This is the 16th installment of “The Bootleg Series” which started releasing unreleased studio songs and concert performances in 1991. Chronologically it overlaps and follows on from Volume 13, “Trouble No More“, which is a sensational eight disc compilation of the amazing live performances that Bob Dylan gave between 1979 and 1981 during what is mistakenly referred to as his “religious period”. Bob Dylan has always written and sung about religion.
It’s worth putting the music on this box set into the context of his album releases. His “Christian trilogy” consists of “Slow Train Coming” (1979), “Saved” (1980) and “Shot Of Love (1981). The songs on “Springtime In New York” were recorded between 1980 and 1985 during which time he also released “Infidels” (1983) and “Empire Burlesque” (1985). Most of the songs here were recorded in a studio as rehearsals, alternative versions or outtakes. There are 57 songs, spread over 5 CD’s, including 19 songs that have never been released before. None of the versions of the remaining 38 songs have been released previously. 41 of the songs were written by Bob Dylan.
|Another Side Of Bob Dylan (1964)||CD/Track|
The melody of this song is taken from a 1937 song called “The Last Letter” by a country music singer called Rex Griffin. The lyrics of “The Last Letter” take the form of a suicide letter from an old man to his younger wife who has just left him.
|Self Portrait (1970)|
|“Let It Be Me” (Gilbert Becaud/ Manny Curtis/Pierre Delanoe)|
This song reached Number 7 in the U.S.A. for The Everly Brothers in 1959.
|Street Legal (1978)|
Between 1978 and 2011, Bob Dylan performed this song 265 times.
|Shot Of Love (1981)|
The version here is the original master take and contains many lyrical differences to the final released version. Whereas the more well known take contains many references to Caribbean shape-shifting spirits, this early take contains lines such as “So drunk. Standing in the middle of the street. Directing traffic with a small dog at your feet.”
|“Sweetheart Like You”||4.2|
|“License To Kill”||5.2|
|“I And I”||4.10|
|“Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight”||3.3|
|Empire Burlesque (1985)|
|“Tight Connection To My Heart”|
On Disc 3 of “Springtime In New York”, this was called “Someone’s Got A Hold Of My Heart”.
|“Seeing The Real You At Last”||5.5|
|“I’ll Remember You”||5.3|
|“Clean Cut Kid”||4.1|
|“When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky”||5.9|
|Knocked Out Loaded (1986)|
|“Brownville Girl” (Bob Dylan/Sam Shepard)|
On “Springtime In New York”, this is called “New Danville Girl”.
|Down In The Groove (1988)|
|“Death Is Not The End”||4.11|
|The Bootleg Series Volume 3 (1991)|
|“Need A Woman”||1.5|
When I first listened to this song, it sounded brilliant but its meaning eluded me. I wondered if I had any books on Dylan that might be instructive. I turned to the incredible “Song And Dance Man III” by Michael Gray. I found that, yes, he had written about it. In fact, between pages 432 and 446, he had written about 6000 words, forensically examining every line. Here’s an extract. “What a compelling, grand failure ‘Angelina’ remains. Not mere smoke but a tree of smoke. This song about angels with many faces and gods made from more than one animal – it achieves the same multiplicity itself. Its lines and phrases often have two or three faces; they are frequently more than one kind of creature themselves. It may lack narrative clarity, but it has in abundance that other quality we demand of a complex work; it has unity”. It is my favourite Bob Dylan song.
|“Blind Willie McTell”|
The box set comes with a hard backed book of 104 pages, full of wonderful photographs and an insightful commentary by Damien Love, a writer who regularly contributes to UNCUT and The Guardian from his Glasgow home. His summary of “Blind Willie McTell” includes this: “It’s a song where Dylan makes time collapse and fade away. It ghosts through America’s history of slavery, racism, and oppression; the great, savage, unaccounted, founding crime at the heart of the nation; the root of endless pain; and the wellspring of the blues music the singer loves and feels unequal to.”
|“Foot Of Pride”|
On Disc 3 of “Springtime In New York”, this song is called “Too Late”.
Here is Michael Gray again, describing the song and the irregular rhyming scheme in a very long sentence. “Such is Dylan’s delivery, and the energetic, resourceful deployment of so much bouncing, resounding, tearaway rhetoric, so unstoppable in his firework display of ideas and images, so various and surprising are the objects and icons and bits of Bible he picks up and hurls as he fulminates his way through it all, that the disordered structuring of the verses is not merely not a weakness, but actually serves to unite, in spirit, the form and the content, as any art should.”
|“Lord Protect My Child”||4.9|
|“Jesus Met The Woman At The Well” (Traditional)|
The origins of this traditional gospel song are unclear. Some people have attributed its composition to the Reverend Gary Davis.
|“Mary Of The Wild Moor” (Traditional)|
This is a 19th century traditional song from England, which was recorded by The Louvin Brothers in 1956. Without The Louvin Brothers, there would have been no Everly Brothers. Without The Everly Brothers, there would have been no Beatles.
|“A Couple More Years” (Dennis Locorriere/Shel Silverstein)|
Dennis Locorriere is better known as Dr. Hook. “A Couple More Years” was also recorded by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson.
