CD Review: Bob Dylan

The Bootleg Series Vol. 8—Tell Tale Signs: Rare and Unreleased 1989-2006 (Columbia)

If you want to know more about Bob Dylan, just stay tuned. Sooner or later he will reinterpret himself and his own work in a way that sheds light on either the man or his manner.

Tell Tale Signs is 27 alternate takes and demos, previously unreleased songs, and live cuts of material from 1989 (Oh Mercy) through 2006 (Modern Times). Regardless of which Dylan subcult you belong to, it's hard not to acknowledge that this has been a flattering span for him. It might be his age. It might be the age in which we live. It might be that we've had almost 50 years to get used to him. But his idiosyncratic composing and I-Ching song-style agrees with the second half of his life as much or more so than that early bag of songs that burned him onto our collective consciousness, top of the first half.

The alternates and live versions here are simply that, and are bound to please completists. Exceptional are the piano and vocal demo of "Dignity" and the guitar/vocal demo of the unreleased "Mississippi." There's an alternate, slightly up-tempo redux of "Most of the Time" that sounds, with surprisingly little variation, like a brand new song. But just like the album version, it somehow makes you want to order take-out Thai food and watch High Fidelity yet again.