Bob Dylan was an ardent musicologist long before he demonstrated his maverick archival skills through his Theme Time radio shows, each of which featured an impressive diversity of American music from blues and R&B to folk, country, jazz, rock, pop, and rap, as well as gospel, spoken word pieces, and other fascinating bits of recording history. Beginning with the sessions for his self-titled debut album in 1962, Dylan would frequently warm up with cover versions of various songs that struck his fancy, and they’d be all over the musical map, demonstrating early his sweeping familiarity with the history of American pop music in all of its genre streams. This set collects the original artist versions of songs Dylan attempted in some of those loose recording sessions, beginning with songs he messed around with while recording Bob Dylan in 1962 and running through the 1974 Planet Waves sessions. With tracks ranging from Clarence Ashley's “House Carpenter” (this was a favorite folk piece for Dylan, who attempted it at several of the album sessions during this time period) to Jo Stafford's “A Fool Such as I,” Lefty Frizzell's “Long Black Veil,” Leroy Carr and Scrapper Blackwell's “Alabama Blues,” and Harry Belafonte's “Jamaica Farewell,” among others, it’s a fun and fascinating playlist even without the Dylan connection.
AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett