Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bob Dylan - Hotel '61 Revisited

In December of 1961, exactly one month after completing the sessions for his debut album, and three months before it was released, Bob Dylan stopped in Minnesota and crashed at an apartment occupied by a friend, Bonnie Beecher.  A mutual friend, Tony Glover recorded on tape twenty-six songs Dylan performed from his early repertoire.

Though recorded in 1961 and in a rather impromptu style, the quality is actually very high.  This is also Dylan at some of his most personal and intimate, almost a combination of his titular debut and Blood On The Tracks.  Dylan sings about poverty and struggling on a more personal, less societal level with lovely results.

The recordings have been dubbed "The Minnesota Hotel Tapes" since they were released.  There is also another tape from seven months earlier in much worse quality dubbed "The Minneapolis Party Tape."  In total, this makes for almost three full discs of material, that I have cut down to twelve tracks.  The whole December tape is excellent and worthy of digging up.  But I wanted to make it more user-friendly.

One of my shorter bootlegs, and maybe a pass for people not too partial to Dylan's early work, Hotel '61 Revisited does work as an album in concept.  The themes in the songs selected really compliment each other, and since Dylan is a storyteller as much musician, I wanted to pay respects to that as well.

Bob Dylan - Hotel '61 Revisited

Side A:

1.  Hard Times In New York Town
2.  I Aint Got No Home
3.  Cocaine Blues
4.  Poor Lazarus
5.  Dink's Song
6.  Wade In The Water

Side B:

7.  Sally Gal
8.  It's Hard To Be Blind
9.  VD City
10.  Stealin'
11.  I Was Young When I Left Home

 The reasoning for the "hotel" misnomer is not touched upon much on the internet, though I did find an explanation that Bonnie Beecher's apartment was a common place for traveling artists to stay at and possibly perform.  Thusly, it became the Hotel Tape, and since it was in Minnesota, the Minnesota Hotel Tape was the name commonly given to the recordings.

The album opens with Hart Times In New York Town, a song about class struggle and division using Dylan's original lyrics over a traditional tune.  It sets the mood and reveals many motifs that Dylan will utilize through out.  This is one of Dylan's more popular bootleg tracks.

I Aint Got No Home is a cover of a Woody Guthrie who heavily inspired Dylan at the time.  In fact, many of the songs Dylan performs on The Hotel Tapes are covers of Guthrie.  Furthermore, this seems to be an adaptation of the classic I Don't Feel At Home In This World Anymore.

In Hotel 61 Revisited, Bob touches upon some more intense themes that go hand-in-hand with class struggles that society was and is still facing.  Poor Lazarus is an African-American "bad man ballad" and also a work song according to wikipedia, which I'm assuming means it was sung often by slaves.  This was in the very early 60's and rather early in the Civil Rights Movement.  Though he focuses on it in many of his official albums, his more blunt, in-your-face songs were left out.  See: Hiding Too Long off Greatest Boots Vol. 2.

Dink's Song is another old folk song that was first heard and recorded being sung by a woman named Dink while she was doing laundry in the early 1900's.  This leads into Wade in the Water, which ends the first side.  Dylan wails on his guitar and bellows a classic southern spiritual, another song common in the black community of the early 20th century.

Sally Gal was later recorded for The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, but left off the album.  This is the earliest rendition of this tune available and is one of the only Dylan-composed tracks on the collection.  It is also one of the lightest and shortest.  It nearly got cut, but it is an original and works well to open side B.

In the opening of It's Hard to Be Blind, Dylan claims that he wrote it, though wikipedia says otherwise.  He also claims that the song is called "It's Hard To Be Poor."  Regardless, this is one of the most cherished tracks from this collection and shows that even with a young, less-experience voice, he can easily spark emotion.

VD City is part of a sort of "VD Suite" on the full tape.  It is the third song with VD Blues and VD Waltz before it, and VD Gunner Blues.  Taking it out of this jocular movement makes it a little more serious and follows suit with the themes of Hotel '61.

Stealin' was originally recorded by Memphis Jug Band in 1928, and is another classic American folk song.  It gives a bit of upbeat before the two final tracks.  The penultimate track, another that Dylan claims to have written, is among the most famous from these tapes.  Dylan says on tape that it isn't necessarily a song about him, but that it's definitely for someone.

And the final track, Black Cross, definitely is the most beloved track from the collection.  It is a tale about racial struggles in literal story form with his guitar acting as a score of some sort.  One of Dylan's most interesting tracks for sure, ending this look into Dylan's mind and abilities prior to his first album's release.

