Last year, Martin Scorsese directed a documentary about Bob Dylan's life entitled No Direction Home
. The film featured songs from all throughout Dylan's career, and rather than putting those versions onto the soundtrack, the decision was made to find rare, alternate versions of them. The album is split into two discs, each very different from each other.
The first disc focuses on Dylan's early acoustic career. The first track When I Got Troubles
was recorded in 1959 by one of Dylan's high school friends. The recording is very poor, and its only a minute and a half long. But the beauty of it cannot be denied. It shows the times before Dylan was famous, before he was known as the greatest lyricist of our time. When I Got Troubles is a raw, rare glimpse of what it was like before his career got started. Rambler, Gambler
was recorded in 1960 by Clive Peterson, who was eager to test out his new Radio Shack tape recorder. The song is a variant to a folk song called "Wagoner's Lad." Perhaps Dylan was oblivious to how true some of the songs lyrics would ring in his later career: "If the people don't like me, they can leave me alone." Dylan's philosophy has always been to do what he wants no matter what anyone else thinks or wants him to do. This Land is Your Land
was recorded at the Carnegie Chapter Hall, which is an annex to the popular Carnegie Music Hall. The song is a cover of the Woody Guthrie classic. Guthrie was a major influence on Dylan's early work, and Dylan pays tribute to his hero beautifully here. As if covering his songs amazingly well wasn't enough, Dylan even wrote a song about Guthrie, entitled Song to Woody
. This song is Dylan saying "thank you" to Woody for all the things that he's done. The lyrics shine beautifully here:
Hey, hey, Woody Guthrie, I wrote you a song
'Bout a funny old world that's a-comin' along
Seems sick and it's hungry, it's tired and it's torn
It looks like it's a-dyin' and it's hardly been born.
, written by John and Alan Lomax, is a traditional folk song that Dylan covered when Tony Glover recorded him in Minneapolis. Dylan's voice is full of emotion in this one, especially in the chorus, when he sings "Fare thee well, my honey, fare thee well." This is definitely a highlight, and one of my favorites from the first disc. I Was Young When I Left Home
was recorded at the same time "Dink's Song" was. Dylan took lyrics from a few different traditional folk songs, and arranged them together to make "I Was Young When I Left Home." Sally Gal
features some amazing harmonica work by Dylan. Most of the song is Dylan strumming his acoustic fairly fast and showing off his harmonica skills. Dylan would often end his shows in Greenwich Village with this song. The lyrics in this one are very simple; they just talk about wanting a girl. Don't Think Twice, It's All Right
is my second favorite Dylan song, after "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands." This is an extremely intimate recording, and it features some great lyrics from Dylan about a failed relationship.
It ain't no use in callin' out my name, gal, like you never done before
Man of Constant Sorrow
It ain't no use in callin' out my name, gal; I can't hear you any more
I'm a-thinkin' and a-wond'rin' walkin' down the road
I once loved a woman, a child I'm told
I'd give her my heart but she wanted my soul
But don't think twice, it's all right.
is a pretty well known song, with lyrics about not being able to catch a break in life. This particular version was taken from the TV show Folk Songs and More Folk Songs
. Blowin' in the Wind
is one of Dylan's most popular early songs. Over the years, it has become the anthem of Dylan's protesting career, and the lyrics are some of Dylan's greatest. The song poses a question that still rings true to this day: How many times do all these bad things have to happen before someone takes notice and does something about it? Masters of War
is another famous Dylan protest song, and it is perhaps the most blatant. Dylan talks about how corrupt the leaders of his day were. He portrays them as cowards and liars, and you can tell that he means every word of it. The song ends with the lyrics "I'll stand over your grave 'til I'm sure that you're dead." A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall
starts off with Dylan giving the meaning of the song: "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall means somethin' [big] is gonna happen." The song starts off with the question "Where have you been?" and Dylan goes about answering that question in detail, talking about all the things that he's seen. He addresses topics such as racism and war, and along with many of Dylan's songs, it seems to have more meaning today than it did then.
Oh, who did you meet, my blue-eyed son? Who did you meet, my darling young one?
