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Classic of the Week

Bob Dylan and the Band / "The Basement Tapes" (recorded 1967, released 1975) / Columbia

October 20, 1994|JON MATSUMOTO

These legendary tracks originally weren't intended for commercial release. If they had been, Dylan and the Band probably would have used something more sophisticated than a small tape machine and three microphones. However, they managed to leak out to the public via the bootleg industry, and among Dylan aficionados "The Basement Tapes" became the most coveted of underground recordings. After eight years, Dylan and Columbia Records, recognizing the popularity and high quality of these songs, finally released these 24 tracks (two more from the sessions would appear on Dylan's boxed "Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3.")

Actually, this trenchant double album owes its existence in large part to a near fatal motorcycle accident Dylan suffered in 1966. The then-25-year-old folk-rock poet spent nine months recuperating at his home in Woodstock, N.Y., seeing only his family and closest friends, who included the members of the Band. It wasn't long before Dylan and the Canadian group (which had been working as his road band) began to jam together in the basement of a rented house they called Big Pink.

"The Basement Tapes" don't include any of Dylan's many cornerstone numbers like "Blowin' in the Wind" or "Like a Rolling Stone." This is instead an impressively consistent collection of earthy roots rock material; country, folk and blues textures coalesce into raw rock 'n' roll songs that sound so genuine and heartfelt, they seem like direct descendants of Elvis' landmark "Sun Sessions." Such songs as the boozy "Million Dollar Bash" and the bluesy "Long Distant Operator" have a sensual allure and restrained power that are absolutely captivating. Dylan and the Band both contributed to the singing and songwriting, though Dylan's songs predominate.

* Times Line: 808-8463

To hear an excerpt from "The Basement Tapes," call TimesLine and press *5531

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