The Bootleg Series Vol. 7: No Direction Home

Bob Dylan

Columbia, 2005

http://www.bobdylan.com

REVIEW BY: David Bowling

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/27/2008

And the Bootleg Series goes on and on and on and on………………and on.

No Direction Home: The Soundtrack is the seventh volume of Bob Dylan’s Bootleg Series. Originally begun as a way of releasing rare and never-released archival material, it has reached the point of redundancy and is quickly becoming inconsequential.

The extended title, No Direction Home: The Soundtrack, is misleading as it is not really a soundtrack to the biographical Dylan film of the same name. Rather it provides a jumping off place to explore similar material that was recorded during the same time period.

No Direction Home is a 26 song two-CD set that is filled with live versions of mostly well-known songs (nine), alternate takes of again well-known songs (12), plus a few demos, home recordings and the like. The music is not bad. If you are a hardcore Dylan fan this set may amuse you for awhile. Oddly enough, if you aren’t familiar with Dylan’s material from this era, the live tracks can provide a good introduction.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The best of No Direction Home comes early. “When I Got Troubles” is a home recording made in 1959 by a high school friend. It is primitive and has poor sound quality but is historically important as one of the earliest Dylan recordings in existence.  The 1961 live performance of “This Land Is Your Land” is probably the single most outstanding track on the album. Accompanying himself only with an acoustic guitar, Dylan slows the song down and provides a mellow talk-singing performance that is mesmerizing. Following this performance with “Song For Woody” is a worthy double homage to probably the greatest influence on Dylan’s musical life. The home recordings, “Dink’s Song” and “When I Was Young” show how far Dylan’s musical evolution had come in just a couple of years. He has taken traditional folk music and its lyrics as far as they can go and is now striking out on his own; a musical journey that continues today. 

The live tracks are fine but there is nothing groundbreaking or even much different here. Do we actually need more performances of “Like A Rolling Stone,” “Blowin’ In The Wind” and “Maggie’s Farm?” These songs have been performed by Dylan thousands of times, and while I enjoy Dylan, I don’t need to hear these same songs yet again.

I have never been a fan of alternate takes. Many times the reason an alternate is unreleased is that it does not measure up to the version originally released. Small differences in such songs as “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Highway 61 Revisited” are just not interesting enough to be included on an album under the proclamation of truly unreleased. Are these takes number four or fourteen? It doesn’t matter. The only alternate take that comes across as essential is the old coffeehouse staple “Sally Gal.” Maybe it’s because I have not thought of or heard this song in a long time but it does hark back to a long-gone simpler time.

The accompanying booklet, which is top notch, is not enough to save this set. Unless you are trying to assemble every recording that Bob Dylan has ever issued, you money would probably be better spent elsewhere.

On and on and on and on………………….and on.

Rating: C

User Rating: A


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