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- Singing as a spiritual practice

I do a lot of public speaking and spend all day on the phone for my job. I had sustained a serious injury to my throat years ago that left a lot of scar tissue.

Joan Masover

Liner Notes from Bob Dylan's Tell Tale Signs, Bootleg Series Vol. 8 (long essay)

The simple fact that this release is number 8 in the ongoing Official Bob Dylan Bootleg Series speaks volumes about the incredible breadth and fecundity of the Minnesota Bard's output. Eight volumes, all multidisc, of songs that never saw the light of day on official releases! To mere mortals in the music business, eight records is a career. A long one...

But it was not the quantity so much as the quality of Dylan's output that made him the first rock performer to be bootlegged - although rabid jazz and opera fans had been bootlegging albums for decades. Back in the sixties, a release of a new Dylan album was an event. From a young kid in a bedroom in Queens, N.Y. to a Beatle in his mansion in the countryside of England, all of Bob's fans would not only listen to the music, but also study those new albums as soon as they were released. It was the news of the day, as it were.

In a dizzying span of fourteen months from March of 1965 to May of 1966, Dylan had released three of the greatest popular music albums of all time: Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde. But then there were reports of a motorcycle accident, and that Dylan was holed up in his house in upstate New York, off the road, recuperating. When he returned to the record stores in December of 1967 with a subdued collection of modest morality tales called, enigmatically enough, John Wesley Harding, many of his fans were confused, especially since there had been rumblings of sessions of incredible new songs being taped up in Woodstock with his band, The Band.

Then in April of 1969, while college students all over America were seizing administration buildings to protest the war in Vietnam ("You don't need a Weatherman to know which way the wind blows" Bob had asserted a few years earlier), his fans were perplexed when Nashville Skyline appeared, with Dylan sporting a new, mellow-sounding voice and singing songs of country pies and ladies laying across big, brass beds.

I was one of those fans. And I was there at the birth of the first Dylan bootleg. Oddly enough, I was in a line with my friend Mitch waiting to see Procol Harum and the Byrds perform on June 27th, 1969 at the Fillmore East - rock impresario Bill Graham's palace, a glittering jewel on the grungy streets of the Lower East Side in New York. You never know what you might confront waiting on those lines to get into the Fillmore. A few years earlier, when it was still the Village Theater, I was standing under the marquee and was amazed to see Tiny Tim, who would later go onto fame by marrying his sweetheart on the Johnny Carson show. Tiny, who was in an ill-fitting, rumpled suit, grabbed his ukulele out of his paper shopping bag and began to serenade an old Jewish couple who had just bought some rugelach from Ratner's Bakery next door. "This is a song done by the late, great Russ Columbo in 1931," Tiny intoned and then went into a beautiful version of "You Call It Madness (But I Call It Love)." He stood under that marquee for almost an hour, conjuring up their past and bringing tears to the eyes of that old couple. The next year, Abbie Hoffman was working that line, recruiting the unwashed hippies for his Yippie! political movement by distributing a booklet he had printed (using funds from one of New York City's neighborhood endowment programs) called Fuck the System that detailed ways for the denizens of the East Village to get food and other necessities for free.

So you'd never know who you'd run into on one of those Fillmore lines. The night of the Procol Harum show, Mitch was the first to see this guy with long hair, held in place by a psychedelically-colored headband. In his arms, he had a half dozen white-jacketed record albums, the rest of his inventory having been stashed in his army surplus backpack against the side of the building.

"I got the new Dylan album," he hissed, walking up and down the line. That caught Mitch's ear. He raised his arm sharply, causing a commotion among the long fringes of his brown suede jacket. The guy rushed over.
"New Dylan album?" Mitch was incredulous.
The guy held out a copy. The album jacket was all white and blank, except for a hand-stamped "GWW" on the front cover. We would later learn that stood for "Great White Wonder"
"It's not an official album, it's a bootleg," the guy explained. "Great shit on it. Some old stuff from the early sixties and some tapes that Dylan made with The Band in Woodstock."
That clinched it.
"How much?" Mitch said.
"Five dollars" the guy said calmly.

Five dollars! The concert tickets only cost $3.50. I had bought all my previous Bob Dylan albums at Korvettes, on sale for $1.88. But you couldn't just go into the Korvettes record department and buy this. I dug a couple of dollars out of my Army surplus jacket and added it to Mitch's singles. We had just purchased the first rock bootleg ever.

