With the release of (and my coverage of on the group blog of) the Super Deluxe, eight-CD boxset reissue of Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, it became a lot harder trying to keep all the working material for this album straight. This album had a notoriously labored recording history, enough to fill three full-length albums and spill over into a fourth outtakes disc. This would be a lot on its own, but this was not the first time some of this was released!
For one thing, there were actually two bootlegs circulated circa the album's official release, the YHF Demos and the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Engineer Demos, each with unique mixes of their respective songs, and both overlap a bunch with this boxset. Further, there's Alpha Mike Foxtrot, another Wilco rarities boxset which also features some of these songs.
In the interests of keeping everything straight and finding the best quality versions of each take, I've gone through the three drafts from the boxset, the outtakes disc, the bootlegs, and Alpha Mike Foxtrot and written a full guide as to their contents. This page is effectively the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot version of LiveNirvana's coverage of With the Lights Out, but that page is supremely useful, so I don't think they'd mind.
I'd also like to direct you to this fantastic blog post covering all the versions of each YHF song. There's enough differences in approach that I'm still bothering with my page; mine's an at-a-glance quick reference for overlap between each set, while he focuses on listing all the unique versions of each song, which is good if you have favorites.
(Note: The "Exclusive?" field of each table is for if you can find this version on other releases. An asterisk (Yes*) denotes when a track isn't totally exclusive, but the version is unique enough or enough of a quality upgrade to make it one you should seek out. For example, several of the bootlegs' songs are sourced from lossy (possibly MiniDisc, possibly early MP3, I'm not sure), while the boxset features them in much better quality.)
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Super Deluxe Boxset
Released September 16, 2022 in an 11 LP set and an eight CD set. Featured are the entirety of the original album, early cuts arranged in three distinct running orders, an extra disc of outtakes and instrumentals, a radio appearance on Chicago's WXRT from September 18, 2001, and a live set from July 23, 2002 split across two CDs.
Paired with the discs are a coffee table book, half-written history of the recording of the album by Bob Mehr and half-roundtable discussion on mixing and releasing the record from Jeff Tweedy and Glenn Kotche (members of Wilco), Jim O'Rourke (producer/mixer), and Cheryl Pawelski (boxset producer and archivist).
Disc Two: American Aquarium
|Nothing Up My Sleeve
|No||YHF Demos has this version with better dynamic range.|
|Venus Stopped the Train||Yes||A full-band arrangement not heard on either of the bootlegs!|
|Poor Places||No||YHF Demos has this version with better dynamic range.|
|I Am Trying to Break Your Heart||Yes||Early rendition! A more traditional full-band arrangement with a scratch vocal.|
|Yes*||Engineer Demos has this this version listed as "Corduroy Cutoff Girl", but in lossy.|
|Cars Can't Escape||No||YHF Demos has this version listed as "Rhythm" in near-identical quality and mastering.|
|Kamera||No||YHF Demos has this version in near-identical quality and mastering.|
|War on War||Yes||Funky, hyper mandolin version!|
|I'm the Man Who Loves You||Yes||Early rendition! Not far off from the bootleg versions in arrangement, but with a lot more guitar.|
|Ashes of American Flags||Yes||Early rendition! Amusingly much closer to the final song in arrangement than either of the bootleg versions.|
"Not for the Season"
|Yes||Slow and atmospheric, unlike any other version of this song. Very cool!|
|Shakin' Sugar||Yes*||YHF Demos has this version listed as "Alone" with an alternate intro, mix, and speed differences.|
|Let Me Come Home||Yes||Unique rendition with a fuller arrangement than the bootleg versions.|
|Poor Places||Yes||Early rendition! Just an acoustic and Jeff's voice.|
|Reservations||Yes||Early rendition! Very similar to the final album version, just with less ambience.|
Disc Three: Here Comes Everybody
"Not for the Season"
|Yes*||YHF Demos has this version in similar dynamic range, but I think the mix on the boxset is a little clearer.|
"Remember to Remember"
|Yes||Early version of the A Ghost is Born track! Totally exclusive to the boxset.|
|I Am Trying to Break Your Heart||No||Engineer Demos has this version with better dynamic range.|
|Kamera||Yes||Another earlier, brighter rendition of the song. Vocal phrasing is closer to final and there's a solid drumbeat throughout.|
|Radio Cure||Yes||Seemingly just Tweedy and his acoustic guitar rumbles. Neat to hear!|
|War on War||Yes||Totally exclusive! Closer to final, just needs more sounds, layering, and a better vocal.|
