This is going to be a messy post, but it should accomplish its goal ….
Please suggest via comment your favorite bootleg of a particular CW song. When you do so, I’ll add the MP3 to the blog so that everyone can listen to it.
Clear Blue Sky, The Basement (Sydney, Australia, 10/1993) Mesmerizing guitar and extraordinary vocal on this acoustic version of the tune. I’ve always loved the CD version as well (especially as a jump-start on a low-energy day), but the harmonics (?) of this acoustic version have taken up residence in my soul.
Look What Love Has Done – acoustic (Boulder Theater, CO, 8-28-1991) To my knowledge there’s only one acoustic bootleg, so that’s easy.
with band: The Sting, CT, 3-28-1992. Of the bootlegs with the band, the one at The Sting stands out because of Chris’ excellent vocal performance and because of the excellent sound quality (radio broadcast). I find that, as Chris toured LWTL, some times he got sloppy – how many times can anyone sing the same song and still make it sound sincere and fresh? This performance strikes me as both fresh and sincere.
Radar – acoustic (KTHX, Reno, NV, 10-12-2001) Ran across this on Hiroshi’s CW Share while looking for a different version. Just too gorgeous for words!
Radar with band: Perhaps I’m influenced by being able to see Chris play this live version; nonetheless, it’s an awesome performance with the Rocket House band at Bowery Ballroom (2001-07-10).
Dust Radio – with band (Park West, Chicago, IL (Railroad Sunset) 1992-04-19) Spot-on, thunderous performance – in some ways better than the album version ’cause it’s so intense and the crowd goes ballistic.
with Terra band (Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco, 1997-06-04) The Terra guys excel yet again, even adding some radio noise at the end, similar to the album version.
I Forget You Every Day – Obviously, there can be no ONE BEST version of this song. I have a playlist of my twenty or so favorites; here are a few of my favoritest favorites. Note that June tends to produce the best Forgets.
Middle East (Cambridge, MA) 1995-06-15
Bottom of the Hill (San Francisco) 1997-06-04 This full show is awesome. The band was in extraordinarily good form, generating some of the best performances of songs from LWTL, Din, and Terra. Full show available here: https://archive.org/details/cw1997-08-04.flac16
Know – Another outstanding track from the BotH gig in 1997
Mountainside (Vanguard, Sydney AUS 2005-03-29) – Only live recording of this Flaming Lips cover featured on Reiter In
Update 2020-05-25: Found another one at Cafe du Nord 2005-07-24:
Perfect Day (Bimbo’s 360 Club, San Francisco 2000-10-05 with Yuval and Sebastian from Soul Coughing)
Guns & Dolls (Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco 1999-04-18)
This is the best bootleg, in fact, to the best of my knowledge, the ONLY bootleg of this favorite from Din of Ecstasy.
Living with the Law (Club Barmen, Wuppertal, Germany 2003-10-09)
The whole concert is on a par with the Radio Bremen show captured on the “On Air” CD, but this one stands out:
To Joy (also Club Barmen) Such energy and excellent vocal!
From a Photograph (also Club Barmen): Yet another haunting performance of this plaintive song:
Serve You (also Club Barmen): imho, the best one ever:
I also highly recommend four bootlegs with Jeff Lang, which can be found HERE.
Dallas, Seattle Space Needle, 11-19-1991
This song has absolutely everything. TOTALLY WICKED guitar, pieces of Days of Obligation, long, pure Whitley technique runs. Plaintive falsetto and signature growling vocals. At 2:26 left, listen to the vocal pitch match of the guitar slide notes. This is an old blues technique but one that Chris ABSOLUTELY OWNS when he pulls it out. The cheers afterwards give me goosebumps every single time i hear them.
Dan Whitley has mentioned that this was a very important song to Chris — on Johnny Winter’s second album, released in 1969. He mentions having lived in Dallas as a kid as well.
I first heard this version when some very kind soul posted it to a website back in 1995 (!). It may have been Les Rayburn on his earliest Whitley site. I listened to this cover countless times — my little chunk of Chris guitar p*rn. To this day, i covet this jewel.
