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Mermaid Avenue: the Complete Sessions
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Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions (3CD/DVD)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The content of Vol. III has never been officially available in one package. However, several of the songs were available on bootlegs for years, while others were released on the She Came Along to Me EP in 1998. "When the Roses Bloom Again" was released on the Chelsea Walls soundtrack in 2002. The sound quality of Vol. III is better than previous sources and consistent with Vol. I and II. Does the addition of Vol. III really complete the sessions? Pretty much. It would've been nice if Jeff Tweedy's solo/acoustic version of "At My Window Sad and Lonely" (from the She Came Along to Me EP) was included, as it is superior to the full band version on Vol. I, but you still can and should seek it out.
The package is a multifold digipack. It's not very sturdy for the amount of discs and thick booklet that it holds, but it should be fine for a while. Inside the booklet there is a new lengthy introduction from Nora Guthrie, lyric sheets, photos by Woody Guthrie and full lyrics with song credits. The old intros/notes from the previous releases of Vol. I and II are not here. For anyone picky about the vocal duties throughout the first two volumes, Vol. III's count is: Billy Bragg (10), Jeff Tweedy (5), Corey Harris (2).
For anyone curious about previous sources:
Bugeye Jim (EP)
When the Roses Bloom Again (bootleg, Chelsea Walls)
My Thirty Thousand (bootleg, EP)
Go Down to the Water (End credits of Man in the Sand)
Give Me a Nail (bootleg)
Ain'ta Gonna Grieve (bootleg)
I'm Out to Get ("Greenback Dollar" from the bootleg)
**EDIT** (6/8/2012): Recently, I rewatched Man in the Sand from the DVD included in this package. I noticed that the DVD menu is not the same as the one from the previous release, and the bonus demos from that release ("Birds and Ships" / "She Came Along to Me" / "I Guess I Planted" / "Eisler on the Go" / "The Unwelcome Guest") are not included on the DVD with this package. I'm not sure what the reasoning behind that is, but they are not essential unless you're a diehard fan of the sessions.
however, i will still give the set 5 stars for the music, but nonesuch should be ashamed.
Many here are criticizing Volume III as "leftovers" and "outtakes," which is fair since Volume III was released over a decade later than the previous volumes. However, Volume III is great listening, especially if you like blues.
Overall, the experiment is a critically acclaimed rousing success, fascinating on many levels. If Woody really has tons of unpublished lyrics as reported, there is no reason they can't keep making more of these volumes, it can become its own franchise.