Artist: Bob Dylan
Album: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 13, Deluxe Edition
Release Date: 11.3.2017
Not one to be pinned down by yesterday, Bob Dylan has changed almost everything in his life at least once, more often twice. Starting with his name and birthplace, Dylan’s switched gears more often than a cross-country trucker, but only his conversion from acoustic to electric at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival caused as much ruckus as his conversion to evangelical Christianity in 1979. By the time he didn’t show up for the Nobel Peace Prize, Dylan’s unorthodoxy was noteworthy, but not shocking.
There’s been much speculation about the “Bootleg” albums, and whether they’re legitimately outlaws or not, but Columbia/Legacy’s last two Dylan Bootleg reissues, The Cutting Edge 1965-1966 Vol 12, and The Basement Tapes Complete…Vol. 11, each won Grammys for Best Historical Album, and The Bootleg Series, Volume 13 (Whaaaat?) aka Trouble No More, sits in good position to complete the hat trick. It’s comprehensive, it’s beautifully recorded and presented, and it’s Dylan.
Trouble No More will is available in two configurations: The Deluxe Edition (recommended) weighs in at a personal-watermelon heft, and contains everything you’d want but Dylan himself. Eight CDs, each in an illustrated page of memorabilia, a DVD feature-length film of concert footage and interviews, and a handsome 120-page book, Pressing On, which includes rare photos and insight from Dylan researchers; all fit beautifully into a handsome slipcase. Whether for yourself or others, the presentation makes an impeccable gift. Another configuration will have two CDs and four LPs which we have not seen.
The CDs divide up into live performances and previously unreleased tracks. Disc 1 Live spans 1979 and 1980 and includes “Gotta Serve Somebody,” as you probably have not heard it before. Disc 2 Live covers mostly 1980-1981 and its 16 tracks include a personal favorite, the unreleased “Ain’t Gonna Go to Hell for Anybody.” Discs 4 and 5 are devoted (no pun) to rare and unreleased tracks (31 tracks between the two) and include outtakes, rehearsals and a couple unreleased songs.
Discs 5 and 6 were recorded live in Toronto in 1980, and Discs 6 and 7 recorded live in Earl’s Court, London, in 1981. Interestingly, the Toronto shows stuck to the Christian music, while the London shows, a little more than a year later, draw almost exclusively from his secular songbook: “Maggie’s Farm,” “Like A Rolling Stone,” “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Just Like A Woman,” for example.
Last but not least, a DVD with more songs, more commentary and Trouble No More, a musical film…
This collection doesn’t stem from Dylan’s most radio-friendly phase, and if you’re looking for a best-of type compilation of recordings you’ve heard before, this is not it—this is new. Even then Dylan mixed up his songs’ lyrics and rhythms dramatically in performances; at today’s shows, you listen halfway through a song before you realize what it is. But know that these recordings are as technically perfect as any you’ll find, it’s great music, and together form another large piece of the puzzle that is Bob Dylan.