The Basement Tapes (1975)


 
Disc One 1. Odds and Ends 2. Orange Juice Blues (Blues for Breakfast) 3. Million Dollar Bash 4. Yazoo Street Scandal 5. Goin' to Acapulco 6. Katie's Been Gone 7. Lo and Behold! 8. Bessie Smith 9. Clothes Line Saga 10.Apple Suckling Tree 11.Please Mrs. Henry 12.Tears of Rage Disc Two 1. Too Much of Nothing 2. Yea! Heavy and a Bottle of Bread 3. Ain't No More Cane 4. Crash on the Levee (Down in the Flood) 5. Ruben Remus 6. Tiny Montgomery 7. You Ain't Goin' Nowhere 8. Don't Ya Tell Henry 9. Nothing Was Delivered 10.Open the Door, Homer 11.Long Distance Operatior 12.The Wheel's on Fire

 

If there was ever a perfect album cover to attempt to describe the contents of what the music inside sounds like, this one would win the blue ribbon. For several years, Bob Dylan used The Band (originally known as 'The Hawks') as his backup band. The relationship even continued after The Band became big on their own. This album is actually a compilation of work they did about seven or eight years prior to the album's release that became somewhat of an urban legend.

This album is very loose - it sounds like it was recorded in only a couple of days. You have visions of these guys literally setting up some cheap equipment in a rundown basement, then consuming even cheaper wine and then letting loose some great Americana Folk music that sounds timeless, and just as fresh today as it did over forty years ago.

Witnessing the titles to the 24 tracks that are featured here may seem a bit bizarre since the titles are the most off-the-wall names you could possibly give to a set of songs. Once Dylan and the Band start singing, the lyrics don't make much more sense, yet they're really not supposed to in the first place. The few times when everyone seems like they're trying to tell some sort of linear story is, ironically, the only time the album slips a few notches in quality. In many ways, the album brings up memories of the earliest Dylan, when he was a simple folk artist playing only an acoustic guitar and making his audience laugh with his rabbling, non sense (but beautiful) poetry. There's a lot of that here, and it wouldn't surprise me if songs such as Million Dollar Bash and Clothes Line Saga were written in about 20 minutes. This is an asset, not a liability.

Everyone is bound to have a few favorites here, but none of these songs would ever really appear on any sort of "greatest hits" package. You could even argue that 24 songs is a bit too much, but if this would have been trimmed down to one record, there simply would not have been enough, so the double album is justified. Rumors are that the actual sessions (which apparently were heavily bootlegged) were more than twice as lengthy as what is featured here. (This would prove to be the case 40 years later when he released the complete sessions on one of his many "Bootleg Series" albums.)

Like the live album Before the Flood this is really a group effort since many of the songs here are only The Band with no Dylan. That shouldn't matter though, since the spirit of this record is so freewheeling. This is a perfect soundtrack to simpler times in rural America in just about any generation in the twentieth century. This is an awfully fun record, and Dylan wouldn't ever replicate this feel until he recorded a couple of albums with his superstar friends many years later as "The Traveling Wilburys". Fans of the Wilburys who haven't heard this album should give this one a listen. Musically, there really aren't many similarities, but the free spritedness and outright wacked out fun feel makes it deserve comparison.

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