Let’s pretend that the music Bob Dylan recorded circa 1970 had resulted in a series of different albums than the ones we got. In the real world, those recordings are smeared all over the place: Self-Portrait, New Morning, Dylan, Greatest Hits Vol. 2, vault releases, and bootlegs. The point of this curation is not to include everything, but to give persuasive form to a period that remains blurry (based on commercial releases) and that is often derided as a low point. I consider it a high point, even at its weirdest points. This is my case, via four imaginary albums.
Volume 1: The Morning After
One reviewer called “New Morning” a mid-term report from a position of domestic tranquility. However, the final report card, based on original songs recorded in 1970 and 1971, is a much more unsettled communique.
The first volume of my 1970 reconfiguration attempts to turn “New Morning” into the most substantial possible album of originals recorded in this period. The result includes six songs from "New Morning," three alternate versions of "New Morning" songs, and four songs that weren't on the album.
The object of thematic puzzling is time. Simplified into biography (which isn’t fair), the plot involves “Bob Dylan” fleeing himself and celebrity into domestic tranquility and artistic freedom in upstate New York, but ending up estranged from wife and self, that masterpiece he was going to paint colliding with not having much to say, the past a mixed-up confusion, the future a blank, the river of time continuing to flow by. The gypsy he goes to see in the end, and can't connect with, is the Bob Dylan he escaped from and now can’t find his way back to. He’s the restless wallflower in his own life. He’s half-inclined to consider religion. Or he's just a restless Bob Dylan, hanging out in the cafes and bars of upstate New York, taking notes.
- Act 1: Hopeful escape
- Act 2: Bliss
- Act 3: Ambivalence, boredom, regret, and resignation
It’s the mighty Bob Dylan album, hiding in plain sight, that marks the mid-point between the official mileposts planted by “John Wesley Harding” (1967) and “Planet Waves" (1973). This re-stacking should startle even those who are intimately familiar with this material in its original contexts, especially in the second half.
- Three Angels (NM)
- Day of the Locusts (NM)
- When I Paint My Masterpiece (ASP)
- If Dogs Run Free (ASP)
- New Morning (NM)
- The Man in Me (NM)
- Watching the River Flow (single)
- One More Weekend (NM)
- Time Passes Slowly #2 (ASP)
- Tomorrow is a Long Time (bootleg 6/4/70)
- Wallflower (ASP)
- Went to See the Gypsy (ASP)
- Father of Night (NM)