People are crazy, times are strange…….

When I’m going through difficult times (like now) I tend to rely on music to get me through. One album that’s carrying me along at the moment is a Bob Dylan cd which has had a limited circulation. Although released as recently as 2001, it was only made for the Japanese market at the time that Dylan was about to tour there. Entitled Bob Dylan Live 1961-2000 – Thirty Nine Years of Great Concert Performances, it culls tracks, many that have not been on cd elsewhere, from all across his career.


So what’s on here?

Somebody Touched Me. Country gospel hymn recorded in 2000. His current set list could do with some of this kind of innovation to break it up a little.

Wade in the Water. More traditional gospel but this time recorded in 1961 – a long, long time before anyone was asking about his religious beliefs. Acoustic folk.

Handsome Molly. From 1962. The lyrics have echoes from something from Modern Times. Part of the Gaslight Tapes.

To Ramona. From 1965. Dylan works words like no-one else and this has him at his youthful best.

I Don’t Believe You. 1966. It used to sound like this…….. Dylan has gone electric and one of my favourite songs from the 1964 period is reworked and sent soaring.

Grand Coulee Dam. 1968. Recorded as a tribute to his mentor, Woody Guthrie.

Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door. 1974. One from an album that has been available forever. It was originally on “Before the Flood”. Along with the version on the “Hard to Handle” video performance this is my favourite of the live recordings of this classic track.

It Ain’t Me, Babe. Recorded during the filming of Renaldo and Clara and filled with all the ramshackle glory and energy that dominated the Rolling Thunder Revue.

Shelter From the Storm. 1976. Again commonly available on Hard Rain but let’s face it that’s an album you’re never going to need all of. This is one of the better moments from that album. I’d have gone for “I Threw it all Away” or “Idiot Wind” but this will do.

Dead Man, Dead Man. 1981. Everybody now realises that for an established artist to go on stage with a setlist made up entirely of new songs virtually never happens. We have realised too late that Dylan live during the Slow Train / Saved period was simply amazing. It’s time for a full release of one of those shows in the Bootleg Series. Until that happens, then a performance of this song from Shot of Love from the following tour will have to do. Very cool indeed.

Slow Train. 1987. Originally released on “Dylan and the Dead”, the live album from his tour with the Grateful Dead. No-one needs that whole album but this proves that if you dig deep enough there are golden nuggets even there.

Dignity. 1994. From “Unplugged” which is another album that you don’t really need. This song was originally left off “Oh Mercy”. Now for a song to be left off a Dylan album is the recipe for it to be regarded as a work of genius. For someone that his fans call a genius, they sure don’t trust his judgement. Indeed, this is a very good song but I’m not sure it would have added to the album. Great performance here.

Cold Irons Bound. 1997. The studio version was on “Time Out of Mind”. Here, it seems a little rootless but it is still a fine reading of this vital song.

Born in Time. 1998. “Under the Red Sky” is a neglected album which whilst some songs were under-realised,  is still a very worthwhile record which Dylan obviously rates. This is a fine performance of a great song.

Country Pie. 2000. Just proves that Dylan songs don’t have to be profound and mean something. Originally on “Nashville Skyline”, this song just argues for the virtues of country music. You don’t have to agree with him to enjoy hearing the old guy having fun for once.

Things have Changed. 2000. Classic song. Like on the 1979 album, Dylan is waiting on the last train. Like in 1980 he tells us what is going to happen if the Bible is right. But times as well as things have changed by now and so this time we gave him an award. The song deserves it. The live performance shows Dylan working out the truth in his own words.

This Japanese album is difficult to find. You can get all the songs on iTunes but only if you buy all their Dylan collection. I can only say that, even so, they are well worth seeking out.

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