2013: Side Tracks [1962–2000]
Rated as: Collection
Compilation Status: Essential
Specific Genre: Singer-Songwriter, Folk Rock, Contemporary Folk
Main Genre: Singer-Songwriter
Undertones: Blues Rock, Country Roock, Roots Rock
Disc 1: 1. Baby, I’m in the Mood for You 2. Mixed-Up Confusion 3. Tomorrow Is a Long Time (Live) 4. Lay Down Your Weary Tune 5. Percy’s Song 6. I’ll Keep It with Mine 7. Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window? 8. Positively 4th Street 9. Jet Pilot 10. I Wanna Be Your Lover 11. I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met) 12. Visions of Johanna (Live 1966) 13. Quinn the Eskimo (Mighty Quinn) 14. Watching the River Flow 15. When I Paint My Masterpiece
Disc 2. 1. Down in the Flood 2. I Shall Be Released 3. You Ain’t Goin‘ Nowhere 4. George Jackson (Acoustic Version) 5. Forever Young 6. You’re a Big Girl Now 7. Up to Me 8. Abandoned Love 9. Isis (Live) 10. Romance in Durango (Live) 11. Caribbean Wind 12. Heart of Mine 13. Series of Dreams 14. Dignity 15. Things Have Changed
How long can you search for what is not lost?
While you can get this double-disc compilation as its own entity, many people will accidentally acquire it through the box set The Complete Album Collection Volume One (2013) – and it’s all for the better because it came as a neat surprise to me as such. Materially, this is just a nice set collecting the non-album-tracks included on the inarguably most salient Dylan-compilations: 1971’s Greatest Hits Vol. II, the 1985-retrospective Biograph, and one track each from the first Bootleg series Vol. 1–3 (1991), the Greatest Hits Volume 3 (1994) and the Essential Bob Dylan (2000). There is only one track here that sees his first official long-player-release (the acoustic version of “George Jackson”, a 1971-B-side).
This is not to pan the collection, as it makes complete sense in the context of the box set – and more sense than, say, Biograph ever did: This is just the scattered nuggets, not the LP-clutter you own anyway. It is also sequenced chronologically, giving you an amazing journey through the world of, well, side-track-Dylan: non-LP-singles, live highlights, acoustic demos for songs made famous by other artists – it is four decades of Dylan’s development in footnotes, step by step, from one phase to the next. No history lecture on his evolving styles could be as concise – and I’m not above noticing that almost everything between Desire (1975) and Oh Mercy (1989) gets elegantly swept under the rug. Stunning stuff, great and rewarding listen from start to finish.
Some of these tracks are elementary. The Leon-Russell-produced 1971-single “Watching the River Flow” was his only actual artistic statement between 1970’s New Morning and up 1973’s Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (only the Greatest Hits Vol. II of November 1971 filled those ‘lost years’), and it was a turn to gritty roots rock, away from Nashville (the statement is better than the song though). Dylan’s own early versions of songs like “Lay Down Your Weary Tune” or “I’ll Keep It with Mine” (made famous by the Byrds and Judy Collins, respectively – but Nico’s version is the one, trust me) are yearning, fragile and canonic – it is somewhat incredible from today’s perspective that these weren’t part of Dylan’s official output until the late 1980s and 1990s. And, to cut to the chase, it is just great to have all in one place: The essential versions first released in 1971 (“I Shall Be Released”, “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” just to name the inevitable – these are performances for the decades) and all that followed on later retrospectives. Excellent.
1.1, 1.2, 1.4–1.6, 1.9–1.13, 2.5–2.11 Biograph (1985)
1.3, 1.8, 1.14, 1.15, 2.1–2.3 Greatest Hits Vol. II (1971)
1.7 Masterpieces (1978) (later on Biograph)
2.4 Side Tracks (2013)
2.12 Bootleg Series Vol. 1–3 (1991)
2.13 Greatest Hits Volume 3 (1994)
2.14 The Essential Bob Dylan (2000)