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Bob Dylan / 1970 review

Sean Hannam reviews the three-CD archive offering

This year sees Bob Dylan turning 80 – he celebrates his milestone birthday on 24 May – but, in the meantime, his diehard fans have been gifted Bob Dylan 1970 – the latest in a series of Columbia / Legacy Recordings archive releases that trawl through his extensive back catalogue and unearth rarities, including outtakes and alternative versions.

This latest collection, which can be seen as a companion piece to 2013’s The Bootleg Series Vol. 10: Another Self Portrait (1969-1971), pulls together three-and-a-half hours of material from New York studio sessions that took place between 3 March  and 12 August, 1970 for Dylan’s albums New Morning and Self Portrait. The latter was famously slammed by Rolling Stone critic, Greil Marcus, who started his review with the line: “What is this shit?”

These recordings were originally released as a very limited edition version – reportedly only 100 copies – on 4 December last year, via UK retailer Badlands, as part of the Bob Dylan 50th Anniversary ‘Copyright Collection’ series, but, according to the press/PR blurb, have been made more widely available due to popular demand. There are actually a few tracks on this edition that weren’t on the 2020 version.

Also included, which will be the draw for many people, is Dylan’s complete 1 May, 1970 studio session with George Harrison.

In fact, the front cover artwork for this 74-track, three-CD digi-pak collection – unlike several recent Dylan rarities releases there’s no vinyl version, or streaming, just CD and download  – features the subheading ‘With Special Guest George Harrison’, which could be more than enough to make casual fans of Dylan, The Beatles and Harrison part with their money. But, let’s face it; essentially, this release is one for Dylanologists only.

And, even then, it’s debatable that they really need five different takes of ‘Went To See The Gypsy’, or an alternative version of a short boogie woogie instrumental called, rather unimaginatively, ‘Woogie Boogie.’

The first disc comprises sessions from 3 March, 1970, and opens with a pleasant, but inessential, 36-second acoustic snippet of Dylan covering American folk singer-songwriter Tom Paxton’s ‘I Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound’, which abruptly cuts off before the end.

Next up is his solo acoustic take on Buffy Saint Marie’s anti-war anthem ‘Universal Soldier’, which clocks in at around one minute. The song was a 1965 hit for Donovan, who was often unfairly dismissed as a Dylan copyist – you can’t help but wonder if Bob had this in mind when he tackled the song in the studio. Again, it’s mildly diverting, but ends before you can really appreciate it.

The ramshackle version of the Carter Family’s country song ‘Little Moses’ is entertaining because it features the backing singers cracking up. In his sleeve notes, Michael Simmons says that if only Dylan had included ‘Little Moses’ on Self Portrait, Rolling Stone might have gleaned more of the light-hearted vibe of the sessions for the album.

The track ‘Alberta’ is much better – a breezy, upbeat and soulful country rendition of a traditional blues song, which, for some reason, Dylan included two versions of on Self Portrait. Funnily enough, there’s also two attempts at it on Bob Dylan 1970 – the second (Take 5) is slicker than the first and has more of a groove to it.

The first disc ends with a raw, rough and slightly sloppy electric version of The Beatles’ ‘Yesterday’, but according to the album credits, Harrison isn’t playing on it. Mind you, he didn’t play on the original…

He is, however, on guitar and vocals for nine songs on the collection, the majority of which are on the second disc, such as the throwaway bluesy boogie medley, ‘I Met Him On A Sunday/ ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’, and a great, loose and almost funky country rock version of ‘One Too Many Mornings’, revamped from Dylan’s 1964 album, The Times They Are A-Changin’.

‘Gates of Eden’, originally on Bringing It All Back Home, features a nice Harrison guitar solo, and there’s a decent, laid back version of ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’, with some lovely country guitar licks.

During the jamming sessions, Dylan and Harrison also knock out a ragbag of playful covers, including ‘Ghost Riders In The Sky’, ‘All I Have To Do Is Dream’ by The Everly Brothers, and a lively take on the Carl Perkins’ rockabilly song ‘Matchbox’, which was recorded by The Beatles. They’re fun to listen to – especially the latter, which sees both musicians paying tribute to the rock and roll music they grew up with.

