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Nonesuch releases seven special editions of Wilco’s landmark 2002 album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. The now-classic record has been remastered and will be available as part of each set. The Super Deluxe version comprises eleven vinyl LPs and one CD – including demos, drafts, and instrumentals, charting the making of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot – plus a live 2002 concert recording and a September 2001 radio performance and interview. That box set includes eighty-two previously unreleased music tracks as well as a new book featuring an interview with singer/songwriter/guitarist Jeff Tweedy, drummer Glenn Kotche, and Jim O’Rourke, who mixed the acclaimed 2002 album; an in-depth essay by journalist/author Bob Mehr; and previously unseen photos of the band making the album in their Chicago studio, The Loft. For the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot recording, Wilco was Jeff Tweedy, John Stirratt, Leroy Bach, Glenn Kotche, and Jay Bennett with Craig Christiansen, Ken Coomer, Jessy Greene, Fred Lonberg-Holm, and Jim O’Rourke.
A live version of ‘Reservations’ from a legendary concert contained on Snoozin’ at The Pageant – Live 7/23/02 at The Pageant, St. Louis, MO – a recording that is part of the Super Deluxe LP and CD sets as well as the Deluxe LP and digital sets – is now available. A limited-edition vinyl 7” with versions of ‘I’m the Man Who Loves You’ and ‘War on War’, from the Super Deluxe box set, is available now from wilcostore.com.
Wilco marked the anniversary of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot – which was released commercially on April 23, 2002, after a circuitous and storied gestation, including a period of streaming for free on the band’s website – with a performance of the album’s ‘Poor Places’ on April 18’s Late Show with Stephen Colbert, which may be seen here. The band is currently performing Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in its entirety (plus a mix of concert favourites and rarities) in two limited runs at New York City’s United Palace and Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre. The Chicago show on April 23 will be available as a live stream here.
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was widely acclaimed as one of 2002’s best albums, appearing in year-end lists of Mojo, NME, Q, Rolling Stone, and Uncut, among many others. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot also was featured in multiple decade-end lists, with Rolling Stone naming it #3 Album of the 2000s, as well as many Greatest Albums of All Time lists, including in the NME.
Among Yankee’s inspirations was a recording Tweedy bought at Tower Records in the late 1990s, The Conet Project: Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations. As Bob Mehr points out in his new album note, the record got “deep under Tweedy’s skin.” Tweedy said in his 2017 memoir, Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back), “It was as fascinating to me as anything being made by actual musicians using actual instruments… I wanted to know why it was so hypnotic to me. Why could I listen to hours of this stuff, even though I had no clue what any of them were saying. That question became the foundation for Yankee Hotel Foxtrot… the way people communicated or ultimately failed to communicate.” The album takes its title from a haunting recording of a woman repeating those words that is included in The Conet Project; that recording is sampled in the penultimate song on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, ‘Poor Places’.
“Conceptually, Tweedy had decided to focus on a big idea for the next album: the state of America. His lyrics – often distilled from scribbled pages of free verse or poetry – became a form of inquiry,” Mehr continues. Tweedy said, in 2004, “I wanted to write about the stuff right in front of my eyes, microscopically looking at America and asking questions about each little thing… How can there be all these good things and things that I love about America, alongside all of these things that I’m ashamed of? And that was an internal question, too; I think I felt that way about myself.”
Mehr says, “Exploring those questions, while weaving in strands of Eastern philosophy and bits of autobiography – Yankee lyrics would be loaded with the pained imagery of someone suffering from migraines and mental health issues – Tweedy would conjure a deep examination of both country and self.”
Describing the uncanny, strangely prescient feeling of the album, which Wilco began offering as a free stream on its website in 2001, Mehr notes: “In the wake of 9/11, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot would be burdened with unintended meaning. The disc had originally been scheduled for a September 11 release. Its cover – a Sam Jones-shot image of Chicago’s twin Marina Towers angled in looming fashion – bore an eerie resemblance to the felled World Trade Center towers. And the songs – with titles like ‘Ashes of American Flags’ and ‘War on War,’ and lyrics about how ‘tall buildings shake, sad voices escape’ – took on a terrible new resonance.”
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was the first Wilco release on Nonesuch Records following the band’s infamous split with Reprise (both labels are part of Warner Music Group). It was also the first release featuring the line-up of drummer Glenn Kotche and multi-instrumentalist Leroy Bach joining founding members Jeff Tweedy and John Stirratt. The 2002 Sam Jones film I Am Trying to Break Your Heart documented the fraught recording and mixing process, personnel changes, and label issues.
The relationship with Nonesuch would last nearly a decade and include three more studio albums – the Grammy Award-winning A ghost is born, Sky Blue Sky, and Wilco (the album) – along with a live album and a live DVD, plus reissues of earlier records, before Wilco began its own label, dBpm. The band’s current lineup of Jeff Tweedy, John Stirratt, Glenn Kotche, Mikael Jorgensen, Patrick Sansone, and Nels Cline has been together for nearly twenty years.