Intimate, but hardly essential, selection of Dylan outtakes.
The latest release from the Bob Dylan archives is not even classified as an official “Bootleg” release, the series title for the most significant gathering together of previously unreleased or rare tracks. Although it isn’t labelled as such the ‘1970‘ album is an act of copyright protection as much as anything else. It’s not as if this period of Dylan’s creativity hadn’t already been covered by the Bootleg series releases ‘Another Self Portrait‘. The big selling point for this collection is the inclusion of a set of recordings made with George Harrison, a handful of the songs that make up this 3CD release. Is this enough to encourage the average music listener with something of an interest in Dylan to part with their hard-earned cash? We can assume at this point that all Dylanphiles and Bobcats have already bought this, and so this review is not really aimed at you.
The collection also covers early versions of songs that would appear on ‘New Morning‘, and it is interesting to trace the development of ‘Sign on the Window‘ (7 versions) in particular and also ‘Went to see the Gypsy‘ (5 versions), whether this is worthy compensation for a lumpy run-through of ‘Yesterday’ is questionable though. Neither is Dylan’s greatest work, but the various arrangements are an insight into how Dylan worked in the studio. In places ‘1970’ does offer clear intimate performances that are truly pleasing to hear. How about those recordings with Harrison? Well – either you’re going to be blown away by the amazing playing that gives an insight into what a Dylan/Beatles collaboration would have been like (in which case you are probably the author of the accompanying essay that comes with the 3CDs) or you’re going to struggle to distinguish George’s presence at all. Their version of the Everley’s classic ‘All I have to do is Dream‘ will have the listener reaching for their copy of the Brother’s Greatest Hits. If one wants to it’s possible to see this as the birth of the Travelling Wilburys – but that’s stretching credulity, it’s actually two of the biggest rock stars of the day having a bit of a jam. In some ways the most “essential” songs are those that would appear on the still to be re-released ‘Dylan‘, which gathered together songs deemed not good enough for ‘Self-Portrait‘ although again it’s arguable as to how many versions of ‘Lily of the West’ anyone actually needs. And when getting them means also getting an almost inaudible rendition of ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky‘ the scales of value start to tip towards the negative.
If you’re a Dylan (or Beatles) obsessive then by all means buy this, if you’re a Dylan dilettante and want to explore the 1970-era recordings then get ‘New Morning.’ No one really needs ‘Self Portrait‘, and by the same logic no one really needs this “listen to a couple of times only” copyright protection release – even Dylan knows this.
A spot on review Jonathan. I enjoyed the album for what it was but far from essential. Mind you, I do own a copy of Dylan from 1973 which may ring alarm bells with some readers.