Sunday, October 19, 2008

Kicking off the boots: The latest of Bob Dylan's Bootleg Series

The latest installment, volume 8, of Bob Dylan's Bootleg series has arrived. "Tell Tale Signs" is a collection of outtakes and previously unreleased gems from studio and live recordings made during Dylan's quote, unquote self-resurrection of -- say the last fifteen years. I'll make no bones about it, until "Love and Theft", I had largely regarded Dylan as some relic of some bygone era belonging to the free-wheeling, free loving youngsters of the sixties.

I couldn't have been more wrong, but then, his emphasis had been largely diluted by the time I arrived on the scene as a young teenager to give a listen to his self titled debut album, after picking up a copy at a thrift store sometime during the late eighties. I dismissed him back then as a hack -- and promptly filed him (in my mind) alongside the neo-folk troubadours of his era.

I've since arrived at an appreciation for Dylan and his music through less conventional means. He might applaud me for it, or laugh in my face -- But, as a teenager, I would often listen to and fall asleep to the recordings of Charlie Patton, Howlin' Wolf, The Carter Family and Jimmie Rogers. I wouldn't recommend that to everyone -- it can lead to rather heinous dreams -- and I didn't arrive there by chance, either. My father; not by virtue of some 'movement' or reverence for days past, played folk songs for my brother and I as youngsters. We didn't even have a television in the home until I was seven years old. Our sole entertainment was listening to my father play and sing his songs. The songs he knew. The songs he learned from his father.

Dylan and my father are nearly exactly the same age. I doubt Dylan's father played anything -- I have in my possession the 1928 National Duolian steel guitar my grandfather played at peanut boils and fish fries in the thirties and early forties. In that sense, Dylan was looking as much at my father as he looked at anyone when he struck out from the Middle American constraints of the Midwest to head east into New York City. There is no doubt in my mind now, that the young Bob Dylan knew he had already tapped into the richest vein of Americana as his feet first touched pavement in New York City. Why else would he have gone to pay homage to a dying Woody Guthrie in a nearby Brooklyn hospital.

Yet now, here so many years later, a song such as 'Dignity' emerges to defiantly expose all those who said that Dylan was the voice of their generation as naively self righteous in their determination as they demagogically sought to strip from the rugged individuality of a young Bob Dylan some fleshly souvenir, anything that might support their endeavors.

From the website:

Columbia Records is happy to announce today's release of Bob Dylan's "Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series Vol. 8".

Los Angeles Times: "'Tell Tale Signs' is not just "extra" Dylan. It's essential Dylan."

San Francisco Chronicle: "For Bob Dylan, these are outtakes. Most musicians would call them their greatest hits."

The BBC: "Beautiful, brave and beguiling."

Boston Globe: "a feast for casual fans and Dylanologists alike."

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