Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ultra Rare Trax Vols. 1 & 2

This week’s featured bootleg is actually three releases from 1988. Bootleg CDs were not very common then. Vinyl was still king. Sometime in October 1988, a friend and a big Beatle fan showed me the current issue of the ICE (International CD Exchange) newsletter. On the front page was the headline “Master Quality Beatles Bootleg CDs Surface.” The following is from the ICE article:

“These are of unbelievable quality, right from the masters,” one Beatles authority told ICE. “I played them next to my Capitol CDs and Can’t Buy Me Love is ten times better – and I mean ten, not one or two. The sound quality is that extraordinary.”

Ultra Rare Trax Vols. 1 and 2 ushered in a new era of high quality and yet to be heard recordings for hungry fans of bootlegs. Maybe they weren’t ‘master’ quality, but the bar had definitely been raised and even EMI Records took notice. According to markings on the disc and the packaging, they were mastered by Sony’s DADC plant in Austria and distributed by The Swinging Pig Records, Luxembourg. The packaging was rather lackluster but they did contain detailed notes for each track. If you were lucky enough to find these gems when they were released, you are holding a piece of history. The originals quickly became ‘ultra rare,’ which brings me to the third CD – BACKTRACK.

If you could not find the Ultra Rare Trax CDs, BACKTRACK was a reasonable substitute, combining the two discs on one CD and adding a couple of additional tracks. BACKTRACK was of the same sound quality with different, but also uninspiring packaging and was manufactured in Korea. It was also easier to find after the appearance of the ICE article.

These were favorites not because they were the harbinger of things to come, but for the great music they contained. I believe we would have never seen the release of the official Beatles Anthology or the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series if not for the appearance of the Ultra Rare Trax Vols. 1 and 2. They laid the ground work for all of the official releases of live and rare studio recordings we all enjoy today.

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