Bob Dylan’s 38th Best Studio/ Bootleg Album

A painting of the profile of Bob Dylan's face with red, yellow, purple, and black stripes

Dylan (1973)
Grade — C-

Later the same year Pat Garrett was released skewing Peckinpah’s vision due to CBS , Bob Dylan ran into some troubles with studios of his own. These troubles stirred with the record company he had always been a part of, Columbia Records. Working on a new contract, negotiations soured with higher ups, and Dylan fled to Asylum records for a year or two, temporarily ending his run with Columbia.

None to happy about one of their solid stars jumping ship, they released outtakes from his albums “Self Portrait” and “New Morning” sessions entirely without the artist’s consent. Hand picked as ones executives chose to be the most fruitless and embarrassing, they slapped on the horrid cover and shipped it to entirely negative reviews from critics.

Dylan was appalled, requesting the record not be made for CD in North America, and renamed it after one of the songs on the piece, “A Fool Such as I”.

Is there anything salvageable? Sure.

That track “A Fool Such as I” is quite fun, as well as the overly goofy “Sarah Jane” and the traditional favorite covered by many, “Lily of the West.”

However the cover of Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling In Love With You” is not a song Dylan does especially well, as its — well — an Elvis song. The corny lyrics are perfect for the king of cool, but for the Wizard of Wheeze, it falls flat.

“The Ballad of Ira Hayes” and “Mary Ann” are even worse, as while Cash’s version of Ira Hayes is at the very least entertainingly grating, Dylan’s is just…well, grating.

The album has enough good moments to not be as abysmal as Dylan himself makes it out to be, but if you were in his shoes, you’d probably say the same thing. Definitely something I have in my collection for my record player, but only played for the three good songs I mentioned and the very interesting “Spanish Is the Loving Tongue” cover to end it.

Song from the album is quite certainly Dylan’s given name to it, but its unavailable, so here’s “Lily of the West.” —

Joan Baez and Bob Dylan are the two best versions I’ve heard so far, what a coincidence.


Bob Dylan’s 40th Best Studio/ Bootleg Album

Dylan sitting onstage with a guitar

Down In the Groove
Grade – D+

The mid 80’s were dark times for the Dylan fan base; having to be subjected to an artist having incredible writer’s block and a lack of control over his own product. The classic Dylan ‘one-take’ style was, as Robert Christgau put it, “patented and by now meaningless”. The album was fully panned by critics as his worst work to that point, and looking back, certainly had the least to offer from the collection.

The songs put forth were mostly co-written, or songs he’d decided not to record previously, and a couple of new compositions of his own. Full Force, a popular hip hop group, helped with the sound (as well as the backing vocals on “Death is Not the End”) but it wasn’t any use. Dylan seemed to be running on fumes, running out of the magic that made him great.

Not to say the album was a complete disaster, as no Dylan album fully is. “Silvio” was modestly successful, with backing from the Grateful Dead, it became one of the artist’s greatest hits, and thus becoming popular while on tour.

“Sally Sue Brown” and “Let’s Stick Together” have some charm, but the absence of real song-writing was far too much to handle otherwise.

“When Did You Leave Heaven”, was so obviously not written by Dylan, as instead of his patented “vagueness”, he sings a series of bad pick up lines written by Richard Whitting and Walter Bullock.

“Ugliest Girl in the World” was written by head of the Graterful Dead (Robert Hunter) and Bob. The song is one of the most shallow and irritating ditties in both of their collections, as Dylan sings about how much she loves this woman, even though she’s so damn ugly. One of the few songs I skip on my shuffle.

Overall, this album is pretty awful. The writing isn’t there, the drive of the artist from the 60’s and 70’s isn’t there, and the sound definitely isn’t there. There’s “Silvio” and one or two other decent songs, but not one I recommend for non-Dylan fans.

Silvio –

Have a listen, as this is assuredly one catchy song.