The upcoming fall new music release calendar just got a lot more interesting with announcements made this week within just days of each other of new albums from three of rock’s most iconic, legendary figures.
Although new albums from Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young might not have music retailers seeing big dollar signs the same way that a (likely on the way) new Kings Of Leon or (not so likely) Coldplay record would, it’s still a positive sign that the record labels are showing more of a willingness to roll out the big guns this Christmas season.
While nobody can realistically expect these three albums to do anything resembling humongous numbers, what they will do is provide as good a reason as any in recent years to get the still viable baby boomer demographic out of their cubbyholes and back into the record stores this fall. Still, this rarely seen sixty-day window of new albums by what many regard as the holy trinity of rock’s greatest living songwriters doesn’t come without at least a few caveats.
For one thing, not all of these albums are exactly new.
Of the three packages, only Neil Young’s Le Noise (due September 28) is a brand new studio album consisting entirely of music recorded earlier this year (with producer Daniel Lanois). The Dylan and Springsteen packages however, are both retrospectives drawing from the past work of each artist, while also containing rare and previously unreleased material.
Dylan’s The Witmark Demos (in stores on October 19) is the ninth volume of his Bootleg Series, and focuses on rare demo recordings made between 1962-1964, including early versions of some of Dylan’s most famous songs like “The Times They Are A Changin'” and “Blowin’ In The Wind,” as well as much rarer, never before heard material.
Springsteen’s The Promise: The Darkness On The Edge Of Town Story (which arrives November 16) is an ambitious deluxe re-imagining of his 1978 classic Darkness On The Edge Of Town album. It comes in a deluxe boxed set housing 3 CDs, 3 DVDs (or Blu-ray discs) packed with such extras as live concert footage and rarely heard outtakes. There’s even a previously unheard (if somewhat manufactured specifically for this set) “lost album” called The Promise.
What follows is a quick preview of each of these albums, including our thoughts on this “trifecta” from rock’s holy trinity, and just how we rate their chances at music retail this fall.
Neil Young – Le Noise
In a lot of ways, this could be seen as merely the latest in a long line of experimental albums from Neil Young — if only the songs we’ve heard so far didn’t sound so damn good.
But on paper, everything about Le Noise from the title on down screams classic Neil Young weirdness. From what we know, this is a mostly solo record (although we have also heard that Young is accompanied on at least some of the songs by the late Ben Keith), but is also not your usual folkie Harvest type acoustic outing.
Here instead, Neil is mostly cranking up the electric guitar — aided by the “sonics” of producer Daniel Lanois. But before you run like hell thinking this could be another 40 minutes of feedback noise a la’ the infamous Arc disc of Neil’s live Arc-Weld with Crazy Horse, most of these songs have been previewed on Neil Young’s current Twisted Road tour and both audiences and critics alike have been near unanimous in their praise. Songs like the autobiographical “Hitchhiker” and “Love And War” also find Neil Young reflecting on issues like his own mortality like no other album since Prairie Wind. This is also a nice warm up for the next round of Neil’s Archives discs, which will include the first official appearances of the “lost albums” Homegrown, Chrome Dreams, Toast and Oceanside, Countryside.
Verdict: This won’t be a huge commercial hit, but should do solid business with Neil Young’s core fanbase. It should also do much better than 2009’s Fork In The Road did with the critics, and will very likely make a few year-end “Best Of 2010” lists. This could be one of this years bigger sleepers.
Le Noise Songlist:
01. Walk With Me
02. Sign Of Love
03. Someone’s Gonna Rescue You
04. Love And War
05. Angry World
07. Peaceful Valley Boulevard
Bob Dylan – The Bootleg Series Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964
Like Neil Young’s Archives, Dylan’s Bootleg Series has proven to be a treasure-trove for Dylanologists and other collectors, and in many ways The Witmark Demos is the most intriguing entry yet — at least from a historical perspective.
