I was working up some sort of profound, scholarly introduction to this thread where I attempted to expound on why the Basement Tapes are such a big deal to so many Dylan fans. But rather than wasting a lot of space, I'm just going to jump right in and hope those checking it out who aren't all that familiar with this stuff will pick it up as we go along. At any rate, with all the rumors and loose talk recently about Columbia/Sony finally getting off their duff and putting out a 'complete' or at least 'more complete' version of Dylan's 1967 Woodstock home recordings with the Hawks, I thought it would be a good time to review the current status of this material. The vast majority of these recordings have been in wide circulation for quite some time now, but there's a lot of debate concerning where they're best heard. The intention then is to proceed through all the basement recordings session by session in more or less chronological order, discussing the often substantial differences in how they sound on both the official and more comprehensive major grey market releases. I'll try to account for those differences by considering the sources they're derived from and any processing/enhancement/remastering they've been subjected to. Finally, I'll offer my own personal choices as to where the best versions of each track can be found - a matter over which I'm sure there will be considerable debate. Discussion of bootlegs in this manner is I believe to be within the bounds of forum rules as I understand them. I urge anyone contributing however to refrain from discussing how or where to obtain these recordings, as this would clearly be in violation of said rules. To set the table, the balance of this first post will be concerned with summarizing the various basement tape permutations from which all the official and unofficial issues have subsequently been derived. Sources referred to include the following: Clinton Heylin's Bob Dylan: The Recording Sessions [1960-1994] & Revolution In the Air - the Songs of Bob Dylan Vol. 1 - 1957-1973 Sid Griffin's Million Dollar Bash - Bob Dylan, The Band and the Basement Tapes John Howell's "The Genuine Basement Tapes Vol 1-5" at http://www.punkhart.com/dylan/reviews/basement_tapes.html "Bob Dylan: A Tree With Roots - The Genuine Basment Tape Remasters" at http://theband.hiof.no/albums/boot_tree_with_roots.html (major source for this first post) "Bob Dylan and the Band: From the Reels - Complete Basements" at http://theband.hiof.no/albums/boot_from_the_reels_complete_basements.html So without further adieu, first off - what are the "Basement Tapes", and how many different permutations of them exist? 1) The original reels From approximately March to late-October 1967, Bob Dylan, backed by Richard Manuel, Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, and (at the very end only) Levon Helm recorded over 100 individual tracks (some being alternate takes) on to at least (37) 7" reels of recording tape (though Basement Tapes LP engineer Rob Frabioni remembers "50-60 reels of Shamrock and other off-brands of tape"). Garth Hudson - who had already made quite a few ad hoc recordings on his own at that point - engineered. Using a 2-channel portable Ampex 602 tape recorder, tracks were recorded at either 3-3/4 or 7-1/2 ips (15 ips not being available) - which would have allowed 20-40 minutes of recording time per tape depending on speed utilized. Most tracks were recorded in a panned stereo format with all sources routed to either the left or right channel, though there is often leakage between channels on the account of the 'loose mic'ing' system deployed. Much more detail about the equipment used, how and where recording spaces were set up, the material recorded, how the sessions were organized, etc., can be found in Heylin and Griffin's books, so I won't delve into it further here. 2) Ten-song demo (take numbers where applicable in parenthesis) Million Dollar Bash (2) / Yea! Heavy And A Bottle Of Bread (2) / Please Mrs Henry / Crash On The Levee (2) / Lo And Behold (2) / Tiny Montgomery / This Wheel's On Fire / You Ain't Going Nowhere (2) / I Shall Be Released / Too Much Of Nothing (2) As 50% owner of Dwarf Music, the publishing company formed by Dylan and himself in January 1966, Dylan manager Albert Grossman sought to derive some income from all this new recording activity. He so directed the dubbing to mono of ten of the major Dylan-composed basement tracks around August 1967. The tape was copyrighted in October and utilized as a source for all subsequent acetates/Dwarf Music demo tapes that circulated in the ensuing years. 