The Bootleg Series Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes Complete
The Bootleg Series Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes Complete is a compilation album of unreleased home recordings from 1967 by Bob Dylan and the group of musicians that would become The Band, released on November 3, 2014. It is the latest addition in the series of official "bootleg" recordings issued by Columbia Records. The liner notes for The Bootleg Series Vol. 11 are by Sid Griffin, American musician and author of Million Dollar Bash: Bob Dylan, The Band, and The Basement Tapes.
The basement recordings were made during 1967, after Dylan had withdrawn to his Woodstock home in the aftermath of a motorcycle accident on July 29, 1966. Recording sessions began in a den known as "The Red Room" in Dylan's home, before moving to an improvised recording studio in the basement of a house known as Big Pink, where Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson lived. The sessions lasted roughly from May to October 1967. In October 1967, a fourteen-song demo tape was copyrighted and the compositions were registered with Dwarf Music, a publishing company jointly owned by Dylan and his manager Albert Grossman. Acetates and tapes of the songs then circulated among interested recording artists.[a 1] Dylan has referred to commercial pressures behind the basement recordings in a 1969 interview with Rolling Stone: "They weren't demos for myself, they were demos of the songs. I was being PUSHED again into coming up with some songs. You know how those things go."
In July 1969, the first rock bootleg appeared in California, entitled Great White Wonder. The double album consisted of seven songs from the Woodstock basement sessions, plus some early recordings Dylan had made in Minneapolis in December 1961 and one track recorded from The Johnny Cash Show. One of those responsible for the bootleg, identified only as Patrick, talked to Rolling Stone: "Dylan is a heavy talent and he's got all those songs nobody's ever heard. We thought we'd take it upon ourselves to make this music available." The process of bootlegging Dylan's work would eventually see the illegal release of hundreds of live and studio recordings, and lead the Recording Industry Association of America to describe Dylan as the most bootlegged artist in the history of the music industry.
The critical aggregator website Metacritic awarded The Basement Tapes Complete a Metascore of 99, based on reviews by fifteen critics, indicating "universal acclaim". Writing for AllMusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine gave it five out of five stars, writing, "This is the wondrous thing about The Basement Tapes: this is music made with no expectation that anybody outside of a small circle would ever hear it."Paste magazine rated the album ten out of ten, and called it "some of the most daring, creative and truly beautiful music ever recorded". In his review for American Songwriter, Jim Beviglia gave it five out of five stars and wrote, "Music fans having access to the complete archives of The Basement Tapes is somewhat akin to historians being presented with the tapes of the meetings of the Continental Congress or art buffs who receive a videotape of Da Vinci's entire process of painting The Last Supper." In his review for The New Yorker magazine, Sasha Frere-Jones wrote, "Historically, these sessions have been treated with awe, as if something essential about both Dylan and popular song can be found on the tapes. That's at best half true. The performances weren't approached with any kind of gravity, and are best listened to with no reverence at all. For every moment of revelation and synthesis, there are five throwaways." Discussing the song "I'm Not There", Jesse Jarnow said that "Here and everywhere, underscored by the newest remix, The Basement Tapes are almost purely beautiful — a characteristic not often associated with Dylan’s music."
^The songs on the demo were: "Million Dollar Bash", "Yea! Heavy and a Bottle of Bread", "Please Mrs. Henry", "Down in the Flood", "Lo and Behold", "Tiny Montgomery", "This Wheel's on Fire", "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere", "I Shall Be Released", "Tears of Rage", "Too Much of Nothing", "The Mighty Quinn", "Open the Door, Homer" and "Nothing Was Delivered" (Griffin 2007, pp. 229–230).
^When Albert Grossman was shopping around for a recording contract for the Hawks in late 1967, the group instructed him to sign them under the name the Crackers—a derogatory term for poor white Southerners. The band also mischievously dubbed themselves the Honkies. It was only when Helm joined them in Woodstock that they settled on calling themselves the Band (Hoskyns 1993, pp. 143–144).