- 25 Mar 21
One Too Many Mornings: The Copyright Collection
If the on-going Bootleg Series has taught us anything, it's that Bob Dylan never seems leave a recording session without at least something that’s of interest. Mind you, sometimes even the great Zim drops the ball and leaves gold in the can - ‘Blind Willie McTell’/Infidels - and hawks the tin - 'Neighbourhood Bully' on the same record isn't exactly magical. Dylan has forever been a law unto himself, but discovering a song like that - one which other writers would kill, repeatedly, for - on the first of the series has resulted in fans, like me, awaiting each subsequent release in the hope of being gifted something similar. Like 'Dreamin' Of You' on Tell Tale Signs or the superior take of 'Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts' on More Blood, More Tracks to name just two, off the top of my head.
I'd put the take of 'New Morning' with horn overdubs that was included on 2013’s Vol. 10: Another Self Portrait (1969-1971) in the same boat. That collection went some way - mostly be removing overdubs - to redeeming the fairly messy 1970 album Self Portrait, and if you don't like my description, remember how it prompted Greil Marcus to famously ask "what is this shit?" upon its release. 1970 isn’t generally regarded as one of Bob’s better years, although New Morning, which including great songs like 'If Not For You' and 'The Man In Me', was certainly a huge improvement on what went before. Another Self Portrait cobbled together the best of the stuff from that period's cutting room floor, so why are we back here again?
Like the 18(!) disc lunatic/collector’s edition of The Cutting Edge, which gathered every note Dylan recorded in 65/66, and the even more sanity-threatening 36(!!) CDs of The 1966 Live Recordings, 1970 basically exists so these recordings don’t enter into the public domain under the current copyright laws. It was originally pushed out quickly last year in a very limited run before vocal Dylanite demand warranted this issue, on CD and download only. Streamers must do without.
Despite its mercenary nature and multiple takes of ‘Sign On The Window’ and ‘Went To See The Gypsy' – hardly his greatest songs, although far from his worst, and take one of the former, featuring Dylan on piano, is lovely – this set is not without merit, especially as the May 1, 1970 session features one George Harrison. Their half-arsed run at ‘Yesterday’ by Harrison’s old band has a ragged charm, as does a lob at Dylan’s own ‘Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues’, once the drums kick in and Bob finds his place in it, but the real prizes are their ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’ and slow first take of 'If Not For You'’. The two men go back to their youth - at the ripe old ages of 29 and 27 - to knock out numbers like Carl Perkins' 'Matchbox' and The Everly Brothers''All I Have To Do Is Dream', perhaps in preparation for the rumoured arrival of Elvis Presley. Sadly, the Memphis Flash didn't show. It always nice to hear George Harrison play the guitar though.
As for the rest, there are some good takes of some great songs. 'Spanish Is The Loving Tongue' from the March sessions features Bob's crooning Nashville Skyline voice, If you want to hear ‘I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)’ in something like the style of John Wesley Harding then here’s your chance, and disc three has a 'Long Black Veil' that gets better as it goes along, a bluesy groove in 'Tomorrow Is A Long Time - Take 1' and another nice go at 'If Not For You - Take 1' with slide guitar and backing vocals. Having said all that, you'd have to be in a very generous mood to claim that the best of these sessions have not already been released elsewhere. It’s still Dylan though, working things out and playing around, and that’s always going to be worth hearing.