Bob Dylan,
The Bootleg Series Vols. 1-3:
Rare & Unreleased, 1961-1991

(Sony, 1997)

Perhaps the most substantial reason to buy this album is to hear what you did not know you were missing in the 1980s. There are some unbelievably brilliant performances here that were left off of various '80s albums like Blind Willie McTell, Series of Dreams and Foot of Pride.

Then there are some sizzling '70s performances, like the live "Seven Days" or "Catfish," an outtake from 1975's wonderful Desire album. Also, the original verson of "If Not for You," with none other than George Harrison on guitar, is 10,000,000 times better than the version featured on the studio album New Morning. The "unplugged" verisons of some Blood on the Tracks songs are powerfully raw.

Then, of course, his songwriting brilliance of the '60s shines on the tear-jerking "Moonshiner," which is, arguably, his best vocal performance EVER. "Seven Curses," 'Eternal Circle" and "Farewell, Angelina" are as good as anything on his early to mid '60s albums. Yes -- really.

This collecton got me scratching my head, frustrated, wondering why Dylan never released these songs. It is anyone's guess as to why the '60s material was never released, but in the '80s, he seemed to be more interested in angering his record label than anything else. That may be why "Blind Willie Mctell" and "Foot of Pride" were both left off of 1983's Infidels, which is brilliant in its own right, but would have truly been one of Dylan's best albums ever with the addition of those songs. Oh well. He never released them.

And now we have it all here, on this three-CD package. Any Dylan fan who does not buy it should be criminally prosecuted. And anyone who is curious about Dylan's career should begin with Biograph and this collection. It is truly an outstanding gem that puts this genius's 40-year career into some perspective.

- Rambles
written by Gianmarc Manzione
published 8 March 2003

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