320 kbps | 282 MB | UL |
Released on the Black Friday edition of this year’s Record Store Day brouhaha, Bob Dylan’s Side Tracks is a 32-track journey into the deeper cuts of the legendary musician’s catalogue. In essence – It stands as an alternate history, a left-of-center greatest hits collection from an artist whose best songs sometimes are the stray cats and orphans left as B-sides or recording room scraps. Most everything here has appeared elsewhere on compilations like the incomparable Biograph, but by stripping the record of Dylan’s well-known songs, it provides a deeper look into his metamorphosis from nasally folk artist to his current status as a gravel-voiced elder statesman.
Side Tracks takes the listener back to the beginning, in those hallowed days of 1963 when Dylan recorded The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Coming off of a lackluster response to his self-titled debut, Dylan penned his own songs, creating his first instant classic and leaving plenty of tunes on the cutting room floor worthy of being on any other artist’s record. “Baby, I’m in the Mood For You” is one of those tunes, a jangly, youthful cut filled with the type of folksy optimism that would come to flourish as the ’60s progressed. Part of the charm of Side Tracks is hearing Dylan as he shifts gears from the young folker to the amphetamine-fueled rocker in the mid-60s. That transition is typified by the jump from the delightful “I’ll Keep It With Mine” to the vindictive “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window”. Where the former has the drawl of a barroom ballad, the latter drips of anger as Dylan points fingers at an unknown lover and her keeper.
But, Dylan wasn’t set on staying in hipster mode, trading in his fizzed-out here and beat-inspired lyrics for something of a family life. Side Tracks hits those marks, segueing from an excellent live version of “Visions of Johanna” to an okay spin on “Quinn the Eskimo” from The Basement Tapes. Yes, the ’70s version of Dylan could be spotty at times, but there are some undiscovered gems, including the rolling “Watching the River Flow” and the underrated classic, “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”.
Where Side Tracks does come across as lean is those years in the late ’70s and ’80s where Dylan seemed to have lost his muse and turned out album after album of soulless crap. But, even this thin period had some gems, including the wonderful “Blind Willie McTell”, a rarity that is sadly missing. Instead fans are treated to “Caribbean Wind” and “Heart of Mine”, songs that pale in comparison even to his earlier work. That it ends on the excellent “Things Have Changed” from the Wonder Boys soundtrack rights the ship, showing off the modern Dylan and his excellent band of musicians.
Ultimately, Side Tracks is a nice limited edition set for anyone looking for these songs in one place. As a history of Dylan’s less popular work, it’s a somewhat succinct showcase of the man’s career metamorphosis. Newcomers may find some new gems, but old fans would be wise to stick with what they already have.
1. Baby, I’m In The Mood For You (2:54)
2. Mixed-Up Confusion (Single Version) (2:20)
3. Tomorrow Is A Long Time (3:01)
4. Lay Down Your Weary Tune (4:34)
5. Percy’s Song (7:39)
6. I’ll Keep It With Mine (3:43)
7. Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window (Single Version) [Mono] (3:31)
8. Positively 4Th Street (4:07)
9. Jet Pilot (0:48)
10. I Wanna Be Your Lover (3:25)
11. I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met) (Live) (5:17)
12. Visions Of Johanna (Live) (7:29)
13. Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn) (2:16)
14. Watching The River Flow (3:33)
15. When I Paint My Masterpiece (3:20)
1. Down In The Flood (Live) (2:47)
2. I Shall Be Released (3:01)
3. You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere (2:43)
4. George Jackson (Acoustic Version) (3:36)
5. Forever Young (2:00)
6. You’re A Big Girl Now (4:21)
7. Up To Me (6:16)
8. Abandoned Love (4:26)
9. Isis (Live) (5:17)
10. Romance In Durango (Live) (4:36)
11. Caribbean Wind (5:50)
12. Heart Of Mine (Live) (3:41)
13. Series Of Dreams (5:52)
14. Dignity (Alternate Version) (5:35)
15. Things Have Changed (5:07)