|Venus Stopped the Train||No||Both the YHF Demos and Engineer Demos feature this version, the former in similar quality and dynamic range and latter in a lossy, more vocal-heavy mix that cuts out.|
|I'm the Man Who Loves You||Yes||Vocal and acoustic only! Very good sounding despite the lack of ornamentation.|
|The Good Part||No||Engineer Demos has this version with better dynamic range.|
|Pot Kettle Black||Yes||Early rendition! Very rough, unfocused, and unfinished, but unique.|
|Ashes of American Flags||Yes||Early rendition! Similar to the last disc, but the band was trying to lead with acoustic guitar for this one as opposed to piano.|
|Poor Places||Yes||Early rendition! Best described as the last disc's full-band version with the mood of the final and the tone of the last disc's acoustic reprise.|
|Shakin' Sugar||No||Engineer Demos has this version with better dynamic range.|
|Reservations||No||YHF Demos has this version in near-identical quality and mastering.|
|Cars Can't Escape||Yes||Alpha Mike Foxtrot has the same take with mixing differences (that one sounds clearer and has an ambient intro, this one has backing vocals).|
Disc Four: The Unified Theory of Everything
|A Magazine Called Sunset||Yes||Exclusive! A big, stompy, lower-key version of the otherwise sunny Foxtrot outtake.|
"Remember to Remember"
|Yes||Another new version of this A Ghost is Born song—more abstract and Foxtrot-y than the one on Here Comes Everybody.|
|I Am Trying to Break Your Heart||Yes||The classic intro is now in place! The percussion mixing is still wildly off from final.|
|Kamera||Yes||Similar in arrangement and tone to the rock version on YHF Demos, but a wholly unique take.|
|Radio Cure||Yes||The song resembles the final now, just with some differences in arrangement and mixing (like the extra reverb on the vocals).|
|War on War||Yes||Very close to final—missing the intro and some of the noises, but the guitars, percussion, and vocals are final to my ears.|
|Jesus, Etc.||Yes||Neither of the bootlegs had a version of this one! Missing the strings and with very early lyrics.|
|Ashes of American Flags||Yes||The fabled "Stravinsky mix"—Igor Stravinsky's avant-garde classical works are mixed in as ambience throughout the song.|
|Heavy Metal Drummer||Yes||This version, YHF Demos, and Engineer Demos are all the same take with different arrangements and mixing.|
|I'm the Man Who Loves You||Yes||Absolutely leftfield, hypercaffeinated version of this song, almost 50s rock 'n' roll? Totally exclusive to this disc, crazy to hear.|
|Pot Kettle Black||Yes||There's some extraneous instrumentation (like the woaw keys) that would get stripped away for the final album, otherwise close to final.|
|Poor Places||Yes||A funky mix of the full-band feel of the earlier versions with some of the sounds and lyrics from final finally creeping into the mix.|
|Reservations||No||Engineer Demos has this version in near-identical quality and mastering.|
Disc Five: Lonely in the Deep End
|Love Will (Let You Down)||No||YHF Demos has this version in near-identical quality and mastering.|
|Lost Poem||Yes||Boxset exclusive! A surprisingly roughly-recorded full-band jam with hard to hear vocals, probably from the early part of the sessions.|
|I'm the Only One Who Lets Her Down||Yes||Boxset exclusive! Another roughly-recorded full-band jam with difficult to understand vocals. A nice groove though.|
|Has Anybody Seen My Pencil||Yes||Boxset exclusive! An eerie little shambling number with very very clipped vocals from Jeff.|
|The Good Part||Yes||Boxset exclusive! A funny, sad, acoustic take on the usually-upbeat Foxtrot outtake, probably from the same sessions as the other jams.|
|A Magazine Called Sunset||Yes||Probably from the same early sessions as the other jams, this one's a lot more finished than those. Some nice lyrical riffing from Jeff.|
|A Magazine Called Sunset||Yes||The Alpha Mike Foxtrot version with the vocals mixed out.|
|Nothing Up My Sleeve
|Yes||An abandoned, full-band, instrumental version of this one! Very pretty and Summerteeth-esque.|
|Kamera||Yes||Another rock version, this one shows the band playing with the groove and tempo of the song. Pretty similar to the "Camera" rendition.|
|I'm the Man Who Loves You||Yes||Boxset exclusive! Wilco trying a slow, droning version of this one? Something like that.|
|I Am Trying to Break Your Heart||Yes||The band plays this one very straight, and acoustic guitar leads the band. There's very little percussion, surprisingly.|
|Jesus, Etc.||Yes||Wurlitzer "Jesus"! Very simple and skeletal version, and the lyrics are still very unfinished.|
|Reservations||Yes||The version from the final album with the vocals mixed out.|
|Let Me Come Home||Yes||Marked as a "synth" version, this is mostly a little synth church organ warbling to itself. No vocals.|
|Ooby Dooby||Yes||A cover of the Roy Orbison tune! It's great to hear Wilco having so much fun, and I believe this was the first song recorded at their studio The Loft?|