Friday, December 8, 2017

The Bootleg Series Vol. 7: No Direction Home: The Soundtrack

Released August 30, 2005
The Documentary

Martin Scorsese was called into service to edit the documentary that would cover the first 25 years of Dylan's life. No Direction Home is arguably the best documentary made about Dylan and offers an excellent introduction to anyone unfamiliar with his work. Dylan granted over ten hours of interviews with his manager Jeff Rosen, adding compelling commentary to his own life story. Many who knew him in the early days also appear: friends from Minnesota, Suze Rotolo, Dave Von Ronk, Liam Clancy, Joan Baez, Allen Ginsberg, and many others. The true magic in No Direction Home is Scorsese's impeccable editing skills. The film begins with footage of Dylan performing in 1966 with the Band at the height of his powers, then shifts back to the early years. The effect builds a suspense and significance to the narrative. Access to Dylan's archive allowed for lots of rare footage never seen by the public.

The Soundtrack

Overall, a worthy addition to the Bootleg Series. Although a few of the tracks had appeared on previous releases (and would appear on future ones), there's a wonderful collection rare recordings and alternate versions. Highlights on the first disk include "When I Got Troubles," one of the earliest Dylan recordings. A live version of Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" is another highlight, with Dylan beginning the performance sounding melancholy, but gradually adding a majesty to each verse. "Dink's Song" is another stirring early performance. An early version of "Mr. Tambourine Man" with Ramblin' Jack Elliot providing on backup vocals. Several live tracks are included, including an early performance of "Chimes of Freedom," with Dylan delivering a soulful vocal.

The second disk illustrate's Dylan transition into folk rock, symbolized by the performance of "Maggie's Farm" at the Newport Folk Festival. An alternate version of "Desolation Row," played with electrical instruments adds a psychedelic quality. "Visions of Johanna" is also supported by the Band, casting light on the early version of Blonde on Blonde. Much more would come on the 2015 release The Cutting Edge, but the No Direction Home soundtrack is a worthy companion piece to the series and its narrative arc. 

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