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William C. Altreuter
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Tuesday, April 27, 2004

For years Ron Rosenbaum has been saying that the alternative (actually, the original) version of "Blood on the Tracks" is due to be released at any moment, presumably as part of the ongoing "Bootleg Project". The story goes that Dylan had the album recorded, using New York studio pros, but re-did it over the Christmas holiday in Minneapolis with a group of musicians assembled by his brother. The second version is the one that was released, and it is pretty much universally acknowledged as a masterpiece. A new addition to the annals of Dylanology, "A Simple Twist of Fate" tells the story, and I don't care what Salon says, I'm really looking forward to reading it. I love that sort of thing: the Ashley Kahn books about the making of "Kind of Blue" and "A Love Supreme" are terrific, and "Blood on the Tracks certainly stands with those works on my list.

The whole "Blood on the Tracks" story is intriguing. Finding out that Dylan has a brother is like finding out that Jesus had a brother-- you never heard of him before, and all of a sudden there he is, putting together a band that works brilliantly. The criticism of the book seems to be that it fails to delve into the emotional history of the songs, but I'm not so sure that this is fair: the songs speak for themselves. Does anything need to be said about their content?

In typical Dylanology style, the bootlegs where the originals can be found are cited, while the fact that the core half-dozen songs are on "Biograph" and "Bootleg Vol. I-III" is not mentioned. When the entire set is ultimately released, I'll be on line when the store doors open, but for now I have a pretty good idea of what the New York version sounds like, and I'd have to agree that the version we have now is always going to be the definitive version.

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