Friday, 2 November 2018

Bob Dylan - More Blood, More Tracks: The Bootleg Series Vol. 14


  

This review refers mainly to the ten track compilation of alternative takes of each of the original album’s ten tracks, plus “Up To Me”. I have also listened to other selected versions taken from the extended box set (those that are offered on streaming services as a “sampler”). Personally, I am only interested in the music, so it is the digital downloads I am writing about. I have no knowledge of problems with booklets and the like.

It is a strange thing, listening to different takes of songs you have been so incredibly familliar with for well over forty years now, so much that you know virtually every note and vocal nuance. To be honest, I have to question whether I really want, or need a “alternative” version of an album that, let’s face it, is pretty much perfect. What is know for sure is that I have no desire to plough through no less than NINE versions of “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go”, as you get on the full deluxe box set. Sorry, but personally I can’t really see the point in that. (Incidentally, the one version of “Lonesome” I have heard so far, “Take 5”,  is extended, slowed down and with a more prominent drum sound. I like it a lot). It is interesting, however, to listen to this selected collection of “work in progress” versions as one complete “alternative album”, so to speak. True hard core fans will want to listen to the whole lot, of course. “Soft core” ones like myself will be more than happy with this. Many fans who are perfectly happy with the brilliance of the original album will be more than content to stick with that.

Some alternative versions of some of the tracks were previously available on “The Bootleg Series 1-3” (“If You See Her Say Hello”. “Idiot Wind” and “Tangled Up In Blue”) and “You’re A Big Girl Now” was avalable on the “Biograph” compilation. So, I had heard some of them.

Regarding the music, what these stripped down, far more acoustic versions have is a more bleak, intense nature to them. In my view the eventual recordings add a fullness to the songs which can’t be beaten, therefore, however hauntingly beautiful the versions of “If You See Her, Say Hello” and “You’re A Big Girl Now” are, for example. I still have to say that I prefer them in their finished incarnations, so I have to ask myself how often I will be revisting these recordings. The answer is only occasionally. That said, though, listening to “Tangled Up In Blue” ("Take 3, Remake 3") with its slightly different lyrics and subtle, melodious bass lines is a real pleasure. There is an appealing, understated feeling to it. The same applies to a gorgeous "Shelter From The Storm" ("Take 1)", with its catchy piano bits. "Simple Twist Of Fate ("Take 3a")" is just sublime. It has a truly lovely vocal, bass and gentle drum/cymbal sound. Actually, I can see how these versions may start creeping into my consciousness. If I start listening to them more than I do the original album, would that be a betrayal? After all these years together, too…

Unlike many, “Lily, Rosemary & The Jack Of Hearts” has always been my favourite track on the album. (I am a big fan of Dylan’s narrative “story” songs). The version I have listened to here, “Take 2”, is delivered in “Tangled Up In Blue”, laid-back acoustic style. I have to say I prefer the fast-paced, drum-backed one that was eventually used. It has more poetic vibrancy, a cinematic speed that the song’s tale's needs, in my opinion. The lively pace suits the story.

As a resource for part-time (and full-time) Dylanologists, the collection(s) are both interesting and relevant. Whether anyone who doesn’t fall into those categories will find it essential is open to question, certainly not the full version, although people like me will find the abridged release extremely interesting.

B+

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