Please enjoy these songs and I hope this can fill your fantasy of Dylan's unreleased first album :)

- blashco

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Demos (two discs)

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was Wilco's most anticipated album, and is highly regarded as their masterwork.  Unknown to most, nearly the entire album was leaked in demo form months prior to the official release, under the title The Engineer Demos.  Along with every track being demoed, save Jesus, Etc. is a plethora of unreleased songs that, accompanied by the More Like The Moon EP, creates a two disc marvel that gives a new way to listen to the masterpiece and an idea of what was left on the cutting room floor.

YHF is one of the shining transitional albums from the "alternative" rock of the nineties to the "indie" rock of the 2000's, though the differences are certainly muddled.  Since this is a more acoustic album, being entirely demos, it actually helps alleviate the turnover more simplistically, almost defining one of the largest musical movements in the last two decades.

YHF Engineer Demos

Disc 1 - The Demo Album

Side A:
(all songs sourced from The Engineer Demos)

1.  I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
2.  Kamera
3.  Cordurou Cutoff Girl (AKA Radio Cure)
4.  War on War
5.  Nothing Up My Sleeve
6.  Ashes of American Flags

Side B:
(all songs sourced from The Engineer Demos)

7.  Heavy Metal Drummer
8.  I'm The Man Who Loves You
9.  Pot Kettle Black
10.  Poor Places
11.  Reservations

Disc 2 - The Outtakes
(sourced from The Engineer Demos and More Like The Moon EP*)

Side A:

1.  The Good Part
2.  Kamera*
3.  Cars Can't Escape
4.  Instrumental
5.  Venus Stop The Train

Side B:

6.  Woodgrain*
7.  Handshake Drugs*
8.  Magazine Called Sunset*
9.  Bob Dylan's 49th Beard*
10.  Let Me Come Home
11.  More Like The Moon*

Since disc one is track-for-track Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (save where Nothing Up My Sleeve replaces Jesus, Etc.), I will just let you experience it yourselves.   It is definitely a better experience than the second disc, but since it should all be familiar, it won't need as much discussion.  If you have not listened to the actual album, why are you here?  You should be here!!!

Disc 2 is a mix of an EP that collected outtakes from the sessions, and the unrealized demos from the YHF Engineer Demos.  Barely any tracks are left out, but there were a couple that didn't have the desired or required Wilco quality to match.

The Good Part launches this 11-track b-side album, starting off on a good note with some more intense guitar work that present in the demos.  This leads into the EP version of Kamera, which is among the hardest tracks recorded during these sessions.

Cars Can't Escape is another track that never saw release.  It follows the tradition of excellent Wilco ballads, with some of my favorite lyrics from the album.  The next track, Instrumental, will be vocalized on the second side of the album, but works well as wordless-tune as well.  Reminds me of Final Fantasy for some reason.

Venus Stop The Train ends the first side and is probably the engineer demo I am most partial to.  A suitable lead-in for side b, consisting primarily of tracks from More Like The Moon EP.

Woodgrain is an excellent, though short, ditty with a charmingly subdued Jeff Tweedy vocal that makes you wish the song were much longer.  The second track on this side is one of the best b-sides from the sessions, and was actually rerecorded for their following album, A Ghost Is Born.

The most interesting and obscure track on the collection is A Magazine Called Sunset, which definitely harbors the most overdubs of the two-discs, with the general full-band set up and strings, along with some choral vocals, leading into definitely my favorite song, Bob Dylan's 49th Beard.  It is crazy how Wilco can fuse humor and seriousness into such captivating experiences.

Let Me Come Home is the final version of Instrumental from side a, and has some of Tweedy's most emotional lyrics and vocals.  And this all ends with More Like The Moon, the longest track on the set, I really feel this should have been on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

I am not familiar with any other Wilco bootlegs, so for now this is all the Wilco I can offer up, but I do truly hope you enjoy the experience Wilco and I have curated for you!

- blashco

Monday, November 4, 2013

Ambulance LTD - Shimmering Shattered Windows (Demos)

I know what you're thinking... The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Gorillaz, Wilco and... Ambulance LTD?!  I thought you were giving us music from our favorite artists, I've never even heard of this mystery band!

Well Ambulance LTD should be among your favorite bands.  Why?  Well, first, try this.  Yeah?  Now this one.  And this.  Oh, oh, oh this one for sure.  And finally...  Yes yes, if I haven't sold you, then you may now go to a different page.  Ambulance LTD is one of those bands where it just never made sense that they weren't blowing up.

Personally, their first feature length album known simply as LP is one of my favorite albums.  A band with a very fragmented history and progress, they finally began working on LPII after years of limbo, but their record label TVT Records filed for bankruptcy, giving all the rights to the acquirer, prompting Ambulance LTD to file a lawsuit.

