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Bob Dylan In The 90s: 20 Miles from town and cold irons bound

The 90s began with an odd step, went through a blocked middle and ended with a major revival -in between there were cover albums and many many outtakes.

Under the Red Sun (1990)
Seen as a down after “Oh Mercy” it was quite “Oh Mercy”‘s equal and includes “Born In Time” -a 2nd tier Dylan lost love song plus lots of nursery rhymes. Wiggle your way out of that one Grade: “B+”

The Bootleg Series Volumes 1- 3 (1991)
Wanna know how good Dylan was? In 1961 he recorded the first song on this album of outakes “Hard Times In New York Town,”and I quote: “New York town is a friendly old town, they trip you when you’re up and they kick you when you’re down…” the last song on this triple CD was “Series Of Dreams” recorded but not placed on “Oh Mercy” and as good as anything on it. In between it is really remarkable just how long and deep he goes. “Who Killed Davey Moore” -a protest against boxing, “Last Thoughts On Woody Guthrie” a poem read aloud at Woody’s eulogy that is rap in all but the name and praises as it passes the great man, “Like A Rolling Stone” done in 3/4 time, “If You Gotta Go, Go Now (Or Else You Gotta Stay)” a comedic seduction song… If “Go” I slight there is nothing slight about “I’ll Keep It With Me” -just Dylan and a piano. And the masterwork that never was “She’s Your Lover Now”, These are the songs NOT GOOD ENOUGH TO MAKE THE FINAL CUT!!! And I have “The Real Bootleg Series” -a bootleg triple featuring “Hurricane” before the censors got to it. Grade: “A+”

Good As I Been To You (1992)
A covers album but what covers. It’s as though it was the day before he recorded his first album and he had decided to step back even further. These are tradional folk songs like “Froggy Went A- Courting” but done with conviction and a voice like sand and cobwebs and ice. Grade: “A-“

The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration (1991)
I bet it was better if you had been there but it isn’t bad on record. Cash and Carter you know but George Harrison’s “Absolutely Sweet Marie” was a country lick away from “Beatles For Sale” and Lou Reed’s “Foot Of Pride” is one of the great Dylan covers. Grade: “B+”

World Gone Wrong (1993)
The companion piece to “Good As I Been To You” it surpasses it on classics like “Stack-A-Lee” and “Delia” and what both albums have in common and are different than, say, something like “Shanandoah” is these are reinterpretations and reworkings of songs he seems to bleed whereas his other covers from the 70s on have for the most part, and sometimes to great effect, been Dylanisations of other songs. Grade: “A”

MTV Unplugged (1995)
I think we know what Dylan sounds like unplugged though worth buying for the new song “Dignity”

Time Out Of Mind (1997)
I actually hadn’t listened to the album in years and was a little disappointed in spinning it before this post. Dylan as rustic old man and it aint dark yet but it’s getting there is the basic concept and it is very moving on songs like “Cold Irons Bound”. Also, Lanois gets the production right this time. But some of these songs haven’t passed the test of time, particularly the sixteen minute plus “Highlanders” which just can’t compare with “Desolation Road” or “Brownsville Girl” and stuff like “Standing In Doorway” feels a bit slight today. Grade: “A”
A little on the skimpy side right? I was actually buying a lot of live boots in those days: the live at Roseland stuff and japanese tours and they are among his finiest recorded musical achievements (he is nowhere near as good today). But as far as recordings are considered, things will get better in the following decade: I know he’s sorry, I’m sorry too…

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