We also get to hear Dylan and his band run through several takes of ‘If Not For You’ from New Morning – a song that George Harrison recorded a few months later for his 1970 triple solo album All Things Must Pass.

Disc Three contains a few curiosities, such as an alternative cut of Elvis Presley’s ballad ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love With You’, which is different to the version that appeared on the 1973 album Dylan – a collection of studio outtakes from the sessions for Self Portrait and New Morning. Dylan tackles the Caribbean folk song ‘Jamaica Farewell’ with a full band, including Al Kooper on warm organ, and some gospel-tinged female backing vocals.

Other highlights include a sprightly version of ‘Winterlude’, from New Morning, but with a harmonica intro, and two different slow blues takes of ‘Tomorrow Is A Long Time’ – the first is heavier than the second, whereas the second take is somewhat lighter in mood.

As Dylan rarities releases go, arguably, Bob Dylan 1970 is one of the least essential and you have to ask yourself, did the compilers really need to include so many different takes of the same songs? This can often make for quite arduous, let alone repetitive, listening.

That aside, it’s wonderful to be able to hear the much talked about Harrison session, and, for Dylan disciples and completists, the album is a welcome addition to the ever-growing collection of archive material now in the public domain, although the cardboard packaging and cover feels a bit cheap, the digitally-altered photos of Dylan in the studio, which are on the inside of the eight panel-digipack, don’t look great, and, sadly, Simmons’ sleeve notes don’t go into that much depth about the recording sessions.

Surely there must be something more exciting and special planned to coincide with his 80th birthday? Please don’t keep us waiting for much longer until we find out – tomorrow is a long time…

Bob Dylan 1970 aka 50th Anniversary Collection: 1970 is released today.

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Dylan, Bob

50th anniversary collection 1970 - 3CD set

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Tracklisting

1970 Bob Dylan / 3CD deluxe

      1. I Can’t Help but Wonder Where I’m Bound
      2. Universal Soldier – Take 1
      3. Spanish Is the Loving Tongue – Take 1
      4. Went to See the Gypsy – Take 2
      5. Went to See the Gypsy – Take
      6. Woogie Boogie
      7. Went to See the Gypsy – Take 4
      8. Thirsty Boots – Take 1
      9. Little Moses – Take 1
      10. Alberta – Take 2
      11. Come All You Fair and Tender Ladies – Take 1
      12. Things About Comin’ My Way – Takes 2 & 3
      13. Went to See the Gypsy – Take 6
      14. Untitled 1970 Instrumental #1
      15. Come a Little Bit Closer – Take 2
      16. Alberta – Take 5
      17. Sign on the Window – Take 2
      18. Sign on the Window – Takes 3, 4 & 5
      19. If Not for You – Take 1
      20. Time Passes Slowly – Rehearsal
      21. If Not for You – Take 2
      22. If Not for You – Take 3
      23. Song to Woody – Take 1
      24. Mama, You Been on My Mind – Take 1
      25. Yesterday – Take 1

Bob Dylan – 1970 (50th Anniversary Collection)

CD 1:

March 3, 1970

1. I Can’t Help but Wonder Where I’m Bound
2. Universal Soldier – Take 1
3. Spanish Is the Loving Tongue – Take 1
4. Went to See the Gypsy – Take 2
5. Went to See the Gypsy – Take 3
6. Woogie Boogie

March 4, 1970
7. Went to See the Gypsy – Take 4
8. Thirsty Boots – Take 1

March 5, 1970
9. Little Moses – Take 1
10. Alberta – Take 2
11. Come All You Fair and Tender Ladies – Take 1
12. Things About Comin’ My Way – Takes 2 & 3
13. Went to See the Gypsy – Take 6
14. Untitled 1970 Instrumental #1
15. Come a Little Bit Closer – Take 2
16. Alberta ¬– Take 5

Bob Dylan – vocals, guitar, piano
David Bromberg – guitar, dobro, bass
Al Kooper – organ, piano
Emanuel Green – violin
Stu Woods – bass
Alvin Rogers – drums
Hilda Harris, Albertine Robinson, Maeretha Stewart – background vocals

