Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tell Tale Signs: the verdict – CD2

Thanks to Martin Cowan:


1) Mississippi # 2
Again, lyrically intact, but the arrangement is all over the place here. Dylan seems to be singing in a key which doesn't suit his voice - way too low - this version of what is probably Dylan's last great masterpiece makes you realise why he didn't release it on Time Out Of Mind.

2) 32-20 Blues
A great outtake from World Gone Wrong. Nice to have this at last.

3) Series of Dreams
This is where the pickings start to get slightly slim. This is in every way inferior to the previous Bootleg Series version. In fact, the vocal take sounds to me exactly the same as the Bootleg version (I don't believe Dylan would be able to sing a song the same way twice even if he wanted to.) The only thing this includes is a second verse which was obviously excised from the previously released version.

4) God Knows
As with Born In Time, this is Lanois' version of what became a vastly superior song in the hands of the Was brothers on the criminally underrated Under The Red Sky LP. Forgettable.

5) Can't Escape From You
This kicks off like Can't Help Falling In Love - Dylan growls and croaks in his best Tom Waits fashion, and the lilting melody recalls the folky nature of Huck's Tune. My only reservation about this is that is that he does sound in trouble vocally and there is perhaps one too many verses. But overall, an interesting selection.

6) Dignity
Dreadful rockabilly version of this Dylan-by-numbers song. Horrible rubbery sounding bass, with Dylan sounding like he couldn't care less - a clunker.

7) Ring Them Bells
Dylan's 1992 Supper Club shows have gone down in folklore, especially as the shows were billed as Dylan unplugged (before he recorded his contribution to that franchise) and were allegedly filmed. It was widely hoped that an audio/visual release for these shows would make up a future Bootleg Series release. The fact that this heartfelt version of this song appears here would seem to suggest that this is all we are going to get. Dylan is vocally committed and this performance highlights Bucky Baxter's sympathetic steel guitar. Lovely.

8) Cocaine Blues
A similar version to this has been previously released on the Love Sick CD singles, and this version adds nothing.

9) Ain't Talkin’
Very similar in pace to the Modern Times version, though this has a rockier edge - in fact, the backing track sounds very similar to What Was It You Wanted. Not sure that this adds much to the previously released version.

10) The Girl On the Green Briar Shore
A nice live version. Remember when Dylan would play acoustic guitar on his own? This is a reminder of those days.

11) Lonesome Day Blues
This sounds like a field recording - somewhat tinny - and collectors have already got this version as it used to be available as part of the now sadly defunct performances section of the official Dylan website. That said this is a smoking version of the “Love And Theft” song, with Dylan attacking the vocals and the soaring guitars kicking up a right old racket behind him.

12) Miss the Mississippi
More sessions that have gone down in folklore, those recorded by Dylan with Dave Bromberg in 1992 - before he released Good As I Been To You. This has been available to collectors for some years but is a very good song - nice production and superb singing from Dylan. Not sure where this leaves us for the rest of the Bromberg sessions ever being officially released.

13) The Lonesome River
A nice recording, with Dylan on fine form vocally. However, this has been previously released on a Ralph Stanley album.

14) Cross The Green Mountain
Another late-period Dylan gem. Stirring lyrics, sympathetic arrangement, and a superb vocal performance from Dylan. This song exudes the American Civil War from its every pore - emotional, a cinematic tour de force. Superb.

… to be continued…