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"Red River Shore" - Dylan's Newest Lost Masterwork,
This review is from: Tell Tale Signs: the Bootleg Series Vol. 8 (Audio CD)
"Tell Tale Signs," the Bootleg Series Volume 8, is a better installment in the series than Volume 7. At least, it holds together as an album better than that set did. There are a lot of essential tracks on these two discs, and even some of the alternate versions are spectacular, giving a whole new perspective on the songs. Can't think of many artists besides Dylan who are able to offer such a wealth of unreleased material, most of which rivals the official releases (though this too is now an official release).
The absolute highlight of the set for me is "Red River Shore," possibly one of Dylan's finest compositions. It is definitely one of his most carefully crafted set of lyrics ever. The way the first and last verse parallel each other, the many great lines throughout. It is such a great piece of writing, and really hard to overestimate. And of course, the musical backing is superb, with some great accordion playing, and a truly wonderful vocal by Dylan. The song manages to be both haunting and touching at the same time. I just listened to this song about 5 times in a row, and I could keep listening to it all day. I am usually not able to do that with any song, but this song really works its way into your mind.
Well, after that rave, I just want to point out that there are many other superb songs on here, but "Red River Shore" is really something magical. Some of the other highlights include the two versions of "Mississippi," the acoustic version of "Most of the Time," the alternate version of "Someday Baby," the cover of "Miss the Mississippi," and the live version of "High Water," which really cooks. There are some more excellent songs on here, and both discs make a great listening experience. However, Disc One is probably stronger than Disc Two and makes a more cohesive album.
Note: For anyone who is wondering, I think Disc 3 is the weakest. The only true revelations are the 3rd version of Mississippi (which has substantial lyrical variants) and the unreleased cover of "Mary and the Soldier." The live versions are not that interesting, and all the alternate versions of tracks on the Discs 1 and 2 are inferior, particularly "Red River Shore," which is disappointing in comparison to the epic version on Disc 1. I suppose "Duncan and Brady" is a revelation in a way, in that its overblown sound shows why Dylan scrapped the Bromberg seesions and released an all-acoustic album in 1992.