I have to take issue with the current incumbent of the White House claiming credit for the upturn in the US economy. It’s a right load of old tosh. There is only one septuagenarian who can honestly lay stake to the buoyant state of the Dow Jones; Bob Dylan.
Picture the scene, a meeting of the Fraternal Brotherhood of the American Illuminati (economic sub-committee), wondering what American natural resources they can tap next. Coal, steel, timber, nachos … not good enough. They don’t want any truck with all that renewable green bullshit, but they need a limitless, dynamic energy source, something classic tried and true. Imagine when some bright spark hit upon the idea of the one thing that the US had a seemingly inexhaustible supply of – 1960’s Bob Dylan.
It’s true, 1960’s Bob Dylan keeps the entire US manufacturing industry going, think of all those pressing and cardboard plants across the nation. I’ve bought at least 3 box sets and a couple of LPs of 60’s Bob in the last 18 months alone. Best of all, it’s mostly great too.
Now I was always going to buy Freewheelin’ Outtakes the second I saw it, in fact as my son will attest I snatched it straight up to my excessively broad manly chest. Released on the DOL label* nothing on this LP is duplicated on anything else I owned**. There are wonderful pictures of Dylan and Suze Rotolo on the back cover^. Best of all though? it’s a picture disc. Yup, you heard me right, a Bob Dylan picture disc. Get in!
This is a wonderful thing in its own right, the cultural icon, Nobel laureate spokesman for a generation meets picture discology. What next readers? I have compiled a small list for your delectation, if I have any industry sway then just wait for these beasts on RSD 2019:
- Hollis Brown on a shotgun shell shaped picture disc.
- Red vinyl 7″ Chimes of Freedom with promotional wind chimes.
- Blowin’ In The Wind with a whoopee cushion sleeve.
Maybe I am getting distracted here. I should just mention that the music and the pressing quality here is superb, given the material’s age and provenance. The Freewheelin’ Outtakes is a worthy addition to any Dylanologist’s collection.
I should just preface this by stating for the record that my very favourite Dylan is joyful-young-buck era Dylan, that whole just-landed-in-NYC-with-a-guitar thing is catnip for me. Bob Dylan and The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan are two of my most spun Bob LPs. There’s something about the naiveite and energy and the first flexing of all that talent that just appeals to me so much, the lack of polish.
Basically there are two takes of tunes that appear on Freewheelin’, an energised, part run through of the jokey ‘I Shall Be Free’^^ with an extra verse and some gratuitous tuning up^*, plus a gentle, ruminative take on ‘Corrina, Corrina’ which accomplishes the previously-thought impossible task of improving one of my very favourite songs.
A real curio here is the original take on laugh-a-minute ‘The Ballad Of Hollis Brown’, which wouldn’t appear until re-recorded for The Times they Are A’Changing in 1964, two years later. This is a faster, less weighty version of the heaviest song I have ever heard, Dylan plays it through without the sepulchral anger of the later recording, but the line about the ‘lone coyote howl’ gets me every time.
On a civil rights tip ‘The Death Of Emmett Till’ is another righteous zinger, written about the murder of Till and the acquittal of his killers and torturers seven years before. This is Dylan at his absolute best, kicking against the pricks, spitting contemptuously against the evils of his day. Good job that in the 57 years since this song was cut we have progressed so far judicially that this kind of injustice and hatred remain a historical curiosity.
There’s a nice balance of light and shade on Freewheelin’ Outtakes, Dylan does Elvis*^ (by way of Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup) is so good he cuts it twice, once in an electric-Dylan preshadowing skiffle version and a slower more blues piano based way; Dylan to producer ‘Let’s do it again fast!‘. There’s also some good juvenile fun on ‘Baby I’m In The Mood For You’ and the trifling ‘Hero Blues’.
You want a respectful Hank Williams cover? check ‘(I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle’; You want some gritty blues? check out the excellent ‘Rocks And Gravel’; You want an AC/DC cover? check out his harmonica heavy ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’. All life is here.
The most interesting track here is ‘Mixed Up Confusion’, which Dylan recorded a good few times over the years. The ’62 version is another fascinating glimpse at the electric betrayal that was to follow, I’d love to hear what Hendrix would have done to it’s rocking churn and heave-ho.
I have overstayed my welcome here so I’ll hit it and quit it before the bridge. What I am basically saying is that Freewheelin’ Outtakes is a brilliant addition to the Dylan canon, a far better release even than some of the official archive materials; a memorial from a time when the man was so on fire that AND IT’S A BOB DYLAN PICTURE DISC!!!!! Word up.
*Russian outfit, specialising in gaudy coloured vinyl and picture disc releases of an unofficial-yet-legal-via-public-domain-law nature. DOL possibly stands for Dubiously Ol’ Legality.
**it’s complicated, but basically there is one on The Bootleg Series Vol.7 and a couple on very hard to find compilations, nothing remotely mainstream.
^her autobiography is a really good read by the way, really interesting lady.
^^a tune seemingly hated by humourless grey-blooded Dylanologists and loved all the more for that by me.
^*I do love me some gratuitous tuning up.
*^not a porn movie I’ll be streaming anytime soon.