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Albums Of The Week: Bob Dylan | Springtime In New York: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 16 (1980-1985)

Think Zimmy wasn't making some great music in the 1980s? Think again.

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THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “The 16th chapter in Bob Dylan’s highly acclaimed Bootleg Series, Springtime In New York revisits an often-forgotten, rich vein in Dylan’s vast and complex catalog, shining fresh light on the provocative new musical directions he was taking as a songwriter and a recording artist from 1980 through 1985.

In the early 1980s, while the music industry was grappling with the arrival of new trends and technology, from MTV to compact discs to digital recording, Dylan was writing and recording new songs for a new decade, creating an essential new chapter in his studio catalog. Springtime In New York (1980-1985) celebrates the rich creative period surrounding Dylan’s albums Shot Of Love, Infidels and Empire Burlesque with previously unreleased outtakes, alternate takes, rehearsal recordings, live performances and more.

The deluxe five-CD edition of the album presents 57 rare recordings, 54 of them previously unreleased in any format. The previously released cuts include two Shot Of Love outtakes: Let It Be Me (first released as B-side to Heart of Mine) and Don’t Ever Take Yourself Away (first released on Hawaii Five-O: Original Songs From The Television Series). A third previously released recording, Death Is Not The End (an Infidels outtake featuring Full Force) first appeared in an edited version on Down In The Groove and may now be heard for the first time in full.

Disc 1 was recorded in 1980 and 1981 and finds Dylan rehearsing a variety of his own catalog compositions (Señor (Tales of Yankee Power), To Ramona), rearranging some traditional folk tunes (Jesus Met the Woman at the Well, Mary of the Wild Moor) and revving up a selection of surprising covers (Mystery Train featuring Ringo Starr, Sweet Caroline, Fever, Abraham, Martin and John) with a group of musicians including Fred Tackett (guitar), David Mansfield (mandolin), Willie Smith (keyboards), Tim Drummond (bass), Jim Keltner (drums) and background vocals by Clydie King, Carolyn Dennis, Gwen Evans and Regina McCrary.

Disc 2 is devoted to outtakes and alternate takes of recordings produced by Chuck Plotkin for Shot of Love, while Discs 3 and 4 are centered on the material Dylan wrote for Infidels, performed by the all-star band assembled for the album which featured Mark Knopfler (guitar), Mick Taylor (guitar), Alan Clark (keyboards), Robbie Shakespeare (bass) and Sly Dunbar (drums). The Infidels sessions, produced by Dylan and Knopfler, include previously unreleased versions of Blind Willie McTell and Jokerman.

Disc 5 includes live tracks (Enough Is Enough from Slane Castle, Ireland, and License to Kill from Late Night with David Letterman, March 22, 1984) alongside alternate takes and outtakes from the Empire Burlesque sessions, produced by Dylan, including premieres of new songs (Straight A’s in Love and New Danville Girl, an early draft of Brownsville Girl) and a previously unreleased performance of the canonical Dark Eyes.

According to the producer’s note in the album: “The alternate takes selected for this set are different than the ones released on previous volumes of The Bootleg Series. They are included here to illustrate the musical journey Bob Dylan undertook during these years.” In his liner notes, Damien Love writes, “And that’s the real story of this gloriously untrammeled collection. The songs. The songs stripped free of trappings, tampering, passing tastes, and judgments. The songs broken down to the sound of people really doing this, right now, acting on instinct. The songs rough and rowdy, bruised and tender, joking and crying, nagging and striving and yearning. The songs were always there, and here they are still, keeping pace with us.”