BOBBY BOXING AS CLEVER AS EVER
No one ever wrote songs or sung them like Bob Dylan. The currently concluding, Covid delayed, tour is unprecedented in the annals of modern entertainment history - 80 year old performer packs them out to acclaim playing a set of 80% brand new material.
The fecundity of the greatest artists of their era is very much in the air as 2021 concludes. The Beatles Get Back 3 parter shows The Lads (as Paul loving refers to them even as Hogg’s cameras rolled) working up new material which will in turn spill out into 2 group albums and at least 3 solo albums, mere months after the miraculous motherlode of The White album.
Dylan’s 2021 archive official bootleg series release Springtime In New York (a neatly ambiguous title - new beginning in the Big Apple, a break out from the recording vaults) shows the timeless troubadour working through, almost in spite of the vagaries of the recording industry, his inspirations.
For many the mystifying exclusion of the masterful Blind Willie McTell, the mesmerising Angelina, the ferocious Foot of Pride from original, official releases are the defining stories of the decade.
How could the maestro be so blind to his own creative might? But while all the lousy little critics and crackpot poets whine and gripe Bob worked on through. Blind Willie, as finally revealed in Bootleg set Volume 1 or here now in its full electric version, shows that Bob has been one of the few non black performers to consistently return to examine the racial wound that has continued to divide America during his lifetime.
What Springtime also shows is how Dylan might have learned as he moved to become first co producer and then sole producer of his work. There was no route map for the wee Jewish lad who came down from the Rust Belt to re imagine America.
The 80 year old miracle of music that now approaches 2022 in as astonishing form as any in his storied career is a result of a lifetime of learning and application.
The pure pleasure of his slowed down Spectorish cover of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline could be a first step on the road to Series of Dreams.
Re-covering songs he had already released on record (The Everly’s Let It Be Me, his own To Ramona) is a practice 80s Bob shares with Get Back Beatles but Dylan’s complete, attentively rendered, takes carry a deeper purpose.
While bafflingly omitting at least Bob’s brilliant 80s highlight, the punkish version of Jokerman and Don’t Start Me Talkin Sonny Boy Williamson cover performed live on the Letterman Show, the riches on Springtime’s 5 discs are for the ages.
Foot Of Pride may have been a puzzling omission at the time of its original recording but the way it's laid out here tracked in three separate versions, modified and developed across 3 days is something to behold.
Like Peter Jackson’s meticulously plotted Get Back (as Mike Scott has pointed out Billy Preston arrives not just midway through Part 2 but midway TO THE VERY SECOND) Springtime feels like privileged access to a genius working overtime.
Even more astonishing to think that, on current form, the idea that Dylan has already added much more to extensive vaults to be revealed in our time and beyond is more fact than likelihood.
Off the map genius.