Bob Dylan’s so-called Christian period in the late '70s and early ’80s is the focal point for the next installment in the ongoing “Bootleg Series” of archival releases, with the deluxe box set featuring eight CDs and one DVD that bring to light a raft of live recordings from his tours of that era along with previously unreleased studio takes.
“Bob Dylan — Trouble No More — The Bootleg Series Vol. 13 / 1979-1981,” due Nov. 3, explores in unprecedented depth the trio of albums he recorded after delving deeply into Christian theology: “Slow Train Coming” (from 1979), “Saved” (1980) and “Shot of Love” (1981), a trilogy that sparked as much debate over Dylan’s direction and relevance as his dramatic shift from acoustic folk music to electric rock ’n’ roll a decade and a half earlier.
Then-Village Voice critic Robert Christgau awarded “Slow Train Coming” a B+, calling it “his best album since ‘Blood on the Tracks.’ The singing is passionate and detailed, and the pros behind him — especially Mark Knopfler, who has a studio career in store — play so sharply that his anger gathers general relevance at its most vindictive.”
The deluxe set’s DVD features “Trouble No More: A Musical Film” from director Jennifer Lebeau, which has been chosen for premiere at the 2017 New York Film Festival, which runs Sept. 28 to Oct. 15. It contains previously unreleased footage from Dylan’s 1980 tours and other new contextual material.
The first two CDs bring out in official form a wealth of live recordings from various tour stops spanning 1979 to 1981, emphasizing material from each of the three albums from that time along with spirituals, hymns and other Christian songs Dylan was singing on those tours.
Two additional discs titled “Rare and Unreleased” gather studio outtakes, previously unreleased songs and numbers recording during sound checks or rehearsals.
Four more discs present complete performances from Toronto in 1980 and London in 1981, the latter significant for Dylan’s inclusion of earlier songs from his ’60s catalog such as “Ballad of a Thin Man,” “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Maggie’s Farm” and “Like a Rolling Stone.”
Dylan’s official website offers buyers two more discs documenting his a full 1979 concert in San Diego.
In all the set includes 100 previously unreleased live and studio tracks, with 14 never-released songs among them. The only track previously available is “Ye Shall Be Changed,” which appeared on the first volume in the series, “The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1-3” in 1991.
The deluxe box set also contains a hardcover book for which Dylan scholar Ben Rollins wrote the introduction and liner notes by Amanda Petrusich, Rob Bowman and Penn Jillette.
The first two discs of the deluxe box also will be released in two-CD and four-LP configurations.
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11:46 a.m.: This post was updated to note that Bob Dylan’s official web site offers an expanded version of the box set containing two additional CDs. This article was originally published at 7 a.m.