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Bob Dylan's Latest: A Peek Behind The Curtain

If you've enjoyed any of the music that Bob Dylan has created in recent years — on such acclaimed records as Oh Mercy, Time Out of Mind and Love and Theft — you should probably know about Bootleg Series, Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs.

Think of Tell Tale Signs as a peek behind the curtain. We hear the enigmatic Dylan using a couplet in one song that he'll ultimately drop into another. We hear him trying out radically different musical backdrops for his lyrics. Take, for example, the positively riveting vocal performance in "Dignity (Piano Demo)," a song from Oh Mercy. Compare it to another unreleased demo of the same song, done with Dylan's full band, and the released version (on Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits, Vol. 3).

It's Dylan in the workshop, experimenting with songs that stand as the most recent additions to his legacy. What you discover is that these tales of fate and pent-up desire and redemption didn't emerge fully formed or realized; there was real work involved. Sometimes they went through a jagged-edge blues incarnation or a plaintive country-ballad incarnation. Even when these intermediate steps are less than amazing, they're worth hearing, as postcards from the road Dylan took to bring his ideas to life.

Listen to Bob Dylan's latest release, Tell Tale Signs, in its entirety on NPR Music.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tom Moon
Tom Moon has been writing about pop, rock, jazz, blues, hip-hop and the music of the world since 1983.