May 1, 1970
17. Sign on the Window – Take 2
18. Sign on the Window – Takes 3, 4 & 5
19. If Not for You – Take 1
20. Time Passes Slowly – Rehearsal
21. If Not for You – Take 2
22. If Not for You – Take 3
23. Song to Woody – Take 1
24. Mama, You Been on My Mind – Take 1

25. Yesterday – Take 1

CD 2:

1. Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues – Take 1
2. I Met Him on a Sunday (Ronde-Ronde) – Take 1
3. One Too Many Mornings – Take 1
4. Ghost Riders in the Sky – Take 1
5. Cupid – Take 1
6. All I Have to Do Is Dream – Take 1
7. Gates of Eden – Take 1
8. I Threw It All Away – Take 1
9. I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met) – Take 1
10. Matchbox – Take 1
11. Your True Love – Take 1
12. Telephone Wire – Take 1
13. Fishing Blues – Take 1
14. Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance – Take 1
15. Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 – Take 1
16. It Ain’t Me Babe
17. If Not for You
18. Sign on the Window – Take 1
19. Sign on the Window – Take 2
20. Sign on the Window – Take 3

Bob Dylan – vocals, guitar, piano, harmonica
George Harrison – guitar, vocals (Disc 1, Tracks 20 & 24 and Disc 2, Tracks 2-3, 6-7, 10-11, & 16)
Bob Johnston – piano (Disc 1, Tracks 24-25 and Disc 2, Tracks 1-3)
Charlie Daniels – bass
Russ Kunkel – drums

June 1, 1970
21. Alligator Man
22. Alligator Man [rock version]
23. Alligator Man [country version]
24. Day of the Locusts – Take 2
25. Sarah Jane 1
26. Sign on the Window
27. Sarah Jane 2

CD 3:

June 2, 1970
1. If Not for You – Take 1
2. If Not for You – Take 2

June 3, 1970
3. Jamaica Farewell
4. Can’t Help Falling in Love
5. Long Black Veil
6. One More Weekend

June 4, 1970
7. Bring Me Little Water, Sylvie – Take 1
8. Three Angels
9. Tomorrow Is a Long Time – Take 1
10. Tomorrow Is a Long Time – Take 2
11. New Morning
12. Untitled 1970 Instrumental #2

June 5, 1970
13. Went to See the Gypsy
14. Sign on the Window – Stereo Mix
15. Winterlude
16. I Forgot to Remember to Forget 1
17. I Forgot to Remember to Forget 2
18. Lily of the West – Take 2
19. Father of Night – rehearsal
20. Lily of the West

Bob Dylan – vocals, guitar, piano, harmonica
David Bromberg – guitar, dobro, mandolin
Ron Cornelius – guitar
Al Kooper – organ
Charlie Daniels – bass, guitar
Russ Kunkel – drums
Background vocalists unknown

August 12, 1970
21. If Not for You – Take 1
22. If Not for You – Take 2

Bob Dylan – vocals, guitar, harmonica
Buzzy Feiten – guitar
Other musicians unknown

March 3-5 and May 1, 1970 sessions took place at Studio B, Columbia Recording Studios, New York City, New York
June 1-5 and August 12, 1970 sessions took place at Studio E, Columbia Recording Studios, New York City, New York

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28 Comments

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Alan Blevin

By the way there appear to be a lot of quality control issues with discs 2 and 3 in these sets.While some people have copies that are fine quite a few others have copies where those discs can’t be read or played.Mine play fine but disc 3 makes a strange knocking noise in player before it reads.
Keep your shipping notices/invoices in case you need a replacement.

Dave H

I think my comments were clobbered by the maintenance update. However the point was that I am surprised at a few negative comments about this set here and elsewhere. I’m surprised. 3 and a half hours of Dylan for, in my case, £19.98. An absolute bargain and a wonderful eavesdrop of Bob in the studio including some tracks with George Harrison. Yes, a few duplicated songs but that is part of the fun with these sets – how he develops a song. Personally I think that they have done a really good job at pitching the archive sets in terms of pricing. A few others should take notice of this. Enough said.

Any cons? The only thing that is perhaps missing is studio chat. I can however accept that for repeated listening this can interrupt the musical flow so, I am OK on the whole. Thanks everyone involved. This has brightened up a trying week.

