Highlights of Bob Dylan’s ‘Bootleg Series’
Standing as probably the greatest American songwriter of all time, the musical catalog of Bob Dylan is nothing short of awe-inspiring. 35 studio albums, 11 live albums, and innumerable compilations contain countless brilliant moments from the always confounding Dylan. Of particular interest is his Bootleg Series of previously unreleased material.
Standing at 10 volumes and counting, sifting through this avalanche of recordings for the cream of the crop is a herculean task. But the many highlights of the series don’t just function as lost gems for die-hard fans.
For people who may not be as familiar with Dylan’s endless catalog, these tracks serve as fascinating glimpses into his mind; and why he may not have felt like arranging a song a particular way at a given time. In some cases, the arrangements produced on the live or unreleased takes of a given song are far superior to the take that appeared on the resulting album it was on.
I am in no way saying that these are the absolute, definitive highlights of the lengthy Bootleg Series. There really is no way to strictly define the ups and downs of an artist who for half a century has constantly confounded and thrilled fans and critics alike by taking unexpected left turns and changing gears. For me though, these seven “bootleg” tracks, all deep in their respective albums, give the best indication of the true brilliance of Bob Dylan as a songwriter, musician, and artist.
1. “He Was A Friend Of Mine” (Volume 1)
An outtake from his self-titled debut, Dylan’s rendition of this traditional folk song is simply devastating. Simple, precise, but incredibly powerful; this version brilliantly captures the pure, unspoiled sorrow the track was meant to convey as it was listened to and copied through the years. Even at this early stage, Dylan’s stunning talent as a folk singer is obvious as he delivers this breathtaking ballad.