Bob Dylan: Stray Gems (or, soundtrack to an accident)
I started this post this morning, but between then and now I have been in my first car accident (no, not my fault; yes, I am okay, but my car -- not so much). At the time I was listening to this playlist, so now I've got the sickening sound of crunching metal forever associated with "Ninety Miles An Hour" which was ironically playing at the time (but I was only going 45). Accident or no, that song's still got some dang fine lyrics -- and I am still excited about this post.
Ahem, as I was going to say: The most recent issue of Rolling Stone (with Bob Dylan, larger than life, on the cover) has a great playlist of "stray gems" -- forgotten songs from Bob over the years. My friend Leo (who ROCKS) took the time to actually compile all of these tracks together into one zip file, and now I share them with you for your listening pleasure. Tracks are linked to the individual titles below (along with the commentary for each track), and a zip file is at the end if you, much like Depeche Mode, "just can't get enough."
Some Dylan albums anyone would take to a desert island. Others have gotten lost in the tide. Here’s a guide to some high spots between the masterpieces
by Jonathan Lethem
Forget bootlegs. Forget, for the moment, bonus discs and DVD extras. What if the best Bob Dylan songs you've never heard were simply tucked away on below-the-radar discs with "nice price" stickers on them, unrescued by Biograph, Greatest Hits or The Bootleg Series, or by any movie soundtrack (recall how "The Man in Me" blindsided you in The Big Lebowski?).
Along with Down in the Groove's "Rank Strangers," Under The Red Sky's "Cat's In The Well," and Knocked Out Loaded's "Brownsville Girl," here are a few more gems concealed in plain sight:
In The Summertime
FROM Shot of Love
By now everyone knows that "Every Grain of Sand" is this album's keeper - and as far as fine-hewn lyrics go, they're right. But for sheer vocal heartache, this harmonica-drenched lament goes a great distance down another road entirely.
FROM Self Portrait
Dylan with strings, splitting the difference between Hank Williams and Bing Crosby, to make a kind of western-movie dream sequence in Technicolor.
FROM Hard Rain
A familiar song, yes, but in a ten-minute raging punk version like you've never known, with a band that teeters over several cliffs and survives.
Ideally, you'd hear Dylan's humblest and most sheerly gorgeous devotional song in one of its shimmering live versions. But the album take, complete with Dylan's own piano work, will do.
Ninety Miles an Hour (Down a Dead End Street)
FROM Down in the Groove
Goofy backing vocals can't mask the relish Dylan takes in tackling this doomy Hank Snow hit, which takes the widely used motif of the dead-end love affair and adds a vehicle.
Day of the Locusts and
Sign on the Window
FROM New Morning
From an album that revealed a Dylan both tender and hesitant, a slice-of-life recounting of his uneasy receipt of an honorary degree, and an ambivalent fantasia of pastoral life, both sung with questing beauty.
FROM World Gone Wrong
For those who know this early-Nineties solo covers record and its predecessor, Good As I Been to You, they're not overlooked, just boon companions. Dylan's murdered Delia is a different girl than Johnny Cash's, but the poor things probably knew each other in school.
Under the Red Sky and
FROM Under The Red Sky
The first is a beguiling, gnomic pass at nursery rhymes, which Dylan mines as profitably as he does the Bible and the blues; the second, a perverse revision of "Like a Rolling Stone," pointing to the sly japes of Love and Theft.
We Better Talk This Over
True Love Tends To Forget
Is Your Love In Vain? and
Baby, Stop Crying
FROM Street Legal (remastered)
(note: RS selected the whole album, but here are just four of the tracks)
Unlike the heralded Bootleg Series, this crucially cleaned-up version of possibly Dylan's most undervalued collection of songs was dropped into the marketplace so quietly that few even noticed. Since the murk of the production was the biggest obstacle to hearing Dylan walking a tightrope between divorce and Jesus, why not give it a second chance - or a first? Just be certain you get the new version.
Spanish Harlem Incident
FROM Another Side of Bob Dylan
Heard it lately?
SNAG THESE DYLAN GEMS AS A ZIP
You can also stream all these tracks for a limited time on the Rolling Stone website (at the end of the article) if you aren't in a downloadin' mood.
The Martin Scorsese Dylan biopic No Direction Home is at the top of my Netflix queue, so maybe I'll get that sometime this next week to continue in this Dylan trend (minus the car accidents).
Hopefully future bouts with Dylan in my life will not portend such dire consequences.