Bob Dylan - More Blood, More Tracks: The Bootleg Series Vol.14 - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Bob Dylan - More Blood, More Tracks: The Bootleg Series Vol.14

by Kevin Orton Rating:10 Release Date:2018-11-02
Bob Dylan - More Blood, More Tracks: The Bootleg Series Vol.14
Bob Dylan - More Blood, More Tracks: The Bootleg Series Vol.14

Blood On The Tracks is an album I turn to time and time again. Safe to say it’s not only one of my favorite Dylan albums, but it’s also one of my favorite albums. Period. After a fallow, erratic early 70’s, Dylan came back swinging with this one. Some have said it’s one of the greatest break-up albums of all time. But I see much more in it than just that. Confessional it may be, but that confession is wrapped in enigma, “images and distorted facts.” No matter how you chose to interpret it, Blood On The Tracks is an indisputable classic.

So why the fuck would anyone want to hear the album Dylan scrapped? For my own part, I wasn’t exactly drooling in expectation. I’m a well-versed Dylan fan, but no obsessive. I sure as hell don’t get off pouring over every take in slavish, pedantic ecstasy. So, this isn’t a review of the six-disc deluxe version. It’s a review of what might have been Blood On The Tracks had Dylan not had last minute second thoughts. Based off what I’ve heard here, there’s no way this collection of songs wasn’t going to strike a chord regardless of how they were performed or presented. Dylan is at the peak of his talents here and he captured lightning in a bottle with these songs. That’s the thing that really strikes me about this release: how damn fine these songs are.
More Blood, More Tracks should not be compared with Blood On The Tracks. It should be taken on its own merits. This is not the same album by any stretch of the imagination. Just another point of view. One that’s as satisfying the official release. In fact, a few tracks simply took my breath away.

Blood, of course, kicks off with the amazing, ‘Tangled Up In Blue’. This version is more laid back and introspective yet, Dylan’s delivery is filled with the same perfect balance of emotion and ambiguity. The narrative is a little more literal, Dylan going in out of the first and third person, but it’s clear it’s the same protagonist, “just from a different point of view”.

‘Simple Twist Of Fate’ follows as it does on the official album, however, this version is an eye-opener. Much more intimate and confessional. Dylan’s vocals brimming with conflicting emotions. Where the officially released version is almost cinematic, this version is spare and bursting with heartbreak and bitter irony.

‘You’re A Big Girl’ is normally up next, instead More Blood offers up ‘Shelter From The Storm’, one of my favorite tracks on the final album. This version is a touch slower in tempo (record companies typically sped tracks up 2% before releasing at the time). Yet it nevertheless packs the same wallop. Going to show, that no matter how Dylan chose to cut the song, it was potent stuff.

 ‘You’re A Big Girl Now’ is a revelation for me. Where it was my least favored on the album, this version burns close. Dylan pretty much whispering in your ear, his voice cracked with emotion. All living up to the lyric, “Hear me singing through these tears.” Just stunning. Dylan like you’ve never heard him. Up close and personal. No charades, no word games, just about as raw and honest as it gets.

Despite its irresistible melody, ‘Buckets of Rain’ is the slightest track on Blood. This version has an undercurrent of melancholy along with the tongue in cheek humor, lending it a bit more complexity than the released version. By contrast, More Blood’s, ‘If You See Her, Say Hello’ is devastating. Lonesome and haunted. Sparring with anger, regret, and confusion. As with ‘Big Girl’, I find this take gets under my skin more than the official.

Without a doubt, I much prefer More Blood’s folksy, laid-back rendition of ‘Lily Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts’. It’s less forced, less repetitive and unwieldy. The narrative is not only more concise and easier to follow, but it’s also a more emotionally invested performance. Funny thing is, this version is actually longer by a minute or so, and yet seems shorter.

‘Meet Me In The Morning’ is a song that tends to be taken for granted by Dylan admirers and I’m no exception. This version is just as playful and yet the bare bones approach brings out the song’s spark of loneliness and yearning.

The most drastic difference between Blood and More are the contrasting takes of the centerpiece tune, ‘Idiot Wind’. Where the official is blistering and defiant, this version is rueful and introspective. Longtime fans are familiar with this take, as it was released on the first Bootleg series. I’m not going to say one is better than the other, they’re simply different. I can get lost in either one. A testament to the song’s timeless power. Both are just as surreal, mysterious and heartfelt. In both, you can hear a mix of perspectives. The war of blame, the storms of guilt and hurt. It’s a song that is positively Shakespearean in its ability to capture humanity in all its contradictions. Also, possessing Shakespeare’s uncanny knack for deliberate opaqueness. So, there you have it. I’ve compared Dylan to Shakespeare. Any way you cut it if ever there were a heartbreaking work of staggering genius, its ‘Idiot Wind’.  

In terms of sequencing, ‘You’re Going To Make Me Lonesome When You Go,’ not only makes more sense towards the end, it lends the song a poignancy it doesn’t quite have placed smack dab in the middle. On the official, it’s a song about hanging on and being unable to let go. Here, its’ about letting go and moving on. Amazing how simple placement can shine a different light on a song you’ve heard a thousand times. All of which sums up this release.

Of course, the unreleased ‘Up To Me’ is the clincher. What fans are clamoring for. Well, it’s a great song but I think Dylan was right to cut it. Something's to be said for less is more. While it doesn’t enhance the album, it’s a purposefully forgotten bag left on the platform after the train has pulled out. One fans can rifle through and find enigmas like, “It was like a revelation when you betrayed me with your touch”.

I’m not going to say I prefer this scrapped version to the stone classic Dylan eventually released. I think Dylan made the right move in re-recording last minute. But I love both versions equally. I’m not going to pick favorites. I know I’ll come back to them both time and time again. I must say the difference in sequencing makes a huge difference. In terms of the spare backing, it only serves to illustrate what an incredible artistic leap Dylan made here. There’s a reason why this material was considered a “comeback.” The early 70’s were an erratic muddle in terms of his output. There was the much maligned, Self-Portrait. New Morning was dashed together to meet contractual obligations. While Planet Waves is underrated, no one was doing cartwheels over half-assed tracks like ‘Dirge’ or ‘The Wedding Song’. ‘Knocking On Heaven’s Door’ hinted at could be, but let’s face it, the Billy the Kid soundtrack doesn't hold a candle to Highway 61 or Blonde On Blonde. With this batch of songs, Dylan was inspired, focused and reinvigorated. Melodically and lyrically, this was a whole different level than he was operating on before. It’s the sound of an artist taking hold of the reins of his talents and digging his spurs in.

Not only a must-have for Dylan freaks, a must-have period. This is Dylan at his peak. This is why they gave him a Nobel prize.


Comments (1)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Kevin - Great perspective on this release. I probably wouldn't have listened for someone not telling me I needed to. It's unbelievably good for all the reasons you mention.

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