Bob Dylan & The Band - The Basement Tapes

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"The Basement Tapes," more than any other music that has been heard from Bob Dylan and The Band, sound like the music of a partnership. As Dylan and The Band trade vocals across these discs, as they trade nuances and phrases within the songs, you can feel the warmth and the comradeship that must have been liberating for all six men. Language, for one thing, is completely unfettered. A good number of the songs seem as cryptic, or as nonsensical, as a misnumbered crossword puzzle-that is, if you listen only for words, and not for what the singing and the music say -- but the open spirit of the songs is as straightforward as their unmatched vitality and spunk.

One hears a pure, naked emotion in some of Dylan's writing and singing -- in "Tears Of Rage," especially -- that can't he found anywhere else, and I think it is the musical sympathy Dylan and The Band shared in these sessions that gives "Tears Of Rage," and other numbers, their remarkable depth and power. There are rhythms in the music that literally sing with compliments tossed from one musician to another -- listen to "Lo And Behold!," "Crash On The Levee (Down In The Flood)," "Ain't No More Cane." And there is another kind of openness, a flair for ribaldry that's as much a matter of Levon's mandolin as his, or Dylan's, singing -- a spirit that shoots a good smile straight across this album.

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