Looks like they're back in limbo for now, but alas, I have unearthed some mighty fine demos from LP and LP II to introduce this fabulous band to you all!  I highly suggest downloading this set as it really shows their talent to write impressive songs even in demo form.

Depending on how the future looks for Ambulance, I may upload the demo version of LP II, as I have over a dozen songs that haven't seen release and are not featured on this demo set.  But for now, some acoustic goodies!

Ambulance LTD - Shimmering Shattered Windows (Demos)

Side A:

1.  The Dog
2.  New English
(acoustic session)
3.  James
(b-side demo from LP)
4.  I Don't Believe Anyone
(demo of early single)
5.  Love Bird
6.  Straight A's

Side B:

7.  Primitive (The Way I Treat You)
(acoustic session)
8.  Sugar Pill
9.  Stay Tuned
10.  Stay Where You Are
11.  Ophelia

The album title is a lyric snippet from the final track, Ophelia, "it's easier in the soft light of the shimmering shattered windows," which gives a good representation of what to expect from Ambulance's penmanship.  You will definitely get some Shins vibes on this collection.

The first side consists of newer demos from their sophomore attempt, which has yet to be titled, but I have dubbed LP II.  The Dogs, a quick yet inspirational ditty opens the tracklist, focusing on pressing forward and perhaps even revolution.  I kind of wish more of the lyrics focused on these ideas as opposed to love, but don't get me wrong, New English is a love song with plenty of incite, wit and emotion (not to mention a highly satisfying melody).

James and I Don't Believe Anyone are both from the first LP era, the former never seeing release and the latter being reworked into a single.  Though this is a highly acoustic experience, I Don't Believe Anyone is definitely more rockin' 60s-style pop guitar.  The atmosphere in James' vocals and downer of a jam is rather affective and helps this track stand out.

We slow down for the end of this side, firstly with Love Bird, probably the most generic song on the album, though still catchy and worthy of a listen.  This would be one of the tracks from LP II as well.  After this is the demo of Straight A's, which was the final track off of the New English EP.  I find this version to be better, honestly.

The second side consists entirely of demo versions of songs from LP, released in 2004.  The acoustic rendition of Primitive, though less immediately grabbing, is definitely a treat.  The version off of LP
may be a little more catchy, but this definitely does it justice.

Sugar Pill, the only track I have ever heard by Ambulance LTD that utilizes a turntable, is a super catchy almost dance song that tickles your eardrum, which is followed by Stay Tuned, an acoustic ditty and Stay Where You Are, a beautiful track to say the least.

This all leads up to perhaps the best track, Ophelia, again where the album title is derived from.  The demo of Ophelia is as solid as the officially released track with out a doubt, helping create as legitimate a way to absorb Ambulance LTD as possible.  I truly hope this opens your musical mind up to this awesome band that I heart so much.  Enjoy!

- blashco

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Gorillaz - P-Sides

Ideally, all of my collections will be more geared towards themes like this.  Though the concept of a thought-out "unreleased album" is arousing, I feel like it is a better tribute to artists and their progress as artists to focus more precisely.  A well available bootleg of The Beatle's White Album demos is a fine example of a well-themed and highly enjoyable album, but it also lets you as a listener experience a specific time in the respected musician's career.  In other words, it is educational.

Now, don't get me wrong, P-Sides is much more fantasy album than informative package.  After G-Sides (from Gorillaz) and the double disc D-Sides (from Demon Days), we all expected Plastic Beach to have a P-Sides.  Instead we got The Fall, which was good but did not have any "p-sides" on it (to my knowledge, at least).  So here we go, an album that spans from the end of the release of Demon Days to their breakup, AKA the Plastic Beach era.

P-Sides has many sources, which might be a bad thing, but not many outtakes have leaked in any fashion.  Primarily a handful of demos is all that is hard to find on this set.  But the way it is curated should make the experience more streamlined.  Overall, being a huge fan of Gorillaz, I find this set on par with The Fall.

Gorillaz - P-Sides

Side A:

1.  Electric Shock
(original demo for Rhinestone Eyes, with instrumental opening)
2.  Rhinestone Eyes
(live for iTunes exclusive EP)
3.  Sumthin Bout This Night
(collaboration with Snoop Dogg, available on Doggumentary)
4.  Crystalised
(cover of a song by The XX)
5.  Hillbilly Man
(available on The Fall)
6.  Benko
(from Albarn's band Rocket Juice and The Moon)
7.  Revolving Doors
(available on The Fall)
8.  The Parish of Space Dust 
(available on The Fall)

Side B:

9.  Glitter Freeze
(alternate version)
10.  Soldier Boy 
(collaboration with Martina Topley-Bird)
11.  Untitled (AKA Gorillaz Routine)
(a collaboration with Kid Koala, either slated for an upcoming album or never released)
12.  Poison
(from Albarn's band Rocket Juice and The Moon)
13.  Stylo
(early demo)
14.  California and The Slipping Sun
(available on The Fall)
15.  Pirate's Progress
(full length version of intro from Plastic Beach)
16.  DoYaThing
(collaborative single with James Murphy and Andre 3000)

If the album didn't contain officially released songs, it would only have 5 or so tracks.  This is merely an exercise in curating, and there is a likely chance I will need to remove this from the site.  But for now, this is all Gorillaz fans who are salivating for an official P-Sides will get.

