This 4-CD set of previously unissued demos, alternate takes, scrapped arrangements and discarded songs from more than 40 years ago is one of the most important, coherent and fulfilling Bob Dylan albums ever released. The performances are immediate and invigorating, often in spare, buoyant arrangements with clear, virile singing. Despite the vintage, or maybe because it’s all been hidden for so long, everything here feels like new music, busy being born and put to tape with crisp impatience. “Let’s just take this one,” Dylan says before a take of the traditional ballad “Little Sadie,” one of 17 raw, magnetic tracks from a single three-day sprint with guitarist David Bromberg and pianist Al Kooper in March 1970. Dylan was, in fact, on the verge of a crossroads: the widely scorned double LP Self Portrait, issued three months later. He sounds eager to get there.
This deluxe edition of this set has Dylan’s 1969 Isle of Wight concert with the Band, a romping affair (excerpted on Self Portrait) that, except for the mileage on Dylan’s voice now, doesn’t sound that distant from his shows of the past 20 years. Includes lavish hardback photobook.