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Tell Tale Signs by Bob Dylan (Colombia)

The fact that this is the eighth instalment in the ongoing official Bob Dylan Bootleg Series is simply staggering. Eight volumes, all multidisc, of songs that never made the final cut on to an official release. As pointed out by Larry “Ratso” Sloman in his liner notes, ‘To mere mortals in the music business, eight records is a career. A long one.’
Nor are these albums of rare and unreleased tracks, also including live and alternative studio takes, comprised of reheated left-overs. Gems have been unearthed before, like ‘Blind Willie McTell’ from Volume 3, one of his greatest songs, recorded during the Infidels sessions but inexplicably left off it. On a par with it here is ‘Red River Shore’, which missed inclusion on Time Out of Mind. As for the songs you’ve heard before, or think you have, well frankly you haven’t, since he never sings the same song twice in quite the same way. Just check out the Oh Mercy version of ‘Born in Time’ for proof, so much better than its subsequent appearance on Under The Red Sky. Or again from Time Out of Mind time, there’s the driving blues of ‘Marchin’ to the City’, which eventually became ‘’Till I Fell In Love With You’, and a piano-led early go at ‘Can’t Wait’ (“Let’s try it in B Flat”) with vastly different lyrics.
Cover versions include a respectable World Gone Wrong era take on Robert Johnson’s ’32-20 Blues’ and a delightfully poignant rendition of Jimmie Rodgers’ ‘Miss The Mississippi’, from the 1992 Chicago sessions with guitarist Dave Bromberg.




From ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’ to ‘Things Have Changed’, many of Dylan’s most memorable moments have begun life as film soundtracks, and Tell Tale Signs reveals how consummate a provider of excellent movie songs he has become. Examples here are the playful ‘Can’t Escape From You’, from a movie that never got made, ‘’Cross The Green Mountain’, from Civil War epic Gods and Generals, and ‘Huck’s Theme’ from Lucky You, the latter featuring the devastatingly chilly line, ‘this version of death called life’.
Taken together, the previously unavailable material plus the radical re-readings add up to yet another treasure trove for Dylanologists.

First published in Magill magazine, December 2008













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