The opening intro was released as a bonus track on Plastic Beach as "Three Hearts, Seven Seas, Twelve Moons" but left out the bit with Electric Shock, so classifying it as a demo is a little sketchy.  A befitting opening, nonetheless.  This cuts right into the iTunes Sessions version of the song that was "demoed."

Sumthin Like This Night is an excellent collaboration, with reggae-like horns and all the Gorillaz pop you'd be correct to expect.  Definitely among the best tracks on the album, this was one of the songs Albarn produced off of Doggumentary, Snoop's eleventh album.

Another gem is up next: the cover of Crystalise by The XX.  It's tenderness is comforting and reminiscent of Stop The Dams off D-Sides.  It definitely could pass as a ballad by Blur.  Much less digital influence, ironically transitioning to the first track utilized from The Fall, an album recorded on an iPad.

I highly contemplated removing Benko and Poison from this collection because it is kind of a stretch to pretend they are Gorillaz songs, but the timing was correct and I just kept them on.  Definitely the black sheep of the album.  Still rather interesting, with African beats and all that love.

The next two songs are probably my favorites from The Fall, ending side a with something a little familiar.

After the half-point mark, we get an awesome alternate take of Glitter Freeze, with a little more edge and intensity, this is definitely the version I prefer to Plastic Beach's rendition.  Relatively similar though so nothing too mind-boggling.

Soldier Boy holds probably the most interesting back story, as it was originally an outtake from Demon Days, never seeing any release.  Then Martina Topley-Bird took the instrumental to that song, originally titled Snakes & Ladders.

After this, probably my favorite track on the collection arises.  Not really sure how the collaboration went down, if Kid Koala and Damon Albarn got together or if it is just a remix/mash of older Gorillaz material.  Regardless, it is incredibly catchy and one of the longer tracks on P-Sides.

After another Rocket Juice and the Moon track, with Damon doing an emotional ballad, we are treated to the Stylo demo, which is exactly what you would imagine.  The song is pretty well developed at this point, just a little stripped down from the official release, though there is a bit at the beginning that I think was removed for the final take.  No lyrics.

The final track off of The Fall gets us slowed down a bit for the full-length version of the intro song from Plastic Beach, which is just very pretty orchestration.  Another actual outtake from Plastic Beach.  This brings us to the grand finale: the full 12-minute take of DoYaThing, which technically was a separate single, not a "p-side" but hell, it belongs on an album so here it is.

Obviously, an official P-Sides would look immensely different and would likely be loads better and more fulfilling, but enough people seemed interested in this mix, so I will give it to you because I love you so much.  Enjoy!

- blashco

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Bob Dylan's Greatest Boots Vol. 1

Here it is, the true present for you, Liane!  I hope you enjoy this collection that I compiled for your birthday.  Sorry it is late and not physical, but alas, the internet made this all possible so I hope you love this compilation I made for you :)


Bob Dylan has one of the most expansive and elaborate careers in musical history, and has always been on the forefront of musical and social progression.  He is a storyteller, the kind you compare to Hemingway and Shakespeare, the kind that gets underneath your skin and exfoliates emotion.  He is among the greatest artists in history, and has spawned a dedicated bootleg following.

The first common bootleg that circulated in American was Great White Wonder, a two-LP album.  Since then, thousands of songs have uprooted themselves, some nearly impossible to find and some on very rare officially released box sets.  All of these songs have been combed through to create a bootleg mirror of the greatest hits LPs.  These songs, in my opinion, can be easily compared to any of the songs on his greatest hits, and deserve to be heard multiple times.

So pretty much my most vague concept, but this collection is really just a blast to put on and listen to with friends who enjoy Dylan.  Call it an unreleased album, call it a best of bootleg collection, call it whatever, just know: it's Bob Dylan.

