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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Most people seem agreed that really, when it comes to it, Tell Tale Signs would have been much better pruned down to one CD's worth. So obviously people must be sitting around arguing and laughing about which tracks would make it to the final cut - and indeed a friend e-mailed the other day to report on just such a sitting around. He wrote:

"After listening to all three discs of BS 8 very often and after a kind of listening session with X and Y last night (which, by the way, ended with happily listening to live recordings from the Freddy Koella tour), today I compiled my own personal best-of 1-disc version, i.e. ditching the live tracks and eliminating the songs I do not file under 'quite interesting', 'interesting, but ...' or 'oh, come on!, why this and not ...?' . In other words, the record I want to hear over and over again. Here it is:

1 Mississippi (1) 6:05
2 Most Of The Time (1) 3:35
3 Dignity (piano) 2:12
4 Someday Baby 5:57
5 Red River Shore (1) 7:34
6 Tell Ol Bill 5:29
7 Born In Time (1) 4:10
8 Can’t Wait (1) 5:42
9 Miss The Mississippi 3:21
10 Dreamin’ Of You 5:49
11 Hucks Tune 4:04
12 Can’t Escape From You 5:12
13 Marchin’ In The City (1) 6:32
14 Mary And The Soldier 4:11
15 Ring Them Bells (piano) 3:10
16 Cross The Green Mountain 8:14"

I'm not sure whether these have been structured in a carefully thought-out running order or not, and there are tracks on there that I can't believe anyone would choose but no matter. This seems like a good game, and I shall be offering my own one-CD list in the near future. But in the meantime, perhaps other people would like to send in theirs??


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, here's my list, not rearranged or anything, just picking them off in Disc order.

1 Mississippi (Disc 1)
2 Most Of The Time (Disc 1)
3 Someday Baby (Disc 1)
4 Red River Shore (Disc 1)
5 Tell Ol' Bill (Disc 1)
6 Born In Time (Disc 1)
7 Can't Wait (Disc 1)
8 Dreamin' Of You (Disc 1)
9 Marchin' To The City (Disc 1)
10 Can't Escape From You (Disc 2)
11 Cross Green Mountain (Disc 2)
12 Mississippi (Disc 3)
13 Ring them Bells (Disc 3)
14 Marchin' To The City (Disc 3)
15 Can't Wait (Disc 3)
16 Mary And the Soldier (Disc 3)

There's a significant overlap with your friend's list, maybe what's most significant though - in this discussion as in others on forums etc. - is that Disc1 seems to be very much the favourite, Disc3 has some good tracks on it, Disc2 is pretty much a total wipe-out.

I find myself getting angrier about this release as time goes by. The marketing, the outrageous pricing of Disc3, the crappy liner notes and blurry or out-of-focus photos, etc. Worst of all is the feeling that Sony are going to carry on eking out their huge stash of Dylan stuff long after he's gone, hell, probably long after I'm gone too.....

3:14 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it could have a been a great 2-CD set, just not as it was released (too much great stuff on the third "bonus" disc). Here's my single disc version, pretty much in a sequence I like:

Mississippi (1)
Can't Wait (1)
Mary and the Soldier (3)
Tell Ol' Bill (1)
Dreamin' of You (1)
Most of the Time (1)
32-20 Blues (2)
High Water (1)
Duncan & Brady (3)
Mississippi (3)
Red River Shore (3)
Marching to the City (3)
Someday Baby (1)
Ring Them Bells (3)

I could fit another (maybe Huck's Tune or Things Have Changed) but sometimes less is more. Cold Irons Bound would certainly be here if that arrangement hadn't already been nailed on Masked & Anonymous. A frustrating set for a lot of reasons, but it's fun to play with and curate one's own.


7:23 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Thanks for these. There's certainly a consensus building around Mississippi and Most Of The Time from Disc 1. And, to my surprise, Dreamin' Of You.

Meanwhile PLEASE WOULD ROSS RE-SEND HIS COMMENT? I accidentally rejected it instead of publishing it.

With thanks

12:33 pm  
Blogger Ross McCague said...

I wonder if the Jesus years, as bad as they were at times, did not help establish the mature prophetic voice we hear in many of these tracks. I suspect the social commentary of the folk albums and the poetic phantasmagoria of the mid-sixties did not enlarge his moral vision to the degree he needed in these end of our world tracks. So much is going on below the surface in this man of genius.

5:33 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

1. Mississippi (3)
2. Marchin’ to the City (1)
3. ’Cross the Green Mountain
4. Born in Time
5. Huck’s Tune
6. God Knows
7. Mississippi (1)
8. Most of the Time
9. Red River Shore (1)
10. Tell Ol’ Bill
11. Can’t Escape From You
12. Mississippi (2)

Within hours of having the three CD’s, I had compressed it down to just one. I found the stronger, more interesting material diluted by the inclusion of some quite shameless filler (did we really need two lesser takes of Dignity, a track that has only ever been good at best). There were a couple of nice live tracks, but after spending years listening to foggy bootlegs, I was hopeful of some better sound quality. So, for cohesion’s sake, I omitted the live tracks to make it strictly a studio compilation.

