This list is dedicated to a few artists who know how to make a great studio album, but also have loads of amazing material that wasn't released on any studio album. That includes alternate takes, outtakes, demos, covers, bootlegs, and so on. Read on to find out why each artist made the list. *Feel free to send me any recommendations of other artists who should be considered for this list.
Although I'm sure the Beach Boys have some interesting rarities, outtakes, etc., the main reason for including them here is because of the SMiLE sessions for the long lost album that never was...well, not necessarily. Brian Wilson did eventually release SMiLE in 2004 with the help of his touring band and it is an excellent album, one of my favorites in fact. But there's always that thought of what would the album be like if it were performed by the Beach Boys. Brian Wilson and the rest of the band did work hard on the unreleased album that would eventually lead Wilson to a mental breakdown of sorts, and there are many bootlegs featuring those efforts. If you're looking for a faithful recreation of Brian Wilson's 2004 version, then I highly recommend Purple Chick's bootleg. It is my absolute favorite version of SMiLE, and that includes Wilson's 2004 release. There's just something about hearing the material from the Beach Boys rather than just Wilson and his touring band that makes it feel more authentic. If you're more interested in the various versions of different songs and how the recording process went, look for the Vigotone 2CD version. It's more of a scattershot album rather than a cohesive one, but it's fun to hear the different ways each song was performed, and there are even some studio sessions in there that are a real treat to listen to.
Bob Dylan has released a slew of excellent albums throughout the years which means there are just as many alternate takes, unreleased tracks, and other tidbits of music that come along with them. With some artists we'd never be able to hear those songs, but luckily us Bob Dylan fans have his wonderful Bootleg Series to turn to. The first three volumes were comprised of heavily bootlegged material from his beginnings in 1961 all the way to 1991. That's 30 years of material, and a large portion of it is really really good. Go figure. But wait, the Bootleg series also features some of Bob Dylan's best live material, including the legendary concert from London's Royal Albert Hall in 1966. Most recently, 2008 saw the release of Volume 8 which includes rarities from Bob Dylan's "renaissance period" (1989-present) as I like to call it. I honestly think Vol. 8 of the series is one of Dylan's best releases, even surpassing all of his individual albums from the years that it covers. Some of those alternate takes and unreleased tracks are were just begging to be released on his albums in past years. Sometimes Bob Dylan's choice on what tracks to include and exclude baffles me, but it just makes his Bootleg Series that much more enjoyable, so I'm not complaining.
Pavement were critically adored during their decade long run, but they never managed to do very well in sales. Considering they were an "indie rock" band though, I suppose that's appropriate. Despite this, the band has a strong and loyal fanbase. Matador Records, Pavement's label, recognized this, and to this point, four of the band's five albums have been given the Deluxe Edition treatment. I'm not talking remaster the album and maybe add a few tracks here and there. Each reissue is loaded with B-sides, covers, demos, radio performances, and other pieces of music that show how adventurous and downright crazy Pavement was - but I mean that in a good way. Each release features a whopping 44-50 tracks, and for the few throwaways that you'll end up listening to, there will be many many more hidden gems to discover. These are must-haves for any Pavement fan, and next year will see the re-release of the band's final album, Terror Twilight. I can't wait!
This is THE GREATEST B-sides band of all time in my opinion. Most other bands today would die to record studio album tracks that are as good in quality as Radiohead's B-sides. That right there is enough to put Radiohead on this list. But on top of that, they're one of the greatest live acts out there, and there are plenty of bootlegs to show that. There is only one official live release in Radiohead's discography, and it's composed of only eight tracks. That certainly isn't enough though, so if you're a Radiohead fan, you owe it to yourself to find some live bootlegs. And trust me, it won't be hard to find them considering Radiohead has one heck of a fanbase. There are entire websites dedicated to their live performances, so go out there and find them. You won't regret it.