Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Album Review: Bob Dylan - Fragments - Time Out of Mind Sessions (1996-1997): The Bootleg Series, Vol. 17

Bob Dylan
Fragments - Time Out of Mind Sessions (1996-1997): 
The Bootleg Series, Vol. 17
****and1/2 out of *****
This the review of the 5 CD release of this Bootleg Series entry. 

Time Out Of Mind holds a special place in Dylan fans hearts, because while there were fits and starts of Dylan regaining his muse in the 80's (Infidels and Oh Mercy), the 90's found him revisiting his folk roots and little else of note; then came TooM. It was revelatory, deep, had back story of Dylan's mortality, and also was his best work in literal decades. 

Now arrives Fragments, the newest entry into Dylan's amazing Bootleg series, and to paraphrase the man himself from a recent song, it proves that TooM contained multitudes. 

The apparent spark for this installment of the bootleg series was to re-release the original album with a lot of the studio tricks that producer Daniel Lanois added removed, so that listeners could get the "true" version of these songs. That smells a bit like PR spin because there is no way, even back in the 90's, Dylan would have given into Lanois in the first place, but it makes a nice story and allows us to hear the album in a new way.

That is the first disk of this set as things are certainly changed. "Love Sick" has less warble, "Dirt Road Blues" has a cleaner country feel and there is more space/separation between instruments on "Standing In the Doorway" and the majority of the other tracks. All of the instruments are a bit clearer, but it is hard to say this is an improvement, as the original contains such a mood and has been in the circulating consciousness for the last twenty five years. 

The two tracks where the new stripped down sound stood out the most was on "Cold Irons Bound" which made the song more upbeat to it's detriment and "I Can't Wait" which somehow felt more funky in this version. People will like what they like and more Dylan is always accepted, but the real meat of this release arrives on the next few disks which consist of outtakes (disks 2, 3, and 5) from these sessions and live offerings (disk 4) of the full album from various locales between 1998 and 2001. 

Rather than breaking down each outtake it is safe to say if you appreciate the bard this release will hold water. The songs evolve, mutate, and sometimes just don't work, but are always interesting. One song that was held off of TooM is "Mississippi" which has a country honk on this outtake, all of the "Not Dark Yet" versions feel to upbeat and "Cold Irons Bound" gets a spacey intro reminiscent of the live version. 

When it comes to the live renditions on the fourth disk, "Can't Wait" features a tasty guitar solo, "Trying To Get To Heaven" has a soft ballad feel and the May 21st, 1998 version of "Make You Feel My Love" is the best version of the song, ever. Some other live versions aren't as strong as I have heard in person, but having any live material from the late 90's early 2000's is a blessing, as this era was the best Dylan sounded live since The Rolling Thunder Revue.  

The final disk is a rehash of Tell Tale Signs bonus disk, which is odd, but as Dylan clears out the vaults I guess another collection of these songs is fine to own, if a bit of a cash grab. Overall though Fragments is worth the price of admission as Dylan was feeling the muse vitally during these sessions and all outtakes from Time Out Of Mind are worth checking out, here's hoping this kind of treatment arrives soon for the even better Love and Theft.
Support the artist, buy the album, peep some video below:

No comments:

Post a Comment