September 8, 2006

Bob Dylan: Stray Gems (or, soundtrack to an accident)

I started this post this morning, but between then and now I have been in my first car accident (no, not my fault; yes, I am okay, but my car — not so much). At the time I was listening to this playlist, so now I’ve got the sickening sound of crunching metal forever associated with “Ninety Miles An Hour” which was ironically playing at the time (but I was only going 45). Accident or no, that song’s still got some dang fine lyrics — and I am still excited about this post.

Ahem, as I was going to say: The most recent issue of Rolling Stone (with Bob Dylan, larger than life, on the cover) has a great playlist of “stray gems” — forgotten songs from Bob over the years. My friend Leo (who ROCKS) took the time to actually compile all of these tracks together into one zip file, and now I share them with you for your listening pleasure. Tracks are linked to the individual titles below (along with the commentary for each track), and a zip file is at the end if you, much like Depeche Mode, “just can’t get enough.”

(RS 1008)
Some Dylan albums anyone would take to a desert island. Others have gotten lost in the tide. Here’s a guide to some high spots between the masterpieces
by Jonathan Lethem

Forget bootlegs. Forget, for the moment, bonus discs and DVD extras. What if the best Bob Dylan songs you’ve never heard were simply tucked away on below-the-radar discs with “nice price” stickers on them, unrescued by Biograph, Greatest Hits or The Bootleg Series, or by any movie soundtrack (recall how “The Man in Me” blindsided you in The Big Lebowski?).

Along with Down in the Groove‘s “Rank Strangers,” Under The Red Sky‘s “Cat’s In The Well,” and Knocked Out Loaded‘s “Brownsville Girl,” here are a few more gems concealed in plain sight:

In The Summertime
FROM Shot of Love

By now everyone knows that “Every Grain of Sand” is this album’s keeper – and as far as fine-hewn lyrics go, they’re right. But for sheer vocal heartache, this harmonica-drenched lament goes a great distance down another road entirely.

Copper Kettle
FROM Self Portrait

Dylan with strings, splitting the difference between Hank Williams and Bing Crosby, to make a kind of western-movie dream sequence in Technicolor.

Idiot Wind
FROM Hard Rain

A familiar song, yes, but in a ten-minute raging punk version like you’ve never known, with a band that teeters over several cliffs and survives.

Pressing On
FROM Saved

Ideally, you’d hear Dylan’s humblest and most sheerly gorgeous devotional song in one of its shimmering live versions. But the album take, complete with Dylan’s own piano work, will do.

Ninety Miles an Hour (Down a Dead End Street)
FROM Down in the Groove

Goofy backing vocals can’t mask the relish Dylan takes in tackling this doomy Hank Snow hit, which takes the widely used motif of the dead-end love affair and adds a vehicle.

Day of the Locusts and
Sign on the Window
FROM New Morning

From an album that revealed a Dylan both tender and hesitant, a slice-of-life recounting of his uneasy receipt of an honorary degree, and an ambivalent fantasia of pastoral life, both sung with questing beauty.

FROM World Gone Wrong

For those who know this early-Nineties solo covers record and its predecessor, Good As I Been to You, they’re not overlooked, just boon companions. Dylan’s murdered Delia is a different girl than Johnny Cash’s, but the poor things probably knew each other in school.

Under the Red Sky and
Handy Dandy
FROM Under The Red Sky

The first is a beguiling, gnomic pass at nursery rhymes, which Dylan mines as profitably as he does the Bible and the blues; the second, a perverse revision of “Like a Rolling Stone,” pointing to the sly japes of Love and Theft.

We Better Talk This Over
True Love Tends To Forget
Is Your Love In Vain? and
Baby, Stop Crying
FROM Street Legal (remastered)

(note: RS selected the whole album, but here are just four of the tracks)
Unlike the heralded Bootleg Series, this crucially cleaned-up version of possibly Dylan’s most undervalued collection of songs was dropped into the marketplace so quietly that few even noticed. Since the murk of the production was the biggest obstacle to hearing Dylan walking a tightrope between divorce and Jesus, why not give it a second chance – or a first? Just be certain you get the new version.

Spanish Harlem Incident
FROM Another Side of Bob Dylan

Heard it lately?

You can also stream all these tracks for a limited time on the Rolling Stone website (at the end of the article) if you aren’t in a downloadin’ mood.

The Martin Scorsese Dylan biopic No Direction Home is at the top of my Netflix queue, so maybe I’ll get that sometime this next week to continue in this Dylan trend (minus the car accidents).

Hopefully future bouts with Dylan in my life will not portend such dire consequences.

