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Bob Dylan (from the album Fragments: The Bootleg Series Vol. 17 available on Columbia Records) (by Lee Zimmerman)
The news that Bob Dylan sold the rights to his complete catalog obviously isn’t inhibiting him from going into his vaults and uncovering outtakes, oddities, and rarities that converge with various milestones of his 60-year career.
Fragments: The Bootleg Series Vol. 17 is centered around the late ‘90s sessions that went into the production of his Time Out of Mind album. An effort that focuses almost exclusively on the tangle and temposity of love and romance, it’s one of Dylan’s late period masterpieces, an album that boasts several songs ranking among the best tracks of his latter career, those being "Not Dark Yet”, “Cold Irons Bound”, and the oft-covered “Make You Feel My Love.”
Like the previous volumes in the Bootleg Series, there’s no shortage of substance and discovery. While many of the album tracks are shared repeatedly throughout the five CD set — sometimes to the point of sheer redundancy — it is, as always, fascinating to witness the way the material was built in incremental stages. The structure leaned towards the blues on several songs, particularly with “Highlands” the closing cut, but even so, there’s an inherent emotion and engagement that often eluded even Dylan’s more prominent efforts.
That said, three of the songs that didn’t make the cut — “Red River Shore”, “Marchin’ in the City”, and “Mississippi” — are offered here in various incarnations, and could be considered as good as anything on the original album. The latter in version two even brings to mind “Rainy Day Women # 12 and 35” in its unhinged revelry. So too, “Can’t Wait” is so dramatically different in its various renderings, it’s almost as if it’s like an entirely new song.
It’s a lot to wade through, and at a point, the repetition of certain songs can get somewhat tedious. However Dylan devotees will likely find it all fascinating and well worth any indulgence. Of course, the price tag can also be somewhat intimidating, given the fact that it clocks in at well over the $100 mark. A book filled with commentary, photos and memorabilia offers added value, making this package the easy equivalent of most of the Bootleg volumes that came before.
Besides, there’s no quibbling with the need to delve into Dylan whenever the opportunity presents itself. Costs aside, one can always bank on Bob.
(By Lee Zimmerman)
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For more information head on over to the Bob Dylan website
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