Dylan’s catalogue is fucking massive, so its not surprisingly there is a shit load of his material that never made it onto his albums. In fact, he has more stuff that didn’t make it onto an album than most rock artists have in their entire catalogue. Besides maybe Springsteen. A lot of these tracks are scattered all over the place but what follows is the neatest, easiest to find tracks that are really strong.
The ‘A Tree With Roots’ Bootleg (1967)
This is the Bootleg mentioned when ‘The Basement Tapes’ was Given the Cheese. It has almost all of the tracks that were known to be recorded during this era and is a much better listen than the actual ‘Basement Tapes’, which in of it’s self is a good album. A lot of what is on this bootleg is fantastic.
Greatest Hits Volume II (1971)
This release had six unreleased tracks, all from the Self Portrait/Basement Tapes/New Morning era. They’re all worth a listen but the best are probably
– ‘Watching The River Flow’
– ‘I Shall Be Released’
-‘You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.’
This is a box set compilation that has 53 total songs, 18 in which had never been released before. Most of the unreleased tracks are from the 1960’s but there are a few from later eras. My favourite is probably ‘Abandoned Love’ that was left off of the ‘Desire’ album. It’s a really good song.
‘Quinn The Eskimo (Mighty Eskimo)’ is pretty good too.
The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3, 1961-1991 (1991)
Despite their name, the ‘Bootleg Series’ is an official collection of non-album material from Dylan. So far there have been ten of them – five that are mostly live albums or full concerts and five that that are almost all made up of studio tracks. They’re either tracks that didn’t make an album or they’re earlier/alternate versions of tracks that did.
This first one covered 30 years of Dylan’s career, with 34 songs covering the folk era (1962-1964) and the rock trilogy era (1965-1966.) The best stuff on this album are the outtakes from the post-Christian era (1983-1990), which isn’t surprising since this is the era where Dylan left a lot of his best work off albums for reasons that make no sense to anyone.
The absolute best of these are probably :
– ‘Blind Willie McTell’ (from the ‘Infidels’ sessions), which is actually one of Dylan’s best ever tracks and it’s a crime it was left off ‘Infidels.’
– ‘Foot Of Pride’ (from the ‘Infidels’ sessions)
– An alternate take of ‘When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky.’ The version that ended up on ‘Empire Burlesque’ is shitfull to say the least. This version is awesome though.
– ‘Series Of Dreams’ (from the ‘Oh Mercy’ sessions.)
Greatest Hits Volume III (1994)
This had one very good unreleased track from the ‘Oh Mercy’ sessions – ‘Dignity.’ It’s a really good track.
The Bootleg Series Volume 8 – Tell Tale Signs, 1989-2006 (2008)
Most of the material on this release is from Dylan’s post-1997 comeback, and there is some great stuff on it. There are lots of alternate versions of tracks from ‘Time Out Of Mind’, many which do not have the distinct Daniel Lanois production that people either loved or hated.
My favourites from this one are :
– Alternate version of ‘Someday Baby’ from ‘Modern Times.’ I much prefer this version to the one on the album.
– ‘Tell Ol’ Bill’ from the soundtrack to ‘North Country’ which sounds very much like a ‘Modern Times’ song. It’s a very good track.
– ‘Dreamin’ Of You’ from the ‘Time Out Of Mind’ sessions. This is a great song.
– ‘Huck’s Tune’ from the soundtrack to ‘Lucky You.’
– ‘Marchin’ To The City’ from the ‘Time Out Of Mind’ sessions.
The Bootleg Series Volume 10 – Another Self Portrait, 1969-1971 (2013)
There are some tracks from the ‘Basement Tapes’ era and from ‘Nashville Skyline’ on this but the vast majority of tracks are from either the ‘Self Portrait’ sessions or the ‘New Morning’ sessions.
The whole thing is worth listening to, mainly because Dylan (reportedly) purposefully fucked up the ‘Self Portrait’ album and the tracks here from those sessions are vastly superior to anything that made the album. Almost everything from the ‘New Morning’ sessions are an improvement on the album versions too.
There probably could have been one excellent album from the ‘Self Portrait’ and ‘New Morning’ sessions. This whole era needs to be 10-Tracked.