Bob Dylan & The Band: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes Complete
Even in their oft-bootlegged form, Bob Dylan’s home recordings from 1967 and 1968 were always less of a lost album than a recovered universe. With Columbia’s 6-CD release of Bob Dylan and The Band’s The Basement Tapes Complete, there are fewer and fewer acceptable excuses for not tumbling fully into the rabbit hole and out into the mysterious expanse of R&B, country, blues, surrealism, musical invention, harmony, novelty, lulz and some of the most ineffable compositions in Bob Dylan’s songbook. Issued in bowdlerized form in 1975, the recordings are newly remixed and remastered. Even with a solid two-dozen uncirculated tracks, it is the clean, lush sound of long-familiar takes that might make longtime fanatics weep with joy and provide newcomers with a welcoming entrance. Like a crud-encrusted painting restored to full-color, one can now marvel at the slow dreaminess of the first take of “Too Much of Nothing,” blink at the casual majesty of the totally unheard “Edge of the Ocean” and its cool electric piano bed, gape as Dylan switches on his ‘64 folk skills (“All American Boy”) or his ‘65-era disdain (“All You Have to Do Is Dream”). Some songs, like the bright and sleepy “On a Rainy Afternoon,” still sound as if they’ve been transferred from ancient wax cylinder, and they’re not worse for it, but many more don’t. Richard Manuel takes a verse of “One Too Many Mornings” before they revert to the live ‘66 arrangement! A more complete take of the proto-Springsteen “I’m Alright” with Garth Hudson adding “Like a Rolling Stone”-esque organ swells?! What’s this funky-ass R&B plea, “Baby, Won’t You Be My Baby?” (An original!?) Put The Basement Tapes Complete in front of any Dylan fan, step away slowly, and watch that Dylan fan’s head explode. Or listen to these recordings for the first time and fall backward into a new old place.