I know all three takes of Mississippi might seem excessive, but that song’s evolution is the most interesting thing on the collection to me. Dreamin’ Of You almost made it in against my better judgment, but that one woeful line made it quite impossible (“For years they had me locked in a cage, then they threw me onto the stage,” ugh). And so I surprised myself with the inclusion of Born in Time and God Knows, two tracks I have never had a great fondness for, for obvious reasons. I found a certain, simple charm to the former here though, and his Tina Turner-ism on, “Ah, I grieve ya” won me over. God Knows might be lyrically insubstantial, yet it is jaunty and sincere, and I found it preferable to the overly contrived mood of Can’t Wait.

The meandering Can’t Escape From You, sweet Red River Shore and the darker, superior take of Tell Ol’ Bill provide strong support. Most of the Time, meanwhile, leaves me wondering what could have become of Oh Mercy if Lanois had tempered his production and let Dylan approach the album entirely in this style.

11:41 pm  
Blogger Judas Priest said...

1 Mississipi (1)
2 Most of the Time (1)
3 Someday Baby (1)
4 Red River Shore (1)
5 Born in Time (either of 1 or 3)
6 Can't Wait (1)
7 Marchin' to the City (1)
8 32 20 Blues (2)
9 Ain't Talkin' (2)
10 Duncan & Brady (3)
11 Mississipi (3)
12 Can't Wait (3)
13 Cold Irons Bound (3)
14 Things Have Changed (3)

A couple of points:

1. There already exists a one CD version in official form and I find it quite superb-the strongest of the 3 discs and a very coherent listen despite the non chronological sequencing.

2. As regards sequencing, my own list didn't address that properly with the exception of deliberately sticking a couple of live tracks at the end rather than lumping them inbetween studio takes-less disruptive that way.

3. Overall,leaving the pricing issue aside and the fact that at least a couple of the live tracks on the official release are not soundboards, I'm greatly enjoying the 3 disc version as a whole and have been pretty much playing the whole thing on rotation since I purchasewd it.Discs one and Three are of very high quality to my ears and while 2 is definitely a step down, its still got plenty of interesting stuff-in fact it feels more like what a conventional disc of outtakes should feel like: hit and miss. I do feel this is an important release. So much so that from now on, no discussion of modern Dylan would truly be complete without factoring in an analysis of its contents.

2:11 pm  
Blogger Judas Priest said...

I should also have added that the absolute highlights for me in no particular order over the 3 discs are:

* Can't Wait: both versions-truly wonderful and light years ahead of the album take
* Red River Shore 1: as suspected not the Blind Willie of the 90's (but then again what could be?) but excellent nonetheless-the gradual buid up of the band works better than disc 3 although that take is still mighty fine too..
*Someday Baby: I like the delivery on the album but this arrangement, coupled with the lyrical changes and his deep,near whispered and menacing vocal has transformed the song into something approaching a major new work.Chilling at times. Love the way the music lets the vocal breathe although Freeman's guitar licks needed a little more purpose.

* Missisipi 3: Great new lyrics personalise the song brilliantly

2:33 pm  
Blogger seanmurd said...

I took a slightly different approach to pruning down TTS into an enjoyable playlist. In the weeks before release, I had been listening a lot to the original Bootleg Series (1-3), as TTS is fairly seen as the long-overdue continuation of that set. Cheating a bit and using my iPod rather than make CDRs, I completed a project I've thought about for years -- collating ALL the official "rare and unreleased" studio material into coherent sets. Using Bootleg Series 1-3 as a base, I added tracks from Biograph, GH vol. 2, Bootleg Series vol. 7, and a few other tracks that have dribbled out officially. I won't bore you with the details, but the new "disc 1" covers 1961-1964, "disc 2" has 1965-1966, and "disc 3" covers 1967-1979. I always found the track splits on BS 1-3 annoying, and this was party an effort to clean them up and make it flow more naturally.

Anyway, I always thought the 1980s got kind of brushed over on Bootleg Series 3, and TTS has finally righted that wrong (while still leaving an unsightly hole in the 1984-1988 period). I fleshed out BS vol. 3 like this:

01. Carribean Wind (Biograph)
02. Heart of Mine (Biograph)
03. You Changed My Life
04. Angelina
05. Someone's Got A Hold Of My Heart
06. Tell Me
07. Foot Of Pride
08. Blind Willie McTell
09. When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky
10. Dignity (TTS demo)
11. Most Of The Time (TTS demo)
12. Born In Time (TTS disc 1)
13. Everything Is Broken (TTS)
14. Ring Them Bells (TTS disc 3)
15. Dignity (Touched By An Angel version)
16. God Knows (TTS)
17. Series of Dreams (BS vol. 3 promo version)
18. Most Of The Time (1990 promo version)

Then, for "disc 5" I continued with:

01. Mississippi #1
02. Duncan and Brady
03. Miss The Mississippi
04. 32-20 Blues
05. Mary And The Soldier
06. Girl On The Greenbriar Shore
07. Red River Shore
08. Mississippi #2
09. Can't Wait #1
10. Dreamin' Of You #1
11. Marchin' To The City #1
12. Red River Shore #2**
13. Mississippi #3**
14. Marchin' To The City #2**
15. Can't Wait #2
16. Things Have Changed (live)**
17. Tell Ol' Bill (TTS)
18. Huck's Tune**
19. Cold Irons Bound (live)**
20. High Water (live)**
21. Someday Baby (TTS)
22. Ain't Talkin' (TTS)

The tracks marked with "**" are the ones I'd probably trim to fit the playlist onto a CD, but for now I'm enjoying listening to all of them.

5:03 pm  

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