Bob Dylan's Greatest Boots Vol. 1

Side A:

1.  Crawl Out Your Window 
(issued mistakenly as a mispress of Positively 4th Street - 1965)
2.  Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)
(recorded with The Band, outtake from Basement Tapes - 1967)
3.  Caribbean Wind
(outtake from Shot of Love - 1981)
4.  I'm Not There
(recorded with The Band, outtake from Basement Tapes - 1967)
5.  Abandoned Love
(outtake from the Desire sessions - 1975)
6.  I Shall Be Released
(recorded with The Band, outtake from Basement Tapes - 1967)
7.  Ballad For A Friend
(demo for Leeds Music Publishing - 1962)

Side B:

8.  George Jackson
(single officially released but only issued on very few collections - 1971)
9.  Milk Cow Blues
(outtake from the Freewheelin' sessions - 1962)
10.  Percy's Song
(outtake from The Times They Are A-Changin' sessions - 1963)
11.  I'll Keep It With Mine
(outtake from Blonde on Blonde sessions - 1965)
12.  She's Your Lover Now
(outtake from Blonde on Blonde sessions - 1966)
13.  Rock Me Mama
(outtake from Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid sessions - 1973)
14.  Blind Willie McTell 
(outtake from Infadels sessions - 1983)

This collection begins with an oddity for certain.  It seems that mistakenly, this either early version or mashed up version due to communication problems was issued as the B-Side to Like A Rolling Stone, which was really meant to be Positively 4th Street.  It is odd or understandable, because the backtracking for this version of Crawl Out Your Window uses the same instrumentals and overdubs as the track it was accidentally replacing.  Anyway, I prefer this to the repressing of it as a single to cover the error.

And then the second track hits you hard.  It is absolutely grotesque and blasphemous that this beautiful track, recorded with The Band, was left off of 1975's Basement Tapes, especially since it was a double-LP.  Anyway, this is an absolutely fabulous tune that expresses in a two-minute package Bob Dylan's knack for lyricism and melody.  Much better than that single version whatever band did of it.

Caribbean Wind was one of the songs that Dylan felt so strongly about, that when he couldn't appease his perfectionist nature, he just dropped (a similar thing occurred on the final track on the album).  This is a more stripped-down version than on any official release, probably an entirely alternate take, and is hands down the best song recorded during the Shot of Love era.

I'm Not There is one of the most famous (or infamous) bootleg tracks from Bob Dylan and is another shame to him for not including it on Basement Tapes.  A song about regret, love and denial, with one of the most vulnerable vocals Dylan has ever laid to tape.  One of Dylan's forgotten masterpieces.

Probably the best outtake from Desire, Abandoned Love easily could have, and arguably should have been among the official track listing.  A earworm of a melody with out a doubt, this song will get stuck in your head (I'd wager this wont be a bad thing).  On top of this lovely melody, you get heart-pulling strings that are lifted straight from One More Cup of Coffee.  Throw in some tried-but-true harmonica and you get another classic from Bob.

The original version of I Shall Be Released, recorded with The Band, is another classic Dylan bootleg.  The Greatest Hit's Vol 2 rendition was rerecorded in 1971 and does not do this version justice.  Another great and tender epic from the 1967 basement sessions is the penultimate track on side a.

Closing with the earliest track of Dylan's catalog featured, we have an early demo that was recorded during a demo session for Lou Levy that included five songs.  Surprisingly, Dylan never returned to this simple yet engraving tune that helped pave the way for a certain composing style.

Side B begins with an almost entirely forgotten officially issued single.  It has barely been reissued on any collections or compilations.  I have included it here to allow this song to shine again.  It is an excellent song about a member of Black Panthers.

Oh, Milk Cow Blues.  Honestly, it's Dylan covering Robert Johnson.  That is all you need to know.

 The next track is the longest of the collection.  At almost 8 minutes, you know this is one of those epic novels of a song.  And truly, it is; another delicate and emotional acoustic song that feels like it should have been one of The Times They Are A-Changin' singles, rather than an outtake.

Here is quite possibly the greatest song on the album, and thusly, the greatest Dylan bootleg track.  This rightfully saw release on the bootleg series first outing, and is one of his greatest piano songs hands down.  This was an outtake from Blonde On Blonde, the third of his masterpiece trilogy of albums, proving how prolific he was during that unbelievable year between 1965 and 1966.

If Positively 4th Street was the sequel song to Like A Rolling Stone, She's Your Lover Now is the epilogue.  Like the previous masterpiece, this jammin' organ-driven song was another outtake from Blonde On Blonde.  This is Dylan in his prime and does not fail to impress.

I recall my mouth literally gaping, eyes wide, when I realized that Wagon Wheel by Old Crow Medicine Show was really penned by good ol Bob.  It actually made me appreciate that track even more.  Though this is clearly preliminary jam session recordings, the melody doesn't fail to have even more of an oomph under Dylan's voice.  This was an outtake from Pat Garrett, and I'm guessing this was the original finale track, replaced by Knockin on Heaven's Door.  You know it's good if one of Dylan's most praised songs was its replacement.

