Thus far in the Bootleg Nation I have presented complete recordings of single concerts. These type shows make up the vast majority of my bootleg collection, and in fact of all the bootlegs that exist in the world. But today I want to talk a bit about another type of bootleg, what you can loosely categorize as demos, alternate tracks, and rarities.
Musicians often go into the recording studio with only loose ideas on the songs they want to record for an album. They will generally record everything they play in the studio even if it isn't fully formed, just in case they wind up finding inspiration in the moment. A song may also morph and change as the recording process continues. A song may start out with a particular tempo or arrangement and end with a completely different one over the course of time. Additionally, some tracks may get recorded in a finalized manner but for one reason or another it is decided that it simply doesn't fit on the final record.
All of these tracks may eventually get an official release either on a later album or compiled in a boxed set or other jumbled manner. Likewise, they also often make their way into unofficially released recordings.
Bootleggers love to compile this sort of thing, and it is here that we can introduce Mark Knopfler's Rare Sessions. This is a five CD set consisting of alternate tracks, interviews, live performances from television and radio shows, to instrumental snippets written specifically for movies and television series. It runs the full history of Mark's career from his early days with Dire Straits to his side projects with the Notting Hillbillies and Chet Atkins and ending with his long solo career.
It is an interesting set, but absolutely not for casual fans. In no way would I use this set to introduce someone to the music of Mark Knopfler. The sound quality varies from very good to fairly terrible. Many of the tracks consist of just snippets of songs and early, incomplete versions. Casual listeners would likely quickly be turned off and leave the set behind.
This isn't to say that there isn't some great stuff to be found. Highlights include several performances on David Letterman's TV show, some pretty instrumental tracks Mark wrote for a Princess Diana TV special and a couple of tracks taken from a radio show that breaks down the Dire Straits hit "Sultan's of Swing" into individual instrument tracks.
With five disks of music there is a lot to dig through, and like a lot of rarities sets, you'll find plenty of gold nuggets and more than a few clunkers. I don't have any information on where this set came from but it seems hastily put together. I wouldn't doubt that it was compiled over a few months of even years with the compiler simply throwing in random tracks until he/she filled a disk.
There is seemingly no order to the set. Chronologically it is over the place with older Dire Straits material being thrown in haphazardly with his later solo tracks. There isn't any overlying theme to the music except that none of the tracks seem to fit anywhere else. There is even one identical track reproduced twice in the compilaton. Its as if the creator wasn't really paying attention to what he/she was putting together.
I don't mean to knock this collection. For fans of Knopfler's music these disks include a lot to love. It's a marvelous collection of rare tune's you won't find anywhere else. I would consider myself a medium-sized fan of the man and while I can't say that I will be listening to this in its entirety very often, there are plenty of tracks that will find their way into my listening rotation.