Thursday, October 09, 2008

Tell Tale Signs

Dylan’s back, and he’s got everyone running for cover again. It’s true, as Larry Sloman points out in the liner notes for the Bootleg Series Volume 8, that Dylan’s eight ‘bootleg’ cds of ‘extra material’ are enough to make a career for any other performer. Indeed, what Bob leaves on the cutting room floor often surpasses his own official album releases. From Volume 1-3, Blind Willie McTell and Farewell Angelina rank among the best songs he’s ever written, and no one but Bob could explain why he chose to shelve them. The same is true for Volume 8, released on Tuesday and loaded with gems. It’s a combination of alternate versions, early demos, unreleased tracks and blistering live versions of songs from his ‘late period’, 1989-2006. His recent studio albums are astonishing, but Volume 8 gives us a bonus, and sheds some light on his creative process. The alternate versions of Someday Baby and Most of the Time are radically different from what ended up on the albums, but are nonetheless impressive. And the unreleased tracks, Born in Time and Red River Shore in particular, rank right up there in his whole immense catalog. You could buy this release (should buy it, in fact) and not feel like it’s a collection of oddities for hardcore fans only.

But alas, I have a complaint. A rather big one, in fact. I got the 2-cd set for $18.99, which is more than fair. But the limited edition release, priced at over $100, contains a third disc of treasures and a book of all of Bob’s single record picture sleeves. Why must I pay an extra $80 for that? I don’t care much about the book, but that third cd is important. For the majority of music fans, the 2-cd set is enough, but I count myself amongst a small group of fanatics that want that extra disc of material, and I feel like we’re being taken advantage of. Of course the third cd is not available on i-tunes. I noticed this trend with the U2 remastered releases, with a hefty price tag on the premium edition for the fans who just can’t say no. Well I want that third disc, but I’m saying no. Columbia should not be surprised when these tracks start showing up on blogs and torrent sites. For God’s sake, some of Bob’s fans have been buying his records for 45 years, and this is how you treat them? Shame.

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