As soon as the concert ended, we couldn't wait to hear the album. Mitch had friends who were living in this crash pad on Tenth Street between Avenue A and B so we rushed over there. We entered the apartment, gingerly made our way between the mattresses to the turntable and plopped on the disc. There were about six or seven people there, just hanging out. Some cone incense was fired up, as well as a nice fat joint as we lay down on the mattresses and listened.

The sound was abysmal. The first side was all acoustic folk songs recorded in the early sixties, before his first Columbia album I guessed. But the revelation was at the end of side two. There, behind the patina of crackling static, was the faint glimmer of what those legendary Woodstock sessions with The Band sounded like. Bob, our Bob, the electric Bob, was back! "If your memory serves you well, we were going to meet again and wait..." he sang. It was "This Wheel's on Fire," one of those basement tape songs that The Band had released on their first album a year earlier. The whole room sat transfixed, staring at the record going around and around. When the cut was over, nobody could even move, we were all so stunned, and we just listened to the incessant "click, click, click" of the needle jumping on and off the end of the disc.

But the virtues of bootlegs weren't just that you could hear songs that hadn't been released yet. With a protean recording artist like Dylan, who would be trying out many different arrangements and routinely rewriting lyrics in the studio, it was imperative and always a revelation to hear the various incarnations of your favorite songs. Bootlegs provided that too. Years after GWW, the original acetates of the Blood on The Tracks sessions surfaced. Half of the songs had been re-recorded on a whim by Bob after the test pressing. The most radical change was to my favorite song on the album "Idiot Wind." The original version was slower, softer, all acoustic, and much closer to the bone. Hearing this new musical arrangement was great but chills ran up my spine when, instead of the third verse I knew, Bod suddenly sang "I threw the I-Ching yesterday, it said there might be some thunder at the well." I marveled as new words started pouring out of the speakers. The lone soldier in the song was on the hill now, not on the cross, watching falling raindrops pour. The woman at the ceremony had left all her bags behind and her driver gave them to the singer and then resigned. The priest didn't sit stone-faced anymore, now he was waltzing around as the building burned. And then the last verse blared out, all new:

"I been double-crossed too much, at times I think I've almost lost my mind
Lady-killers load dice on me behind my back, while imitators steal me blind
You close your eyes and part your lips, and slip your fingers from your gloves
You can have the best there is, but it's gonna cost you all your love
You won't get it for money."

What an outpouring of heart! And then that fadeout - the lonesome harmonica plays, the skeleton keys and the rain. How could we fans be denied this art? (We wouldn't be. The original version of "Idiot Wind" was included on Volume 2 of the official Bootleg Series.) What if a better version of a song didn't make it onto an album? What if a whole song was cut for whatever reason? Didn't we have the right to have access to the art? That issue came up again a few years later. In the fall of 1975, I had been lucky enough to cover Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue for Rolling Stone magazine and document it in my book On The Road with Bob Dylan. We stayed in touch over the years and in 1983 Bob came to New York to record his Infidels album. I attended various sesssions and we took in some music during his off-time, most notably watching Stevie Ray Vaughn's New York premiere at the Cat Club. Finally, the sessions were finished and the album was sequenced. Bob invited me down to the studio for the playback. I took a seat in the control room with Bob and Bill Graham, who was working with Bob at the time. I luxuriated in the lush sounds of "Jokerman," the wry balladry of "Sweetheart like You." The songs went on and on. But the room fell silent after the last notes of "Don't Fall Apart on Me Tonight" faded out.

"So what did you hear, Ratso? Did that stuff mean anything to ya?" Bob prodded.

I had previously heard all the songs. And more. What I immediately thought was "Where's 'Blind Willie McTell'"? Bob had recorded an amazing tribute to the blues legend, but it wasn't in the final sequence!

"Uh, uh, it's great...BUT WHERE THE FUCK IS 'BLIND WILLIE McTELL'??? HOW COULD YOU LEAVE THAT OFF THE ALBUM? IT'S THE GREATEST SONG..." Graham leaped up from his seat, perhaps to intervene.

But Bob just put his hand on my shoulder. "Aw, Ratso, don't get so excited," he said. "It's just an album. I've made thirty of them."

He was right. Eight years later, "Blind Willie McTell" would make it onto Volume 3 of the Bootleg Series.

