4 THE ROLLING STONES
Recorded 1971-81, France
Though not as exhaustive as, for example, The Genuine Black Box 1961-1974, this four-disc, decade-spanning collection cuts perhaps the clearest path through the thicket of Stones studio work (for live, check out 1973’s Brussels Affair or Very Ancient, Thank You Kindly from the ’72 US tour). Most of these ‘70 recordings were cut at Pathé-Marconi Studio in Parisian suburb Boulogne-Billancourt, where the Stones habitually limbered up for each album. There are complete unreleased songs (often in mutating versions: it’s possible, for example, to trace the evolution of “Everlasting Is My Love” from ghost song to something more tangible), many from 1977/78 when they were stockpiling material to prepare for Keith Richards’ possible incarceration. There are also embryonic versions of future classics (1972’s “Waiting On A Friend”); covers (“You Win Again”, “Sweet Home Chicago”) and speculative jams. The quality varies, as it must, but this is the most illuminating overview available of the Stones as a working studio band.
Sound quality: Raw, but viscerally so
See Also: Necrophilia, legendary unreleased 1972 compilation
3 NEIL YOUNG
CHROME DREAMS [RUST EDITION]
Recorded both solo and with Crazy Horse as the follow up to 1975’s Zuma – before sessions were summarily scrapped – Chrome Dreams is a legendary collection, and not just because of its illicit nature. It is no understatement to say this contains some of Young’s most haunting, best work, including “Hold Back the Tears,” “Pocahontas”, “Too Far Gone” and a stark, acoustic “Powderfinger”. Young himself acknowledged its vaunted status with 2007’s Chrome Dreams II, and only the ornery Shakey could release a sequel to a LP that never officially existed. Some of Chrome Dreams’ songs, often radically rearranged, appeared on albums from American Stars & Bars (1977) to Unplugged (1993). Yet, from the Crazy Horse hoedown “Sedan Delivery” to the ghostly shiver of “Captain Kennedy” and “Look Out For My Love” the primacy of these studio originals is inarguable. The fan-compiled Rust edition, adding “White Line” and “Campaigner” among a half-dozen bonus cuts, is the definitive version. Until, that is, Neil releases Chrome Dreams officially, along with two other lost albums – Homegrown and Oceanside-Countryside – as part of the Archives programme.
Sound quality: Excellent
See also: Budokan Tokyo Hall, a soaring 1976 live set
2 BOB DYLAN & THE BAND
A TREE WITH ROOTS
Recorded 1967, West Saugerties, New York
The 14 “new” Bob Dylan songs that appeared in 1968, in plain white cardboard sleeves labelled GWW (Great White Wonder), can lay claim to being rock’s first bootleg. These were the first recordings of The Basement Tapes; a steady stream of releases from those sessions in upstate New York have followed both officially (1975’s 24-track The Basement Tapes) and illicitly (the 1980s’ Blind Boy Grunt & the Hawks LPs and the ’90s Genuine Basement Tapes Vol. 1-5). 2001’s A Tree With Roots is the motherlode, though, reeling in a staggering 108 tracks over four discs. From outrageous Johnny Cash covers to Robbie Robertson’s crying guitar on “People Get Ready” via the crushed dreams of Eric Von Schmidt’s “Joshua Gone Barbados” and the fathomless “Sign On The Cross,” the material is stunning. “It was all a goof,” Robertson once quipped. “We weren’t doing anything we thought anybody else would hear…” Still more, yet uncirculated, recordings apparently reside within Garth Hudson’s archive.
Sound quality: Generally fine two-track stereo, though a few songs distort
See also: Bob’s official Bootleg Series!