Bob Dylan’s ’50th Anniversary Collection 1970′ Unveils ‘New Morning’ Era Loose Cuts (ALBUM REVIEW)

Bob Dylan’s 50th Anniversary Collection 1970 might well have been titled  Another New Morning. That is, if it was deliberately intended as a sequel to The Bootleg Series Vol. 10: Another Self Portrait (1969–1971). Instead, the rationale for the original release in December 2020 was to retain copyrights to the seventy-four recordings. It’s become available commercially now due to the proverbial popular demand based on the heretofore-unreleased inclusion of all the tracks on which Dylan worked with the late George Harrison. 

These nine from 5/1/70 are addition to many more outtakes from the sessions that produced Self Portrait and New Morning. The future Nobel Laureate and the ex-Beatle sound like they’re just fooling around on Dylan originals (“One Too Many Mornings,” “Gates of Eden,” “Mama, You Been On My Mind”), covers (the Everly Brothers’ “All I Have to Do Is Dream,” Sam Cooke’s “Cupid” and other culls from a variety of sources. As a result, none are genuinely essential, but still, the gusto Bob himself displays so often is a revelation: hear the rousing version of Carl Perkins’ “Matchbox” with George on guitar and vocals. 

Meanwhile, the brevity of many other selections is often in direct proportion to the surprise they may evoke. For instance, there are mere seconds of “Fishing Blues,” the delightful likes of which might suggest a laissez faire attitude permeates this collection. But songs played just for fun, like “Untitled Instrumental #2“–where Dylan gets a chance to blow the harmonica–serve to belie a much more purposeful attitude directed toward the evolution of the so-called comeback album eventually-released in October of this very same year.

In fact, as the recordings unfold, there’s a readily discernible progression of most of the tracks that would comprise Dylan’s eleventh studio album. That’s not to dismiss the compendium of originals and covers as any less of an expedition into rediscovering roots than its double-album predecessor, but only that it represents a more finite inspection of the creative process. 50th Anniversary Collection 1970  unfolds almost imperceptibly into a series of varied arrangements of the pertinent material (curiously missing “The Man In Me”), offset and  inspired by deceptive digressions that circuitously lend focus to the more important proceedings at hand. 

That said, to become truly enamored of 50th Anniversary Collection 1970, it may be necessary to be a devout Dylan fan, a musiclover insatiably curious about the  recording process or both. The roughly three and a half hour running time suggests just how many cuts are simply the means to a greater end. But loosening up the band, killing time or simply indulging in serendipity and jamming, as all musicians are inclined to do, are all part of the studio environment, especially for an artist like Dylan who thrives on spontaneity. Unfortunately, author Michael Simmons adopts too much of a hands-off approach with his essay included in the eight-panel digi-pak and he often strays from the point at hand to discuss ephemeral topics.   

For instance, the history of the back up singers employed on a few numbers is interesting, but only slightly so. It is certainly far less informative than the astute, specific mentions of great players like Charlie Daniels, David Bromberg and the ever-present keyboardist/arranger Al Kooper who contributed to these New York sessions. But the author’s omission of any mention of the song Dylan and Harrison wrote together around this time is egregious: after all, how odd is it that there’s not even a snippet here of “I’d Have You Anytime” which showed up later in 1970 on the latter’s All Things Must Pass?

But even that in itself is a digression from the most salient point arising from 50th Anniversary Collection 1970. That is, Dylan was apparently finished prepping Self Portrait, at least based on these annotated March/May/June/August session dates as they correlate with that 6/8/70 release of that title. So, the multiple appearances of more or less full performances of “Went To See The Gypsy” and “Sign On The Window” indicate which numbers Dylan was most serious about. Indeed, both ended up on the fall follow-up to a widely-reviled record, as did “If Not For You,” albeit in a much peppier form than this tantalizing take. 

On the other hand, “Time Passes Slowly” sounds close to the ‘finished’ version, sans backup singers. And this sole take of “Day of the Locusts” reveals the intrinsically mysterious atmosphere of the song. If “Father of Night” doesn’t sound all  that different that the ‘official’ release, that’s only testament to its impromptu nature, the off-the-cuff likes of which Dylan savored all the more for the rigorous attitude he otherwise brought to bear on the title song of the forthcoming album. Which may also explain the absence of “If Dogs Run Free,” the sublime (tongue-in-cheek?) collaboration with Maeretha Stewart: Bob knows when he’s nailed a song to his satisfaction.

As issued for download (no streaming) and in physical form, 50thAnniversary Collection 1970 also features two extra tracks inadvertently left off the initial limited release: a pair of takes on “If Not For You.” In practical terms, that inclusion constitutes just one more marketing ploy, but it may also present a point of contention for those who purchased this set in December of 2020 (no doubt at some exorbitant prices). And that’s not to mention how this amended track-list may stick in the craw of Dylan completists. But all those potential kerfuffles only distract from the genuine value of this title, which is, of course, relative to the individual music lover’s fascination with work of Bob Dylan.

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One Response

  1. I was more than happy to buy the Bob Dylan 1970 cd. I am almost a Dylan completist, having almost everything apart from the ‘sinatra trilogy’, which I refuse to buy. Bob singing Sinatra really doesn’t appeal to me. That said, if I manage to get the last 2 or 3 rare album’s that are eluding me, I may buy, Shadows in the night, Fallen angels and Triplicate, just to complete my collection. After Bootleg 15, with Dylan and Johnny Cash recording in the studio,I thought it only natural to buy Dylan 1970, even just for the tracks he records with George Harrison. Like the Cash recordings, I thought as with the Harrison recordings, they were good for historical reasons. The rest were just a bonus to me, although there is a few gems in there, if you look.

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