Thursday, September 11, 2008


Bob Dylan's catalog of incredible songs is so deep, it's hard to wrap your head around. He's got tons of classic albums, a bunch of merely good ones, and then there's the hidden gems: the great songs stuck in the bad albums. Plus the songs he either gave to friends or just never recorded (check out The Bootleg Series 1-3 box set if you don't believe me). And, it turns out, he can perform many of his songs in a number of different ways: different time signatures, different keys, different arrangements.

Not that it always clicks. The stereotype of Dylan's performances are that you can't recognize what song he's doing. Having seen him a number of times starting in 1993, I can say that the shows I saw in the '90s were great, but in the '00s he started falling into that stereotype.

By the end of the '80s, it seemed like Bob was done. His performances were supposedly pretty lame, and his records weren't great either. I don't feel too bad about saying this: he pretty much says the same thing in his great book Chronicles Vol. 1. But something did "click" with him around the time he started working with The Grateful Dead, and his next album was 1989's classic Oh Mercy. He followed that up with the the pretty good and underrated Under The Red Sky in 1990 (and around this time, he was also working with The Traveling Wilburys). After that, he released two solo acoustic albums of covers: 1992's Good As I Been To You and 1993's World Gone Wrong. And since then, he's put out three classics in a row: 1997's Time Out Of Mind, 2001's Love And Theft and 2006's Modern Times.

The latest installment of The Bootleg Series focuses on this post-1989 era. I can't wait. I feel like this era gets short shift because, well, it isn't the '60s or the '70s.

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