A testament to my multitasking skills, I am at this moment (well, at the moment that I'm writing this. Depending on when exactly you read this, "this moment" may seem a misrepresentation of the facts from your perspective. But we all knew that. I am using a comedic concept that derives humor from the belabored explaination of the obvious, which may or may not have been taken too far by explaining it. I'll let you decide) eating a sammich, listening to The Basement Tapes, and, of course, typing this blogpost (which is, if no one else had noticed, an anagram for blogspot). The last item on that list can be excluded from discussion at the moment as it would create a feedback loop and while I'm sure there's a way to make that into some metaphysical artistic statement I'm not going to go there. Not now at least. The sammich? Its delicious, but I'm not talking about that at the moment either because that's rather complicated (trust me, when I discuss the proper construction of a sammich, it becomes complicated) and beyond the scope of this post. I shall go into it at some point though.
By process of elimination, it follows that this post is about The Basement Tapes.
Actually that's not quite true, now that I think of it. I never did say that I was going to limit myself to writing about things present in my current stream of consciousness, and even if I did, there are more things thus present than I have mentioned up there. Given, none of them are very notable, but you didn't really know that, did you? I mean, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison, and Ray Charles, all back from the dead, could have been rocking out together in the room with me, and I could have just been neglecting the fact. For the record? They're not, as awesome as that would be.
Also for the record, this post is about The Basement Tapes. But any process of elimination involved is an artificial one. (The irony here is that through no original intent of my own this post has thus far been more about itself than anything else, but I don't much feel like contemplating that)
The Basement Tapes.
I'm not going to provide the full history leading up to the Basement Tapes. Instead, I'm going to pick up where Martin Scorcese's No Direction Home left off. On July 29, 1966, Bob Dylan suffered a mild concussion and a cracked vertebrae as a result of a motorcycle crash near Woodstock, NY. Before the crash, many had accused him of having lost his folk roots, calling him a traitor for picking up an electric guitar and playing rock and roll. Those people were full of horseshit, but Dylan was still in more than a bit of a bad place, even before the crash. He was already considering taking a break. Sitting under a full moon one night, Dylan looked into the bleak woods and said, "something's gotta change."
As soon as he recovered (some time around February of 1967), Bob Dylan began hanging out with The Band (I am hoping you understand who I am talking about as an explaination is beyond the scope of this writing. If you're confused, this should cure what ails you, and trust me, not knowing about these guys is an ailment), who had accompanied him during his transformation into a rocker, at their house in Woodstock, called Big Pink, where just about every day for months they engaged in informal recording sessions, resulting in over thirty original compositions, some by Dylan and some co-written by members of The Band, as well as a number of covers of older folk songs. The inclusion of the folk songs served to solidify The Band's background in traditional music, as they had been somewhat ill at ease with Dylan's folk background from the start, and also re-inject the folk influence back into Dylan's work. For him, it was a re-calibration of sorts. He was still a rocker, but he was making sure he hadn't forgotten himself.
All in all, these recordings are what many hold to be the most signifigant and masterful body of work to result from the longstanding collaboration of Dylan and The Band.
That having been said, The Basement Tapes, the double vynil release by Columbia records in 1975, is not the best album produced by them. That honor goes to Before The Flood.
And no, that's not a contradiction. Let me explain.
Of the twenty-four songs released on the album, eight did not feature Dylan. Half of those weren't even part of the sessions. All of them were remixed. And there were some startling omissions, such as "I Shall Be Released," "The Mighty Quinn," "Sign on the Cross," and "I'm Not There (1956)," argueably the best songs from the sessions.
All that having been said, my listening experience has been up to this point and I expect shall continue to be quite enjoyable. However, I still feel as if I've been cheated. I could, of course, acquire the bootleg five-volume cd set The Genuine Basement Tapes, but last I checked it costs one hundred thirty fucking dollars. Which would be just ducky if I was made of money. Let me check... nope, still meat.
On a side note, some of the websites I encountered employed the dreaded blink tag. Scholars of net ettiquite and quantum physics know that there is only one viable use of it:
Schrödinger's cat is dead.
Somewhere these recordings are just sitting there, not being released. Ironically, not even the Big Pink version of I Shall Be Released is within my grasp.
Some studio is just sitting on this stuff. I think a raid is in order.