Uncut’s 50 best bootlegs

A wealth of amazing music, scrapped LPs, obscure sessions and lost nuggets selected from our own private collections…

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Recorded 1972-2009

To combat the dearth of new studio material, in 2009 fans compiled two albums of Cohen performing songs never released on any official albums. Essentially comps of the best of other concert bootlegs such as Rare Live Songs and Blossoms Of Heaven, Ashes Of Hell, they also feature three new songs unveiled on Cohen’s recent triumphant tours: “Feels So Good”, “Lullaby”, and “The Darkness”, a pounding, powerful Dylanesque blues. Other highlights include a live disco take (yes, really) of rare 1976 single “Do I Have To Dance All Night”, with Laura Branigan on backing vocals, and the intense song-poem “Puppets”, recorded at a 2006 radio session. Alongside some enjoyably incongruous covers (“Can’t Help Falling In Love”, “To Love Somebody”) sits the first airing of “Chelsea Hotel #1” (“Here’s a new song we wrote just a couple of weeks ago”) taken from the 1972 Israel concert immortalised on Tony Palmer’s Bird On A Wire documentary.
Sound quality: Generally good. It spans four decades of live recordings, so quality varies with provenance
See also: Live At The BBC – a stunning 1968 show from the Beeb’s Paris Theatre



Recorded 1970/71, New York/San Francisco
In 1970 Van Morrison was hot property when Moondance, his second album for Warners, became an FM radio staple. But the improvisational, elongated song form that defined Morrison’s Warners debut, Astral Weeks, still held a deep fascination. Add his esoteric belief in the ancient kingdom of Caledonia (a landmass combining Scandinavia and Scotland/Northern Ireland) as the birthplace of the blues and the epic, largely instrumental, 18-minute musical voyage “Caledonia Soul Music” was the result. Recorded during sessions for His Band And The Street Choir, a tape of the track was passed to and played several times on San Francisco KSAN radio station but left off the album. Morrison later admitted Street Choir was “a compromise… I lost control of it.” The track was released here with a live version of “Moondance” from the Fillmore West in 1970, and a 1971 Pacific High Studios radio broadcast that included a rare outing for the Them track “Friday’s Child”, a combative “Hound Dog” and a caustic, seven-minute deconstruction of Dylan’s “Just Like A Woman”.
Sound quality: Raw and live with slight distortion
See also: The Real Philosopher’s Stone


Recorded September 7, 1980, Sheffield


“There’s life and there’s death. We were still alive, so we thought we’d carry on,” said drummer Stephen Morris, explaining Joy Division’s response to Ian Curtis’ suicide on May 19, 1980. The still nameless three-piece (The Khmer Rouge? The Witch Doctors Of Zimbabwe? Temple Of Venus?) visited Cabaret Voltaire’s Sheffield studio, Western Works, on September 7, 1980, where they recorded six tracks. These circulated in murky lo-fi until 2009 when a 1/4” reel of tape reportedly appeared for auction on eBay containing a copy of the studio sessions – in pristine clarity. Early runs through “Dreams Never End”, “Truth” and “Ceremony” (with Morris on vocals) are accompanied by “Are You Ready Are You Ready Are You Ready For This?” a New Order-Cabs jam fronted by NO manager Rob Gretton. However, it is “Homage” that dazzles. Curtis’ absence is everywhere in Bernard Albrecht-cum-Sumner’s bleak reflection on death and suffering (“A life that is so scared”). Such intimacy may explain why it remains unreleased. “I will never be able to cope,” the usually summery Sumner said in 1981. “Ian’s death will affect me for now, and forever.”
Sound quality: Unnervingly good; a bootleg or a strategic leak?
See also: Joy Division’s unreleased first LP for RCA, recorded as Warsaw


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