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Bob Dylan - No Direction Home: The Soundtrack (A Martin Scorsese Picture)

  by Jon Rogers

published: 19 / 10 / 2005

Bob Dylan - No Direction Home: The Soundtrack (A Martin Scorsese Picture)
Label: Sony Music
Format: CD


Magical double compilation, released to coincide with Martin Scorsese's recent documentary of the same name, which compiles togther 28 officially previously unreleased Bob Dylan tracks from the era 1961 to 1966

Lately there has been something of a media frenzy around Robert Zimmerman. Along with this collection there's been various events going on. BBC2 showed film director Martin Scorsese's epic documentary on Dylan's rise to fame and covered the years 1961-1966. BBC4 also got in on the act with a season of programmes on the one time folk singer. The Barbican staged 'Talking Bob Dylan Blues' where the likes of Willy Mason, Billy Bragg and Razorlight played covers of his songs. There was a photographic exhibition at the Proud Gallery of photos of Dylan. Sean Penn read an abridged version of Dylan's 'Chronicles' on BBC Radio 2. If that wasn't enough, just walk into an high street bookshop and you can pick up a whole collection of books about the man. Overkill? Hell no. He's also touring in November. By now you'd think that everyone would be thoroughly sick of the man. It is perhaps a testament to the writer of such classics as 'Like a Rolling Stone', 'Visions of Johanna' and 'Blowin' in the Wind' that saturation point hasn't yet been reached. The scope and breath of his work is sufficiently strong enough to support the weight. To tie in with Scorsese's almost four-hour documentary this Columbia release, which has been released as part of the ongoing Bootleg series, is effectively the soundtrack to that film. 'No Direction Home' covers the early years of Dylan from his upbringing in Hibbing, Minnesota to the end of his "electric" trilogy with 'Blonde on Blonde'. Almost all of the 28 tracks have been previously unreleased - officially at least. Almost all are magical versions of some of his most famous songs. Placed together alongside his official albums of the era and compilations like the first Bootleg series release, 'No Direction Home' fills in some of the gaps during Dylan's most creatively fervent period between 'Bringing it all Back Home' to 'Blonde on Blonde' and sets up the scene nicely. The story starts off with a version of 'When I Got Troubles' from 1959 - a home recording believed to be first Dylan committed to tape. It maps out his early, Woody Guthrie obsessed, folk years with a reverent version of 'This Land is Your Land', 'Song to Woody' (from his first album) and the traditional 'Rambler, Gambler'. Then there's Dylan's persona as protest folk singer. There are some stunning live versions of 'Blowin' in the Wind', 'A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall' and 'When the Ship Comes In'. And a particularly bile-fuelled stomp through 'Masters of War'. 'No Direction Home' though really comes into its own though once Dylan discovers electricity. While the first disc contains some wonderful songs and is still essential listening it sounds too much like some dusty archive being opened up purely for posterity. The most interesting and real revelations come on the second disc which mostly profiles his electric period. From the alternate take of 'It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry' to the closing live version of 'Like a Rolling Stone' (the Manchester Free Trade Hall version from 'Live 1966' complete with "Judas!" taunt) Dylan's legacy really comes alive. There's the first take of 'Desolation Row' as if Lou Reed had joined in as a session musician. A bone-dry take of 'Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again'. A waltz-like take of 'Visions of Joanna' also stands out as does the live version of 'Ballad of a Thin Man'. And one final point. While 'No Direction Home' covers pretty comprehensively what is perhaps Dylan's most fertile creative period, just think of all those versions and outtakes that didn't quite make the cut. Those in themselves would no doubt make another little treasure trove of gems. But then, who, apart from the completist really wants to hear all the possible versions of, say, 'Visions of Johanna'? Just listen to the first disc of the Velvet Underground's box set to realise just how dull that can be. Check out the endless number of bootlegs floating around like 'Highway 61 Revisited Again' and 'Acetates On The Tracks' if you really want to discover every little twist and turn of Dylan's creative process. As Dylan recommended to the Hawks just before launching into 'Like a Rolling Stone', having been heckled during the Manchester Free Trade Hall gig in 1966 : "Play fucking loud".

Track Listing:-
1 When I Got Troubles (1959)
2 Rambler, Gambler (Home Recording)
3 This Land Is Your Land (Live Version)
4 Song To Woody
5 Dink's Song (Home Recording)
6 I Was Young When I Left Home (Home Recording)
7 Sally Gal (Alternate Take)
8 Don't Think Twice, It's Alright (Demo)
9 Man Of Constant Sorrow
10 Blowin' In The Wind (Live Version)
11 Masters Of War (Live Version)
12 A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall (Live Version)
13 When The Ship Comes In (Live Version)
14 Mr. Tambourine Man (Alternate Take)
15 Chimes Of Freedom (Live Version)
16 It's All Over Now, Baby Blue (Alternate Take)
17 She Belongs To Me (Alternate Take)
18 Maggie's Farm (Live Version)
19 It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry (Alternate Take)
20 Tombstone Blues (Alternate Take)
21 Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues (Alternate Take)
22 Desolation Row (Alternate Take)
23 Highway 61 Revisited (Alternate Take)
24 Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat (Alternate Take)
25 Stuck Inside Of Mobile WIth The Memphis Blues Again (Alternate Take)
26 Visions Of Johanna (Alternate Take)
27 Ballad Of A Thin Man (Live Version)
28 Like A Rolling Stone (Live Version)

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