Bob Dylan

The Genuine Bootleg Series, Take 2

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The much anticipated successor to the original Genuine Bootleg Series bootleg -- itself a snappy rejoinder to the official Bootleg Series box set, TGBS2 essentially duplicates its predecessor in everything but precise content. The deluxe glossy gatefold sleeve, the 1960-1993 timespan, the eye for classic musical detail -- all are present and correct, while the packaging is further enhanced by the inclusion of a colorfully illustrated 40-page booklet, reproducing Dylan's May 1965 interview with In Beat magazine. As before, the compilers' sense of historical perspective cannot be faulted, and if there are any complaints to be leveled, they are only in direct comparison to volume one: The annotation is not as heavily researched as before, and a spot of proofreading wouldn't have gone amiss, either. Sonically, too, there are grumbles -- the muffled mumble through "The Two Sisters" (St. Paul, May 1960) might be the earliest Dylan yet to reach CD, but it's still horrible. Much the same can be said for the 1975 Other End Club performance of "Abandoned Love," while the following year's Shangri La Studios take of "The Water Is Wide" pales when compared with other available versions. But such criticisms are essentially nitpicking. Both historically and musically, it's difficult to fault, or complain about anything here, with highlights including excerpts from the crucial Carnegie Hall, Newport Folk Festival, and Royal Albert Hall shows -- around a third of the collection comprises live recordings, with Dylan's '80s/'90s output amply covered by excellent versions of "Ain't Gonna Go to Hell" (Toronto, 1980), "The Groom's Still Waiting at the Altar" (San Francisco, 1980), and "Nadine" (Lone Star Cafe, 1983). Of the studio material, alternate takes of "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Baby Blue" are certainly the equals of their official cousins, while "Freeze Out" offers some startlingly raw visions of Johanna. Several tracks are present in fragmentary form only: a powerhouse romp through an early version of "I Wanna Be Your Lover" and a Planet Waves-era "House of the Rising Sun." But another track that was hitherto known only as a fragment, the Eat the Document soundtrack favorite "Does She Need Me," appears in its full glory. Two decades later, the Down in the Groove sessions provide an equally stunning "Got Love If You Want It." The withdrawn original version of "Tangled Up in Blue" makes a welcome appearance, and does indeed justify those past critics, fans, and madmen who insist it wipes the floor with the released version. And, finally, a quartet of outtakes from the Street Legal sessions indicates that the last truly classic Dylan album could have been even better. In terms of playing it all the way through, TGBS2 jumps around a little too much to be a truly satisfying listening experience. As a series of random snapshots taken throughout Dylan's career, however, it is at least the equal of its predecessors, official and otherwise. Plus, it thoroughly whets the appetite for volume three.

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