The Basement Tapes by Bob Dylan

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The Basement Tapes by Bob Dylan
The Basement Tapes by Bob Dylan

Album Released: 1975

The Basement Tapes ::: Artwork

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1.Odds And Ends1:47
2.Orange Juice Blues (Blues For Breakfast)3:39
3.Million Dollar Bash2:32
4.Yazoo Street Scandal3:29
5.Goin' To Acapulco5:27
6.Katie's Been Gone2:46
7.Lo And Behold!2:46
8.Bessie Smith4:18
9.Clothes Line Saga2:58
10.Apple Suckling Tree2:48
11.Please, Mrs. Henry2:33
12.Tears Of Rage4:15
13.Too Much Of Nothing3:04
14.Yea! Heavy And A Bottle Of Bread2:15
15.Ain't No More Cane3:58
16.Crash On The Levee (Down In The Flood)2:04
17.Ruben Remus3:16
18.Tiny Montgomery2:47
19.You Ain't Goin' Nowhere2:42
20.Don't Ya Tell Henry3:13
21.Nothing Was Delivered4:23
22.Open The Door, Homer2:49
23.Long Distance Operator3:39
24.This Wheel's On Fire3:52


It was in July 1966 that Bob Dylan had a motorcycle crash and was seriously injured - it was a notorious event that took him out of the public eye and into complete seclusion.

During that time, he seemed to lose interest in his latest role as a rock'n'roll superstar. Instead, all he wanted to do was kick back and record a bunch of songs in secret with The Band in a house in Woodstock, N.Y. called The Big Pink. In total, they recorded more than 100 of them, but you'll only find 24 on this release.

Most of the songs that can't be heard here were later picked up in the first release of The Bootleg Series in 1991. But here anyway is his first ever bootleg release! Dylan reportedly didn't want it released at all, but it's not a huge surprise why they did it. Ever since these songs' pressings in 1967, they'd become a hot commodity in the bootleg underworld.

So some of these songs had even grown famous over the years despite them never having been officially released - many covered by different artists (can we chalk it up to irony that one of the songs that didn't make it onto this compilation is the original version of “I Shall Be Released”? Well, I guess it eventually got its wish in 1991).

“This Wheel's On Fire” is probably the most famous of them - it wasn't only covered by The Byrds (didn't they cover everything?), but it was also covered by Julie Driscoll whose version became the theme song of Absolutely Fabulous (I bring that up every time I hear the song! Well ... wasn't that a great show?). But anyway, here it is in its original incarnation, with Bob Dylan singing in his smokey voice, amidst a heavily-pounded piano and a marching drumbeat. The Band joins in for the chorus, which makes the song seem especially MANLY (I know that the actual members of The Band were quite scrawny, but whenever I hear them sing on their early albums, it usually sounds to me like they're ready to go chop wood or bale hay, or something MANLY ... way to go Martin Scorsese, for ruining my image of them by showing the world their scrawniness to us in such crispy color...).

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by Reviewer: Don Ignacio (blogging at Don Ignacio's Album Reviews)

After he'd recuperated from his motorcycle accident, Dylan holed up in Woodstock NY at a house referred to as 'The Big Pink', and jammed with a group of Canadians (by way of Arkansas) who called themselves The Band, because they were Dylan's backup band.

The results became the most infamous bootleg of the late-60's, 'The Great White Wonder' as it was most often referred to, until finally an official release eight years after the recordings were laid down was deigned proper, since the demand for bootlegs was so high.

I can't fathom what Greil Marcus sees in this motley collection of throwaways to write an entire book about it. To me, it's easy to see why Dylan didn't want these scraps on the market - the songs weren't ready for release.

For every half-decent tune, there's two or three slabs of rednecky slop. What's worse, most of the good songs were re-recorded in far superior versions on The Band's debut, Music from Big Pink - and the ones that weren't were covered in far superior versions by those perennial Dylan scavengers, The Byrds.

The Band sound like they usually do, the best bar band between southern Missouri and northern Arkansas - why anybody would think that's a good thing is beyond me, even if Levon Helm is an authentic Ozark hillbilly.

Only Dylan completists need to hear this album of slight throwaways.

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by Reviewer: Creative Noise

A lot of people cite this as their favorite Dylan album, and I think I know why - it's his friendliest.

Dylan's albums, while often brilliant, are almost always difficult. That is, either his singing, or his songwriting, or his lyrics, or all three, present challenges to the average listener's enjoyment of the record.

It seems as if Dylan has a perverse dedication to defying the conventions of 'listenability' (except on Nashville Skyline). When he writes a terrific melody, he'll deliver it by twisting the vowels in an approximate vibrato and striking odd accents. Or when he's got a great set of lyrics, he'll write a melody that lacks good hooks. And so what could be a wonderful and revelatory listening experience becomes more of a sturm-und-drang occasion, with the listener fighting Dylan to grasp the beauty within the album. Yet he can really sing when he wants to, and few would disagree that he's a first-class tunesmith.

The Basement Tapes is a lot easier for casual Dylan fans. Because he wasn't 'making a record' when these songs were recorded, he's not consciously injecting difficulty into the music. Instead, he sings almost everything beautifully - on "Going to Acapulco" and "You Ain't Going Nowhere" for example, his tone is rich and warm, he's hitting all the notes and phrasing intelligently.

Another reason this album seems so friendly is that Dylan has abandoned the contempt that permeates almost all his other albums - from "Masters of War" to "Highlands", a lot of his lyrics are motivated by a need (or perhaps simple preference for) cutting down other people. In contrast, there's an absence of malice in these songs. Instead, there are funny little stories as in "Clothes Line Saga", lusty escapades like "Apple Suckling Tree", and a lot of wisdom. And throughout the album, he invents or restates all sorts of proverbs that one would do well to live by: Take care of yourself, get plenty of rest; remember when you're out there trying to heal the sick, that you must always first forgive them; too much of nothing can make a man ill at ease; lost time is not found again.

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by Reviewer: Steve Knowlton (blogging at Steve's Record Reviews)

Dylan sings lead on sixteen of these songs, and The Band take lead on the remaining eight. Recorded in a big pink house rented by The Band near New York, Dylan and The Band wrote furiously and fast, these twenty four selections eventually released in 1975, representing a mere fraction of the material they actually recorded.

Whilst speculation may've existed as to how Dylan was going to match The Beatles' great statement Sgt Pepper, it appeared that the man himself had no desire to do so, especially after crashing his motorcycle and shedding some layers of his previous hectic lifestyle.

Primarily, these songs were written with the intention that someone else would record them, so the recordings are of demo quality. It hardly matters. It may be an injustice that this Robbie Robertson-selected tracklisting only reveals a mere fraction of what was recorded at 'Big Pink', but it's nice to have whilst waiting for the full thing to be authorised by Dylan and/or his record label, Columbia. Bootlegs abound of course, but they're not the same.

So famous songs like "I Shall Be Released" and "Quinn the Eskimo" aren't on this album. Why they were left off remains open to conjecture, it's rumoured Robbie Robertson only put this thing together as an official release to shore up The Band's then depleted resources. Let's imagine though that the best of these songs had been 'properly' recorded by Dylan in 1967 and released. What might he have chosen for say, a twelve track album?

Side A: "You Ain't Goin Nowhere" / "Please Mrs Henry" / "Quinn the Eskimo" / "This Wheels On Fire" / "Down In the Flood" / "Nothing Was Delivered".

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by Reviewer: Adrian Denning (blogging at Adrian's Album Reviews)