New Releases: Bob Dylan, The Band, Black Joe Lewis, Belle & Sebastian, Franz Ferdianand and More

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The other day I met this guy, Garrett.  He's the boyfriend of another friend of mine.  We stand around chatting a bit and naturally the topic turns to music.  He says he's a big fan of the blues and we start going through the old classic players - BB King, Buddy Guy, Howlin' Wolf, etc.  It was a pretty casual conversation, a few minutes of getting to know you BS.  

Then, for no reason in particular I blurt out, "I've got a bunch of old blues bootlegs, let me make you some copies."  It isn't as if we had made a deep connection, me and this dude, or that we were really all that into the musical conversation.  We were just talking while my wife and his girlfriend were off doing something else.  But here I am now making promises to make him copies of a bunch of old blues recordings.  He surely thought I was weird, or needy or a freak.  I don't even know why I said it.  Am I such a bootleg nerd that anytime anybody mentions music I have to throw some recordings at them?

Apparently.

Funny thing is I don't actually have a lot of blues recordings.  I'm not a huge fan and bootlegs of the old guys aren't exactly ever flowing from the big bootleg supply in the sky.  That night I spent some time searching the various torrent sites and scoured the blogs for some good blues boots.  I downloaded and converted and burned him a DVD full of music.  

That's me.  Complete obsessive.  I know its a little weird to do that work for someone I don't really know, and I reckon he'll probably take a step back when I give the disk to him.  But I can't help it. I love the fact that there is so much music out there that has never been officially released, is readily available for free, and so often is absolutely brilliant.

It blows my mind that with the technology we have today every band out there isn't releasing live concert recordings, demos, outtakes and any other scrap of music not put down on an officially released studio album and selling it for cheap to their biggest fans.  They could make loads of money and solve this whole music doesn't make money anymore crisis.

Slowly, a few artists and labels are recognizing the potential in this and they are releasing live recordings and leftovers.  This week sees the release of some pretty cool recordings of such things and we'll start with those right now.

Another Self Portrait (1969-1971): The Bootleg Series Vol. 10 - Bob Dylan: Bob Dylan is one of the most bootlegged artists in the world.  His legions of fans meticulously record everything he creates and there are massive amounts of folks who collect and trade every note, even when the quality is atrociously bad.  Luckily for us Dylan has realized the power of these recordings and has been releasing his official bootlegs series since 1991.  Unfortunately for us we're only up to Vol 10 some 20 plus years later.

Still they are all wonderful documents of the man and his artistry.  This volume focuses on outtake material from the albums Self Portrait and New Morning.  Fans were a bit perplexed by this one initially as Self Portrait is generally considered Dylan's worst album and the Man himself has said it was released as something of a joke, something to free him from the spokesman of a generation tag.  New Morning faired much better but it still seems an odd choice considering the wealth of stuff out there from his other, well loved material.  Early word though is this set contains some brilliant moments and is well worth getting.  The four disk deluxe edition includes the previously unreleased complete performance of Dylan and the Band from the Isle of Wight Festival from 1969 and a remastered version of Self Portrait.

I think I speak for fans everywhere when I say, Get Thee to a Record Store, stat.

Live at the Academy of Music 1971 - The Band:  During the last week of 1971 The Band played four concerts at New York City's Academy of Music.  Highlights from these shows were released in 1972 as Rock of Ages.  This set released the entirety of the four shows.  The set includes a 48 page hard-bound book with essays from J. Gleason, Mumford & Sons and Jim James.  There is a fifth disk which is a DVD and includes the first two disks songs presented in 5.1 Surround sound.

Higher! - Sly & the Family Stone (Amazon Exclusive): A big five disk box set of chock full of stereo and mono mixes of some of their biggest hits, plus rare tracks, live cuts and several tracks from Sly Stewarts pre-Family Stone period.  I'm not really familiar with them outside of a few hits and I rather dislike exclusive deals, but this looks like a pretty fab set.

Live at the Old Mill Tavern - March 29, 1970 - Quicksilver Messenger Service: For reasons I can't quite explain I've never listened to Quicksilver Messenger Service.  I'm a pretty big fan of the whole San Francisco psychedelic scene from the 60s and 70s but somehow I've never heard a single note from these guys.  This appears to be a nice little live disk featuring a couple of songs simply titled "Blues Jam" both featuring James Cotton.  I may have found the place to start with QMS.  

The Lost Recordings - Jim Croce:  An odds and sods collection of never before released live recordings from Harper College in 1973 and various home recordings and demos.  Croce's a pretty big cheese ball but I love him just the same.  

With these four recordings we've got a pretty good example of the kind of things artists and labels really ought to be doing all the time.  There are full concerts, random live tracks and outtakes, demos and home recordings.  I can't imagine any of these disk cost all that much to produce and while I obviously can't tell you how well they well sale, I suspect they'll all make their money back pretty quickly.  And with the exception of Dylan none of these folks are still together making music, yet here we are with new releases.  Slowly the labels seem to be getting the idea that they can give the fans what they want in formats they want and still make money.  I hope the trend continues.

Electric Slave - Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears:  Lewis is often compared to James Brown and while nobody will ever really replace the Godfather of Soul, Black Joe Lewis is one of the best of what we've got.  

Concert of the Sixth Sun - Phillip Glass:  I know very little of Glass and even less of his music.  I hear his name tossed around now and again and the impression I get is that he's very avant garde, but I couldn't be completely wrong in that.  In this orchestral suite of songs he's playing with some Mexican Indians which sounds interesting, at least to me.

Third Eye Centre - Belle & Sebastian: The Scottish indie-pop bands seconds album of b-sides and rarities (the first Push Barman to Open Old Wounds was released in 2005.)  I've not heard everything by these guys, but what I have listened to I've really enjoyed.  They are often compared to the Smiths and thats apt, but they seem a lot happier in their wistful dream pop than Morrissey ever dreamed of be and the songs are all the better for it.

Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action - Franz Ferdinand: Another album by another artist whose name I know and who I feel like I ought to listen to, but that I never have.