There are plenty of outtakes from 1983's Infidels, but none stand out nearly as much as Blind Willie McTell.  Almost acquiring its own mythology and folklore, this is one of the most celebrated bootleg tracks, post-80's tracks, and Bob Dylan tracks in general, and is an excellent way to end a collection of this sort.  There is also an electric version of this track, but you'll all have to wait for Vol. 2 to get that tasty treat ;)

Please share and enjoy.  As of thus far, I feel this is the best mix I have compiled.  Let me know what you think!

- blashco

The Beatles - Cinema Impromptu

Oh boy, here we go.  I am now attempting to tackle some of the greatest composers of the rock and roll era.  The amount that The Beatles did in a mere seven years, from I Wanna Hold Your Hand to Here Comes The Sun, Paul, John, George and Ringo sure did revolutionize the way music was understood in a little more than half a decade.

On average, The Beatles created about 15 recordings every day they were together, meaning that there is simply no limit to how many potential best-of bootleg collections there can be.  But I will present you with my favorites, ordered for flow, of Beatles songs not available by normal means. 

This album has had many different iterations and drafts and has been essentially in development for years.  But less about my efforts, let's get to this wonderful album of obscure rarities that could easily stand among their canon.  And what's beautiful is that there is only one song that was on any official releases from The Beatles, and very few were off of Anthology, so get ready for some stuff you've never heard.  On top of that, besides one or two traditional ditties, ALL of these songs are written by members of The Beatles.

The Beatles - Cinema Impromptu

Side A:

1.  A Beginning
(original opening for The White Album, then known as A Doll's House - 1968)
2.  That Means A Lot
(the fast take not on Anthology, constructed into a new song - 1965)
3.  Sout Milk Sea 
(demo from The White Album, mixed with the official backtracking - 1968 / 1969)
4.  Junk
(demo from The White Album - 1968)
5.  I'll Be On My Way 
(BBC Sessions - 1963)
6.  Watching Rainbows / Song of Love
(An outtake during the Get Back sessions for Let It Be, followed by Paul having fun on the piano - 1969)
7.  While My Guitar Gently Weeps
(this is the Love version mixed with the original moog ending by Harrison - 1968)

Side B:

8.  Bad To Me 
(the original Lennon demo mixed with the original release - 1963)
9.  All Things Must Pass
(the full uncut Harrison demo from the Abbey Road era - 1969)
10.  Goodbye
(the demo recorded by Paul McCartney for Mary Hopkins - 1969)
11.  Isn't It A Pity
(the Harrison demo recorded around the time All Things Must Pass was - 1969)
12.  This One's On A Donkey
(quick excerpt from the Get Back sessions - 1969)
13.  Banjoes
(a traditional song recorded as part of their annual fan club The Beatles Christmas Message - 1967)
14.  Pedro The Fisherman
(a strange demo recorded by Lennon during their psychedelic years - 1967)
15.  What's The New Mary Jane
(desired as a full single release by Lennon, this is the fully overwhelming and scary final take - 1968)
16.  Christmas Time Is Here Again
(released officially on the obscure Free As A Bird single, this is also taken from their Christmas Message - 1967)
17.  An Ending
(credit music from HELP! - 1965)
18.  Mark It Fab
(vocal snippet from McCartney, taken from one of the mini-documentaries released in 2009 - 196? )

Bonus EP:

19.  Strawberry Fields Forever
(probably the best demo that Lennon recorded - 1967)
20.  Helter Skelter
(this is a strange mix of take 2 that I am guessing was mixed as a single to promote Anthology)
21.  Mamma, You've Been On My Mind
(a Dylan cover by Harrison during the Get Back sessions - 1969)
22.  Real Love
(this is the original take from Anthology with the Lennon-only demo - 1980 / 1994)
23.  Peace of Mind (The Candle Burns)
(it is unknown who made this song, as about half of the bootleggers believe it was The Beatles, and half don't... decide for yourself - 1967)
24.  Good Night 
(a fan reconstruction creating a fully acoustic version - 1968)
25.  Session Chat - Think For Yourself
(over 15 minutes of chatter including all The Beatles - 1965)
26.  Get Back (Reprise)
(originally on one of the mixes of the album Get Back, later renamed Let It Be - 1969)

Rather than reviewing this as an album, like I normally will do, I feel it needs to be a completely subjective experience, meaning that I will be more objective in this analysis.

The Beatles have so many songs.  To give you an idea, in January of 1969, The Beatles were taped the entire time they were in the studio for a film to be released along side Let It Be.  These leaked and were sourced together and released as A/B Road on a whopping 83 CDs.  The only reason they aren't the most bootlegged band is because they stopped touring so early.

