Monday, November 6, 2017

Now Available for Download or Purchase: Dylan's Trouble No More -- Bootleg Series Vol. 13

Here's the full nine yards.
Around Sunday noon the dog began barking like someone had just driven up the drive, so I took a peek. Sure enough it was a vehicle with the USPS insignia on it. Except it was Sunday, so it didn't really make sense. The man putzed around whil leaning into the opened back door while holding a scanner to record details of the delivery, and then nervously brought it over to the gate, somewhat intimidated by the barking. Turns out he was from Amazon. I alleviated his concerns and encouraged him to pass through the gate so I could receive the package, which consisted of a book I'd ordered [Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art] and the newly released Trouble No More, Volume 13 in Dylan's Bootleg Series.

This summer we saw the release of Scott Marshall's highly researched, deep dive into the spiritual thread that runs through Dylan's life and lyrics (Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life). It seems to have been a perfect set-up for the release of #13 in the Bootleg Series. And though his Gospel period may still have its detractors, there are others who seem to have gained a measure of perspective with the passage of time.  Here's the "summing up" from a review by Randy Lewis of the L.A. Times:

With the distance of nearly four decades, it’s possible now to look back at this period and recognize that yet again, the Bard from Hibbing, Minn., was doing what he’s done so consistently through all phases of his career: challenging orthodoxy.

What made this manifestation of the impulse to prod and provoke so intriguing is that it was an unexpected orthodoxy Dylan chose to put under his microscope: the orthodoxy of rock ’n’ roll.

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Nov. 8, 1979, San Francisco. Courtesy Bill Pagel.
It wasn't long before the two CDs (disc 1 & 2) were in the CD player. And it was even less time before I had my first round of buyer's remorse, that sense of regret that occurs after a purchase in which we feel we've made a wrong choice. In this case, my regret was as follows: I wished I'd ordered the Deluxe Edition, with 8 CDs plus a DVD that includes unreleased footage from his 1980 tour. Evidently there are ways to save a small wad of cash by downloading from iTunes. Now I have more hard choices.

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One thing different about this new set in the Bootleg Series is that there are fewer studio session outtakes, none on the two-disc set that I acquired yesterday.

Dylan's live performances show the same kind of reconfiguration as his studio outtakes though, and the albums he's produced and songs he's written are never set in stone. In this series of live concert selections we're treated to numerous variations of Slow Train.

The set list also changes over time. It will be noticed that early on his focus was on this new material drawn from the new faith he appeared earnestly to embrace. On the CDs from his 1981 concerts we find playlists that incorporate "Early Bob" like Mr. Tambourine Man, Just Like A Woman and It's All Over Now, Baby Blue. It would be the beginning of another transition, and just as some of the songs from Street Legal foreshadowed this new segment in Dylan's career, so too these 1981 concerts can be said to foreshadow Infidels and what came beyond.

Though many of the songs here were only performed for that three-year stint from '79 to '81, Dylan continued to play Slow Train till September 1987 and Gotta Serve Somebody has been a staple in more than 400 concerts through 2011.

As time permits, over the next few weeks I hope to share my own impressions and insights from the material on this new collection. 

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