Comprised of some of Dylan’s earliest demos (the album is apparently named for one of his first publishers, M. Witmark And Sons), it features early recordings of Dylan standards like “Masters of War,” “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Blowin’ In The Wind.” But more intriguing is the inclusion of never before heard songs from the same period with titles like “Guess I’m Doing Fine,” “Long Ago, Far Away” and “Ballad for a Friend.”
Dylan continues to tour non-stop (he’ll be headlining Seattle’s annual Bumbershoot Festival over Labor Day weekend). But with no followup to 2009’s Together Through Life on the horizon in the immediate future, this 48-song, two-disc collection should tide Dylan fans over quite nicely.
Verdict: Dylan’s Bootleg Series always does solid numbers among fans — with many of the hardcores preferring the rarities to his newer material. Interest could be even higher here, because of the period, and the vintage of the songs involved.
Witmark Demos Songlist:
1. Man On The Street (Fragment)
2. Hard Times In New York Town
3. Poor Boy Blues
4. Ballad For A Friend
5. Rambling, Gambling Willie
6. Talking Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues
7. Standing On The Highway
8. Man On The Street
9. Blowin’ In The Wind
10. Long Ago, Far Away
11. A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall
12. Tomorrow Is A Long Time
13. The Death of Emmett Till
14. Let Me Die In My Footsteps
15. Ballad Of Hollis Brown
16. Quit Your Low Down Ways
17. Baby, I’m In The Mood For You
18. Bound To Lose, Bound To Win
19. All Over You
20. I’d Hate To Be You On That Dreadful Day
21. Long Time Gone
22. Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues
23. Masters Of War
24. Oxford Town
1. Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right
2. Walkin’ Down The Line
3. I Shall Be Free
4. Bob Dylan’s Blues
5. Bob Dylan’s Dream
6. Boots Of Spanish Leather
7. Walls of Red Wing
8. Girl From The North Country
9. Seven Curses
10. Hero Blues
11. Whatcha Gonna Do?
12. Gypsy Lou
13. Ain’t Gonna Grieve
14. John Brown
15. Only A Hobo
16. When The Ship Comes In
17. The Times They Are A-Changin’
18. Paths Of Victory
19. Guess I’m Doing Fine
20. Baby Let Me Follow You Down
21. Mama, You Been On My Mind
22. Mr. Tambourine Man
23. I’ll Keep It With Mine
Bruce Springsteen – The Promise: The Darkness On The Edge Of Town Story
Springsteen fans have been salivating for this one for a couple of years now (it was originally supposed to come out as a 30th anniversary box back in 2008), but they will be more than happy for the wait. The Darkness box doubles the three discs of 2005’s Born To Run remastered deluxe set, and fully more than three quarters of it is comprised of previously unreleased, or otherwise never before seen or heard material.
The biggest news here is the two CDs of studio outtakes from the original Darkness sessions, which have been compiled into a manufactured “lost album” called The Promise.
These include such widely bootlegged songs as “The Promise” (presumably we finally get the first official release of the full E Street Band version here), “Because The Night” and “Spanish Eyes.” But there also some titles which will be new even to hardcore Springsteen collectors with interesting titles like “The Brokenhearted” and “(Someday) We’ll Be Together” (which I’m assuming isn’t a Diana Ross cover).
The live DVD material also looks pretty amazing. In addition to a full 1978 concert from Houston (said to consist of footage taken from the overhead screens), there is live “Thrill Hill Vault” footage from 1976-1978, and the complete 2009 performance of Darkness taken from the Paramount Theater in Asbury Park, NJ.
Rather than run down the entire track listing, I’ll point you towards Josh Hathaway’s preview elsewhere on Blogcritics. But man, I’m licking my chops for this one!
Verdict: It’s a six-disc boxed set, and it’s likely to be pricey. But for Bruce fans, this is a long sought after holy grail of sorts. Expect them to respond accordingly.