On Bob Dylan’s Springtime In New York: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 16 (1980-1985), the king troubadour is looking back at a period of his career that is much maligned and often ignored. This project clearly is the 1980s Revisited and Bob Dylan’s Latest effort to pull back the curtains and let his fans get a true picture of what was going on in his creative process and his mind as he navigated a career of multiple highs and critically acclaimed lows.
I know I make a lot of admissions in these columns of my personal preference and nothing will be new about that in this column. I’ve always been a huge fan of the Dylan album “Empire Burlesque.” There are so many great songs on that album that when I heard this version of the Bootleg Series was coming out, I was very excited. One of my favorite songs is the ballad “Emotionally Yours.”
Furthermore more, the three album arc on this set includes outtakes from two other underrated albums “Shot of Love” and “Infidels.” Both albums have songs they’re known for, but they tend to get lost between the power house albums of the pre-Christian mid-1970s and the comeback records of the late 1990s early 2000s.
The Albums Broken Down
The first disc starts off with rehearsal outtakes of several older Dylan songs and some covers, as well. “Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)” kicks of the disc and then the rehearsal moves through other Dylan gems. This disc would be more than enough for me, but it’s just the appetizer. There are also some interesting covers on this disc, as well including “Sweet Caroline” and “Abraham, Martin, & John.”
Disc two delves into “Shot of Love.” Knowing either lovingly or disparagingly by fans as “the last Christian record” of Dylan’s evangelical era. I can remember some great live versions of “In the Summertime” back in the 2000s featuring Larry Campbell on mandolin. But, alas, it is not featured on this set. There are great versions of “Lenny Bruce,” “Borrowed Time,” and “Is It Worth It?” Also, another interesting cover is featured here which is the Hank Williams classic “Cold, Cold Heart.”
On disc three, “Infidels” is the subject matter, and this disc really delivers. “Jokerman” is a classic, and the version here gives it new life. One of my all-time favorite tunes, which didn’t make the original album, “Blind Willie McTell” is featured in a faster version than has been played live in recent years. And, there are two great takes of “Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight.”
The fourth disc in this set contains more outtakes from the “Infidels” sessions and again there are some remarkable covers. Many musicians want to try songs in the studio and use them to get the band warmed up and look for cohesiveness. The old Porter Wagoner favorite “Green, Green Grass of Home,” “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground,” and “Union Sundown” make we wonder if at some point, there would (or in my opinion should) be Bootleg Series edition dedicated to covers.
The final disc tackles the aforementioned “Empire Burlesque,” and it is truly remarkable to hear these versions. “I’ll Remember You,” “Seeing the Real You At Last,” and “Emotionally Yours” are songs that stand the test of time. This makes me really want to go back and dig through the deep catalog of Dylan during the 1980s and work some of these tunes up myself.
While I was excited for this box set to come out, I was not sure how solid the complete set would be. Let me be clear – I was blown away by how powerful it is from beginning to end. It is a great study of this time period of Dylan’s career and can be a good way to view some of his newer works. The set is highly recommended to music fans of all ages and interests as it truly is the 1980s Revisited, Bob Dylan’s Latest.