By now, it should be known to followers of the Roundup that I suffer frequently from bootleg fever. But I'm not one of these bootleg collectors looking for every live concert. No, I search out the fuzzy labyrinth of these shakey recordings in search of those lost tracks or special moments like Neil Young telling a Boston crowd to "Shut the F*%K up or I'll split!" or hearing Axl Rose give his justification for "One In a Million" before playing "Outta Get Me" in front of the L.A. faithful in 1989. Anyways, I've come down with a bad case of bootleg fever lately and have gathered a bunch from two of my favorite bootleged artists who will forever be connected by the line It's better to burn out than to fade away...
Nirvana - The Curio Box: This started popping up all over the Internet recently. It's a pieced together album of pretty rare Nirvana songs. However, many of these songs appear on the stellar official box set release With the Lights Out (and at much better quality). Those songs that aren't on the box set, I have the same versions of the tracks on other bootlegs (again at much better quality). It's also an odd arrangement of songs. As a Nirvana bootleg expert, I would avoid this for some of the superior bootlegs listed below.
Nirvana - The Chosen Rejects: THIS is the one to find if you so desire a wealth of unheard Nirvana bliss. A four disc box set that can really be seen as a companion to With the Lights Out, it breaks up the tracks into Home Demos, Studio Sessions, Broadcasts, and Live Rarities...which is quite clever as Nirvana is one of those bands that sounds differently in all of those arenas. Perhaps the best part about this is the quality of the Fecal Matter demos (Kurt's pre-Nirvana experiment). Somebody spent a lot of time cleaning these up and they sound fantastic. This is a must have for any fan.
Nirvana - Rennes, France (2/16/94): This radio broadcast of the band's concert, one of the very last concerts, is well worth a listen. There's this image that Kurt was a zombie by this time, but you'd never know it listening to this. The band sounds great, giving a full-effort performance. In fact, I've never heard a show where they didn't give a full-effort. There's also this image the Kurt was somber when actually he was often quite funny. This concert shows the playful side. The opening jab at The Who's "Baba O'Riley" is priceless.
BONUS: The Best Of Nirvana BootlegsAs a Halloween Treat, here's my choices for not-to-be-missed Nirvana bootlegs, all of which I acquired in college, payed exorbitantly for and played endlessly.
Nirvana: Outcesticide Series was a bootleg series which in all numbered 8 releases that by the end had included nearly every rare song worthy of note. The only downside is there are a lot of mixed quality throughout.
Nirvana: Into the Black is a six CD box set, much rumored to have been released by a member of the band, set up in much the same way as The Chosen Rejects. Many of the songs would later appear on With the Lights Out and the of course The Reading Festival set was officially released last year. But there are still gems on here and shockingly, the quality of some songs is better than on With the Lights Out (I'm talking to you "Opinions"). Also includes a wonderful book with amazing never seen photos...again, as many Nirvana bootlegs, it's rumored to have been released by a band member.
Nirvana: unhappy (Dead Man's Paradise): My first Nirvana bootleg still stands as the best single disc of unreleased Nirvana tracks. Of course now many can be found here and there, but there's something darkly tragic about the way this album plays from beginning to end that it is perhaps my favorite Nirvana album.
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Tribute to Neil Young: This is a two part album. This first documents the band's 1970 concert in NJ, billed as a farewell concert as Neil set to depart. The show is an incredible early career spanning extravaganza that I enjoy better than Deja Vu. The second half of the album includes very bare Neil Young early demos. Much like Kurt, Neil often sounds his best in comfortable surroundings, singing songs in their fragile early stages.
Neil Young - Well-Known Secret: Neil is teamed up with his backing band Crazy Horse for this '76 show. They of course sound great as always, playing a standard set of Neil classics, but unfortunately the recording quality is far weaker than many other Neil live bootlegs. Also, there are plenty of official releases of Neil with Crazy Horse Live. Instead, seek out his shows with "The Stray Gators" as backup for something a little different and better quality.
The Mynah Birds - The Lost Recordings: It's a little known secret that Neil and future members of Steppenwolf and Buffalo Springfield recorded with a fellow named Rick James in mid-60s. Yes, "Super Freak" Rick James. The legend is that they came to his aide in a street fight. They met in the studio later to lay down this collection of mostly forgettable instrumental tracks. However the two Rick James vocal tracks are interesting bits of Motown soul. Really for music historians only.
BONUS: The Best of Neil Bootlegs
Seeing as how I live in the middle of nowhereland where Trick or Treaters don't venture, I'm handing out more extra treats with two of the best Neil Young bootlegs around (not counting ones I may have reviewed here in the past).
Neil Young: Chrome Dreams is one of the most famous bootlegs of all time, a scrapped album of songs that would later appear in various forms on albums to come. There's just something legendary about an artists scrapped album. Music history is full of them and they are often revered by fans. This is no exception. A country rock classic with "Sedan Delivery", "Powderfinger" and "Like a Hurricane". Apparently Neil agrees with fans on this one as he just recently released an album entitled Chrome Dreams II...an official sequel to a bootleg. Awesome.
Neil Young: Carnegie Hall 12/5/70 is probably one of my 25 or so favorite albums of all time. A very personal show with Neil on acoustic and nothing else. To hear songs like "Helpless" "Southern Man" and "Cowgirl in the Sand" played in this atmosphere is perfect.