By STEPHANIE BREIJO
Freewheelin’ souls hard up for some Bob Dylan need look no further or pay no fee while the latest compilation of the folk-god’s work, “Tell Tale Signs,” streams all along the NPR website until Oct. 7, when any day now the album shall be released.
A two-disc set with hours of previously unreleased material, live tracks and alternate takes, “The Bootleg Series, Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs” chronicles the little-heard musings from the last 20 years of the jokerman’s career.
Released by Columbia Records, “Signs” is eighth in the company’s bootleg Dylan CD series, which started in ’91. Drawn predominantly from Dylan’s latest albums “Modern Times,” “Love and Theft” and “Time Out of Mind,” “Tell Tale Signs” strays from the familiar hits of old but provides an essential collection of slick, seasoned material.
As a compilation of unreleased tracks, “Signs” is as heartfelt, thoughtful and raw as “No Direction Home,” the famous soundtrack to Scorsese’s documentary on the folk-poet in his prime.
Though most might contest that earlier compilations from Dylan’s career are more worthy of a listen—and those most would be right—the lesser-produced tracks from Dylan’s latter years are more experienced and hardened, more tangled up in the blues.
Disc one’s “Tell Ol’ Bill” carries a murky, mischievous feel that even Tom Waits would envy, while “Dreamin’ of You” leaves a catchy, light piano hook in the air that gives the album a smooth, jazzy feel that a younger, overzealous Dylan could never have played off so believably.
For insight into Dylan’s recording process, the compilation throws two very different versions of the unreleased “Mississippi” onto the discs—fitting enough—the first version acoustic, the second electric.
And with a bluesy twang that doesn’t overpower the ear, the free-to-hear “Tell Tale Signs” is positively the perfect soundtrack for studying and squelching those subterranean midterm blues.