Bob Dylan and The Band – “The Bootleg Series Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes Raw”
As part of his Bootleg series, Bob Dylan will be releasing a reissue of The Band’s famous “Basement Tapes,” spanning over two hours of material, including rarities from Bob Dylan and The Band.
“The Basement Tapes,” was crafted after Dylan’s motorcycle accident in ’66 and featured Dylan’s current touring band at the time, which included the great Levon Helm.
The sessions took place in the basement of Dylan’s home and more than 100 songs were recorded by the group between ’67 and ‘68, with the first commercial release of “The Basement Tapes” in ’75, which amassed critical success.
The reissue spans 38 songs from these sessions and contains some of the best material ever recorded in Dylan’s vast catalogue. In a way, the album exudes a sort of mysticism through Dylan’s hardened vocals and intense lyrics that describe the pains of life and experiences of a tour-hardened man.
The Band fleshes out each song soulfully and one can hear the maturity in Dylan’s vocals throughout every piece in the reissue in comparison to his “The Times They Are a-Changin” era, circa-1964.
While Dylan’s vocals do sound strained at times, such as with the take on his early hit “Blowin’ in the Wind,” he manages to establish himself as a masterful songwriter filled with an unparalleled amount of passion.
What is impressive about the album is the band’s ability to completely reinvent covers (Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and Bob Roberts’ “Johnny Todd”) and make them their own through the use of sped-up progressions and unique instrumentals.
While the album mostly contains retreads of Dylan’s earlier works, the original works crafted by Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson and Bob Dylan are what shine through the album.
In the melodic and passionate “Tears of Rage,” Dylan provides engrossing vocals with a tear-worthy falsetto provided by Manuel. “This Wheel’s on Fire” has an apocalyptic feel to it with the piano work provided by Hudson and a careful drumbeat from Helm, which makes the song burst with vigor and emotion.
The album’s absolute strength is found in its storytelling such as with “Lo And Behold!” which masterfully tells the story of a rough Dylan and his persistence to get hold of a female named Molly, while maintaining his bad-boy edge. Dylan sings, “Well, she came out the very next day/To see where they had flown/I’m goin’ down to Tennessee/Get me a truck ‘r somethin’/Gonna save my money and rip it up!”
As the album progresses, a sort of bluesy feel is expressed in the instrumentation of the music, and especially through the vocals of the aging Dylan. While this album marks the end of the classic Dylan-era, it marks a point of lyrical maturity and bravado that is still attempted but never matched by artists in this era of music, let alone a 26-year-old Dylan. This is in itself the pinnacle of work from Dylan and The Band and a gateway for fans to explore the masterfulness and mysticism that is Dylan.