Thursday, October 12, 2006

Some of these bootleggers make pretty good stuff

A lot of you who know me ‘through’ the internet will no doubt have a similar hobby (read ‘obsession’) as I do. Collecting bootlegs. No I’m not speaking of fake designer jeans and hand-bags, but the collection of unreleased musical material (mainly concert recordings). I’ve been collecting these for four years now. Thanks to the internet I have a massive collection (at last count around 800 discs) of (mainly Dylan) concerts and album outtakes. But why, you may be asking yourself?

There is a thrill of the live concert that one can attempt to recreate through these recordings, but it’s mainly because performance is the basis of all of these musician's art. Without performing to a live audience, their records are almost pointless examples of work. It is only when performed live that songs reach their natural perfection. Then there are the album outtakes which allow one to peak into the creative process, to see what the musician was thinking and to ponder at what could have been.

I started collecting bootlegs with Dylan because he has such varied performing past. From the solo acoustic of the early 1960s, the folk-rock of the late 60s, the Rolling Thunder Review of 1970s, the big-band Las Vegas Dylan, the born again Christian, the NET rock and roll group, to the travelling bluesman he is trying to be today, he has given collectors mountains of live material which is far better than any album could ever possibly be. There are passionate performances and one-off interpretations of songs that, without the bootleggers, would have disappeared a long time ago.

I now collect a variety of artists: Bruce Springsteen, the Grateful Dead, Wilco, the Rolling Stones and they all present to me similar feelings - these concerts are amazing glimpses at place's before my time where the live performance of that night was all that mattered. Music is an art that needs crowd interaction to work, bootlegs are the closest way we can capture these once in a lifetime musical moments.

Some bootlegs have been released officially. Dylan has now released seven 'bootleg series' which present unreleased studio material and some famous live concerts. The Grateful Dead release regular concert recordings. Indeed, without bootlegging acts like the Greatful Dead and Jimi Hendrix would be an almost inconsequential acts once the memory of seeing them live had dissapeared. Bootlegging also helps record companies when their stars die young. Without bootleggers, Jeff Buckly's estate would have far less material to release to his fans.

Here are some of my favourite bootlegs that you should try to get if at all possible. Record company executives, please release these officially.

Bob Dylan – European Tour 2000.
It was during this tour that I first saw Bob (in Newcastle in 2000) so these bootlegs have historic and personal value as well. Almost every concert by Dylan in 2000 is amazing, but these Euro shows, released by Crystal Cat have excellent artwork and crisp and clear sound quality. This is better than many legit releases in terms of design and concept. The tour was amazing, many different song selections, the classic band line-up featuring Charlie Sexton and Larry Campbell, two amazing guitarists were let loose and allowed to rock and roll. The best of the tour are Cardiff, Wembley and Portsmouth, but really they’re all good.

Agora Nights – Bruce Springsteen, Cleveland 1978.
I’ve only relatively recently started getting into Springsteen. Many musos dismiss his work as cock-rock music, but there’s far more to it than power chords and stadium filling songs. This presents the best of Springsteen’s early work with the E-Street band, just after Darkness on the Edge of Town. It was originally recorded for a radio show so the sound is superb. I especially love the bit where he plays ‘Not Fade Away’ and the song morphes into ‘She’s the One’, just listen to how the crowd go wild when they recognise what song it is. The E street band were on fire that night. I Love it. The fourth disc is an interview with the Boss.

Rolling Stones – Hillside Blues.
These are the outtakes from the Exile on Main Street and Sticky Fingers sessions. Two of the greatest albums ever made and the cast offs are almost as good. It’s also interesting to hear songs before they were completed, some different guitar riffs in different songs and alternative lyrics. It’s a fascinating example of how musicians reach their end product.

Sugar Baby

1 comment:

* (asterisk) said...

Bootlegs rock. God, the heated discussions I've had on some forums with people who bang on about ripping off the artists. Then just bloody release what the fans want, end of story. The Dylan official bootleg series is the sort of thing that there should be more of.

Check me out, if you dare