I also grew up in Dallas, Texas, strengthening my karma with this cover.
Katie also recommends The Basement, Sydney AUS 10-1993
This is very interesting and I believe this is to be a great guide to CW deep world. Too many gems in the collection to choose one… then, I like to pick some “unique” stuff here – which might not be “best” though. You say it’s a curve ball?… maybe, but it’s one of a kind, not to be missed !
Living With The Law / April 14, 1999 KMTT, Seattle, WA This was included in their compilation CD “On the Mountain Vol.5/103.7 FM″. So some may say it’s not “bootleg”, but this track is taken from the actual tape of the radio show that our old friend Kati (now in heaven) recorded and airmailed me (then, we didn’t have an idea this was released officially). I added a few Chris’ words here about his guitar “56 little Martin acoustic” – yes this was played with that Mahogany Martin (now Trixie owns) and sounds AWESOME.
Living With The Law / March 26, 1994 Beacon Theater, NY Another unique LWTL is from Rob Wasserman’s concert. With Wasserman on upright bass, Bruce Hornsby on piano, and drummer (?). Very spontaneous and freely performance with their solos. BTW, I expected big cheers, shout and applause around mark 0:50 when the LWTL riff started (I got goosebumps!!!! Don’t you?), but nothing, aw, it was not Chris’ home ground? No Chris fans in the audience? Also see this post on the Dust Forum: http://www.mortalmusic.com/bbs/forums/showthread.php?threadid=1353
Kick The Stones / February 26, 2004 The Patio, Indianapolis, IN Incomplete recording… cannot be the best? A dear friend Tony attended this show and shared the story. When power went out (before the song started or a while after started?), Chris continued playing by candlelight – so it’s completely unplugged!!! For the “Poison Girl EP” lovers, this is the next one for you.
Liberation Or Death / September 18, 1998 Quasimodo, Berlin, DE Do you believe this is played by Chris himself alone? Hendrix inspired? (Sept.18 is the anniversary of Hendrix’s death) Even if someone votes for any great version from 1995 era, this rivals!
PS This Quasimodo show is one of my most favorite bootlegs (irrespective of sound clarity – I love audience recording more than soundboard, btw).
Days of Obligation 1998-04-28 Hagstrom Musikk, Bergen, Norway This version includes fair hints of how much Chris was into Jazz (in many interviews, he said that he listened to solo piano of Thelonious Monk a lot and other Jazz music as well). I think this (version) is not just a one-chord blues tune but a kind of modal Jazz tune. And, this is a great example for me to learn his Jazzy approaches/chords (on Open-A tuning !!!!). I love this Norway show for the unique setlist including Ultraglide and On Cue which haven’t been played solo very often.
Rocket House (solo) 2004-02-29 Martyrs’ Chicago I know I’m not the only one amazed by this virtuosity, mastery of alternate tuning, especially in the intro.
Frontier / 2003-04-11 Tin Angel According to Heiko Schramm, this is the only live performance of this song, so it has to be the “best”: “Chris came [to] the studio with it, we jammed a li’l over it and did it in a first take. So, then we played it once on the US Hotel Vast Horizon tour …. This was it.”
Vertical Desert (400 Bar, MPLS, MN 2003-05-13 with the Vast Combo – Heiko Schramm & Mathias Macht)
Radar Bowery Ballroom, NYC 2001-07-10
Scrapyard Lullaby Rosebud Cafe, Pittsburgh PA 1998-04-14
Ultraglide Khyber Pass Philadelphia, PA 1995-06-27 Ron commented that “The poor video quality even seems to add to the raw savagery of their performance.” I agree.
Vertical Desert Jammin’ Java, Vienna VA 2004-02-04 Joel describes this as “the best song of the best show I witnessed.”
God Thing Bottom of the Hill 1999-04-18 Desiree attended this show and highly recommends this track. That’s her ‘Whoop’ a few seconds in.