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The missing Bob Dylan record between Blonde on Blonde and John Wesley Harding. Recorded with members of The Band in the summer of 1967, and not released in official form until 1975. The 1975 version is hardly definitive-- only 24 songs, 8 of them outtakes from the Band's Music From Big Pink, and not featuring Dylan at all. Songs bubble up through the cracks in bootlegs, both official and not.
A year before, Dylan's motorcycle accident-- which may or may not have actually happened-- sent him into seclusion in Woodstock. Members of the Band (who had backed Dylan on his 1966 tour of England) were living nearby. Dylan, along with Robbie Robertson, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson, and Rick Danko-- Levon Helm would show up later-- began having informal jam sessions in the basement. They recorded folk and country standards, and wrote new songs that sounded just as creepy and timeless as the covers.
Dylan's entire songwriting style underwent a dramatic shift. Gone were the long chains of rhyme, the flashing images. They were replaced with concise yet cryptic mutterings, some funny, some knowingly sad, some completely indecipherable. The instrumentation changed too, into simpler arrangements of bass, guitar, and organ. Without drummer Levon Helm, Richard Manuel and Robbie Robertson took over the drum kit. Some songs had no drums.
The Tapes leaked out in bootleg form over the next few years, while The Band became stars in their own right, and Dylan rose, fell, and rose again. After the stunning return to form of Blood on the Tracks, Dylan and Robbie Robertson decided that it was time to put the Tapes out in official form.
Unfortunately, Dylan was occupied with the Desire album and the Rolling Thunder Revue, and much of the picking of songs and sequencing was done by Robertson, who omitted such songs as I Shall Be Released, Quinn the Eskimo, and I'm Not There (1956). What was left was still pretty good, though.
There were several stone-cold classics from the pen of Dylan. The elegiac Tears of Rage, the ominous This Wheel's On Fire (which recalls Ballad of a Thin Man ever so slightly). Or the laid-back You Ain't Goin' Nowhere, the comical Million Dollar Bash-- I looked at my WATCH, I looked at my WRIST, I punched myself in the FACE with my FIST... Also Down in the Flood, Goin' to Acapulco, Too Much of Nothing, and the gently rolling blues Nothing Was Delivered. The Band contributed a few good tunes as well as several weak ones. They turned in a beautiful performance of an old chain gang song called Ain't No More Cane, and a song called Bessie Smith that Dylan would have been proud to call his own.
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
13. Too Much of Nothing
14. Yea! Heavy and a Bottle of Bread
15. Ain't No More Cane*
16. Crash on the Levee (Down in the Flood)
17. Ruben Remus*
18. Tiny Montgomery
19. You Ain't Goin' Nowhere
20. Don't Ya Tell Henry*
21. Nothing Was Delivered
22. Open the Door, Homer
23. Long Distance Operator*
24. This Wheel's on Fire
Songs marked with an asterisk are performed by the Band without Dylan. All songwriting credits are Dylan, unless otherwise mentioned:
Orange Juice Blues-- Richard Manuel
Yazoo Street Scandal-- Robbie Robertson
Katie's Been Gone, Ruben Remus-- Robertson and Manuel
Bessie Smith-- Rick Danko and Robertson
Tears of Rage-- Dylan and Manuel
Ain't No More Cane-- traditional, arrangement by The Band
This Wheel's On Fire--Dylan and Danko