A tossed-off vibe, a complete lack of focus and continuity, and poor fidelity: doesn't sound like a recipe for a rock-era touchstone, does it? Yet these elements are exactly what give The Basement Tapes its considerable charm. Recorded in the summer of 1967 at the "Big Pink" house near Woodstock, N.Y., this set captures Dylan and The Band woodshedding, bouncing ideas off the walls and each other. Steeped in traditional American roots music, these 24 tracks have the feel of a laid-back song swap. Though many of the tracks here are silly, sarcastic, or just downright weird, some display an elegance, beauty, and gravity that add much-needed balance. Songs like "Tears of Rage," "This Wheel's on Fire," and "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" would later become beloved classics, but even the lesser-known cuts ("Bessie Smith," "Katie's Been Gone") here are stirring and memorable.