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Bob Dylan and The Band - The Bootleg Series Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes - Raw (2014) review

Bob Dylan and The Band - The Bootleg Series Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes - Raw (Legacy, 2014)

I've been toying with the Basement Tapes since I first heard about them … and I first heard about them in the mid 60's as holy grail rumors, circulating with the reverence of urban legends in Dylan circles. There were even bootlegged copies of those sessions floating around, with people merely hinting that they knew a guy who knew a guy who had heard them. There was one white jacketed vinyl version with a mimeographed flyer taped to the front [which I wish I still had], then there was a collection of rather poorly recorded cassettes, and finally, like the parting of the Red Sea, the Basement Tapes were officially released as a vinyl album.  I remember everyone grabbing a copy, thinking that they were going to gain some personal insight, get clued in, understand the inter-workings, and perhaps the curtains would be parted, and Mr. Dylan would at last be revealed. 

But truth be told, that grouping of songs were rather uninteresting to me, they certainly didn't reveal much I didn't already know.  With more songs from these sessions surfacing as time went on, the one thing I became more sure of, was that the best material had already seen the light of day, and that His-Bobness, his mates, and his mate's heirs were certainly going to cash in on some serious bucks.  And therein lies the joke of all time, much like the American Indians taking back all that was theirs from the white man, one dollar at a time from their casinos, Mr. Dylan found that anything he touched was gold.

Since those first Basement Tapes came out Dylan has been selling harmonicas he's used on stage, even if he blew one single note on them, for several hundred dollars, a signed one for even more [actually $5,000], and I haven't even gotten to the limited edition signed box set containing several used during full shows, or his appearance on Pawn Stars.  I imagine him, Sharpie in hand, sitting on his bus rolling down Highway 61 to next town, a pile of harps in front of him, CNN on the tube, signing late into the lonely night.

Well, it's been nearly 50 years since Garth Hudson so meticulously cataloged all the comings and goings that transpired during those heady nights in that Woodstock basement … and here we are today, people still hungry for anything that Bob Dylan has touched, and to that end, I hope that you enjoy it, that all your questions get answered, that the clouds evaporate, the curtains part, that His Royal Bob-ness ascends from your stereo and reveals truths, like old testament scriptures to your upturned face.

But I doubt that will happen …

*** Yes, the Basement Tapes have had a profound effect, they've sparked: One band called The New Basement Tapes, and well over 100 individual albums by other bands who refer to their material as The Basement Tapes.

Review made by Jenell Kesler/2014
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