24 December 2007

Dylan's "The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1 - 3: Rare And Unreleased, 1961-1991"

.... Who killed Davey Moore,
Why an' what's the reason for?
"Not us," says the angry crowd,
Whose screams filled the arena loud.
"It's too bad he died that night
But we just like to see a fight.
We didn't mean for him t' meet his death,
We just meant to see some sweat,
There ain't nothing wrong in that.
It wasn't us that made him fall.
No, you can't blame us at all. ...."

(-- Bob Dylan, excerpt from Who Killed Davey Moore?
Copyright © 1964; renewed 1992 Special Rider Music)

I still remember the first time I saw this collection of rare and unreleased Dylan material. It was in the mid-1980's in the massive vinyl collection of a friend. After reviewing the track listings, I said to myself, "I've got to get a copy of this." Many years later, and to this day, the 3 CD set is still among my most prized song collections.

What excited me initially, the outtakes from the Infidels sessions, turned out to be among the least of the treasures here.
The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1 - 3: Rare And Unreleased, 1961-1991

Despite the fact that Biograph has got Up to Me (recorded but not issued during the Blood on the Tracks sessions) on it, I, as others, have never been happy with the haphazard arrangement of the tracks on that collection. The Bootleg Series (v. 1 - 3) completely solves that problem by going in comprehensive, chronological, and ultimately cosmic, order.
This chronology paints an entirely different portrait of Dylan than you find in his released work. (Vol. 4 and 5 do the same -- I never had "a grasp of the picture" until I heard Visions of Johanna performed live in London by Dylan in 1965. That imagery-filled portrait is made almost crystal clear, to open ears, in Martin Scorsese's documentary No Direction Home.

The "door prize" here is, well, let me work with the the liner notes:
If Not For You [(-- Dylan, Harrison)]: In June 1970, Rolling Stone reported that Bob Dylan and George Harrison had spent a day together in a New York studio, putting down tracks[.] .... [F]rom that session ...
came a
acoustic slide guitar-driven version of the song unparalleled to this day.

The versions of Tangled Up in Blue and Idiot Wind here are nothing short of revelations. Most importantly, Idiot Wind here is delivered mournfully and reflectively, rather than with the caustic anger of the later take included on Blood on the Tracks.
For a Woody Guthrie fan like me, there is no better tribute than one of the only recordings of a Dylan poem ever made: Last Thoughts on Woodie Guthrie (recorded at a gig in April of 1963). This contemplation of the shifting sands of experience, and where holiness can be found, is pure Dylan without his controversial vocals at issue.
Regarding the 68 tracks on this box set, I could go on and on, on and on, and on and on and on. But I don't want you to read about it -- listen to the music and think about it. Let the music and poetry wash over you.
Update: I'm Not There available on DVD now (22May2008).

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