Sunday, November 2, 2014

After the Fall: The New Yorker Weighs In On Dylan's Basement Tapes

“As I walked out of the lovely old Paramount Theater the last three nights after seeing Bob Dylan and his band, one word kept coming to mind: sublime.”
 ~Mitch Meyer, reviewing Bob Dylan's recent Oakland concerts.

November is the beginning of another busy time for Northland Dylan fans. First there’s the release of the latest set of songs from the vault, Bootleg Series #11, The Basement Tapes. Second, there’s the epic collection of lyrics from the entirety of his catalog, titled simply The Lyrics: Since 1962. And finally, Dylan himself is returning home to Minnesota, some fans already vowing to not miss a concert included the rumored unscheduled one that I can’t talk about.

The quote atop this page is from a review at, the “go to” source for Dylan concert followers and more.

Regarding the Basement Tapes The New Yorker gave its reviewer plenty of ink to play with in this week’s edition. He begins with a recount of the famously obscured motorcycle accident that is all part of the Dylan legend, hence the title of the review, which begins this way...

On July 29, 1966, Bob Dylan became distracted while riding his motorcycle. Nobody knows what caught his eye—he told Sam Shepard that it was the sun; he told the biographer Robert Shelton that he hit an oil slick—but he ended up at the bottom of a hill in Woodstock, New York, with his Triumph beside him. His thoughts could have been distraction enough.

And so it goes, what really happened nobody knows. What we do know is that Dylan took a break from touring and proceeded to leave an extensive collection of recordings that answer the question as regards how he spent his time during his Woodstock years after leaving The City and The Road.

After an appropriately elaborate setup, author Sasha Frere-Jones digs into the news, which is the occasion for this multi-page review.

Next week, [November 4 to be exact] a six-CD set called “The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 11,” featuring a hundred and thirty-nine songs, will be released. It is not exactly an album, and was never intended to be. Some of the songs began circulating in 1969, on an album that came to be called “The Great White Wonder,” and brought the word “bootleg” into the context of music. Six years later, sixteen songs from these sessions, plus eight written and recorded by The Band alone, were enhanced with overdubs and officially released as a two-LP set, under the name “The Basement Tapes.” Several months before the release, Dylan gave his first radio interview in nine years and said, “Somebody mentioned it was a good idea to put it out, you know, as a record, so people could hear it in its entirety and know exactly what we were doing up there in those years.”

The author does more than talk about this latest Dylan set and it’s 139 songs of uneven importance. He offers a detailed autobiographical overview of how he beame a Dylan fan. His first brush with Dylan’s music failed to connect with him. But then, somewhere along the way, like tens of thousands before him and since, a single line or stanza from a single song hits home with force. For Frere-Jones the song was “Mama You Been On My Mind” from the Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3 (Rare and Unreleased.)

It's good article, worthy of The New Yorker. You can catch it in full here.

And in the event you don't have your tickets yet for the Midwest portion of his Never Ending Tour, here's the place to plug in, at Three nights in Minneapolis, three more in Chicago and a seventh night in Cleveland, home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Keep on truckin'. Bob. Let it roll.

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