Bootleg Country: Frank Sinatra – 05/22/68

With the advent of inexpensive, high speed, broadband internet, actual tape trading has almost died out. There is no longer any need to look up tape lists, find good traders and go through the hassle of mailing packages. Now all you have to do is point, click and wait while the internet brings you a new concert recording.

Bootleg collectors are a notoriously cranky bunch. They also have the ears of an audiophile. Back in my trading days I had to adhere to numerous rules to make the serious collector happy. Before CDR, all music had to be recorded on Maxwell XLII tapes, anything else was sub par in terms of quality. I had to write down source material and what generation of tape I had. Each recording from tape to tape reduced the quality of the actual sound.

Even in this new world of exact digital copies, and easy downloads; one still has to be precise as to where ones bootleg collection comes from. Serious collectors will collect several versions of a particularly fine concert to get the best possible source material.

The problem with downloading concerts is that they are often very large files. A Grateful Dead concert often went for three sets, lasting into the wee hours of the morning. Three or four compact disks worth of music can add up to several gigs for a download.

Though the rest of the digital community has converted entire music collections to the .mp3 format, bootleg collectors of stature, cannot stand the degradation in quality that comes from such a compression. Yet, .wav files are much, much too big for a conceivable download.

There are a couple of formats that are now used to compress sound files into something downloadable, without causing any compromise in the sound quality. Both .shn (or shorten) and flac are acceptable compression files.

Both types of files come with their own software to decode the compressions (or compress .wav files). Each also create special signals which can be read by the software to ensure the compression still contains exact data. You can find .shn software at the immensely informative etree site and flac software is available at their own website.

There are numerous website out there in which to download new and old bootlegs. One of the most useful, and expansive is Archive has thousands of concerts available in a myriad of compressed and uncompressed files.

One of the most popular formats in which to download bootleg concerts today is bittorrent. This format has gotten a lot of flack lately in the media because it has also become the primary source of illegal downloads as well.

Bittorrent is kind of an evolution of the peer to peer download software as developed by Napster and Gnutella. Bittorrent’s ability to allow everyone to download small parts of the shared file from everyone allows for simple and fast downloads.

There are torrent sites out there for nearly every band that has ever played a concert. One of my favorites is It’s very jam band friendly, but well, so am I.

If Wilco is your band of choice then let me introduce you to Via Chicago Torrents.

Is bluegrass your thing? Then check out the Bluegrass Box.

None of this suit your fancy, then drop on down to Pure Live Gigs, where they torrent everything from the Rolling Stones to Frank Zappa to Stevie Wonder. With a few searches you can find just about anything you would ever want. It’s a big bootleg world out there, so come on in, the music’s just fine.

Frank Sinatra
Oakland, CA

One of the interesting things that has happened to my collection since going broadband is my ability to collect a myriad of bootlegs from a variety of genres.. In my tape trading days, I generally stuck to the Grateful Dead and other jam bands. The trading scene consisted mostly of bands that actively allowed tapers into their midst and legally allowed their concerts to be traded, freely amongst fans. Where a lot of your big name acts actively pursue punishment for concert recorders, most jam bands, following in the footsteps of the Grateful Dead, accept and encourage the sharing of their concerts.

However, as my horizons expanded with each available download, I found live concerts of nearly every type. While Frank Sinatra may not sing “Fly Me to the Moon” in 50 different ways, it is still interesting to hear how he sounded in a live setting. At under a quarter per blank disk, and only a few bucks a month for the internet connection, the price was completely right to find out.

This show is a lovely sounding soundboard of Sinatra singing many of his standards and fan favorites. The backing band is swinging and his voice is in full form.

Apparently there were some hecklers at this show, for a few times Sinatra cuts his singing off to take a crack right back at them. Just before he sings “Nancy (With the Laughing Face)” he jibes, “Oh the back the back…” obviously frustrated with the hecklers. Yet, through it all he is the ultimate professional, never breaking the rhythm of the song.

Sinatra has such a fluid, real voice that many of the songs sound almost exactly like the studio versions. It is a voice so strong that it doesn’t need the digital clean up of the studio to make the girls swoon.

More than once I’ve gotten a few queer looks from other drives as I buzz down the road singing at the top of my lungs with Frank on “Fly Me to the Moon.”

Sinatra seems to love all the songs he sings. To introduce them he announces this is one of the greatest songs ever written. Towards the end he nearly runs out of adjectives to describe the songs (the greatest/sweetest/loveliest American/folk/contemporary songs every written by a left footed Bulgarian ballerina.)

Personally, I could do without some of the slower ballads like “It Was a Very Good Year,” and the very rich, and very white Sinatra really can’t pull off the powerful slave songs “Ol’ Man River,” even if it was written by two very white men.

But this is Sinatra, and to complain over a few song choices is trivial. The voice is there and that’s enough to win points with any lover, playing over a candle lit dinner.

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