3) Five-song demo Tears Of Rage (1) / Quinn The Eskimo (2) / Open The Door Homer (1) / Nothing Was Delivered (1) / Get Your Rocks Off Another mono demo of some later basement-recorded Dylan compositions, copyrighted in January 1968. The first four songs, along with the previous demo-tape, comprised a 14-song acetate from which many early bootlegs were drawn. 4) The "Basement Safety" Million Dollar Bash (2) / Yea! Heavy And A Bottle Of Bread (2) / I'm Not There (1956) / Please Mrs Henry / Crash On The Levee (2) / Lo And Behold! (2) / This Wheel's On Fire / You Ain't Going Nowhere (2) / I Shall Be Released / Too Much Of Nothing (2) / Nothing Was Delivered (3) / Odds And Ends (2) / Get Your Rocks Off / Clothesline Saga / Apple Suckling Tree (1) / Apple Suckling Tree (2) / Open The Door Homer (1*) / Open The Door Homer (2*) / Open The Door Homer (3*) / Nothing Was Delivered (1*) / Nothing Was Delivered (2*) / Tears Of Rage (1*) / Tears Of Rage (2*) / Quinn The Eskimo (1*) / Quinn The Eskimo (2*) Sometime in late 1969, Garth Hudson had Elliot Mazer - then under the employ of Albert Grossman - dub a straight stereo transfer of 25 key basement tracks from the original reels (save for the asterisked songs, which appear to be from a generational copy). All tracks were transferred at 15 ips under studio conditions. In 1971 when Mazer went out to work with Neil Young as his producer, he brought his copy to play for him. That tape has remained in Neil's posession ever since. All the major Dylan basement compositions are included along with a few alternate takes, excepting the curious omissions of "Tiny Montgomery" and "Sign On The Cross". The tape boxes are reproduced in Heylin's Recording Sessions book. When "I'm Not There" finally saw official release in 2007 on the soundtrack to the movie of the same name, it was via a straight transfer from this basement safety. 5). Dwarf Music demo tape Signs On The Cross / Don't Ya Tell Henry Two more Dylan basement compositions submitted for copyright in 1970 via a stereo dub thought to be generational 6). The Robertson-Fraboni compilation reels Odds And Ends (1) / Nothing Was Delivered (3) / Odds And Ends (2) / Get Your Rocks Off / Clothesline Saga / Apple Suckling Tree (1) / Apple Suckling Tree (2) / Try Me Little Girl / Young But Daily Growin' / Tiny Montgomery / Don't Ya Tell Henry / Bourbon Street / Million Dollar Bash (1) / Yea! Heavy And A Bottle Of Bread (1) / Million Dollar Bash (2) / Yea! Heavy And A Bottle Of Bread (2) / I'm Not There (1956) / Please Mrs Henry / Crash On The Levee (1) / Crash On The Levee (2) / Lo And Behold (1) / Lo And Behold (2) / One Single River / Baby Ain't That Fine / You Ain't Going Nowhere (1) / This Wheel's On Fire / You Ain't Going Nowhere (2) / I Shall Be Released / Too Much Of Nothing (1) / Too Much Of Nothing (2) / Tears Of Rage (3) / Quinn The Eskimo (1) / Open The Door Homer (3) / Nothing Was Delivered (1) / Folsom Prison Blues / Sign On The Cross / Santa Fe / Silent Weekend / Silhouette / Bring It On Home / King Of France / Going To Acapulco / Gonna Get You Now / Banks Of The Royal Canal These are the reels compiled by Robbie Robertson and engineer Rob Frabioni from the original basement reels and other sources in preparation for the official 1975 double-set on Columbia. The 44 tracks comprised mostly Dylan originals with a smattering of cover versions recorded at Woodstock. Presumably these represent songs short-listed for the LP, which originally had been talked about as a three-record set before being scaled down to the now familiar double LP including tracks by the Band having nothing to do with the Dylan basement sessions. The tracks were panned in in their original stereo format before being mixed to either mono or mostly narrow stereo for the LP. Portions of these reels have been sourced for later bootleg releases. 