17 Dec 2011

Bob Dylan In The Sixties & Seventies - Hidden Gems

Bob Dylan is one artist who there's no shortage of when it comes to best of's and compilations.

As good as some of these compilations are, they draw from a huge well, and there are certain tracks that remain undiscovered by those who don't dig a little deeper.

So here's a selection of some of the best underappreciated Dylan songs from the sixties and seventies. I've avoided albums like Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61, Blonde On Blonde, Desire and Blood on the Tracks - albums which even the most casual Dylan fan tend to have a grasp on and focussed on works which some folks may have missed.

Tomorrow is a Long Time.
A heartbreaking early Dylan lovesong, originally slated for the cancelled 1963 In Concert LP. The live version was eventually released on Masterpieces and this demo version later surfaced on the Witmark Sessions from the Official Bootleg Series.  There's also an interesting version recorded with George Harrison in 1970 floating around on various bootlegs, and an excellent re arrangement available on various bootlegs of the 1978 Tour Rehearsals.

Percy's Song
An absolutely stunning protest ballad from Bob, recorded for The Time's They Are a Changin' album but inexplicably shelved. Fairport Convention covered it very well on their classic Unhalfbricking album in 1969, but Dylan's version didn't see release until 1985 on Biograph.

Seven Curses
Another excellent example of Dylan's ability to transcend the folk form. Taking a story which had already been the foundation of a number of folk songs, Dylan completely rewrites with plenty of clever lyrical touches to draw the listener in and really connect with the victim's plight. Another Time's outtake , this was eventually released on the Bootleg Series Vol 1-3.

The Wicked Messenger
The whole John Wesley Harding album is essential, with Dylan leading the charge towards counterculture country music, along with the Byrds. Dylan took a lot of inspiration from biblical stories for this album, and this is one of his more interesting allegories.

Peggy Day
Bob's most full on country LP takes a bit of a kicking, but Nashville Skyline is a hell of a lot of fun. And Bob's voice on this album is pure heaven.

Sign on the Window
New Morning has seen a bit of  a revival since The Man In Me was used so successfully in The Big Lebowski, and Sign on the Window is the other undiscovered masterpiece from this album.

Billy 1
Knockin' On Heaven's Door is generally regarded as the essential track from Dylan's soundtrack to Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid, but Billy 1's off the cuff charm captures the feel of the movie with more authenticity.

Going Going Gone
From the challenging but rewarding Planet Waves album, Going Going Gone is a desolate piece with a wonderfully impassioned vocal from Bob, which sounds like a precursor to the following years Rolling Thunder tour. Great stinging guitar work from Robbie Robertson too.

Abandoned Love
Another great find on Biograph was this Desire outtake, never performed since as far as I know. Yet another example of Dylan abandoning material that others would see as singles material.

Changing of the Guard
Street Legal's muddy sound has put a lot of people off over the years, but there's a lot of great material to be found for those willing to persevere. Senor has found it's way back into Dylan's live sets and onto a few best ofs, but Changing of the Guard is the true gem from this album, with another impassioned vocal and a great horn led arrangement.

Trouble in Mind
The b-side for Gotta Serve Somebody, Trouble in Mind is another apocalyptic bible thumper, used to great effect in I'm Not There, but not included on the soundtrack and only available now on a German only compilation - Pure Dylan.


  1. Great post- adore the first song 'Tomorrow is a long time'

  2. Thanks Bricoleur - stay tuned for Dylan in the Eighties coming soon