61/Blonde On Blonde sound. I prefer to listen to it in an edited version that cuts out the sections where the track breaks down in favour of something that flows coherently all the way through (and such a beast is possible, trust me...)
D2T21. Next Time on the Highway (GBT).
This raucous blues workout features a very ambient overall band sound as alluded to earlier that may have been an instance where everyone was routed through the Echorec unit. Dylan has a little fun at the end with some off-colour language directed at the now returned Richard Manuel on piano.
D2T22. Tupelo (John Lee Hooker) (GBT)
Continuing in the blues vein with this sparely arranged, somewhat loose take on a track originally recorded by the great blues man John Lee Hooker in 1960.
D2T23. Kickin’ My Dog Around (Trad. arranged by Dylan) (GBT)
This shaggy-dog vignette was originally a 19th century copyright of black songwriter James Bland. As it kicks off, we get to eavesdrop in on some of the arrangement in development, with Dylan instructing Manuel and Danko on how he wants the background vocals to go. Charming and unassuming, it's these kind of sidelights that contribute to the 'Americana-in-the making' reputation of these sessions.
D2T24. See You Later Allen Ginsberg (Take 1) (GBT)
D2T24. See You Later Allen Ginsberg (Take 2) (GBT)
A loose take on the Bill Haley and the Comets hit turns comic when Richard Manuel inserts the hallowed name of Dylan cohort and famous beat poet Allen Ginsberg as a replacement for "alligator", inspiring Dylan to riff on the change. They stop at one point and then pick up with a more structured pass at it, though the Echorec unit acting up and audibly feeding back cuts short the merriment.
D2T25. Tiny Montgomery (GBT)
In compiling the official album, Robbie Robertson has stated that they didn't have access to all the basement tapes that have since come to light. For evidence of this, one need look no further than this track - as mentioned in earlier posts, the fidelity is so rough one suspects it was taken directly from the original acetate demo. It's especially unfortunate since that to this day, any number of Dylan fans probably accept this as a substandard recording, when the versions that have come to light on more recent boots indicate it definitely was not. And the remastered versions of the official LP have only continued to perpetuate this false impression.
As Dylan's first fully realized new composition from these sessions, its rich, virtually nonsensical wordplay sets the pattern for much to follow. It's obviously not a first run-through on tape either, with a more fully realized arrangement that perfectly services the subject matter.
D2T26. Big Dog (GBT)
D2T26. The Spanish Song (Take 1) (GBT)
D2T27. The Spanish Song (Take 2) (GBT)
Things start to come really unhinged here with this Mexican mariachi band send-up featuring Dylan bellowing some improvised part-Spanish/part-English lyrics, while the boys in the band whoop and holler encouragement in the background. They're having so much fun that Dylan actually stops the proceedings to have another go at it, telling the guys it "goes easy during the verses" (yeah, right!). It's prefaced by a snippet of some other old folkie vignette of some sort continuing the 'dog' theme from a bit earlier. Altogether, amusing to hear once or twice, but a bit tedious beyond that.
D2T28. I’m Your Teenage Prayer (GBT)
Dylan and the guys atone for the last transgression with this catchy and quite charming doo-wop take-off - one of my personal favourites of all the unreleased tracks from these sessions. Mostly improvised again, it features a hilarious monologue from Dylan at the end including such chestnuts as "I know what you need, I can feel it in my bones, and I feel it on my throne - I'm your teenage prayer" - with plenty of appropriately zonked out commentary from Manuel and Danko.
There is no password required. These links will be removed when the official release goes on sale.
Download disc one
Download disc two
Thanks and much credit to ‘Get Rhythm’ for his notes. I have edited and re-used them under each track title. The complete thread can be found here on the Steve Hoffman forum:
A Tree With Roots (part two) will follow soon with discs three and four and further notes .