Bob Dylan

Alternate Infidels

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After three successive LPs exploring his newfound Christian faith, Bob Dylan returned to secular themes with 1983's underrated Infidels, an appealingly bright pop record bolstered by thoughtful, pointed lyrics recalling the urgency of his classic anthems. The bootleg release Alternate Infidels compiles 15 outtakes from the month-long, Mark Knopfler-produced New York City sessions, and it's fascinating to hear the evolutions of detours the songs take on their way to completion. The records feature a particularly interesting and eclectic collection of backing musicians including ex-Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor and the famed reggae rhythm section of Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, and the confluence of such different musical traditions creates real sparks. And while the official Infidels release heralded a return to form, there's evidence among the outtakes that the album could have been even better. The much-celebrated "Blind Willie McTell" (not officially issued until The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3) remains one of Dylan's most haunting and evocative recordings, while the shimmering "Someone's Got a Hold of My Heart" is an atypically earnest and warm-hearted love song. Black Nite Crash's Rough Cuts contains ten additional Infidels outtakes, and is thus recommended as the definitive release of this material.