From: Dylanbase
When Added: 3/26/2000

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"A wonderful collection of rare traditional tunes from some of Bob's most adventurous years of song selections. Of course, this adventurous spirit occasionally led to Bob falling on his face, but when he got it right, WOW. Several of these songs were performed only once, and all but a few were performed no more than a handful of times. Things get going with a strange, but lovely, version of The Roving Blade (aka Newry Highwayman, Newry Town, Wild & Wicked Youth, etc), which has some very unusual vocal phrasings and intonations that turn the song on its ear. Then we move on to Girl On The Greenbriar Shore, which opens with "Twas in the year of '92"--gosh, what a comedian that Bob Dylan is.

The ubiqitous Little Moses follows. it's a cool enough song the first few times you ehar it, but this was the default acoustic song through the whole of 1992 and 1993; there are 96 renditions of the song, and they're all pretty much the same, except when Bob has a memory slip. Golden Vanity is the same verion that appears in soundboard quality on "Paradise Hawaiian Style;" again, Golden Vanity was a very common song, and this early 1992 version is easily the worst one I've ever heard. Bob completely mangles the lyrics in several spots, and his singing varies from excellent to abominable. Thank God for John Jackson, whose lead guitar work almost salvages the song. To hear how this one should have sounded, check out the drop-dead gorgeous rendition from Wichita, KS 10/31/91.

Then we come to the first 1-off of the disc--20/20 Vision from Austin, TX 10/25/91. This cut has the poorest sound quality of any on this disc, but the performance is positively electric. It's a full-band acoustic number, and you get pounding drums, impressive bass work from Tony Garnier, and first rate singing from old BD. When he goes down to hit those bass notes, it's spine-tingle time. And then along comes Barbara Allen, with a very loud audience and lackluster singing. So we move along the When First Unto This Country (performed only twice, one electric back in '89, and this acoustic performnace from 1991). It's a charming performance of a song you're not likely to hear anywhere else. Next up is Roving Gambler. It opens with a sloppy harmonica bit, and then Bob comes in and spits the lyric out as if he's trying to get through the song so he can run to the bathroom or something. That said, it does have more charm than the cookie-cutter versions we got of this one in 1997.

Lucky Old Sun, in superb quality, follows. It's a gorgeous performance, 10 times nicer than the crap version he did at The Edge in 1995. Two Soldiers is nice, but comes nowhere near the perfection of the one from Boston '94. The sound leaves a bit to be desired, and one can barely hear the band over the echo and Bob's harsh acoustic guitar. Additionally, the end of the song is clipped. Then, off to the mines for a lovely Dark As A Dungeon. If you've heard only the ones from Rolling Thunder with Joan Baez and the one from Melbourne '98, you're in for a treat. While this is a very idiosyncratic performance, the vocals have more fire and conviction than the later version, and it's not forced into some pretty little tune the way it was in 1975. I hope when I'm dead, and the ages do roll, I've got a copy of this recording to keep me company.

Then we're out on the range with those damned old buffalo. Now, Bob had several ways of doing this one. The stangest of which was the pounding, punkish full-band electric version from the 1989 tour, and the rest were either acoustic duo or acoustic w/ full band. The duo versions, like this one, were hit-or miss. The one I've heard from 1988 was unspeakbly dreadful, in part because Bob was falling down drunk at the show. This one is pleasing, but I'd never rank it up there as one of Bob's greatest musical triumphs. And then we flip to the other side of the world (Perth, Australia) for one of the two versions of Female Rambling Sailor. The sound is acceptable, though it could be better. The performance is a stunner, though, even though Bob stumbles near the end and leaves out half of a verse (the bit about willows waving around her grave and her soul being in glory). And the story, about a woman who dresses up as a man and joins the Navy (like Handsome Cabin Boy, Canadee-I-O, and Jack-A-Roe) is not one you'll soon forget.

Next we get what is certainly the strangest song on the album. It's Man Of Constant Sorrow (yeah, like on the debut album, but with the original lyrics) presented at a 90MPH tempo and with some very high, nasal singing. I honestly had no idea what the hell it was the first time I listened to it, and I had to look at the CD case to find out. Even then, I thought it was a typo. If you thought It Ain't Me Babe at the Isle of Wight was just too strange, you ain't heard nothin' yet. Tight edits maul both ends of the song. Oh, but now it's time for Eileen Aroon. This is, IMO, one of the most beautiful songs Bob has ever sung. Hearing him sing
"Castles are lost in war
Cheiftans are scattered far
Truth is a fixed star
Eileen Aroon"
in that parched, lonesome '88 voice is about as moving an experience as one is likely to get from a CD. We then get a wretched Wild Mountain Thyme, in lackluster quality, with half the first line cut off by another rough edit. Next comes a muddy-sounding Wagoner's Lad from fall '88. The performance is nice enough (it's the same one as on Critics Choice Vol 8, FWIW), but coming as it does after such a parade of riches, it's disappointing. We end up down in Lousisiana, with hospitable creole girls, lovers away at sea, and hungry alligators who'd like to eat Bob ("If it weren't for the alligators/ I'd sleep out in the wood"). This is an awfully good performance, but you should also check out the one from Wantaugh 6/30/88, which is available on a very good soundboard recording (on "Blown Out On The Trail", among others) for a version with a slightly different mood about it.

All in all, a very enjoyable disc. Despite the typical Wanted Man editing disasters and occasionally lackluster sound quality, this is one you'll find yourself spinning a lot. Someone should do a 2CD set of this stuff, since there are plenty more choice traditional acoustic rarities out there to be enjoyed."
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