The 14th volume of Bob Dylan’s bootleg series won’t settle one of the most persistent debates about his recording career. But it will allow fans to decide for themselves.
Dylan’s 1975 album Blood on the Tracks is considered a milestone, a torrent of words and images thought to be inspired by the breakup of his marriage, although he insists the stories he was reading at the time had more to do with it. The Nobel prize committee likely had it in mind when giving Dylan its 2016 award for literature.
He recorded tracks like “Idiot Wind,” ″Tangled Up in Blue” and “Shelter From the Storm” in New York the previous September, primarily with his acoustic guitar but occasionally joined by a few other musicians.
But shortly before the album’s release, on a holiday break home in Minnesota, an apparently unsatisfied Dylan convened a mostly unknown group of musicians and re-recorded half of the album’s 10 songs.
Many of his fans, particularly those who heard illicit outtakes of what he recorded in New York, have long debated whether that was a mistake. There’s a greater bite and urgency to Dylan’s voice in the Minnesota versions as the band works to keep up with him, yet some loyalists prefer the more intimate recordings from New York.
The six-disc box set out Friday, “More Blood, More Tracks,” lays it all on the line. It includes everything he recorded in New York, so fanatics can see how songs progressed as Dylan tried out different arrangements. You can hear the awkwardness of other musicians as they try and often fail to figure out what he wants.
Dylan employed technology at the time to “speed up” the recordings that he finally settled on for “Blood on the Tracks,” and this box strips that away.
Unlike some of Dylan’s past “bootleg” projects, there’s no wealth of leftover material. There was only one song, “Up to Me,” that he was working on that was left off the original album. He fiddles with some lyrics — so-called completists may be excited about a heretofore unheard 12th verse of “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts” — but Dylan came into the studio with the songs fully formed.
With a price exceeding $100, the box is aimed at rabid fans with money and time to spare. But Sony has also compiled a single-disc release with alternate versions of the songs on “Blood on the Tracks.” Stream below.