Forget bootlegs. Forget, for the moment, bonus discs and DVD extras. What if the best Bob Dylan songs you’ve never heard were simply tucked away on below-the-radar discs with “nice price” stickers on them, unrescued by Biograph, Greatest Hits or The Bootleg Series, or by any movie soundtrack (recall how “The Man in Me” blindsided you in The Big Lebowski?).
Along with Down in the Groove’s “Rank Strangers,” Under the Red Sky’s “Cat’s In The Well,” and Knocked Out Loaded’s “Brownsville Girl,” here are a few more gems concealed in plain sight:
“In The Summertime,” from Shot of Love. By now everyone knows that “Every Grain of Sand” is this album’s keeper - and as far as fine-hewn lyrics go, they’re right. But for sheer vocal heartache, this harmonica-drenched lament goes a great distance down another road entirely.
“Copper Kettle,” from Self Portrait. Dylan with strings, splitting the difference between Hank Williams and Bing Crosby, to make a kind of western-movie dream sequence in Technicolor.
“Idiot Wind,” from Hard Rain. A familiar song, yes, but in a ten-minute raging punk version like you’ve never known, with a band that teeters over several cliffs and survives.
“Pressing On,” from Saved. Ideally, you’d hear Dylan’s humblest and most sheerly gorgeous devotional song in one of its shimmering live versions. But the album take, complete with Dylan’s own piano work, will do.
“Ninety Miles an Hour (Down a Dead End Street),” from Down in the Groove. Goofy backing vocals can’t mask the relish Dylan takes in tackling this doomy Hank Snow hit, which takes the widely used motif of the dead-end love affair and adds a vehicle.
“Day of the Locusts” and “Sign on the Window,” from New Morning. From an album that revealed a Dylan both tender and hesitant, a slice-of-life recounting of his uneasy receipt of an honorary degree, and an ambivalent fantasia of pastoral life, both sung with questing beauty.
“Delia,” from World Gone Wrong. For those who know this early-Nineties solo covers record and its predecessor, Good As I Been to You, they’re not overlooked, just boon companions. Dylan’s murdered Delia is a different girl than Johnny Cash’s, but the poor things probably knew each other in school.
“Under the Red Sky” and “Handy Dandy,” from Under the Red Sky. The first is a beguiling, gnomic pass at nursery rhymes, which Dylan mines as profitably as he does the Bible and the blues; the second, a perverse revision of “Like a Rolling Stone,” pointing to the sly japes of Love and Theft.
The remastered Street Legal - the entire album. Unlike the heralded Bootleg Series, this crucially cleaned-up version of possibly Dylan’s most undervalued collection of songs was dropped into the marketplace so quietly that few even noticed. Since the murk of the production was the biggest obstacle to hearing Dylan walking a tightrope between divorce and Jesus, why not give it a second chance - or a first? Just be certain you get the new version.
Tweeter and the Monkey Man – Traveling Wilburys. This song is americana at its highest. Tom Petty and Bob Dylan on a great track. Good Jeff Lynne Production.
“Spanish Harlem Incident,” Another Side of Bob Dylan. Heard it lately?
For more information, Visit the Traveling Wilburys website.