Bob Dylan''s Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series Vol. 8 is the 8th installment in the best-selling and critically lauded Bootleg Series which launched in 1991 which was released by Columbia Records in October and is now available for the first time as a one disc package. A treasure-trove of 13 songs, Tell Tale Signs features previously unreleased recordings and alternate versions of tracks from sessions which generated some of Bob Dylan''s most acclaimed and commercially successful albums from the last two decades, including Time Out Of Mind, Modern Times and Oh Mercy.
Bob Dylan''s unpredictable nature has always kept his audience on their toes. Given his mood, a song performed on one day can seem like an entirely different composition on the next. On the two-CD Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series Vol. 8--certainly one of the most riveting of the Minnesota bard''s collections of unreleased recordings, studio demos, alternate takes, and live tracks--two versions of "Mississippi," which Dylan originally wrote for Time Out of Mind, bear that out. The first, where he is backed only by producer Daniel Lanois'' poignant electric guitar, finds him wistful in his memories of Rosie. But by disc two, where he reprises the song with a whole band, his reading of the same lyric is dispassionate, as if he were recounting the experience of "the stranger that nobody sees," as he puts it. While the second rendition disappoints, the 27-song album, which covers material from 1989''s Oh Mercy through 2006''s Modern Times, offers a king''s riches. In replacing the banjo with cranked-up electric guitars on a blistering live performance of "High Water (For Charley Patton)," he makes the song nearly an angry manifesto. (Another live song, "Ring Them Bells," thrills with the stunning raw power of his early performances, and renders the studio original utterly bland.) Not everything seems up to Dylan''s remarkable standards (conjuring a black R & B voice for "Can''t Escape From You," an homage to early rock and roll, seems off kilter and silly). But the breadth and scope of the material (from sneering and tender folk originals, to covers of Jimmie Rodgers and Robert Johnson blues, to a collaboration with bluegrass king Ralph Stanley, and side excursions into ragtime and waltz) reinforce his position as the premier songwriter of his generation. -– Alanna Nash
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