Positively Bob Dylan

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Series of dreams: 20 years of Bootleg Series

Posted on 09/16/2011

Twenty years ago, in 1991 Columbia for the first time released an extensive compilation box set including solely previously unreleased recordings of Bob Dylan. The collection of 58 demos, rare studio session outtakes, live soundboard recordings, and alternate versions or takes spans everything from Dylan's first demos (the "Minnesota Hotel Tape", 1961) to his then latest single "Series of Dreams", an "Oh Mercy" outtake from 1989, remixed exclusively for the release of the box set in 1991. Remember the great music video to the song? Watch it again below, and post your opinion.

The release of "The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961-1991)" was probably not meant to become an ongoing series of official releases of rarities. Bob Dylan's repertoire and performances range among the most bootlegged in music history, the legendary "Great White Wonder" has actually initiated rock music bootlegging. So Columbia took the risk of releasing recordings that serious collectors probably already owned, and on the other hand of compiling material that could very well not be sellable in large quantities to the average Dylan audience. But they succeeded: Both the release itself and the sales numbers were more than satisfactory: The box set entered the Billboard charts, and it has been certified with a gold record.

After its success, the "Bootleg Series" actually continued to grow into a real series of dreams for fans and collectors. Finally the record company started to care about the alternate musical legacy that until then had remained hidden deep in the archives.
For each of the new releases the songs and live performances have always been carefully picked from the wide variety of available material, there have been digitally restored and remastered from the original tapes. Additionally new liner notes have been written, and previously unreleased photographies have been added to complete one must-have release after the other.

Here are the volumes of the first and past twenty years:

1991 Vols. 1-3: Rare & Unreleased 1961-1991 (3 CDs)
1998 Vol. 4: Live 1966 (The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert) (2 CDs)
2002 Vol. 5: Live 1975 (The Rolling Thunder Revue) (2 CDs)
2004 Vol. 6: Live 1964 (Concert at Philharmonic Hall) (2 CDs)
2005 Vol. 7: No Direction Home - The Soundtrack (2 CDs)
2008 Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs: Rare and Unreleased 1989-2006 (2 CDs)
2010 Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos 1962-1964 (2 CDs)

So, what do you expect to become Vol. 10? Suggestions from my side: The Genuine Basement Tapes, Blonde On Blonde sessions (a possible option according to Rolling Stone), maybe even Live at the Supper Club 1993, or Live at Woodstock '94?

Update from November 2014: Volume 10 has been released: "The Basement Tapes Complete" (6 CDs)

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