This collection covers songs from 1989's Oh Mercy sessions up through Dylan's most recent album, 2006's Modern Times. After 1983's Infidels album, the rest of the decade was not his finest hours and days. He released a series of uneven albums (Empire Burlesque, Knocked Out Loaded, Down in The Groove) and struggled through an incessant touring schedule, lacking inspiration on many nights. IN an overview of his career that is part of his nightly on-stage introduction, the off-stage announcer blithely states that Dylan was "written off as a has-been in the late eighties." But Bob himself is even more critical of the period in his wonderful memoir Chronicles - Volume One:

"I felt done for, an empty burned-out wreck. Too much static in my head... My own songs had become strangers to me... There was a hollow singing in my heart and I couldn't wait to retire and fold the tent... The mirror had swung around and I could see the future - an old actor fumbling in garbage cans outside the theater of past triumphs."

During one of the layoffs from an ongoing tour with Tom Petty, Bob had booked a series of dates for the summer of 1987 with the Grateful Dead. But when Garcia and the other band members urged Bob to tackle some of his more obscure songs during the first rehearsal, Dylan felt he had no feelings for the songs and certainly couldn't do them justice. Worried that this collaboration might have been a mistake, and using the pretext of having left something in his hotel room, he bolted out of the rehearsal space into the rainy San Franciscan night. He wasn't planning on returning until he stumbled into a tiny bar on Front Street, lured by the sounds of a jazz combo. The front-man was an older man, and sang jazz ballads like "Time on My Hands" and "Gloomy Sunday" but there was an inherent power to his seemingly natural delivery. "Suddenly and without warning, it was like the guy had an open window to my sould. It was like he was saying, 'You should do it this way,'" Bob recalled in his memoir. Reenergized, he rushed back to the rehearsal hall and dug into the old material.

After the summer shows with the Dead, Dylan hit the road with Petty again. But even though he was singing with more conviction and covering a much wider range of his repertoire, he still felt disconnected from his audiences and re-entertained thoughts of retirement. Until October 5, 1987. He was playing a date in Locarno, Switzerland at the Piazza Grande Locarno, when his newfound technique just fell apart. The wind was howling, fog was in the air, and when he stepped up to the microphone, the air just tightened up and nothing came out. Panicked, naked in from of thirty thousand people, unable to hide behind his female backup singers, he had to do something. What he did was cast his own spell to drive out the devil. "It was almost like I heard a voice," he told Newsweek in 1997. "It wasn't like it was even me thinking it. I'm determined to stand, whether God will deliver me or not. And all of a sudden everything just exploded every which way." That's when he knew, down in his bones, that he had to go out and keep playing those songs. The gift had been given back to him.

The songwriting gift too. Recuperating from a freak accident that had mangled on of his hands, Bob was visited by the muse one night while sitting at his kitchen table, while everyone else in the house was asleep. Verse after verse for a song called "Political World" came tumbling out and within the next month, he had twenty more songs. On the recommendation of Bono, the lead singer from U2, Dylan journeyed down to New Orleans to work with a Canadian producer/musician named Daniel Lanois. Lanois assembled a sterling cast of New Orleans session men and set up a succession of studios in ornate old houses and even in an empty turn of the century five-story apartment building. He imported moss ito the control room and brought in stuffed animals and alligator heads to give it the swamp vibe.

The sessions were, to say the least, sometimes contentious. They started with "Political World" and when Bob came back the next day, Lanois had taken his guitar out of the mix and had Mason Ruffner overdub "torpedo licks" in its place. "It sounded like I was singing from midst of the herd," Bob remembered in Chronicles. "A lot of artillery and tanks in the background." They fought over the song for two or three days, at one point, almost literally when Lanois got so frustrated he torpedoed one of his dobros into the floor. After that, Bob took a break from the sessions, hopped on a motorcycle with his wife, and convened with nature in one of the swampy bayous. After a night at a small bed and breakfast, Dylan realized that he wasn't trying to express himself in a new way. "I didn't need to climb the next mountain. If anything, what I wanted to do was secure the place where I was at." When he returned, energized, they not only steamrolled through the songs Dyaln had written, but he wrote two new ones in the studio, "Shooting Star" and "Man in The Long Black Coat."

In the end, the collaboration had produced a haunting, swampy-sounding album that had the virtue of capturing Dylan's stage voice, no mean feat. It also generated a surplus of amazing songs and alternate takes, generously represented on this record. Ad it also stimulated one last, important revelation. One day, near the end of the sessions, Dylan and Lanois were in a courtyard when the producer asked Dylan who he had been listening to lately. When Dylan responded "Ice-T," Lanois seemed surprised. He shouldn't have been. After collaborating with the rapper Kurtis Blow, Dylan had familiarized himself with rappers like Public Enemy, N.W.A and Run-D.M.C. And he saw them as the new wave in music.

