How much is too much?

Published 5:15 pm Saturday, September 6, 2014

On Nov. 4, Columbia Records will release the 11th chapter in The Bootlegs series of rare, unreleased and unfinished Bob Dylan tracks, “The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11.”

And Columbia is walking a fine line.

What started as a fascinating series introducing avid fans to rare concerts, demos and unheard tracks is beginning to take on an “everything-and-the-kitchen-sink” approach.

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The good news: Vol. 11 leaves average Dylan territory — Vol. 10’s focus on less-than-classic albums “Self Portrait” and “New Morning” — and returns to a hallowed, even mythical Dylan era: “The Basement Tapes.”

The famed 1967-68 recordings with The Band have always held a special spot in Dylan lore. The recordings came soon after Dylan’s 1966 motorcycle crash and are widely viewed as a turning point in his career, often separating his classic early albums and his work of the 1970s.

To grossly summarize the recordings, Dylan — at a time when he avoided the public spotlight — got together with the members of The Band, his old backing band, to jam at houses around Woodstock, New York. While more than 100 tracks were recorded, 24 were eventually released on 1975’s “The Basement Tapes.” While some reviewers criticized the album for blending Dylan-centric material with songs just by The Band, the album has received much praised over the years.

The album is a favorite of many fans, and people have often wondered what else is on the tapes. Well, they’ll soon find out what’s on all the tapes.

The complete Vol. 11 will feature 138 tracks, six discs and sell for $149.98 (based on the Amazon pre-sale price; it’s $59.99 for the MP3s).

As Dylan’s website — — states, “‘The Basement Tapes Complete’ brings together, for the first time ever, every salvageable recording from the tapes including recently discovered early gems recorded in the ‘Red Room’ of Dylan’s home in upstate New York.”

On one hand, this is a fascinating insight into a famed recording session of legendary musicians. Promoters promise the complete Vol. 11 will sound as close to the 1967 recordings as possible and will run in chronological order.

Some fans will praise Columbia for throwing open the music vault and releasing it all — the good and the bad. Others, like me, will cringe at an approach that takes away yhe creative freedom of the artists by thrusting jams, drafts and unfinished material into the public spotlight.

This approach leaves me leery, but I’m sure several other fans will disagree with me.

This approach begs the question: How much is too much? Consider the original Bootlegs: Vol. 1-3, which only featured 58 tracks and covered music recorded from 1961-1989. The album was selective, picking key tracks from several eras of music and, yes, actually leaving some out. Selection is key to the creative process.

But with recent trends, it looks as though studios wish to leave no track unpublished. The precedent is being set, and it takes some of the lore and mystery away from the music.

A two-disc, 38-track edition called “The Basement Tapes Raw” will also be released. For people like me, that will be enough.