It is highly safe to say that there will be much more I release from The Beatles, but in my 6 years of downloading, these are by far the best in my opinion.  It is a collection of all The Beatles had to offer, but for whatever reason, didn't actually offer it.  Each song on this album could fit into any of their official releases of the recorded year.

Speaking of which, let's break this album down.  Every year that The Beatles existed is featured on this collection except 1964, which is likely because they toured America, filmed A Hard Day's Night and I guess there were just no great outtakes from Beatles For Sale, and 1966, because they were dealing in creating scandal.  If the album were chronological, it'd look like this:

1963 (Please Please Me, With The Beatles)
8.  Bad To Me
5.  I'll Be On My Way
1964 (A Hard Day's Night, Beatles For Sale)
1965 (HELP!, Rubber Soul)
2.  That Means A Lot
17. An Ending
1966 (Revolver)
1967 (Sgt Peppers, Magical Mystery Tour)
14. Pedro The Fisherman
13. Banjoes
16. Christmas Time Is Here Again
1968 (The White Album)
1. A Beginning
4.  Junk
7. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
15. What's The New Mary Jane
3. Sour Milk Sea
1969 (Yellow Submarine, Let It Be, Abbey Road)
6. Watching Rainbows
12. This One's On A Donkey
10. Goodbye
9.  All Things Must Pass
11.  Isn't It A Pity
18. Mark it Fab

There are essentially only four songs before they get experimental, and a majority of the tracks are from '68 and '69, their final two years.  This is partly because of technological advancements, but also because I feel that their more mature years are by far the best.  Nonetheless, it is obvious why I did not order these chronologically.

I feel The Beatles deserve a bootleg overhaul, as there are so many little gems that no one seems to know much about.  The Christmas Tapes, The Kinfauns Demos, a plethora of super early work, completely obscure tracks, the best of the Get Back sessions, plus plenty that aren't leaked, could all easily be assembled.  Perhaps I will tackle these daunting compilations, but for now, I am merely collecting the best-of's and packaging them as the unofficial unreleased album by the fab four.  Please enjoy and share.

- blashco

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Shins - Fly For A Home

One of the first conceptual bootleg albums I ever compiled, way back in 2008, was a mix of primarily early work from one of my favorite artists, The Shins.

Originally Flake Music, James Mercer's band including many of the current members of The Shins, released many EP's and one full length LP, When You Land Here, It's Time To Return.

As The Shins, they released a very early EP, Nature Bears a Vacuum and the single When I Goosestep.  Their first two albums each also had a B-Side.

This album, Fly For A Home, based on a lyric from the song that I'm guessing inspired the band's name, The Shins (from the Flake Music album), is a mix of these early songs by The Shins and various early tracks from Flake Music.  There are many other tracks by the early band, but many of these are too grungy to sound even reminiscent of The Shins, primarily from their earliest effort, Spork EP.

Overall, this is an interesting documentation of what would become one of the defining bands of the Indie generation.  It's a little less polished and not quite as bubble gum folk, but it is good to know that even James Mercer was inspired heavily by the greats of the time.  Nirvana, Modest Mouse, etc were all on the forefront of the 90's grunge rock scene, and this is apparent in these mid-90's recordings by The Shins.  A great collection, especially for fans of the act.

The Shins - Fly For A Home

Side A:

1.  Roziere 
(When You Land Here, It's Time To Return - 1999)
2.  The Gloating Sun
(When I Goose-step / The Gloating Sun - 2000)
3.  Those Bold City Girls 
(Nature Bears A Vacuum - 1998)
4.  Sue Defender
(Flake Music EP - 1997)
5.  Spanway Hits 
(When You Land Here, It's Time To Return - 1999)
6.  When I Goose-Step 
(When I Goose-step / The Gloating Sun - 2000) 
7.  Mild Child
(Chutes Too Narrow B-Side - 2003)
8.  Totto
(Spork EP - 1995)

Side B:

9.  Eating Styes From Elephant's Eyes
(Nature Bears A Vacuum - 1998)
10.  Submarines
 (Spork EP - 1995)
11.  Whoa, Trish!
(Written for a Gap Commercial - 2002)
12. Sphagnum Esplanade 
(Oh, Inverted World B-Side - 2001)
13.  Kreflo 
(When You Land Here, It's Time To Return - 1999)
14.  My Seventh Rib 
(Nature Bears A Vacuum - 1998)
15.  The Shins
(When You Land Here, It's Time To Return - 1999)
16.  Down Patrol
(Flake Music EP - 1997)
 17.  [Hidden]
(When You Land Here, It's Time To Return - 1999)

Although the album contains many more tracks than most Shins albums, the duration of Fly For A Home is only about 5 minutes longer than their average album.  Like many artists, James Mercer's early work usually consisted of shorter 2-3 minute pieces.  The two longest tracks on the album are the B-Sides they produced for their first two albums.

