by Rick Krueger
I’m not a hardcore Bob Dylan fan, but I admire quite a bit of his work: the early folk music, leading into the groundbreaking electric stuff (basically what’s in The Original Mono Recordings box set); Blood on the Tracks and Desire; the recent run of “old guy plays the blues” albums that started with Time Out of Mind. I’m also grateful that Dylan’s music has midwifed some of the most resonant work by highbrow rock writers like Greil Marcus, Clinton Heylin and Michael Gray, along with poet Christopher Ricks’ masterful Dylan’s Visions of Sin.
To top all that off, Dylan’s Bootleg Series is, in my mind, one of the best-curated rarities/reissue series from a major artist. Every volume has been at least an interesting listen for me, and I consider the last two releases, The Basement Tapes Complete and The Cutting Edge 1965-1966 (as well as Volume 4, The ‘Royal Albert Hall’ Concert) downright essential.
I also remember, as a college freshman, reading Jann Wenner’s review of Dylan’s Slow Train Coming in Rolling Stone. Wenner knotted himself into a human pretzel trying to reconcile the free-spirited, hippie picture of Dylan he had built up for himself with a new album of — shudder — “born-again Christian” music. It was unintentionally hilarious.
I’d argue that Slow Train Coming was really more of an “lost Old Testament prophet” kind of record — and thus in line with Dylan’s long-term aesthetic. It wasn’t a masterpiece, but it was quite good — and there were occasional fine songs on the other “Christian” albums, especially “Every Grain of Sand” from Shot of Love.
Thus, Trouble No More: The Bootleg Series, Volume 13 /1979-1981 is definitely on my want list. 8 CDs plus 1 DVD of live and unreleased studio material, to be issued (like King Crimson’s Sailor’s Tales) on my birthday, November 3. I really need to find some long-lost rich relatives!