Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Demos (two discs)

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was Wilco's most anticipated album, and is highly regarded as their masterwork.  Unknown to most, nearly the entire album was leaked in demo form months prior to the official release, under the title The Engineer Demos.  Along with every track being demoed, save Jesus, Etc. is a plethora of unreleased songs that, accompanied by the More Like The Moon EP, creates a two disc marvel that gives a new way to listen to the masterpiece and an idea of what was left on the cutting room floor.

YHF is one of the shining transitional albums from the "alternative" rock of the nineties to the "indie" rock of the 2000's, though the differences are certainly muddled.  Since this is a more acoustic album, being entirely demos, it actually helps alleviate the turnover more simplistically, almost defining one of the largest musical movements in the last two decades.

YHF Engineer Demos

Disc 1 - The Demo Album

Side A:
(all songs sourced from The Engineer Demos)

1.  I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
2.  Kamera
3.  Cordurou Cutoff Girl (AKA Radio Cure)
4.  War on War
5.  Nothing Up My Sleeve
6.  Ashes of American Flags

Side B:
(all songs sourced from The Engineer Demos)

7.  Heavy Metal Drummer
8.  I'm The Man Who Loves You
9.  Pot Kettle Black
10.  Poor Places
11.  Reservations

Disc 2 - The Outtakes
(sourced from The Engineer Demos and More Like The Moon EP*)

Side A:

1.  The Good Part
2.  Kamera*
3.  Cars Can't Escape
4.  Instrumental
5.  Venus Stop The Train

Side B:

6.  Woodgrain*
7.  Handshake Drugs*
8.  Magazine Called Sunset*
9.  Bob Dylan's 49th Beard*
10.  Let Me Come Home
11.  More Like The Moon*

Since disc one is track-for-track Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (save where Nothing Up My Sleeve replaces Jesus, Etc.), I will just let you experience it yourselves.   It is definitely a better experience than the second disc, but since it should all be familiar, it won't need as much discussion.  If you have not listened to the actual album, why are you here?  You should be here!!!

Disc 2 is a mix of an EP that collected outtakes from the sessions, and the unrealized demos from the YHF Engineer Demos.  Barely any tracks are left out, but there were a couple that didn't have the desired or required Wilco quality to match.

The Good Part launches this 11-track b-side album, starting off on a good note with some more intense guitar work that present in the demos.  This leads into the EP version of Kamera, which is among the hardest tracks recorded during these sessions.

Cars Can't Escape is another track that never saw release.  It follows the tradition of excellent Wilco ballads, with some of my favorite lyrics from the album.  The next track, Instrumental, will be vocalized on the second side of the album, but works well as wordless-tune as well.  Reminds me of Final Fantasy for some reason.

Venus Stop The Train ends the first side and is probably the engineer demo I am most partial to.  A suitable lead-in for side b, consisting primarily of tracks from More Like The Moon EP.

Woodgrain is an excellent, though short, ditty with a charmingly subdued Jeff Tweedy vocal that makes you wish the song were much longer.  The second track on this side is one of the best b-sides from the sessions, and was actually rerecorded for their following album, A Ghost Is Born.

The most interesting and obscure track on the collection is A Magazine Called Sunset, which definitely harbors the most overdubs of the two-discs, with the general full-band set up and strings, along with some choral vocals, leading into definitely my favorite song, Bob Dylan's 49th Beard.  It is crazy how Wilco can fuse humor and seriousness into such captivating experiences.

Let Me Come Home is the final version of Instrumental from side a, and has some of Tweedy's most emotional lyrics and vocals.  And this all ends with More Like The Moon, the longest track on the set, I really feel this should have been on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

I am not familiar with any other Wilco bootlegs, so for now this is all the Wilco I can offer up, but I do truly hope you enjoy the experience Wilco and I have curated for you!

- blashco

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