Bob Dylan – The Basement Tapes Review

Bob Dylan and The Band. Just let those artists settle on the mind for a moment. The Basement Tapes offers a collaboration between the two. The Band may have begun as the backing players to Dylan’s tours, but their name launched a successful career of truly great albums. With Dylan at the forefront of The Basement Tapes and The Band behind him, a sense of tradition is founded. They work hand in hand with lyrical and musical perfection over 24 tracks of genuine brilliance. Dylan’s second album with The Band is a rip-roaring stunner, spread across some of the finest songwriting and performances either artist would offer in their lengthy, varied careers.

What is key to The Basement Tapes is that Dylan and The Band are given time to separate themselves from one another and showcase their talents. Orange Juice Blues is a marvellous track that does not rely on Dylan as heavily as the song to follow it, Million Dollar Bash. Richard Manuel of The Band is given his time to shine here, and he can keep up with the extraordinary work provided by Dylan. This period sees Dylan at the height of his powers still, sandwiched between Blood on the Tracks and Desire, two mesmerising accomplishments that cemented the Voice of a Generation in the next level of quality. The Basement Tapes is an extra treat. An addition that sees him collaborate with an equally talented setlist of musicians.

The outcome, quite clearly, is stunning. That balance of Dylan, The Band, Dylan again is founded nicely. Quality is very much on the cards for this consistent brilliance. Yazoo Street Scandal steps up the passion founded on the album, and the back and forth between Dylan and The Band feels like friendly competition. They attempt to outdo one another lyrically and musically, and it is still difficult to argue who has the sharper tracks on the album. Each artist has a bit of perfection to their name. Passionate tracks from Robbie Robertson on the aforementioned Yazoo Street Scandal and from Dylan on Goin’ to Acapulco offer systematic breakdowns of emotion, long-held notes and that classic backing noise that offered the very best of early Dylan tracks.

Tears of Rage is the clear highlight. A beautiful cacophony of reflection and love. A song that goes “from bad to worse” in lyrical meaning, but rises through the ranks as one of the finest Dylan and The Band collaborations. Reflective and potent, it is a fine track and finer still that it is buried deep in the heart of The Basement Tapes. A superbly impressive album, to expect anything less would be blasphemy. Here are the all-time greats coming together to make inspired, interesting music. Too Much of Nothing, the song to follow Tears of Rage boasts. If this is nothing, then what is everything to Dylan and company? The Basement Tapes is admirable more for its consistency and lack of poor tracks than its coast along to perfection. It is closer to dependable than it is to fantastic, but both blurs rather nicely on these 24 tracks of superb quality.

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