Adam

“you have to ask yourself, did the compilers really need to include so many different takes of the same songs?” Let us not forget, the idea of this and other “50th anniversary sets” is merely to postpone these tracks from entering public domain in Europe for another couple of decades. Any enjoyment you get from a set like this is just a happy co-incidence. Bit strange this one got a more general release, though.

Tom D.

It’s an enjoyable collection, and I did buy it primarily for the George Harrison tracks. The surprising thing to me is that, despite touting Harrison’s presence on the front cover, there’s not one photo of him in the package. Did no one take photos that day? Shouldn’t this have been a priority to include in this package?

RJS

I don’t think anyone’s buying this to see a photo of Bob and George Harrison together!

Carlos

For those who complain (reviewer included) about too many outtakes of a song, just don’t buy it if you don’t like them. There’s a 2CD version of the Bootleg Series volume 10 if you want a more concise version of this session outtakes. I for one like having as many outtakes as possible, and prefer to have the option of buying this. Besides, this was a copyright release, I’m sure if they hadn’t released it for the general public we’d be complaining about it.

David Robinson

Apparently the Infidels sessions are next on the runway for the Bootleg series , but whether that is correct or for his 80th is anyone’s guess (can’t see him celebrating it but then he’s always one for a commercial opportunity )

Paul Murphy

It was originally scheduled to coincide with Bob’s 80th, but has now been put back to later in the year. One can understand the thinking, but that time of the year is feeding the captive fish really, and it might have been a better idea to put what is a phenomenal collection of material out when there is a lot of media attention on Bob to hook the non-fans.

Phil Cohen

It appears that the next “Bootleg Series” box will indeed be “Infidels” sessions, and it has been postponed until November.
Also, I have a questions. Which tracks have been added to “1970” versus the original limited “Copyright Extension” collection? The two releases seem to have the same material, but in a slightly different running order.

Mister Stick

This seems like a “have to”, not “want to” release on Sony’s part. Meeting the copyright requirement is intended to stave off theft, but once the 100 copies from last fall hit the street, where did they wind up next? Physically, on eBay, and that’s after they were ripped and dumped onto every eastern EU server with a gigabyte left to spare. So, doing a proper release at least satisfies those of us who want the Full Bob And Nothing But The Bob, and slows the trade of a bootleg the label created by trying to stop a bootleg from being created.

I’ve had my US copy for a couple of weeks and it’s very (VERY) hit-and-miss. I don’t think I have ever cherry-picked a Dylan album this much, even black market ones.

But you can’t say it’s not a decent value at 18 bucks for three discs, if even 50% of the material is worth your time. And I’d say it just about is. Especially if you can give points for the chuckle that will surely come from hearing Zim’s half-take on “Come A Little Bit Closer”, then your money weren’t wasted. And, as Paul pigeon-spotted, Take 5 of “Alberta” is as sweet as summer corn.

Between this and the Bootleg Series set dedicated to the same era, I hope Dylan’s guys feel that they have now exhausted what is still one of The Bard’s most humdrum periods.

Thanks, everybody, and stay out of the rain.

Christopher

Harrison plays guitar on all 27 cuts above his credit in the tracklist, the 9 tracks singled out are the ones he also provides vocals for. Woogie Boogie is sans overdubs as a lot of ASP tracks were – it was probably included for that reason…

I really appreciate that they gave this set a wide release for a reasonable price, and I hope that trend continues, but I fear it may simply be owing to the presence of a Beatle…

Henk Dinkela

The item was released on February 26th in my country, I have received it on March 1th. Strange that it was released on a later date in UK. I assume it is exactly the same 3cd digipack. Regards, Henk

Vic Wertz

Given that these sessions were cherrypicked first for [i]Self Portrait[/i] (a double album) and [i]New Morning[/i], then again for [i]Dylan[/i], and they would have been looked over for [i]Biograph[/i] (though nothing new from them was chosen) and the Bootleg Series Vol. 2 (though only 1 new track was chosen), then were culled yet again for 2 full CDs (3 LPs) of the Bootleg Series Vol. 10–making a total of about 7 LPs worth of released material in all—it’s pretty amazing that anything left behind after all that is even listenable, really.

