Positively Bob Dylan

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10 rare Dylan songs you should know

Posted on 05/06/2014

You may have listened to the complete Bootleg Series, you might even own a couple of rare live recordings. There is however a lot more to discover out there, but among the bulk of inofficial releases it takes quite a bit of discipline to find the gems. Here's my first personal take on 10 tracks that have never been released on any official Bob Dylan album, compilation or soundtrack so far. So it's likely that you've never heard these before, especially if you are not a collector of rarities yourself. And if you are, stay tuned. There are more lists to come :-)

#1 House of the Rising Sun (Electric Version, 1962/64)
Hard to understand why the electric version of "House of the Rising Sun" was only released on the long out-of-print CD-ROM "Highway 61 Interactive". The original recording from his acoustic 1962 debut album was overdubbed in 1964 (two verses omitted) and anticipates his classic electric sound from 1965/66. In the same year the traditional folk song, originating in the 1930s, became a hit single for The Animals.

#2 Knocking On Heaven's Door (Long version, 1973)
Most people only know of the 2:30 minutes long version released on the official "Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid" album. But among the other takes of the surprising Billboard hit single "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" Dylan also recorded a longer version running over four minutes. The lyrics are basically the same, Dylan only repeats the verses and changes "That long black cloud is coming down" to "That long black train is coming 'round". Listen to it, if you get to find one of the rare Bootlegs of the Burbank sessions from February 1973.

#3 Nuggets of Rain (with Bette Midler, 1975)
In October 1975 Bob Dylan and up and coming star Bette Midler recorded a different version of "Buckets of Rain" from "Blood on the Tracks" at Secret Sound Studios, New York. The tapes of that session only surfaced a few years ago on a Bootleg of the same name. The final version is a beautifully performed up-beat duet, released on Midler's 1976 album "Songs for the New Depression".

#4 Am I Your Stepchild? (1978)
As far as I know there is only a few live recordings of this unreleased song from 1978. Also known as "You Treat Me Like A Stepchild" or simply "Stepchild", the song was newly recorded in 2002 by Soul legend Solomon Burke. Dylan's original version is faster and has different lyrics, probably he tried to develop the song during his '78 concerts, but after that never recorded it in a studio.

#5 Hallelujah (1981)
The song – not a cover version of the Leonard Cohen classic – was recorded during the "Shot of Love" sessions, but remains in the archives as an unreleased outtake. It's a mid-tempo rocker that features Gospel background vocals singing the chorus. The track can be found on the Bootleg "Between Saved & Shot" from 1999.

#6 Blind Willie McTell (Electric version, 1983)
If the electric version recorded with Mark Knopfler had seen the light of day, "Infidels" would have become an even bigger effort. It's a fantastic piece of music, and it remains simply incomprehensible why it was not included on the final album. Of course you know the acoustic version from the original Bootleg Series Vols. 1-3, but if you listen to this version, you will be surprised about what's still hidden in the basement of Columbia records.

#7 Julius and Ethel (1983)
Another unsolved mystery as to why this fully finalized song of the "Infidels" sessions with Mark Knopfler remained an outtake. The track not only rocks, but also tells the tragic story of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg who were executed for conspiracy related to passing information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. The lyrics ("As long as you didn't say nothing you could say anything") walk in the footsteps of Dylan's early political/social compositions such as "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll".

#8 Who Loves You More (1984)
This wonderful bluesy ballad would probably have made the otherwise mediocre "Empire Burlesque" album a better one. Also the sound of the original takes from the sessions from today's point of view exceed the final synthetic 80s sound by far. Listen to the track, if you get your hands on the "Clean Cuts" Bootleg.

#9 Go 'Way Little Boy (1985)
Call it a pop song, but this outtake from the sessions that resulted in the "Empire Burlesque" album works fine for me. It was recorded with Tom Petty, Benmont Tench and Ron Wood, and released as a B-side by Maria McKee's band Lone Justice.

#10 Got Love If You Want It (1987)
Another great rocking tune that would have fitted nicely on "Down in the Groove", but it was taken from the original promo track listing and remains an outtake from the April 1987 studio sessions. You can find it on "The Genuine Bootleg Series: Take Two" from 1995.

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