Dylan’s Latest Bootleg Series Installment Is a True Revelation

Collection spans Shot of Love, Infidels and Empire Burlesque albums that are widely considered to be the “low point” of his career

The Eighties are widely regarded as the low point of Bob Dylan’s entire career, a time when he struggled to find relevance in the MTV era and released a series of tacky, rudderless albums that were savaged by fans and critics. So reads the opening sentence of Rolling Stone’s recent review of Springtime In New York: The Bootleg Series Vol. 16 1980-1985, the latest installment in Bob Dylan’s ongoing bootleg series. This pretty much reflects what I also read in Ultimate Classic Rock, Glide Magazine, Flood Magazine and other media outlets. Rolling Stone was quick to back up their statement with a quote from the maestro who in his 2004 memoir Chronicles: Volume One said, “[I was pretty] whitewashed and wasted out…I’m in the bottomless pit of cultural oblivion. I can’t shake it.” As I was listening to Springtime this morning, I kept thinking, ‘gee, Dylan at his worst sounds mighty good!’

Before going any further, I must reveal that while I dig many Dylan songs, there are huge gaps in my knowledge of the man’s mighty catalog. From the three albums Springtime captures – Shot of Love (August 1981), Infidels (October 1983) and Empire Burlesque (June 1985) – I had only listened to some tunes from Infidels, and all I remembered off the top of my head were Jokerman and I and I – both decent songs, in my opinion. I’m more familiar with Dylan’s records from the ’60s until the mid ’70s. I’ve also listened to his most recent work Rough and Rowdy Ways and have come to dig it.

Bob Dylan / Springtime in New York: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 16 / 1980-1985  – SuperDeluxeEdition
5-CD Deluxe Edition

The Bootleg Series Vol. 16: Springtime in New York 1980–1985, released yesterday (September 17), is the 14th installment in the series Dylan started in March 1991 with The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961–1991. Springtime includes previously unreleased tour rehearsals and outtakes from the three aforementioned albums, as well as various live versions. The compilation comes in three different formats, including a 2-CD standard edition, 5-disc deluxe edition, as well as 2-LP and 4-LP formats.

Let’s get to some music, based on the 5-CD edition. The rehearsal of Need a Woman is a track from disc one. Dylan first released the song on the aforementioned inaugural installment of his bootleg series as an outtake from Shot of Love. He is backed by fine musicians, including guitarists Steve Ripley and Danny Kortchmar; Carl Pickhardt (keyboards); Tim Drummond (bass); Jim Keltner (drums), as well as Carolyn Dennis, Madelyn Quebec and Clydie King who provide dynamite backing vocals and clapping.

Let’s move on to disc two and Price of Love, another outtake from Shot of Love. Not sure whether Dylan had previously released that song elsewhere. In addition to Ripley, Pickhardt, Drummond, Keltner, King and Quebec, he’s backed by Fred Tackett (guitar), Benmont Tench (keyboards), Steve Douglas (saxophone) and Regina McCrary (backing vocals). Love this outtake!

Blind Willie McTell, a track from disc three, is another Dylan tune he first released on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961–1991 as an outtake from Infidels. This is a different version of Dylan’s tribute to Piedmont blues and ragtime singer and guitarist William Samuel McTier. Known as Blind Willie McTell, he influenced The Allman Brothers Band, Taj Mahal, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Jack White, Mr. Zimmerman and many other artists.

Next up: An alternate take of Sweetheart Like You from disc four, a song Dylan first released on the Infidels album. It also appeared separately as the record’s second single and became Dylan’s first official music video, which you can watch here if you’re so inclined. Here’s a clip of the alternate take featuring another neat backing band: Guitarists Mark Knopfler and Mick Taylor; Alan Clark (keyboards); Robbie Shakespeare (bass) and Sly Dunbar (drums), of reggae production duo Sly and Robbie; and Clydie King (backing vocals). Not too shabby for an artist who supposedly was at a low point in his career – well, I suppose it’s all relative, isn’t it?

Let’s wrap up this post with two tracks from disc five. Both are my early favorites from the collection, based on what I’ve heard thus far. First is a great live version of a tune called Enough Is Enough, captured at a gig at Slane Castle in Ireland. Based on what I could find on Setlist.fm during the timeframe this latest bootleg installment covers, it looks like Dylan played the song during this 1984 concert. After some additional digging, I found Dylan’s backing band included Mick Taylor (guitar), Ian McLagan (keyboards, formerly with Faces), Greg Sutton (bass) and Colin Allen (drums). Damn, this rocks!

And last but not least, here’s New Danville Girl, an outtake from Dylan’s Empire Burlesque album. According to Wikipedia, Dylan co-wrote the nearly 12-minute satirical with American actor, playwright, author, screenwriter and director Sam Shepard. Originally, the tune was intended to be an answer to Doin’ the Things That We Want To, a 1984 song by Lou Reed that had been inspired by a Shepard play. The tune would later be re-written and re-titled Brownsville Girl. Dylan included it on Knocked Out Loaded, the 1986 follow-on album to Empire Burlesque. I absolutely love this tune!

