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Bob Dylan – Springtime In New York (1980-1985) The Bootleg Series Vol. 16

September 18, 2021
Bob Dylan – Springtime In New York (1980-1985) The Bootleg Series Vol. 16 (Columbia/Legacy/Third Man Records)

First: how about that cover art? A sexy 80s Dylan that could be right out of a Miami Vice episode.

I don’t come to this period of Dylan with objectivity. This is when I was absorbing Bob in real time. I have a distinct memory of waiting in the parking lot of The Wax Museum (worlds best name for a record store) for the store to open so I could pick up Shot Of Love on release day. “My Bob” starts with 1978’s Street Legal. When I went to college in the fall of 1977, my mentor, Uncle Paul, turned me on to Dylan (among other things) and I was immediately smitten by the bard. By the time Street Legal was released in the summer of 1978, I was a big fan. I got even deeper following him in real time over the subsequent years. Love the old stuff, but there is something special about the stuff I experienced in real time – “my Bob.” And so I have been looking forward to this release of prime early “my Bob” material (the 80s).

Per Bob’s website:

Bob Dylan – Springtime In New York (1980-1985) celebrates the rich creative period surrounding Dylan’s albums Shot Of Love, Infidels, and Empire Burlesque with previously unreleased outtakes, alternate takes, rehearsal recordings, live performances and more.

https://www.bobdylan.com

It is not exactly a hot take to say that Dylan’s outtakes are better then most artists’ greatest hits. This collection reemphasizes that concept. There are amazing outtakes on this album: songs we have heard before, like “Blind Willie McTell” and “Foot Of Pride” (although not these versions – some of these were foreshadowed on the original Bootleg box in 1991) and ones that are fresh like “Fur Slippers.” The alternate takes of songs off the three studio albums are less revelatory, but as a fan it is cool to witness the evolution of those songs.

The easiest version to access is the two CD version (also available on streaming services). The full version is on five CDs. The vinyl edition has a smaller selection than the CD and in order to have a vinyl equivalent to the five CDs you need to augment the standard two LP edition with a four LP edition from Third Man Records (I am in possession). However, the vinyl option still comes up 4 tracks short of the 5 CD version (I am missing out on Bob’s cover of “Sweet Caroline 😕). The full edition has a lot more outtakes, some amazing covers (Dave Mason’s “We Just Disagree” – who knew?), and some more adventurous alternate takes. The expanded edition is well worth the extra investment.

Third Man Records edition

80s Dylan is unfairly maligned – there is only one stiff: Knocked Out Loaded (and even that is not horrible, merely below Dylan standards). Shot Of Love, Infidels, and Empire Burlesque are great. And the 80s ends with Oh Mercy which is a masterpiece. The 80s was set up by Dylan’s Christian period which inspired him to great work: lyrically, musically and in performance. The only criticism of the Dylan trio of Shot Of Love, Infidels, and Empire Burlesque is that they have some dated production values. But I kind of dig the production of all three albums – they are true to the era they were created.

I am not sure who the audience for this is beyond Dylan obsessives like me. But if you are one of those obsessives and you appreciate Shot Of Love, Infidels, and Empire Burlesque you will dig this collection. Each Bootleg Series release sheds new light and in some cases reassess a chapter in the Dylan discography. This release reassess the much maligned 80s Dylan as fertile period with not good, but great material.

Spinning the wax

From → Music Reviews

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