Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Engineer Demos

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Engineer Demos (Bootleg)


1. I’m The Man Who Loves You 2. Camera 3. A Magazine Called Sunset 4. Poor Places 5. Shakin’ Sugar 6. War On War 7. Ashes Of American Flags 8. Cars Can’t Escape 9. Pot Kettle Black 10. The Good Part 11. I Am Trying To Break Your Heart 12. Reservations 13. Let Me Come Home 14. Heavy Metal Drummer 15. Nothing Up My Sleeve 16. Corduroy Cutoff Girl 17. Not For The Season 18. Venus Stopped The Train


This boot makes it abundantly clear that Foxtrot could have been a very different record than it turned out to be, and that it obviously took a whole lot of time and perseverance to iron it out into its final form. The high quality of some of these outtakes is astounding, but their incongruence with Tweedy’s vision for the album is obvious, so it’s easy to see why they didn’t make the final running order. Many of them are continuations of either the 60s pop influences of Summerteeth (Rubber Soul-esque mid-tempo acoustic-electric fuzz rocker “The Good Part,” winsome Tweedy/Bennett acoustic duet “Nothing Up My Sleeve”) and the 70s classic rockisms of Being There (the obnoxiously loose, wah-wah driven, “Kingpin”-like “Corduroy Cutoff Girl,” which was implausibly reworked into “Radio Cure,” the Stonesy fist-pumping anthem “Not For The Season”). Great songs, perhaps, but we’d heard something like them before – not just in general, but from Wilco themselves. According to Greg Kot’s Wilco book, Learning How To Die, Bennett was determined to include the songs that had the best melodies and was ultimately overridden, which is confirmed by the nature of these outtakes. And while it’s just about impossible to discount the melodic pull of tunes like the droning rocker “Shakin’ Sugar” or the wistful “Cars Can’t Escape,” two excellent songs that 99% of bands would never allow to languish in outtake hell, the fact that they could’ve easily been on Summerteeth is what sealed their fate. Tweedy decided that pushing forth into new territory was sacrosanct – phooey to anything that sounded too damned normal, I guess. The band could’ve put together a great album out of the outtakes and the more accessible songs that did make the album – but no way in hell would it have been The Big One like YHF turned out to be. It would’ve been too predictable. But I’m glad I can still hear the unused songs. Except for the pair of strangely mawkish piano ballads (“Let Me Come Home,” “Venus Stopped The Train”). Where the hell did those come from?

Early versions of every song on YHF except for “Jesus, Etc.” are here and are, unsurprisingly, generally inferior to their officially released counterparts. That’s mostly because they’re missing crucial instrumental elements that were added later, like the horns and ugly Tweedy lead guitar on “I’m The Man Who Loves You” or the gurgling radio dial keyboards on “War On War.” The run-throughs of “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” and “Poor Places” are interesting mostly from an academic standpoint of studying the nature of the recording process. Presented only with their basic keyboard melodies and a few nonintegrated sound effects, they sound quite meager and incoherent in comparison to the final versions; “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” is such that it sounds as though there’s a rather boring cocktail party going on in the background while Tweedy is singing. It must’ve taken heaping gobs of hard work and luck to turn that mess into arguably the most resonant song in Wilco’s catalog… thank god it did.

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