I'll start off with a brief point. There are three versions of this, and all reviews seem to treat them all as the same product. I am reviewing this as the 2cd version. I do have the 3cd version, but I nevertheless feel that it would be of more use to the majority to go with the former.
As far as Bob Dylan is concerned, no two performances of a song should ever be the same. On this release, he proves his point and yet he also proves like Neil Young that he doesn't always release his best songs or the best versions of them. The first track kicks off with such a gorgeous version of Mississippi! I loved the released version, but the way Bob sings it is so tender here, the backing an almost a lilting and sympathetic response. Its not that its necessarily a 'better' version than the more strident one on Love and Theft. Its just completely different!! The same with Most of The Time, which sees Bob here sing it like the folk days of old instead of the swampy one on Oh Mercy. The real jewel in the crown on the first disc in terms of alternative versions must go to Born In Time. This is in every way a far superior version, making the one on Under The Red Sky sound frumpy and slapdash and devoid of purpose. By far the greatest unreleased song on disc one, and maybe the best of all on the set is Red River Shore. How Time Out Of Mind would have benefitted with a song like that. I'd swap it for Make You Feel My Love in an instant! Marching To The City, an unreleased song from the same sessions, and Dreaming Of You are also quite mindblowing. The live version of High Water is a revelation for all of those who have not seen him in person of late. Electrifying!
The second disc isn't quite as stupefying, if only because the alternative versions are not so different, although if this version of Ain't Talking had ended Modern Times, it would have made this Bobcat very happy indeed. The song 'God Knows' is also far superior to the released version. There are a few more live versions of his songs, the best being Ring Them Bells.... As far as unreleased songs go Can't Escape From You is an absolute gem, a real lost child and one I'm so glad I've heard. Its the one song that truly stayed in my head when I was working, just winding its way through my mind until I couldn't wait to get home and listen to the whole lot again. And to finish off, 'Cross The Green Mountain', previously released on a soundtrack which I hadn't heard is beautiful in the same way Workingman's Blues#2 was; an almost elegaic, frontier song that sounds so familiar yet original.
Oh, and how could he have left 32/20, the Robert Johnson song off World Gone Wrong???
Like the rest of the Bootleg series, this is just stirring, powerful stuff, and far more emotion is being relayed here than in many of the songs he released in the period. Maybe he didn't want to let too much of himself go at the time. But they're here now, and I'm thankful