Tagged with .


  • Feel better soon!

    DudeAsInCool — September 8, 2006 @ 7:00 pm

  • Nice post…Street of Bob’s completely underrated albums…

    Bruce — September 8, 2006 @ 8:07 pm

  • Another Side is highly underrated. Every Dylan an should have this album

    Anonymous — September 8, 2006 @ 9:21 pm

  • That’s fan

    Anonymous — September 8, 2006 @ 9:22 pm

  • Very cool post. I’d thought about checking around to see if I could round up some of those songs, but never got around to it. thanks! Have you heard the full length version of the song from the iTunes commercial?

    Sorry to hear about your wreck.

    aikin — September 8, 2006 @ 10:00 pm

  • SUCH A SMART POST! LOVE IT!!! Zip file downloading as i type.

    wwjblog — September 8, 2006 @ 10:58 pm

  • oh yeah, and i hope you learned that lesson i was teaching you when in the car wreck. just kidding! accident! even jesus tripped from time to time (but i could make it not hurt if i wanted to).

    wwjblog — September 8, 2006 @ 11:04 pm

  • Sorry to hear about your accident.

    We had one last fall when some guy sideswiped us, making a six-foot long scrape up the side of our van.

    The music playing on CD player at the time? The soundtrack to Titanic. I’m not kidding. That disc is not allowed in our car anymore.

    Phil — September 8, 2006 @ 11:21 pm

  • hard luck on the car crash. Glad you’re OK.

    Haven’t bought the new Dylan album but it’s release has got me listening to lots of other Dylan again. new Morning has always been one of my favourite Dylan albums!

    Jon — September 9, 2006 @ 12:58 am

  • Is it just me, or does Bobby D look like a Spanish Richard Gere on that Rolling Stone cover?

    Woodland Bear — September 9, 2006 @ 5:31 am

  • Sorry about your accident. Great list, but Black Crow Blues (ASOBD) & Paths of Victory (Bootleg 1-3) should be there too IMHO.

    Anonymous — September 9, 2006 @ 3:14 pm

  • This post is why I love to check in whenever I can to see what you’ve posted. You do the homework that makes your posts more than just music listings. Dylan’s “Under
    the Red Sky” is one of his most underrated songs. Heal up…and feel better!


    Anonymous — September 9, 2006 @ 10:42 pm

  • I’m not a huge Dylan fan but I know I man who is.

    I will download and pass on.

    Sorry to hear about the fender bender – hope you are OK.

    Chris, Tottington UK.

    Anonymous — September 10, 2006 @ 2:26 am

  • Street Legal is my favorite Dylan record. I own the old vinyl version and the shitty original production is just great. It’s really dirty and that kicks ass and totally suits the style of this record.

    I am listening to the remastered songs for the first time right now and I do not think that they are better . It steals the roughness of the record. I am sure that back in 78 it was supposed to be released in the way it was. Get the old version for your fair share of downright dirty rock.

    stimmenimitator — September 10, 2006 @ 4:23 am

  • and another thing: Why didn’t you post the “Changing of the guards”, “Senor”, and especially “New Pony”? They are the best songs on the record.

    stimmenimitator — September 10, 2006 @ 4:30 am

  • You are the best! You picked a lot of my personal favorites.

    Ryan of the RSL blog — September 10, 2006 @ 8:27 pm

  • Right on about those great songs from Street Legal. I liked that stray gems article. I think one could compile several other equally fine lists of Dylan stray gems. This just scratches the surface, but I do like the list.

    Anonymous — September 11, 2006 @ 11:34 am

  • make sure to see the WHUUH~!!! lady in the No Direction Home documentary

    Anonymous — September 13, 2006 @ 11:04 am

  • I love off-the-wall “favorites” lists like this one… go to any karaoke night and you’ll see the world is full of too many OBVIOUS choices … gives ‘popular’ music a bad name. ANyway, the Stone article also linked to streams, but not D/L.s of two of the three songs listed in the intro. Any chance of postin’ those?

    Oh, I already compiled these, no worries….
    amazingly I didn’t have too many of these songs already.

    Love the Bob. Love you too, Heather. Thanks for that Drinkin’ Theme Time a little while back too.

    No car-accident stories today. I’ve survived three, one of ‘em serious.

    Dan — September 13, 2006 @ 4:13 pm

  • Hey, I’d love to see you revisit this post, especially with all the Dylan-buzz around the new biopic. Some great stuff here.
    Thanks from Philly.

    T.J. Gillespie — November 5, 2007 @ 9:36 am

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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