Listening to Springtime In New York: The Bootleg Series Vol. 16 1980-1985 has been quite a revelation. Apart from great renditions, I really like Dylan’s singing here – something I certainly can’t say for all other songs I’ve heard. And the musicians backing him on these recordings are spectacular, though I suppose if you’re Bob Dylan, you can secure pretty much anyone. Now I’m also curious to further explore the Shot of Love, Infidels and Empire Burlesque albums.

Sources: Wikipedia; Rolling Stone; Ultimate Classic Rock; Glide Magazine; Flood Magazine; Setlist.fm; YouTube

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Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Another week came and flew by. I can’t believe we are already in June, and the official beginning of summer (June 20) is just two weeks away. As usual, Saturday means taking a look at newly released music. All featured songs are on albums that came out yesterday (June 4).

This collection leads with a pop rock band from down under that initially was formed in 1985, reemerged in December 2019, and is now out with their first new studio album in 11 years. There is also new music by a rock band from New Jersey and, no, it’s not Bon Jovi, as well as a singer-songwriter of Nigerian heritage and a psychedelic folk rock band, both based in Nashville.

Crowded House/Start of Something

New music by Crowded House came as a surprise to me, especially since I had associated Neil Finn with Fleetwood Mac. Of course, he officially joined the band together with former Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell in April 2018 after the firing of Lindsey Buckingham. Finn and Campbell subsequently went on tour with the Mac for their extensive 2018-2019 tour of North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Since the tour ended in November 2019, Fleetwood Mac have been in limbo. Mike Campbell went on to focus on his own band The Dirty Knobs and released their debut album in November 2020. And Finn decided to revive Crowded House, the Australian pop rock band he co-founded in Melbourne in 1985. After four studio albums the group broke up in June 1996. Following two reunions and two additional albums, Crowded House were on hiatus as of late 2016. In December 2019, Finn announced a new line-up that apart from him includes the band’s former producer Mitchell Froom (keyboards, guitar, backing vocals), original co-founder Nick Seymour (bass), as well as Finn’s sons Liam Finn (guitar, keyboards, backing vocals) and Elroy Finn (drums, guitar). Start of Something, co-written by Liam Finn and Neil Finn, is a track off Dreamers Are Waiting, Crowded House’s new album, their first since Intriguer from June 2010.

Latewaves/Enough Is Enough

Latewaves are a rock band from Asbury Park, N.J. According to their website, they were formed in 2016 and include Mike Pellegrino (guitars, vocals), Howie Cohen (bass, vocals) and Shawna Grabowski (drums). In August 2017, they released Face Down, the lead single of their debut EP Partied Out that appeared the following month. Latewaves describe their sound as “full of rage and attitude” and “full of explosive, guitar driven riffs.” Based on what I’ve heard thus far, I think that’s a fair characterization. I would also add their songs are relatively melodic. In that sense, they remind me a bit of Green Day. Here’s Enough Is Enough, a tune from their new and first full-length album Hell to Pay. The song is credited to all three members of the band.

Joy Oladokun/Someone That I Used to Be

Joy Oladokun is a Nashville-based singer-songwriter who grew up in Casa Grande, Ariz. Both of her parents came to the U.S. as immigrants from Nigeria. According to her profile on Apple Music, Oladokun’s music fuses the deep emotions and confessional nature of classic singer/songwriters with music that encompasses contemporary folk, R&B, and pop…While she has been playing guitar since childhood, it wasn’t until 2015 that Oladokun quit her job and took a shot at realizing her dream of making music full-time. She released a solo acoustic EP, Cathedrals, that year and followed it up with 2016’s Carry, a full-band effort that included the single “Shelter,” which introduced her to a wider online audience...Full of personal, emotionally powerful songs, Carry helped Oladokun expand her audience, and she followed it up with touring in the United States and the United Kingdom. Someone That I Used to Be is the opener of Oladokun’s new and third studio album In Defense of My Own Happiness. I like it!

Sun Seeker/Gettin’ Tired

Sun Seeker are a psychedelic folk rock band from Nashville. Initially formed as a quartet of friends who had known each other from middle school, the band’s current line features Alex Benick (guitar, vocals), Asher Horton (bass guitar), and Ben Parks (drums), according to their website. Their Apple Music profile notes the band’s debut single appeared in 2016 after they had been signed by Third Man. The first EP Biddeford was released in the summer of the following year. Gettin’ Tired, co-written by Benick, Horton and Park, is a tune from Sun Seeker’s first full-length album A Sunrise in a Basement. I find this quite catchy.

Sources: Wikipedia; Latewaves website; Apple Music; Sun Seeker website; YouTube