The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961-1991 (1991)


 
Disc One 1. Hard Times in New York 2. He Was a Friend of Mine 3. Man on the Street 4. No More Auction Block 5. House Carpenter 6. Talkin' Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues 7. Let Me Die in My Footsteps 8. Ramblin' Gamblin' Willie 9. Talkin' Have Negleliah Blues 10.Quit Your Lowdown Ways 11.Worried Blues 12.Kingsport Town 13.Walkin' Down the Line 14.Walls of Red Ring 15.Paths of Victory 16.Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues 17.Who Killed Davey Moore? 18.Only a Hobo 19.Moonshiner 20.When the Ship Comes In 21.The Times They Are A-Changin' 22.Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie Disc Two 1. Seven Curses 2. Eternal Cirlcle 3. Suze (The Cough Song) 4. Mama You Been on My Mind 5. Farewell Angelina 6. Subterranean Homesick Blues 7. If You Gotta Go, Go Now 8. Sitting on a Barbed Wire Fence 9. Like a Rolling Stone 10.It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry 11.I'll Keep it With Mine 12.She's Your Lover Now 13.I'll Shall Be Released 14.Santa-Fe 15.If Not For You 16.Wallflower 17.Nobody 'Cept You 18.Tangled Up in Blue 19.Call Letter Blues 20.Idiot Wind Disc Three 1. If You See Her, Say Hello 2. Golden Loom 3. Catfish 4. Seven Days 5. Ye Shall Be Changed 6. Every Grain of Sand 7. You Changed My Life 8. Need a Woman 9. Angelina 10.Someone's Got a Hold On My Heart 11.Tell Me 12.Lord Protect My Child 13.Foot of Pride 14.Blind Willie McTell 15.When the Night Comes Falling From the Sky 16.Series of Dreams

 

In many ways, the terms "Bob Dylan" and "bootlegs" have almost seemed synonymous over the history of popular music. It's not that he was the only artist that was heavily bootlegged, it's just that he was one of those artists who had masses of pirated material that was incredibly good, and seemed somewhat unjustified that so much of his catalog remained on the shelf. As the linear notes to this compilation mention, much of Dylan's bootlegged material was around during the hey-day of the late sixties, and since fans didn't have something like an internet around, very few could tell the difference. A listen to this box set helps explain why.

There's nothing subpar here. The majority of the 58 tracks here are real tracks, Not throwaways or messy unfinished product, just real solid music. Sure, there are plenty of demos, but when you consider that much of Dylan's first few records were so simple in the production, you could really argue that many people couldn't tell the difference between what was a demo and what was not. 95% of the material could have (some would say "should" have) been on legitimate releases. Yes, there's the occasional stop-start action in the studio where a track ends in mid song (see Suze (The Cough Song)) and his six minute plus spoken poem to Woody Guthrie (Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie) seems a little odd, but maybe this was included to show just how brilliant this man was when it came to quickly churning out classics? Whether it was lyrics or music?

The set is chronological, and that adds to its value. Basically the entire first disc is his folk, one-man, one-guitar, phase. Some of the songs we've heard before, but this plays just as good as the early albums that made such an indent on popular music. Disc two picks up with his post-folk, electric period all the way to the mid seventies - a time when he was no longer immortal, yet managed to still release great music from time to time. The last disc features the latter part of his career that was the most mysterious and most forgotten. A lot of Born Again stuff is there, as well as a huge amount of unreleased (yet still brilliant) works from his Infidels period. Some of the third disc (like his career) slips a bit in quality, but the music overall is very strong, and, like everything else here, sometimes rivals the music that was released officially.

Glancing at the track list, you're bound to see a handful of familiar song titles. It's all in a different format - some demos, some alternate versions. I won't go out on the limb to say they're better than what was released, but just about every version here, from The Times They Are-a Changin' to Subterranean Homesick Blues to Tangled Up in Blue to Every Grain of Sand. They all sound just as incredible as their officially released counterparts.

The linear notes mention that this release is only a small sample of the zads of unreleased material Dylan has to offer, and that future releases would see the light of day someday soon. Fortunately, many have, yet the "bootleg" novelty would wear thin after awhile, and some future releases were more of a collectors item than a real listening treasure as this one proved to be. It was the best of the best - even rivaling his best legitimate work. The man has proven once again that he is, in fact, a true genius.

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