ROIO of the Week [Recordings of Indeterminate Origin]

The YHF Demos [no label]

Sometime as 2001 wound down to a close, the Wilco website came alive as fans swarmed in search of the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot "demos" the band were offering as free MP3 downloads. You see, the YHF album was stuck in record company limbo. AOL-Time Warner refused to release it. The album bounced around as an MP3 until the band trimmed off seven tracks and two instrumentals and wrote another three songs to get it on Nonesuch, that it was released in April, 2002.

Then the surprising thing happened. It debuted on the Billboard 200 at Number 13. This album which had been distributed in its "demo" form among the tens of thousands of Wilco fans was the highest selling album in their career. By the RIAA's reckoning, illegal downloads would have killed Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

The YHF Demos gained momentum by word-of-mouth. If you listen to it, you can start a debate about what is and isn't a demo. The songs are fully formed, played well and Jeff Tweedy's singing is passionate. The album that circulated on the net had 21 tracks. The first 14 songs were followed by two instrumentals and an alternate take of one of the instrumentals. The final four tracks were alternate takes of four songs. Most fans concluded that this was not a demo album but an alternate version of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

When Nonesuch released the record company version in April, the album had been shortened to just 11 tracks with many songs removed and three new ones added. It was a different album.

The legend of the demo album would not die. The quest in the years that followed was to find the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Demos in its original uncompressed state. Sometime last year, the non-MP3 version emerged on the net among Wilco fans and it spread around the music community. This version has the full audio signal but there are two minor faults, a couple of digital clicks, that indicate the perfect version had yet to be found. - Michael Cheah

For a thorough review of the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Demos go here for Michael Goldberg's superb essay:

Below are the tracks for the demos of the Wilco album and what was released by Nonesuch.

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Demos

01 - I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
02 - Ashes of American Flags
03 - I'm The Man Who Loves You
04 - Magazine Called Sunset
05 - Reservations
06 - Kamera
07 - Not For the Season
08 - Alone
09 - Nothing Up My Sleeve
10 - Venus Stop the Train
11 - Rhythm
12 - Poor Places
13 - Won't Let You Down
14 - Heavy Metal Drummer
15 - Instrumental 1
16 - Instrumental 2
17 - Instrumental 2 (alternate)
18 - Kamera (alternate)
19 - Magazine Called Sunset (alternate)
20 - Alone (alternate)
21 - Not For the Season (alternate)

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Album (Nonesuch)

1. I am Trying to Break Your Heart
2. Kamera
3. Radio Cure
4. War on War
5. Jesus, etc.
6. Ashes of American Flags
7. Heavy Metal Drummer
8. I'm the Man Who Loves You
9. Pot Kettle Black
10. Poor Places
11. Reservations

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