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COLLECTING THE BEST OF THE BOOTLEG RECORDINGS

There are a few bootleg discs that stand as milestones, sonically or historically:

Bob Dylan, "Highway 61 Revisited Again" -- A complete look at the making of "Highway 61"-era songs as it happened, including the full final takes of "Like a Rolling Stone" and "Positively Fourth Street" and a brilliant alternate version of "Desolation Row." The ultimate for Dylan fans.

The Beatles, "Ultra Rare Trax, Vols. 1-6" and "Sessions" -- Beatles bootlegs generally were of poor quality until these tapes leaked out of the EMI vaults in '83 and finally turned up on CD in '88. Featuring everything from an acoustic take of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" to a 1963 version of "The One After 909" to unreleased songs such as "If You've Got Troubles" and "Leave My Kitten Alone," these discs sent shockwaves through the world of Beatles collectors. The ultimate for Beatles fans.

Bruce Springsteen, "The Ties That Bind" -- More than a year before "The River" was released in 1980, Springsteen had put together this shorter alternate version. Different versions of "Stolen Car," "You Can Look" and the title cut meshed with unreleased songs such as "Cindy" and "Loose Ends." Bootleggers got their hands on the master tapes in 1994 and released this original, rough, radically different version of one of the Boss' best albums.

Prince, "Small Club, Second Show That Night" -- A secret 1988 after-show gig was recorded professionally by Prince and turned up as a two-disc set, including many unreleased songs and plenty of extended, brilliant guitar solos. A legitimate release of this concert album would bring back a lot of his "Purple Rain" fans.

Van Morrison, "Van Morrison Gets His Chance to Wail, Vols. 1-3" -- A wealth of Morrison brilliance, including solo acoustic demos of "Wild Night," "Caravan," "And It Stoned Me"; full-band demos from '63 to '78; and the complete recording of an April 1970 concert at Fillmore West.

Nirvana, "Roma" -- A Feb. 22, 1994, radio broadcast from Rome that features hard-edged performances of Nirvana's best work, including "Smells Like Teen Spirit," "All Apologies," "Dumb," "Polly," "About a Girl" and more. Kurt Cobain would be dead six weeks later.

Guns N' Roses, "Practice for Destruction" -- Pre-"Appetite For Destruction" demos include covers of "Heartbreak Hotel" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash," as well as songs that would turn up on the band's debut.

Van Halen, "77" -- Live show from 1977 that includes early versions of songs that would turn into Van Halen classics, as well as demos and cover versions of songs such as David Bowie's "Jean Genie" and Rick Derringer's "Rock 'n' Roll Hootchie-Koo."

Neil Young, "Chrome Dreams" -- Two bootlegs go by this name, but only one is the actual album Young was going to release in the mid-'70s. Comprising some of his greatest songs -- "Powderfinger," "Like a Hurricane," "Look Out For My Love," "Pocohontas," "Stringman" and more -- "Chrome Dreams" eventually was dismantled and spread over several albums from 1976 to 1993.

U2, "Salome" -- A three-CD set of the jam sessions that led to the "Achtung Baby" album. The seeds of every song on that album are contained here in perfect sound. "In terms of insight into the way the band creates its music, there's never been anything like it," said Erik Flannigan, who writes a column on bootlegs for International CD Exchange newsletter.

-- Mark Brown

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