This volume of Dylan’s Bootleg Series is the soundtrack to Martin Scorsese’s documentary No Direction Home: Bob Dylan, which will be premiering on PBS as part of the American Masters series on September 26 & 27.
Disc 1 covers the years 1959-65, during Dylan’s Woody Guthrie period when he was the eloquent poet of the people, voicing their anger, fear, hope and concerns with acoustic folk songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind” “Masters of War” and “Chimes of Freedom.” The 16 tracks that comprise this disc include early recordings, such as “When I Got Troubles”, which is likely to be the first original song ever recorded by Dylan, as well as alternate takes and live performances of songs that range from his debut album, Bob Dylan, to Bringing It All Back Home.
Disc 2 continues with the Bringing It All Back Home sessions, opening with an alternate take of “She Belongs To Me”. It concludes with live tracks from the legendary British tour of ’66 when Dylan plugged in and became a rock star. The 12 tracks on this disc are mostly alternate takes from Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde. In fact with the inclusion of the two live performances, seven of the nine songs from Highway 61 Revisited appear on this disc.
Some close-minded fans were upset by the drastic change of Dylan going electric. On the live version of “Like A Rolling Stone” that closes this album, you can hear one audience member famously call Bob, “Judas.” I understand their hero had left them and the folk music scene behind, and if he had made bad rock ‘n’ roll records, they might have had a point, but the songs are so good that their arguments lose all validity. Listen to “Maggie’s Farm” or “Highway 61 Revisited” or “Stuck Inside Of Memphis With the Memphis Blues Again” and try and keep your body parts from keeping the beat.