Here's the whole repost, for Bob's 70th birthday:
I don't know if there is any need to go and explain what the basement tapes are (btw, after dylan's famous motorbike accident -probably an exaggereted one- his Bobness himself decided to take some time for himself, some time in the country -Woodstock was the place, just playin' round with The Band some old american music -some would call it Americana these days- and improved some new tunes, the most of it in a totally free way, with no push whatsover), but the fact is, and this has to be stated clear, the basement tapes which later got to be released through Sony were never intended to be for the public audience and, more important to us, they were just the tip of the iceberg.
Meaning there were loads of songs (and songs and songs...) left in Dylan's archives (want me to name one? The stuning "I'm not there", which gave the name for Todd Haynes's bizarre biopic last year), and all of that soon came out labelled as "Genuine basement tapes", a 5 CDs collection full of interesting material though not lacking flaws(i.e. the recording quality being the major one, and then, well, maybe too many takes or some not-so interesting short bits or sketches of songs, but hey, de gustibus...).
So what is "A Tree With Roots" then?
Quite easy to tell: the same genuine tapes, remastered, but with an order which kind of tries to make some sense out of the mass of pretty random music compositions. All of it compressed in a 4 volumes edition, and here am I giving you the first two (what'll you find in these? I'd say some little gems like Lock your door, Bonnie ship the diamond, or Dylan and the Band covering Bells of rhymney...but these are just some of my faves, and there are 58 in here, so knock yourself off and your own ones). And wait for 3 & 4 (with Going to Acapulco, the now famous I'm not there and the very core of the basement tapes, I'd say)
Want to to know more on ATWR? Check this page here (for the complete tracklist, the story and some notes). Or wiki for the whole story behind the basement tapes.
Next (in a couple of days): Vol. 3 & 4.
A Tree With Roots Vol. 1
A Tree With Roots Vol. 2