When the Ship Comes In
I met a young child beside a dead pony, I met a white man who walked a black dog
I met a young woman whose body was burning, I met a young girl,
She gave me a rainbow; I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded with hatred
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.
is another great song that talks about a triumphant return. The song contains biblical references to David and Goliath, and also Pharaoh. Joan Baez has said that Dylan channeled his anger about not being able to find a hotel room into this song. Mr. Tambourine Man
was recorded by The Byrds in 1965, and became a #1 single. That same year, Dylan performed the song on his album Bringing It All Back Home
The lyrics talk about listening to the music of the Tambourine Man, falling under the spell of the music, and drifting off into the realm of imagination. This song also features some stellar harmonica work. Chimes of Freedom
is an eight minute epic that talks about the chimes of freedom tolling for all the people out there who are going through hard times. This song is definitely a lyrical standout. It's All Over Now, Baby Blue
is the last song on the first disc, and it seems to serve as a goodbye to Dylan's early songs, ushering in the second disc of Dylan's electric career. After Dylan was booed at the Newport Folk Festival, he performed this song as an encore, as if to say farewell to the people who did not support the direction Dylan's career was heading.
The second disc chronicles Dylan's electric songs. She Belongs to Me
is a very quiet song, driven by a strumming acoustic and a lightly played electric guitar. The lyrics are very nice, talking about a girl that's got it all. Maggie's Farm
is the first full on electric song on the album, and it doesn't disappoint. This live version is filled with energy, and features some great bluesy guitar playing from Mike Bloomfield. This was the first song from the infamous Newport performance, and it is rumored that an enraged Pete Seeger threatened to cut the power lines with an axe. It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry
is an upbeat song that features even more stellar playing from Bloomfield, and also some more great harmonica work from Dylan. Tombstone Blues
has some nonsensical lyrics that reference characters from books as well as heroes of Western civilization. This song has a really nice upbeat groove to it that works really well. Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues
is a more mellow song that features some really nice piano playing and singing by Dylan.
is the first standout of disc two. This song is EPIC. It's just short of twelve minutes, and features some of the most nonsensical lyrics of Dylan's career, but they all seem to fit together so perfectly. The version on this album is an alternate take that was recorded after most of the crew had gone home for the night during the recording of Highway 61 Revisited
. This take is just Dylan on acoustic guitar and harmonica, Harvey Goldstein on bass, and Al Kooper on electric guitar. I can�t say enough about this song, everything works together so nicely to create one of my top 5 favorite Dylan songs. The lyrical highlight is the final verse:
Well, I got your letter yesterday about the time the doorknob broke
Highway 61 Revisited
When you asked how I was doing, was that some kind of joke?
All these people that you mentioned, yes, I know them, they're quite lame
I had to rearrange their faces and give them all another name.
Right now, I don't feel so good, I don�t want your letters no more, no
Unless of course you mail them from Desolation Row.
gets back to the electric madness. I enjoy the lyrics very much in this song; they talk about everything from Abraham of the Bible to Louis the King to the "fifth daughter on the twelfth night." Mike Bloomfield's blues guitar playing really shines in this song. Leopard-skin Pill-box Hat
is a very bluesy sounding song that talks about people loving a woman for her new hat. At around three and a half minutes, the song goes into a nice guitar solo, with Dylan accentuating it with his harmonica. The song then goes back into another few verses, and ends with some great harmonica playing. The version Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again
featured on this album is an alternate take from the Blonde on Blonde
recordings. There isn't much of a difference, only that Dylan sings faster in this version than he does in the version that was used for Blonde on Blonde
. Personally, I like the version they used more, but this one is still good. Visions of Johanna
is a slower song compared to the rest of the songs on disc two, and the change is a welcome one. After the fast blues madness, this song offers a nice, albeit slight, break. A live version of Ballad of a Thin Man
follows next. This song is very dark; check out the piano line that starts it out. Dylan's vocal performance is amazing; it's so full of passion and energy. At almost eight minutes, this is a great song. Just when you think it can't get any better, you hear the next song.
This soundtrack features the most famous version of Like a Rolling Stone
. The first thing you hear is someone in the crowd yell "JUDAS!!" Usually, Dylan would disregard the boos and shouts from the crowd, but this time, he decided to say something back. "I don't believe you. You're a liar!!" He then turns to the band and says "Play fu
cking loud!" The band listens. In what could be called the greatest live performance in music history, Dylan and his band assault the ears of the naysayers with an amazing version of his most popular song. Great guitar work, great harmonica work, great drum work, great bass work, and best of all, great vocal work make this an amazing listen.
The soundtrack to No Direction Home
features some great takes of some of Bob Dylan's greatest songs. I highly recommend you pick this up if you're a fan of Dylan, and if you haven't seen the documentary, I recommend that too.
How does it feel? Oh, how does it feel
To be on your own, with no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone