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Bob Dylan – The Bootleg Series Vol. 14: More Blood, More Tracks – Strictly Limited Deluxe Edition

November 25, 2018

If someone were to ask me what my favorite Dylan album is, it would depend on the day. Some days it would be Highway 61 Revisited, another day it might be Time Out Of Mind, yet another day Slow Train Coming, but on most days it would be Blood On The Tracks.

I figured the bootleg series would eventually get to the Blood On The Tracks sessions. The back story was that Dylan had the album ready to go and he got cold feet. He felt some of the songs performances were not right. The album had been recorded in NYC. The rumor was that Dylan felt some of NYC versions were too honest and that Dylan felt exposed.

His younger brother arranged a session at the premiere Minneapolis studio (Sound 80). A group of local musicians were recruited and they recut about half of the album. Satisfied with the Minneapolis versions, he scrapped about half the NYC originals and released a masterpiece that was a combination of the Minneapolis and NYC sessions.

It has been said that if Dylan had stuck to the original version of the album, it would have been even better. That has always been hard to believe, but I have always wondered. Now we have all the evidence spread across six CDs.

Blood On The Tracks has always been my favorite because Dylan’s voice is the most polished and soulful of his career (he would find this soulfulness again in his Jesus period). Lyrically, Dylan is deceivingly accessible (yet a more careful listen suggests he is in full allegorical mode). The arrangements are acoustic folk with Dylan’s guitar front and center. The album is beautifully recorded and engineered.

So what have we learned from seven hours of outtakes?

  • There are not a lot of extra songs – most of the material is various takes of the songs that ended up on the album. Steven Hyden, one of my favorite music critics, has a great obsession on one of the Blood On The Tracks outtakes that didn’t make the album: “Up To Me.”
  • This could have been a solo acoustic album. Dylan is a pretty solid guitar player.
  • Dylan’s various takes are not radically different from what ended up on the album. But he clearly was experimenting: some of the takes are naked emotion and others are more guarded.
  • The lyrics were not locked down – he was editing in the studio.
  • Hearing Dylan’ several runs at the Blood On The Tracks songs is an exhibit of what a great vocalist Dylan can be. Anyone who thinks Dylan is a great songwriter, but a terrible singer needs to hear the original album and these outtakes (there is a sampler available on Spotify – see below).
  • These songs are so great you enjoy hearing ten variations of them.
  • In the end, Dylan made the right choices of the songs and versions to include on the released album. That is not to say he left off inferior songs or performances – he just picked the right ones for the album version of Blood On The Tracks. The legend of the lost NYC album is greatly exaggerated.

In the end, this collection is for obsessives. Several of the other bootleg releases are more essential and meaningful for the casual fan. But for me, like most Dylan freaks, Blood On The Tracks is so significant it warrants a detailed study like this.

The packaging is excellent with a book of liner notes and a second book of artifacts including Dylan’s notebooks of handwritten song lyrics.

Final point: I don’t agree with Columbia/Legacy’s decision to not release the whole six CDs of material on streaming services. The true obsessive fans are going to buy the physical collection. Make the collection available for the casual fan and for fans who can’t afford to layout $120. Plus it annoys me I have to rip and sync to listen to this album on a mobile device. If the Beatles can release their super deluxe version of The White Album on streaming services, why can’t Dylan do the same with More Blood, More Tracks? It is misguided greed and ignorance.

Sample of More Blood, More Tracks:

https://open.spotify.com/album/5faKzawYFUfk3IRRe6ERXl?si=eAGoLRhfSqOs_jrRtUBRGQ

Original album:

https://open.spotify.com/album/4WD4pslu83FF6oMa1e19mF?si=3iizNTlDSsyinOc9nU1YlQ

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6 Comments
  1. I think Blood on the Tracks would be my answer if asked say 8 days in 10. Then it’s a toss-up between Freewheelin’ and Highway 61

  2. I have a bootleg version, which I’ve always liked more – mainly because I HATE that bassline in ‘Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts’. I’ve just started reviewing Dylan on my blog, but Freewheelin’ and John Wesley Harding are my favourites.

  3. Just got the 2 LP version on the weekend. On first listen, it’s terrific – great vocal performances and lovely open, yet totally intimate sound. Having said that, I think a double album is enough for this Blood on the Tracks fan.

    • Agree on all of that. The 6 CDs is a pretty over the top product. One of those CDs is the original album. So in the end you are getting 3 CDs of extra outtakes vs the 2 LP version you got. That extra material is interesting, but not essential.

    • Me too Bruce. The 2LP version is enough for me. I’ve never been much of a fan of demo after demo versions – that’s archaeology!

  4. You are a Bob fan. So am I.

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