Bob Dylan and The Band’s Legendary “Basement Tapes” Live up to the Hype


Bob Dylan
The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11
Columbia Records/Legacy Recordings

The recordings Bob Dylan made with The Band in the basement of a house in West Saugerties, New York in 1967 have long been the stuff of legend. Bootlegged in part as Great White Wonder before the end of the decade, released officially in truncated and doctored form in 1975, and repeatedly bootlegged in numerous permutations since, these remarkable recordings found Bob and friends in back-to-basics mode, tackling a mix of enticing Dylan compositions (including “Quinn the Eskimo” and “I Shall Be Released”) and rootsy covers with the verve of a boozy roadhouse ensemble. With a mind-boggling 138 tracks on six discs, The Basement Tapes Complete lives up to the hype. The performances range from sketchy fragments to fully realized pieces, many with surprisingly good sound quality. (The lowest-fi bits are consolidated on disc six.) The tapes also include obscure Dylan originals such as “I’m Your Teenage Prayer” and “I Can’t Come In with a Broken Heart,” while the covers revisit songs associated with Johnny Cash (“Folsom Prison Blues”), John Lee Hooker (“I’m in the Mood”), and Elvis Presley (“I Forgot to Remember to Forget”), among others. Endlessly fascinating, often surprising, and essential listening for Dylan fans.

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