DAN DELUCA: Bob Dylan’s new album isn’t exactly a new Bob Dylan album. Instead, Tell Tale Signs: Rare and Unreleased, 1989-2006 (Columbia ***½), is one of those alternative-history compilations, like the Beatles’ Anthology series or Bruce Springsteen’s Tracks, that considers a major artist’s career from an off-center angle, using unreleased cuts and little-heard gems to take a fresh look at a musical titan who, in this case, has been hiding in plain sight for decades.
Tell Tale (a.k.a. “The Bootleg Series, Vol. 8”) is the most prominent of a clutch of new releases hitting stores today. It covers the startlingly creative ongoing third act of Dylan’s career, from 1989’s Oh Mercy and continuing through 2006’s Modern Times. Its two discs contain a handful of how-could-he-not-release-that? outtakes (the superb “Dreamin’ of You,” and “Red River Shore,” from the 1997 Time Out of Mind sessions); the first Robert Johnson cover he’s released (“32-20 Blues”), plus live cuts, soundtrack songs and alternative versions of songs that reveal them in new light.
(For deep-pocketed completists, there’s also a “deluxe” version including a top-notch third disc and a 150-page book with the artwork from all of Dylan’s singles, for $99.99 on Amazon). In concerts along his Neverending Tour, the 67-year-old Dylan forever delights (or torments) his fans by refusing to perform his iconic songs in the arrangements they’re most familiar with. It’s that restless refusal to sit still that serves the froggy-voiced Bard so well on Tell Tale. MORE