Several other of the songs had been recorded by others, notably the Band, while still others are folk classics, but until this recorded collection appeared in all its unmarked splendor, Dylan versions of the material existed only on "secret" tapes.
Unfortunately, much of the recording quality is poor. (Although it is questionable whether comparisons of this sort can be made fairly when talking about "bootleg" material.) The tracks made with the Band, for example, sound as if run through a paper cup and string.
On other songs, however, the sound reproduction is quite good, and most of the early material, Dylan even seems to be playing a freer, more imaginate acoustic guitar than he's been heard to pick any time recently.
Getting into specifics, and using the producers' numbering choice (which seems to be arbitrary at best), Side No. 1 contains six songs and two raps, all from the "hotel" or "Minneapolis" tape.
Songs are "Candy Man," "Ramblin' Around," "Hezekiah," "No Home in This World Any More," "Abner Till" and "Lazarus." Some of the titles are, like the numbering of the sides, arbitrary; Dylan was in Europe and not available for assistance in identification.
In the first of the talking cuts on this side, Dylan offers some comment about photographs that had been taken recently – said they made him look like James Dean. While the second rap is about his once stealing a song from Len Chandler. They're both informal, but not very informative.
Side No. 2, the second made from the Minneapolis tape, begins with "Baby, Please Don't Go," then goes into a rap during which Pete Seeger asks Dylan how he writes his songs (the response is a representative Dylan put-on): then into "Dink's Blues" and "See That My Grace Is Swept Clean." Next is a longer rap, titled "East Orange, New Jersey," all about how Dylan once didn't get paid in money, but chess men; it's a variation of a story told by Lee Hays of the Weavers (in which Lee said he got paid in furs) and probably several others as well. The final song on the side is "Man of Constant Sorrow."
Side No. 3 begins with an unfinished solo blues which might be called just that – "Unfinished Blues" – because it ends as abruptly as a San Francisco freeway, in mid-air. Next is "I Think I'll Stay All Night," recorded rather shabbily with the Band and "Only a Hobo Talkin' Devil," recorded alone. The last three cuts on the side also were recorded with the Band – "Kill Me Alive," "The Mighty Quinn" and "Wheels on Fire."
The first five songs on Side No. 4 are from the basement tape made with the Band–"I Shall Be Released," "Open the Door, Richard," "Too Much of Nothin'," "Take Care of Yourself" and "Tears of Rage," Again, the fidelity is weak. And the final cut is "Living the Blues," the song lifted from the Cash show and the song which, ironically, it is reported Columbia will release as Dylan's next "official" single.
The bootleggers, of course, plan no single releases. They do hint at producing more albums, though – however indefinite their plans may be, "due to existing circumstances." Since issuing this one, they say, they've been approached by a number of people with other "secret" tapes.
In the meantime, they're still struggling with their little "company's" first release and protecting their anonymity.
"What're your names?" I asked.
"Call me Patrick," said the one with the longest hair.
"Call me Vladimir," said the one with the bushiest sideburns.
"How do you spell Vladimir?"
"I don't know, man. Make it Merlin."
Why did they do it?
"Bob Dylan is a heavy talent," Patrick said, "and he's got all those songs nobody's ever heard. We thought we'd take it upon ourselves to make this music available."
"Do you know what will happen if you get away with it?" I said. "Why, if John Mayall or anybody opens at the Whisky tonight, there'll be a live recording of it on the stands by the middle of next week."
Patrick and Vladimir/Merlir just grinned.
This story is from the September 20th, 1969 issue of Rolling Stone.
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