Wilco - Rare Tracks, Vol. 2

Earlier this week I ran the first part of a feature detailing my favorite “rare” Wilco tracks (check it out HERE). Here’s the rest of the list - my 6 favorite rare Wilco tracks. Thanks to those who left comments and sent along emails! Glad the songs are falling on grateful ears…

6. MP3 :: Promising

“Promising” is an early outtake, either from the A.M. or Being There sessions, or possibly just recorded sometime in between. Too good to be lost to obscurity, it eventually turned up on the Jeff Tweedy-penned soundtrack to the Ethan Hawke-directed Chelsea Walls. Back in the days of Tweedy being able to do little more with his cracked-country drawl than to sound as earnest as possible, the obviously sly twist in the line “I musta known that you were just promising” suggests a true defeat, a heartbreaking loss of confidence in what the word really means.

5. MP3 :: James Alley Blues (from The Harry Smith Connection)
MP3 :: James Alley Blues (Live) (from Farm Aid, 1998)

This song originated from the Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music and was originally performed by Jeff Tweedy and Jay Bennett, along with Roger McGuinn, on the 1998 compilation The Harry Smith Connection. The live version is the full band from a performance at Farm Aid in 1998, and too good not to include. I wish I knew who introduces the band…..anyone?

4. MP3 :: Kamera (Demo)

A big part of the process of recording Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was figuring out exactly how each song would be best represented. Songs were practiced in all sorts of different incarnations, often with some pretty remarkable results. This “rock” version of “Kamera” appeared on the YHF Demos CD that circulated shortly after the album’s release. It’s got lots of huge, fuzzed out electric guitars that stand in stark contrast to both the eventual CD version of this song, and the rest of the album as a whole. A different version appeared on the Australian Bonus EP released a few months after YHF.

Somehow this song was left off the soon to be released Sky Blue Sky. That’s a real shame - the song’s silky smooth guitar lines and groovin’ soul feel would fit perfectly with that album’s overall sound. It was performed live by the band during the past year or so, and appeared in a Tweedy solo acoustic version on the Live From The Pacific Northwest DVD from late last year. This version is from a performance on The Conan O’Brien Show.

This is an outtake from the Mermaid Avenue sessions with Billy Bragg. Rumor has it it was set for inclusion on the first volume but was removed late in the process because it was unclear if Woody Guthrie had indeed penned the words, or if they were actually traditional. Either way, it was later released on the Chelsea Walls Soundtrack along with the aforementioned “Promising”. This is one of the band’s most understated and beautiful performances.

There are a lot of different versions of this song available, so it was hard to choose which one to use for this list. The song was originally intended for inclusion on YHF, but wound up being used instead for the Loose Fur project of Tweedy, Glenn Kotche, and Jim O’Rourke - renamed “Laminated Cat” and in a strikingly different arrangement. This is an early version that again appeared on the YHF Demos. The song would soon take on a life of its own when Wilco started playing it live - slower, longer, and ending with stretched out segments of improvisational guitar- but here it is full of a Springsteen-esque spirit, and some patented rasping vocals.

If the outtakes, b-sides, soundtrack contributions, demos, etc. are this good, well, what the hell are you waiting for? - pick up Wilco’s back catalog HERE.


Baucom said...

Very comprehensive list of quality rarities. As a pretty hard-core Wilco fan, I was surprised to find James Alley Blues which I didn't have.
I would've thrown in 'Blasting Fonda' or 'Any Major Dude Will Tell You' as well.

TheRobRogers said...

Seriously, great list. I'd also add their killer cover of "True Love Will Find You in the End."

geoff said...

Thanks again for these! Don't forget live webcast from the sydney show (though I suspect you won't be up in time over there - 6am Chicago time)


James said...

Thanks for checking in guys....glad you're enjoying the songs. There are quite a few rarities that I didn't post that I felt bad leaving off, including the ones you mentioned. Maybe I'll do another post sometime with more....

Frank said...

Great post(s), James. I'm the biggest Wilco fan I know, and I didn't have two of these. Have to second the "Any Major Dude . . ." cover, which is just awesome, and I'd add the unreleased "No Poetry" and Jeff's cover of Big Star's "Thirteen", which was a Being There b-side. Let me know if you don't have any of those.