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Bob Dylan: The Basement tapes

Bob Dylan: The Basement tapes

Mobile Fidelity  UDSACD 2082

Stereo Hybrid

Pop/Rock


"The Basement tapes"

Bob Dylan


Recorded in Basement of Big Pink with The Band: Modern Americana Starts Here


Basements have long been associated with raw, off-the-cuff rock n’ roll, the damp and dark spaces serving as the woodshedding venues for countless bands. Yet no basement is more famous, and none yielded music as familiarly weird, wholesomely American, joyously loose, and identifiably humorous as that in the upstate New York house dubbed Big Pink—the location where, during the summer and early fall of 1967, Bob Dylan and The Band played a vivid tapestry of covers, originals, and traditionals that signaled the advent of Americana. Once again, the Bard changed the world.

As part of its Bob Dylan catalog restoration series, Mobile Fidelity is thoroughly humbled to have the privilege of mastering the iconic LP from the original master tapes and making it available on hybrid SACD. The end result is the very finest, most transparent digital edition of The Basement Tapes ever produced. Inimitable, the particulars of The Basement Tapes—especially, the gather-‘round-in-a-huddle assembly of the instrumentalists, home-made character, domestic vibe, and low-volume nature of the recordings—come to fore here in a manner that takes the listener down the stairs at 2188 Stoll Road and brings the images of Dylan, Rick Danko, Robbie Robertson, and Co. to life.

Fresh off experiencing a motorcycle accident and the wrath of audiences hostile to his embrace of amplified music, Dylan elected to retreat to the comforts of rural and family life. He soon began collaborating with members of the Band in his house, ultimately moving the sessions to Big Pink. Informal, peaceful, relaxed, open-minded: The collaborations blanket country stomps, roots hootenannies, forgotten spirituals, earthy originals, chaotic marches, dreamscapes, dance tunes, folk laments, catch-as-you-can improvisations. On The Basement Tapes, mythical ghosts and dead legends reappear, reveling in the absurdity, comedy, mystery, aura, and alchemy.

In Invisible Republic, his scintillating book about the sessions, cultural critic Greil Marcus states: “At a time when the country was tearing itself apart in a war at home over a war abroad, the music was funny and comforting; it was also strange, and somehow incomplete. Out of some odd displacement of art and time, the music seemed both transparent and inexplicable when it was first heard, and it still does.” Indeed, The Basement Tapes appear to emanate from an indefinable chasm between modern and ancient, self-evident and mysterious, shapeless and fully formed, abstract and concrete, histories unwritten and chronicled. But every note chimes with freeness—a liberating fun, humble simplicity, and bond-creating camaraderie felt in every hoot, holler, laugh, and false start.

The Basement Tapes’ capacity to remain so gloriously honest and timeless—performances that genuinely could’ve been made today, ten years from now, or back in the 1930s—helps account for their emotional resonance and unsurpassed reputation as a snapshot of how unencumbered American music, and art with deep historical roots and connective cultural tissues, is supposed to sound.

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Recording
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Analogue recording
Tracks
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1. Odds and Ends
2. Orange Juice Blues (Blues for Breakfast)
3. Million Dollar Bash
4. Yazoo Street Scandal
5. Goin’ to Acapulco
6. Katie’s Been Gone
7. Lo and Behold
8. Bessie Smith
9. Clothes Line Saga
10. Apple Suckling Tree
11. Please Mrs. Henry
12. Tears of Rage
13. Too Much of Nothing
14. Yea! Heavy and a Bottle of Bread
15. Ain’t No More Cane
16. Crash on the Levee (Down in the Flood)
17. Ruben Remus
18. Tiny Montgomery
19. You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere
20. Don’t Ya Tell Henry
21. Nothing Was Delivered
22. Open the Door, Homer
23. Long Distance Operator
24. This Wheel’s on Fire
Comments (1)
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Comment by Downunderman - November 16, 2021 (1 of 1)

Album was originally issued in 1975 and this SACD came out in 2012.

DSD mastered by Rob LoVerde and has a booklet (mostly the Greil Marcus essay).

For a Lo-Fi recording the sound is greatly improved over the earlier issues of the album. I remember when it was first issued much was made of how much effort had gone into getting the best sound possible out of the source tapes and being underwhelmed by the sonic results.

This SACD is smoother, fuller and more natural sounding, as well as being more detailed. The high frequencies are also not too bright.

By way of comparison the average DR for the SACD is 11 and for the 2009 CD remaster it comes in at 9.

This is easily the best version of the album I have heard and it is hard to see that being bettered.