Jerry

Did the compilers really need to include so many different takes of the same songs? That kind of question made posible the “accurate versions”, is funny how the “specialist” work on it. It is not necessary, ‘release everything’ crowd will be super-happy and the ‘I like curated sets’ crowd can curate their own sets from the big box. … Everyone wins! It’s so simple. someone wrote, or get a single version

Paul Gray

I’m hoping for a reissue of the Complete Album Collection Box Set for his 80th as I stupidly failed to pick it up. Now out of print and ridiculously priced.

Gerbrand

Apparently the Infidels sessions will be on the next Bootleg Series end of this year. With Blind Willie McTell etc.

Simonf

My copy should be arriving today. No sign of it yet (at time of writing). But I’m looking forward to it especially the Harrison session. I really enjoyed the Dylan and Cash sessions on the Travelling Thru set and hopefully this will be along the same lines.

Frederik

Been a Bob Dylan collector myself for the past 25 years. Bought all the official stuff at least twice already, all of the Bootleg Series SDE’s (incl. Big Blue) but have very little appetite for this. Isn’t it cynical that probably one of his worst albums is now suddenly considered a masterpiece given all of the outtakes? I admit it’s still better than Knocked Out Loaded but still…
Anyhow, I ordered this one being the completist I am but can’t see myself giving this multiple spins.
Let’s hope they bring out one of those other boxes like 1966 or 1975 for his 80th birthday instead of the n-th best of compilation. The Biograph/2007 Dylan sets are as good as it can get for that.

Tim Abbott

There’s a lot of bellyaching (mostly by the good folks at the fun vacuum that is Steve Hoffman’s forum) that these sets should all be made available to the general public all the time. Listening to this one (as an avowed fan of Dylan), I can’t see anyone but the most dedicated getting much enjoyment out of it, and the casual listener unwittingly repeating the famous Rolling Stone review of Self Portrait. Besides, that’s not the point of these sets.

I’m sure a semi-decent 40 minute album can be assembled from the material here, but it is a real slog to find it.

On the plus side, the three versions of Alligator Man are great fun.

Frederik

Although the 1970 set it a bit too much for me, I wouldn’t mind the 1960s Copyright Collections getting a similar pressing as this one. There was more to enjoy in those ones IMO.
Now if we get this for the subsequent years, that’ll be awesome!

Neil Parnell

all these are being released to keep the recordings in copyright i read somewhere recently…sure we will see this happening a lot in the next few years

Sascha H.

This happened with 1962, 1963 and 1964 and the 1969 material with the copyright collection. And now with 1970 but they released it world wide and not as super limited edition.

Jim

Woogie Boogie, to be fair, was released on Self Portrait. How much anyone needs an alternate version of it is another matter. My copy is due to be delivered today. I’m not expecting it will get heavy rotation but any Bob is worth having in my book.

zally

ESSENTIAL.this what we need in this time of uncertainly. a way to see ahead and to reflect .

mitchell w feldstein

thanks for the review. i am a big dylan fan ( not a completist by any means but i have a lot of his recordings and more than a few of the bootleg series). i got this one in the mail a couple of weeks ago. i just can’t seem to get into it. i thought about selling it at a local used book/record shop but didn’t want to have regrets and wanted to wait for a couple of reviews , and try and re listen.

i keep wishing i had gotten the self portrait bootleg volume when it had come out.
anyhow thanks for the review i will give it another go over the next month or so.

Klaus

Hi Mitchell,

the 4-cd-volume is available at 68 EUR from amazon.de at the moment of writing.

As you are most possibly not located in Germany you can try amazon (and of course other record shops too) in your country. It doesn’t look deleted to me.

Ian S

Is the reviewer aware that this is a copyright protection job – that it was never meant for wider sale? It’s also as related to BS 15 as it is BS 10.

That Sony have made it widely available is a joy for deep end bobsessives (like me). The sort of nuts who have had the Harrison sessions for years on bootleg but who welcome them in better quality and who love to hear multiple takes of the same song, at least once, and are happy to pay for the privilege.

This is the very definition of a niche product and all the better for it.

mitchell w feldstein

well i listened to the 1970 tracks yesterday and it clicked! CD’s two and three were the ticket.ordered the two CD version of another self portrait .