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Audio CD, April 9, 2002
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Now in his 20th year as a recording artist, Steve Earle is one of America's most acclaimed and respected singer-songwriters. He is also one of the most prolific—and the latest result of his prodigious creative efforts is Sidetracks, a new 13-song collection comprised of previously unreleased numbers, music from film soundtracks, and unheard alternate versions.

"With the exception of two instrumentals," Steve explains, "these are not outtakes. They are, rather, stray tracks…that I am very proud of and that are either unreleased or underexposed."

Leave it to Steve Earle to unleash one of the most off-the-wall odds 'n' sods collections ever; it's also, by the way, one of the most satisfying. Except for two plucky instrumentals originally meant for Transcendental Blues, there are no outtakes here, just a batch of movie-soundtrack songs, demos, live takes, and previously unreleased tracks. They include the inspired, revelatory "Me and the Eagle" (from The Horse Whisperer); the credible white-boy reggae "Johnny Too Bad" with the V-Roys; a churning remake of Nirvana's "Breed"; a storming, camp-free duet with Sheryl Crow on the Chambers Brothers' psychedelic period piece "Time Has Come Today"; and a demo of "Ellis Unit One" with the Fairfield Four that sounds like a field recording made inside the prison walls. It all hangs together to rank this among Earle's finest albums. --John Morthland

1. Some Dreams
2. Open Your Window
3. Me And The Eagle
4. Johnny Too Bad
5. Dominic Street
6. Breed
7. Time Has Come Today
8. Ellis Unit One
9. Creepy Jackalope Eye
10. Willin'
11. Sara's Angel
12. My Uncle
13. My Back Pages

Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 9, 2002)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Artemis Records
  • ASIN: B000063CO9
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #168,089 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Harris J. Schneider on April 11, 2002
Format: Audio CD
Let me start by admitting I'm a Steve Earle nut. I was tempted to give this 5 stars just because anything he does is essential listening for me, but I think this one is a bit less cohesive than his last 5 CDs and, depending on your taste may have a few songs you'd like to skip. For me the 3 songs with Tim O'Brien and the Bluegrass Dukes are the best (Willin, Sarah's Angel and My Uncle). Some Dreams is a terrific pop song although not his best. The duet with Sheryl Crow on Time Has Come Today is terrific. I prefer the version of Ellis Unit One from Dead Man Walking, but this one is great and may grow on me. Creepy Jackelope Eye is an oddball hit. My Back Pages is terrific (Earle's description is accurate-the vocal is out of his range, but it works anyway). Breed sounds great. Me and the Eagle is one of his best songs, but, of course, I already knew that before I bought this CD. But overall the CD just doesn't hang together like Transcendental Blues, I Feel Alright, Train A Comin', El Corazon and The Mountain. This is his Odds and Sods or Taking Liberties, both great records I love, but don't rank among The Who's or Elvis Costello's best work. If you love Steve, buy it; if you don't know him too well, buy El Corazon or I Feel Alright or Transcendental Blues; if you like bluegrass, buy the Mountain and Train A Comin'; if you like country, buy Guitar Town. Once you've done that, if you're a fan, you'll want this one too.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. Lemons on April 18, 2003
Format: Audio CD
Overshadowed by the controversy that surrounded Steve's "Jerusalem" album last year, this unassuming CD is a hidden gem. Essentially, it's a hodgepodge collection of B-sides and other assorted songs from the vault. But unlike most other albums of this kind, it's listenable from start to finish.
What the album lacks in cohesiveness, it makes up for in musicianship and enthusiasm. The CD blasts off with "Some Dreams," a defiant, rollicking country rocker that Steve wrote for the Dennis Quaid film, "The Rookie." In the song, Steve slyly reminds us that "some dreams don't ever come true... but some dreams do." And "Dominick St." and "Sara's Angel" are two joyous bluegrass instrumentals from the "Transcendental Blues" sessions.
Steve has a lot of fun with an eclectic array of covers, too. He injects a little twang and a lot of attitude in his cover of Nirvana's "Breed." Little Feat's "Willin'" is transformed into a easygoing bluegrass number. And Steve's emotional rendering of the Bob Dylan classic, "My Back Pages," closes the album gracefully.
About the only track that fails on any level is "Time Has Come Today," his duet with Sheryl Crow. The song itself is pretty good... a little more polished than usual for Steve, but enjoyable nonetheless. But the song inexplicably splices 60s-era speeches from Abbie Hoffman and others in the middle of verses that adds nothing to the song.
Overall, I highly recommend this collection to Steve's fans. Neophytes may be better served with other albums including "Transcendental Blues", "I Feel Alright" and "Guitar Town". Even so, fans and nonfans alike will have a lot of fun listening to this one. Enjoy!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By chasread on April 13, 2002
Format: Audio CD
As advertised, a compilation of tracks not intended to be presented together... is there a common thread? Earle picked 'em to hang together here... and they do. Not the way his last five or so disks do, in which each set is conceived thematically or stylistically... but as a document that pulls together many disparate pieces of the puzzle that is Earle. As a set, this compilation integrates many elusive essences of Earle: total fluency across many musical genres and styles, beautiful marriages of seeming contradictions, great musicianship, surprising and illuminating song selections, his film work, etc.
As such, this disk reveals a great deal about Earle... for example, five covers of 30-year old songs (give or take)... clearly formative years for Earle, tell us way more about him than we thought we already knew: Dylan's My Back Pages, Parsons/Hillman's My Uncle, The Slickers' Johnny Too Bad, Lowell George's Willin'... and most surprisingly (but appropriately) the Chambers Brothers' Time Has Come Today. This last one, with Cheryl Crow singing, is a total revelation/reinvention, complete with rants by Abbie Hoffman.
Yes some of these selections are available elsewhere... to the die-hard fan who seeks them out. But it's GREAT to have them here, selected by the master himself... a record of some great takes that almost got away.
If you are new to Earle start with some of his other disks, and you'll appreciate this one even more.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Wilbur Farley on May 8, 2002
Format: Audio CD
Steve Earle has a knack of putting together a "collection of songs" that comes off sounding more cohesive than most other folks' slaved-over studio albums.
No: this album isn't as powerfully driven by a unifying lyrical vision as a _Transcendental Blues_ or an _El Corazon_ (a couple of his albums that I listen to an inordinate amount), but I sure as heck don't mind hitting the "repeat CD" button when I've got this one in, either! Songs like "Some Dreams" and "Me and the Eagle" capture that "bangin' my head against the wall, but don't know any other way" worldview that makes Earle so accessible. The Fairfield Four's vocals on this version of "Ellis Unit One" creep under your skin and make a powerful addition to an already powerful song. And his liner notes are incredibly funny and make this an even more fun trip. If you can wrap your head/heart around the quirky yet solid variety of an album like _Train A'coming_ (hmmm: coincidence that his last "collection" was titled that?), you'll love _Sidetracks_.
If you're not already a friend of Earle's music, this may not make you one, but it'll definitely make you want to hear more.
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