|“Mystery Train” (Herman Parker Jr)|
Hermann Parker Jr is better known as Junior Parker. Elvis Presley’s version of “Mystery Train” was voted as the 77th greatest song of all time by “Rolling Stone” in 1977.
|“This Night Won’t Last Forever” (Bill LaBounty/Roy Freeland)|
Country singer Michael Johnson recorded “This Night Won’t Last Forever” which went to Number 17 in the USA in 1979. Moe Bandy and Sawyer Brown also had Country Top 10 hits with the song.
|“We Just Disagree” (Jim Krueger)|
Dave Mason (ex-Traffic) recorded a version in 1977 which reached Number 12 in the USA in 1977.
|“Let’s Keep It Between Us”|
This song was performed many times in Bob Dylan’s Autumn 1980 shows. The singer wants to avoid public scrutiny and asks his lover to keep their affair a secret. Those two sentences appear to present an oxymoron.
|“Sweet Caroline” (Neil Diamond)|
Now a crowd favourite at every U.K. sporting event. They should play Bob Dylan’s version instead because then everyone else would sound in tune.
|“Fever” (Eddie Cooley/Otis Blackwell)|
“Fever” was first recorded by Little Willie John in 1956. Possibly, the best known version was by Peggy Lee in 1958. Many other artists have covered it, including Elvis Presley, Madonna and Beyoncé.
|“Abraham, Martin And John” (Dick Holler)|
This song was a hit for both Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye in 1969. There is a wonderful video of Bob Dylan and Clydie King singing this together at a piano on the DVD that accompanies “Trouble No More”. Clydie King was rumoured to have been married to Bob Dylan at one time although there is no confirmation of this. She was a member of The Raelettes (Ray Charles backing singers); she sung with B.B. King, The Rolling Stones and many other bands including Lynryd Skynyrd, singing on “Sweet Home Alabama”.
|“Price Of Love”|
Not the song made famous by The Everly Brothers but a once-only performed song
|“I Wish It Would Rain” (Norman Whitfield/Barrett Strong/Roger Penzabene)|
The Temptations took this song to Number 4 in the U.S.A. Charts in 1967.
|“Cold, Cold Heart” (Hank Williams)|
Although Hank Williams is credited as the writer of “Cold, Cold Heart”, he bought the lyrics from Paul Gilley and he adapted the lyrics from T. Texas Tyler’s recording of “You’ll Still be In My Heart” by Ted West in 1943. Tony Bennett reached Number One with a version in 1951.
|“Don’t Ever Take Yourself Away”|
Nikki Jean is an American singer songwriter who, in 2011, released an album called “Pennies In A Jar” in which she co-wrote songs with her musical heroes including Burt Bacharach, Carole King, Jimmy Webb, Carly Simon and Bob Dylan. However, in Bob Dylan’s case, they didn’t actually sit together at a piano, bouncing ideas off each other. What actually happened was that he gave her this unfinished song which she completed, calling it “Steel And Feathers”.
She’s gone. She’s taken everything. Even his fur slippers.
“I cannot go outside, the ground is too hard. Where can I go? Can’t even go in my backyard. Can’t drive my car nowhere I don’t wanna get in, too. I sure do miss them fur slippers as much as I miss you.” Probably a good decision not to release this song originally.
A once-only performance of this song.
|“Is It Worth It?”||2.9|
|“Yes Sir, No Sir”||2.11|
|“This Was My Love” (Jim Harbert)|
First recorded by Frank Sinatra in 1959.
|“Baby What You Want Me To Do” (Jimmy Reed)|
Jimmy Reed took “Baby What You Want Me To Do” to Number 37 in the U.S.A. in 1960.
|“Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground” (Willie Nelson)|
Bob Dylan’s version was released as a B side in four different countries (but not the U.K. or the U.S.A.) in 1983.
|“Julius And Ethel”|
Julius Rosenberg and Ethel Rosenberg were American citizens who were convicted of spying on behalf of the Soviet Union. The couple were convicted of providing top-secret military information including nuclear weapons design. They were executed in 1953. For decades, the Rosenbergs’ sons maintained that their parents were innocent and were victims of Cold War paranoia. However, after the fall of the Soviet Union, information was declassified that detailed their role. Bob Dylan’s song includes these lyrics “Someone said the ’50s was the age of great romance. I say that’s just a lie, it was when fear had you in a trance.”
|“Green Green Grass Of Home” (Curly Putnam)|
Tom Jones had a worldwide Number One hit with “Green Green Grass Of Home” in 1966. The U.K. Chart over Christmas 1966 was wonderful: Number 1 = “Green Green Grass Of Home” by Tom Jones; Number 2 = “Morningtown Ride” by The Seekers; Number 3 = “What Would I Be” by Val Doonican.
|“Enough Is Enough”|
This is the only concert performance on this compilation. It starts with Bob Dylan damning the audience with faint praise – “you’re a pretty decent crowd tonight”. The recording is from a gig at Slane Castle in Ireland in 1984 where the support acts were UB40 and Santana. Van Morrison and Bono sung with Bob Dylan in the encores.
|“Straight A’s In Love”|
Bob Dylan can obviously inspire better homework from his students than Cliff Richard, who recorded a similar song called “D In Love”