7.) The Band roadie reels Lock Your Door / Baby Won't You Be My Baby / Try Me Little Girl / I Can't Make It Alone / Young But Daily Growin' / Bonnie Ship The Diamond / The Hills Of Mexico / Down On Me / One For The Road / I'm Alright / One Single River / People Get Ready / I Don't Hurt Anymore / The Stones That You Throw / One Man's Loss / All You Have To Do Is Dream (2) / I'm Not There (1956) / Please Mrs Henry / Down In The Flood (2) / Lo And Behold (2) / Odds And Ends (2) / Get Your Rocks Off / Clothesline Saga / Apple Suckling Tree (2) / Tiny Montgomery / Sign On The Cross / This Wheel's On Fire / You Ain't Going Nowhere (2) / I Shall Be Released / Instrumental Jam / Baby Ain't That Fine / Salt And Nails / A Fool Such As I / Going To Acapulco / Gonna Get You Now / Million Dollar Bash (2) / Yea! Heavy And A Bottle Of Bread (2) These reels, given by a friend of Robbie Robertson to a record store owner in the Pacific Northwest in 1986, represent the "second stage" of basement tape circulation to the general public, being released soon afterwards on the Blind Boy Grunt and the Hawks double LP bootleg sets. Most of the tracks previously uncirculated here were covers recorded in the initial basement sessions at Dylan's house in Woodstock before activity moved to Big Pink. The tracks all appeared in their original stereo configurations. 8.) The 1991 cassettes Cassette 1: Million Dollar Bash (1) / Yea! Heavy And A Bottle Of Bread (1) / Million Dollar Bash (2) / Yea! Heavy And A Bottle Of Bread (2) / I'm Not There (1956) / Please Mrs Henry / Crash On The Levee (1) / Crash On The Levee (2) / Lo And Behold (1) / Lo And Behold (2) Cassette 2: I'm A Fool For You (1+2) / Next Time On The Highway / Tupelo / You Gotta Quit Kickin' My Dog Aroun' / See You Later, Allan Ginsberg / Tiny Montgomery / The Spanish Song (1) / Spanish Song (2) / I'm Your Teenage Prayer / Four Strong Winds / The French Girl (1) / The French Girl (2) / Joshua Gone Barbados / I'm In The Mood For Love / All-American Boy / Sign On The Cross Cassette 3: Tears Of Rage (1) / Tears Of Rage (2) / Tears Of Rage (3) / Quinn The Eskimo (1) / Quinn The Eskimo (2) / Open The Door Homer (1) / Open The Door Homer (2) / Open The Door Homer (3) / Nothing Was Delivered (2) Cassette 4: Going To Acapulco / Gonna Get You Now / Wildflood Flower / Se That My Grave Is Kept Clean / Comin' Round The Mountain / Instrumental Jam / Flight Of The Bumble Bee / Confidential To Me / Odds And Ends (1) / Nothing Was Delivered (3) / Odds And Ends (2) / Get Your Rocks Off / Clothesline Saga / Apple Suckling Tree (1) / Apple Suckling Tree (2) Cassette 5: Belshezaar / I Forgot To Remember To Forget Her / You Win Again / Still In Town, Still Around / Waltzin' With Sin / Big River (1) / Big River (2) / Folsom Prison Blues / Bells Of Rhymney / Nine Hundred Miles / Goin' Down The Road / Spanish Is The Loving Tongue / I Can't Come In With A Broken Heart / Come All Ye Fair And Tender Ladies / Under Control / Ol' Roison The Beau / I'm Guilty Of Loving You / Johnny Todd / Cool Water / Banks Of The Royal Canal / Po' Lazarus Surfacing around the same time as the first Bootleg Series collection was being assembled by CBS/Sony, these cassette dubs comprise the most comprehensive collection of basement tracks to yet find its way into circulation. A "third stage" so to speak, they became the primary source for the first attempt at a "complete" basement set when five-volume Genuine Basement Tapes was first issued in the early 90's. Believed to have been dubbed directly from Garth Hudson's basement reel archives, some of the tracks suffer from inconsistent balancing of levels during transfer. An alternate dub of the same material yielding better results was reputedly sourced for the later Tree With Roots collection issued in 2001-2002. Also included in this collection of cassettes was miscellaneous Hawks/Band material from the same period, as well as a dub of the 10-song Dwarf Music demo. Much of this found its way on to the 11-volume Basement Reels set that appeared around the same time as Tree With Roots. But this only points out the obvious - with so many of the ancillary basement tracks available only as sourced from a cassette dub, there should be substantial room for improvement in sound quality over what we have access to today. That's all for the this initial post - hope some were able to stick it out with me to the end. Next time around I'll be summarizing the major official and non-official basement-related collections before going into the track-by-track analysis. All input is welcome and encouraged, though since we're going in sequence, I would appreciate if those commenting could avoid jumping ahead.