Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Jonathan Lethem's liner notes for the Dylan in the 8os collection.As I write this I am revisiting Infidels, which is arguably the most solid set of Dylan's work from this period. I actually quit Team Bob with Street Legal in 1978, and didn't come back until 1991's Bootleg Series, Vol. 1-3. What I have found in the years since is that Dylan rewards returning. Consider the most recent addition to the Bootleg series: Self Portrait suffers from many of the same faults as the 80's work, without the religion. The production is dreadful, the material is spotty, and it all seems kind of thrown against the wall. And yet-- as Another Self Portrait shows us, it might not be as bad as we thought. Right now my favorite Dylan set is Bootleg Vol. 8- Tell-Tale Signs, which is almost like putting on a pair of jeans and finding a $20 bill in the pocket. All of a sudden you have something nice you weren't expecting at all.

Cover sets like this help to make us recognize how complete a songwriter ol' Bob is: sure, his lyrics are what gets singled out, but he writes great songs and too often the fact that his melodies are every bit as important as the words. 

One other point about Dylan in the 80's: often overlooked in this discussion are the two Traveling Wilburys' sets. Dylan kicks back on these, and sounds great. It may be that the real problem with the 80's sides was that his output exceeded the amount of quality material he had on hand.

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