 Side A gives a subtle yet catchy instrumental intro that seems to summarize well the experience the listener is about to embark on.  It acts almost as the part one to the following track, The Gloating Sun, which was among the first tracks released officially under The Shins moniker.  It is a return to form, with a catchy, almost Beatles-esque electronic fade in with accompanying and standard Shins acoustic guitar.

Track 3 and 4 are grungier, electronic song that still have all of the charm of the bands later work.  Some great vocal melodies grace the spiking guitar work of Those Bold City Girls, where as Sue Defender is a more down tempo tune with an almost punk exterior.

5 and 6 are immensely The Shins.  Spanway hits has the authentic catchy indie style guitar, but Mercer's voice is a bit less experienced and defined.  This leads into probably my favorite track, When I Goosestep.  This screams Chutes Too Narrow and is one of the best unreleased songs in The Shins' catalog.

Side A ends with the B-Side to Chutes Too Narrow, which makes sense why it didn't make the album, as Those To Come fits the bill for that collection's theme.  Being probably their most fulfilling album, it is also understandable why such a great song made the cut, with its haunting and beautiful vocals and building acoustic work.  This moves into a multi-part instrumental from the earliest release featured on Fly For A Home.

The B-Side of the album starts with the two most rockin' songs on the album, including Submarines, which is the earliest song Flake Music ever put out, and sounds like a live recording.  It has some rather pleasing guitar work with Mercer's most punk voice on any track he's ever put out.

A nifty instrumental ditty acts as the segue into the B-Side for Oh, Inverted World, which is probably one of The Shins' most interesting tracks.  Very subdued and an almost apathetic disposition, "and there were stanzas never meant to rhyme," giving a good picture of what they would tackle in depth on their freshman and sophomore efforts.

Next up is another Flake Music track from their self-titled EP and also their LP.  Another sample of Mercer's rather youthful voice.  This leads into a very abrasive electronic tune with intense synth loops and a 60's pop guitar.

The album ends with an early instrumental and a hidden track off When You Land Here, It's Time To Return, ending at 44:42 in total album duration.  Overall, a great treat for anyone missing on early Shins and a little tired of all that folksy stuff.  I'd say this collection is more fulfilling than their more recent work for sure.

I hope you enjoy!  Stay tuned for more mixes, and in the future, I will be tackling the entire Mercer catalog with a rarities anthology that will span 3-4 discs.  Love love love!


A Bit About Bootlegs

Being a part of the internet generation, absorbing as much knowledge that existed at my fingertips in the digital library encyclopedia database, I realized a universe of unknown recordings from the world's most celebrated musicians.

Blashco Records is a side project of Blashco Productions, a birthday present to my dear friend Liane Pippin, and is an attempt to create conceptual mixes of unofficially released recordings from artists you know and love.  Once I discovered these so-called Bootlegs, which were originally traded in the physical form on vinyl and then on compact disc and now digitally, I quickly began combing the cyberweb for any and all new tracks.

In my subtle interactions with the bootlegging subculture, I have discovered that the movement was started and is being continued (and honestly, thriving in this new digital age) by "completeists" or people who desire to hear and own literally everything a certain artist recorded in the best quality available.  This means, firstly, that most bootlegs are rehashes of old collections with one new leak on it, making conceptual collections a less viable and profitable option.

This digital revolution of information has made many aware of these unheard recordings, piquing their intrigue, and causing them to research these songs, though in a world of completeists, this can be a daunting task.  I literally have 9,000 different songs by The Beatles.  Now even the most dedicated fan will see this as a wholly intimidating amount to jump into, especially when probably 75% of the songs are, ahem... crap.

So in honor of the idea of sharing the love of music to the world, and in the vessel that is the digital medium, I will be uploading all of my conceptual mixes (many of which I put dozens of hours and many different drafts into the tracklisting)  in the cheapest, most accessible and convenient way possible -- free downloads of mp3's in a folder.

This is not a place to obtain any studio albums.  I am not going to be uploading any officially released material from an artist that could be found easily in their recording catalog.  This is for the hidden and rare gems.  This is to honor some of the most revolutionary and impacting artists by giving their fans a look into their outtakes and recording processes.

What to look forward to:

Early work by The Shins
A Greatest Hits style bootleg series for Dylan
The unreleased album by The Beatles and Led Zeppelin
P-Sides by Gorillaz
Engineer Demos by Wilco
B-side album by Radiohead
4th album during his famous trilogy by Bob Dylan
A few other surprises