Bob Dylan’s “Bootleg Series” of archival releases recently passed its 20th anniversary without any set yet dedicated solely to his work in the 1980s. The first half of that decade gets its due, finally, with the upcoming release of a 5-CD set that collects outtakes, alternate versions and live or rehearsal tracks from the eras of his “Infidels,” “Empire Burlesque” and “Shot of Love” albums. Titled “Springtime in New York: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 16 (1980-1985)” — and complete with classic unbuttoned-shirt imagery from the era — it’s due out Sept. 17.
For those who aren’t completists, distilled-down 2-CD and 2-LP edition will also be available, and a 4-LP iteration is set to be released exclusively through Jack White’s Third Man Vault club.
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Some outtakes from 1981’s “Shot of Love” had previously been included in a Bootleg Series edition devoted to Dylan’s 1979-81 gospel period, but since that transitional album had one foot in the evangelical camp and one already stepping back into the mainstream rock realm, Dylan’s archivers kept the non-religious material from 1980-81 off that set and “saved” the secular stuff for this one.
Meanwhile, the music made for and around 1983’s “Infidels,” which may be his most highly regarded ’80s album, has never undergone any extensive archival digging until now. The same goes for the album that may be his least highly regarded 1980s album, “Empire Burlesque” from 1985. The fact that the latter album is not as beloved among most of the Dylan hardcore doesn’t mean that outtakes from it have not been especially anticipated. In fact, it’s much the opposite — fans love the songs, not just the dated production values, and have clamored for decades to hear versions of the tracks with a less heavily period-specific touch.
While songs from the “Infidels” and “Empire Burlesque” eras have individually factored into “Bootleg Series” releases before, dating all the way back to the first one in 1991, the Dylan camp is avoiding overlap and only including recordings on the new set that have not been previously released.
All told, the full 5-CD version of the release includes 57 tracks, 54 of which are previously unreleased in any form (with the remaining three having come out as a foreign B-side, a soundtrack cut or in expurgated form).
The first disc of the five in the full set consists of rehearsals from 1980-81 as Dylan was gearing up for a tour that would bring secular material back in, after a couple of road trips in which he’d exclusively done his gospel songs. With one of his finest touring bands ever in tow, this disc includes some long-rumored or -bootlegged takes on songs as surprising as “Sweet Caroline” and “Mystery Train” (with Ringo Starr sitting in on the latter), as well as pre-gospel-period classics from his own catalog (“Señor (Tales of Yankee Power),” “To Ramona”) and traditional folk songs.
The second disc includes 11 outtakes from the “Shot of Love” sessions — if not nearly as many as some fans would like, given their hunger for the oft-written-about material from this period that never made it onto LP.
Discs 3 and 4 are devoted to outtakes and alternate takes from “Infidels,” the much-beloved album that found Dylan really falling back into the good graces of those who hadn’t had a taste for his Christian material, and one of his most fertile mid-period eras in general. Some covers slip in (“Green Green Grass of Home,” Willie Nelson’s “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground”).
The fifth and final disc features the long-awaited, presumably less-produced versions of his “Empire Burlesque” material. It includes his versions of songs he initially gave away to others, like the anti-war “Clean Cut Kid,” originally released by the Textones (a different version of this also factors among the “Infidels” outtakes), and the romp “Straight A’s in Love,” previously released only by the Williams Brothers. Not every song from “Burlesque” gets an alternate version here, but fans have itched for years to get non-Arthur-Baker-ized versions of these numbers, and the set obliges with a good number, including both “slow” and “fast” versions of “When the Night Comes Falling From the Sky.” The fifth disc also includes a couple of live tracks, the only ones in the set. The climactic version of “Dark Eyes” is especially anticipated among fans.
The set can be pre-ordered here.
News of the September release comes three days after the premiere of Dylan’s streaming special, “Shadow Kingdom,” which has picked up high marks for the singer-songwriter’s freshened up renditions of songs from (mostly) the ’60s and early ’70s. That webcast remains available for ticketing and reviewing through Sunday night.
The full “Bootleg Series Vol. 16″ track list:
1. Señor (Tales of Yankee Power) – Rehearsal
2. To Ramona – Rehearsal
3. Jesus Met the Woman at the Well – Rehearsal
4. Mary of the Wild Moor – Rehearsal
5. Need a Woman – Rehearsal
6. A Couple More Years – Rehearsal
7. Mystery Train – Shot of Love outtake
8. This Night Won’t Last Forever – Rehearsal
9. We Just Disagree – Rehearsal
10. Let’s Keep It Between Us – Rehearsal
11. Sweet Caroline – Rehearsal
12. Fever – Rehearsal
13. Abraham, Martin and John – Rehearsal
1. Angelina – Shot of Love outtake
2. Price of Love – Shot of Love outtake
3. I Wish It Would Rain – Shot of Love outtake
4. Let It Be Me – International 7” Single B-side*
5. Cold, Cold Heart – Shot of Love outtake
6. Don’t Ever Take Yourself Away – Shot of Love outtake*
7. Fur Slippers – Shot of Love outtake
8. Borrowed Time – Shot of Love outtake
9. Is It Worth It? – Shot of Love outtake
10. Lenny Bruce – Shot of Love alternate mix
11. Yes Sir, No Sir – Shot of Love outtake
1. Jokerman – Infidels alternate take
2. Blind Willie McTell – Infidels outtake
3. Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight [version 1] – Infidels alternate take
4. Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight [version 2] – Infidels alternate take
5. Neighborhood Bully – Infidels alternate take
6. Someone’s Got a Hold of My Heart – Infidels outtake
7. This Was My Love – Infidels outtake
8. Too Late [acoustic version] – Infidels outtake
9. Too Late [band version] – Infidels outtake
10. Foot of Pride – Infidels outtake
1. Clean Cut Kid – Infidels outtake
2. Sweetheart Like You – Infidels alternate take
3. Baby What You Want Me to Do – Infidels outtake
4. Tell Me – Infidels outtake
5. Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground – Infidels outtake
6. Julius and Ethel – Infidels outtake
7. Green, Green Grass of Home – Infidels outtake
8. Union Sundown – Infidels alternate take
9. Lord Protect My Child – Infidels outtake
10. I and I – Infidels alternate take
11. Death is Not the End [full version] – Infidels outtake*
1. Enough is Enough [live] – Slane Castle, Ireland
2. License to Kill [live] – Late Night with David Letterman, March 22, 1984
3. I’ll Remember You – Empire Burlesque alternate take
4. Tight Connection to My Heart (Has Anybody Seen My Love) – Empire Burlesque alternate mix
5. Seeing the Real You at Last – Empire Burlesque alternate take
6. Emotionally Yours – Empire Burlesque alternate take
7. Clean Cut Kid – Empire Burlesque alternate take
8. Straight A’s in Love – Empire Burlesque outtake
9. When the Night Comes Falling from the Sky [slow version]– Empire Burlesque alternate take
10. When the Night Comes Falling from the Sky [fast version] – Empire Burlesque alternate take
11. New Danville Girl – Empire Burlesque outtake
12. Dark Eyes – Empire Burlesque alternate take
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