High Quality Fragments on Dylan´s seventeenth bootleg.

FRAGMENTS: seventeenth Dylan bootleg.

by Norman Warwick

I don´t know why I find it such a sweet irony that a journalist called Zimmerman has given a singer-writer called Dylan 4.5 out of 5 for a bootleg release. Come follow your art down sidetracks and detours to see if we can find out where that half a point was dropped

Lee Zimmerman reviewed an important, albeit bootleg album recently in American Songwriter and scored it as close to perfection as the points system allowed him to, giving Bob Dylan´s  Fragments: The Bootleg Series, Time Out Of Mind Sessions Vol. 17 (Columbia) 4.5 out of Five Stars.

Bob Dylan, (left) has been described his surname-sake, as a sometimes seems like a curmudgeonly sort of guy, especially now, in his later years. A photo of the Bobster smiling could be as rare as many of the outtakes and outcasts included in any of the entries that encompass his ongoing Bootleg box set series.

That’s not to say the guy doesn’t have a sensitive side. The latest offering in the aforementioned series, the five-disc Fragments, culled from the late ‘90s Time Out of Mind sessions, could be considered the Bobster’s quintessential collection of love songs. That’s not to say they’re particularly sweet or serene: with the exception of only certain songs, Til I Fell In Love With You and Make You Feel My Love in particular, most of these tracks could be considered contentious at best—all darkly defiant and thoroughly immersed in a tangled tapestry of unrequited and understated emotion. Blues played a prominent role in several of the songs, adding a raw edge that defined much of his more provocative works of the late ‘90s and early 2000s.

That said, Time Out of Mind did yield a trio of Dylan’s most enduring songs, at least as far as his more recent era—those being Not Dark Yet, Cold Irons Bound, Marchin’ To The City,” and the oft-covered Make You Feel My Love. Those two songs alone made the original album nothing less than a minor masterpiece.

With that set as a launching point, the Fragments box set offers enough weight and return to justify its weighty price tag. The re-mastered version of the original album is simply stunning, bringing clarity to the source material that wasn’t as evident before. So too, while repeated versions of certain songs may sometimes seem redundant, they are well in keeping with any Dylan devotee’s desire to peer well below the surface while gathering clues as to the germination of Dylan’s genius. So too, the addition of tracks that didn’t make the final cut—Mississippi, Dirt Road Blues, Red River Shore, Highlands and Marchin’ To The City”—demonstrated that Dylan had plenty of excess material to choose from

As always, much of the value can be found in the lavish hard-cover book that accompanies this edition. It’s exceptional all on its own, offering commentary, rare photos, posters, and clippings that give an exceptional insight into this often negated phase of the Master’s later trajectory.

Of course, the price tag may dissuade all but the most fervent Dylan devotees, and in fact, those with limited resources and no definite desire to dig through the couch cushions in search of spare change may choose to opt instead for earlier volumes of such seminal soirees such as Blood on the Tracks or the Rolling Thunder sessions.  On the other hand, completists might be compelled to acquire the treasured trappings offered herein, simply for the sake of owning it all. 

After all, to borrow the title of one of Zimmy’s most memorable offerings, desire and dedication go hand in hand.

I have all Dylan´s official album releases but none of the official bootlegs, probably because my own hard-core gang of bootleggers often had to make do with ninth or tenth generation tape recordings of bootlegs that had been recorded illegally through a deep jacket pocket on some cheap recorder purchased for higher ambitions at Argos. I just grew so fed up of the pop, crackle and final snapped tapes of those days spoiling, rather than enhancing, my listening.

I have been a life-long Dylan fan of both his song-writing and his recordings. I have never been able to afford a live show, as: the investment required with no guarantee of which Dylan might turn up, and what interpretation of his own work he might choose to deliver was a risk I wouldn´t take even in the days before these a-changing times in which we are urged to gamble responsibly.

I have his complete book of lyrics, and countless different compilations of Norm´s Dylan Around The House songs, Norm´s Drive With Dylan Songs, Dylan´s Revolution Songs, Dylan´s Protest  Songs and I have The Byrds Sing Dylan, and Baez Sings Dylan and of course, Diamonds And Rust, her song of retribution.

I´ve got Adele and Norah Jones.

I´ve got all the packages released from The Bob Dylan Radio Hour, one of the most informed and informative labour of love undertaken by any man for the music he loves

I have driven down the lonesome highways of some of Dylan´s biographers, and up the long and winding roads of, what may be or may not be, his biographies and I´ve seen the films and I´ve got the t-shirt.

There isn´t room on my real or virtual shelves for seventeen official boxed set bootlegs. And its too late now. Time is too precious, at seventy, and money too tight to mention and I have one wife too many to start a new music collection now.

I know my rough and rowdy ways are behind me, but seventeen bootlegs on one shelf,…… give over !.

Meanwhile, jazz fans might also be pleased to learn Hampstead Jazz Club proudly presents the hotly anticipated second season of The Snug Sessions at Bishop’s Court Farm, a series of nine very special shows featuring a line-up of some of the brightest stars in contemporary jazz and soul.

The Songs of David Bowie…Re-Imagined

The second in an exciting series of contemporary jazz evenings at Bishop’s Court Farm

“A voice that could sing the angels to sleep and wake the devil from his bed.” Ray Charles

Following their recent sell-out run at the Edinburgh Fringe, Oliver Darley and pianist Chad Lelong will be unveiling their stunning debut album – The Seat With The Clearest View – with an exclusive performance in the convivial surroundings of Bishop’s Court Farm.

Featuring the songs of David Bowie as you’ve never heard them before, Darley dives deep beneath the surface of some of these timeless classics, stripping each one down to its bare essentials. Covering every aspect of Bowie’s chameleonic career from Space Oddity through to Life On Mars?, The Seat With The Clearest View somehow manages to remain reassuringly familiar and yet utterly unlike anything Bowie fans would ever expect.

This special show will be hosted by the Executive Producer of the album – BBC broadcaster, Jonathan Wingate – who worked as David Bowie’s spokesman for many years.

Jonathan Wingate host | Oliver Darley vocals | Chad Lelong piano | Nick Ereaut bass

Drinks will be available to purchase on the evening. Doors: 6pm, show 7 – 9pm.

Bishop’s Court Farm, 91 High St, Dorchester on Thames OX10 7HP  Map
Book tickets here – £20

Future Snug Sessions

Sunday 30 April
A Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong

Sunday 21 May
Ian Shaw – The Magic of Joni Mitchell

Sunday 4 June
Ciyo Brown’s Acoustic Soul Sessions featuring Geraldine Reid

Sunday 18 June
Claire Martin OBE with Rob Barron (piano) – The Great American Songbook

Sunday 2 July
The Ray Charles Project – The Jeremy Sassoon Quintet

Sunday 16 July
The Music Of Bill Evans Featuring The Paul Edis Trio with Special Guest Noa Levy

Information here

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