- 20 Nov 14
DYLAN AND THE BAND’S HOLY GRAIL FINALLY SEES THE LIGHT
Following his infamous (and some have been speculating fictional) motorcycle accident in 1966, Bob Dylan re-grouped in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York with the musicians who would become known as The Band – writing, rehearsing and recording over a 100 songs between June and October 1967. Never intended for release (other than as publishing demos) the tracks, recorded in the basement of the Big Pink house, would become the most bootlegged in rock history. A double album, The Basement Tapes, released in 1975, barely scratched the surface of the sessions. Sub-titled The Bootleg Series Vol 1, this two-disc 38-track album features highlights from the mammoth six-CD boxset from those sessions. It also includes restored versions of familiar songs, along with a dozen or so previously unreleased tunes. And while the sound quality is indeed “raw” – at times as lo-fi as it gets – it’s surprisingly listenable, with Dylan’s voice in particular clear and present, while the instrumental backdrop is frequently extraordinary.
Highlights are too numerous to mention: in no particular order they include a terrifically rollicking ‘You Ain’t Going Nowhere’ (recorded soon after by The Byrds on their seminal Sweetheart Of The Rodeo album) and a stoned, full band ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ that sounds more like John Lee Hooker or Muddy Waters than Dylan. The version of ‘This Wheel’s On Fire’ here is not dissimilar to The Band’s rendition on Music From Big Pink, while another highlight is a chillingly poignant ‘Tears Of Rage’, which would also appear on that debut. Of the previously unreleased material, a funky ‘All You Have To Do Is Dream’ is a second cousin of ‘Like A Rolling Stone’; ‘900 Miles From Home’ is a re-working of the standard ‘500 Miles’; while ‘I Don’t Hurt Anymore’ recalls ‘I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight’. Elsewhere, a “restored” ‘Apple Suckling Tree’ is superb, with Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson dueling on piano and organ; ‘Yeah! Heavy And A Bottle Of Bread’ is positively hilarious; and another standout, ‘Nothing Was Delivered’ (also recorded by The Byrds) has never sounded better.
Essential listening for Dylan fans and highly recommended for anyone else: the foundations of modern Americana are laid bare right here.