"These guys definitely weren't standing around bullshitting. They were beating drums, tearing it up, hurling horses over cliffs. They were all poets and knew what was going on. Somebody different was bound to come along sooner or later who would know that world, been born and raised with it... be all of it and more. Someone with a chopped topped head and a power in the community. He'd be able to balance himself on one leg on a tightrope that stretched across the universe and you'd know him when he came - there'd be only one like him. The audience would go that way, and I couldn't blame them. The kind of music that Danny and I were making was archaic. I didn't tell him that, but that's how I honestly felt." - (Chronicles Vol. 1)

It took another few years before Dylan would wholeheartedly embrace that notion of making archaic music, but when he did, ironically enough, he would find himself once again balancing on top of another, different tightrope of acclaim.

It wouldn't be with 1990's Under The Red Sky. Recorded under trying conditions - he was in the studio during the day recording with his supergroup The Traveling Wilburys and then rushed to work with Don and David Was - Dylan never seemed comfortable during the sessions. Al Kooper, one of an all-star lineup that included both Vaughn Brothers, called it a "hood album" because Bob would keep his hooded sweatshirt up during the sessions and generally be uncommunicative. "There was a weariness about him that actually made me feel so much more for him," David Was told one Dylan biographer. "It occurred to me that it was a continuous burden having to be 'Bob Dylan' after all these years." But that empathy soon dissipated as Dylan drove the Was' crazy by redoing his vocals during the mixing sessions, in some cases even re-writing lyrics for the third time.

Dylan had his own take on the sessions: "I like Don and David, but let's face it, neither one of them knew anything about American folk music, or gut level arrangements that come out of the world of simplicity. To make that record the brothers had a different band in the studio for me every day. Musicians from Bruce Hornsby to Elton John to Slash the guitar player. Anybody who had some kind of recognizable name in the music industry. I just played along in that situation and did the best I could." The album was panned by the critics and sold poorly. It would be seven years before Dylan would record another album with original material.

Still there were things to recommend on this record. Dylan recorded two songs that didn't make it onto Oh Mercy, the gorgeous "Born in Time" and a blistering version of "God Knows," featuring the Vaughns on guitars and David Lindley on slide. For the fans of "Like A Rolling Stone" era work, there was "Handy Dandy," the jaunty account of a globetrotting, controversy-inducing, brandy-drinking performer who was hounded by the moonlight. Sound familiar? But equally interesting were the two songs that drew on the tradition of children's fairy tales - "Under The Red Sky" and "Cat's in The Well." It wouldn't be a long stretch to segue from those types of songs to similar old, traditional songs of Americana. In fact, it was the next stop. First to embrace them, then to remake them in his own unique image.

"Those old songs are my lexicon and my prayer book. You can find all my philosophy in those old songs. Hank Williams singing 'I Saw The Light' or all the Luke The Drifter songs. That would be pretty close to my religion. The rabbis, priests, and ministers all do very well. But my belief system is more rugged and comes more from out of the old spiritual songs than from any of the established religious attempts at overcoming the devil."

In 1992 and 1993, Dylan released two albums of what he called "old songs" so "I could personally get back to the music that's true for me." Good as I Been to You and World Gone Wrong were a return to his roots. But they didn't start out that way. At first Dylan ventured to Chicago to record an album containing many traditional songs produced by legendary multi-intrumentalist David Bromberg. They laid down a full record's worth of material, but, until now, none of those tracks were released. Some reports said that Dylan didn't like the Bromberg sessions... that the potential he felt at the beginning was never realized. He cut the sessions short, went home and hung out in his garage (where he and Dave Stewart had built a recording studio) and set out to knock some records off his recording contract; this time all by himself without any musicians getting in the way. Released as Good as I Been to You in 1992, the record featured English traditional songs like "Arthur McBride" and "Blackjack Davey" as well as American blues standards like "Sittin' on top of The World" and "Frankie And Albert." Dylan even threw in, out of left field, a moving rendition of Lonnie Johnson's hit, "Tomorrow Night."

With no fanfare, the album garnered rave reviews, prompting Dylan to return to his home studio, guitar in hand, and produce World Gone Wrong the following year. Produce is the operative word. Once again, he would be in control of his final product, having been disappointed so many times when "producers overlook[ed] the strength of my music." Recording these two albums on his home studio was the opening salvo in his war against the soullessness of music produced using modern technology. The recording quality on these sessions was jarringly primitive and Dylan would listen to playbacks of takes by running them onto a cassette and listening to them in his car or on a tiny boom box. These were the old songs "made for these modern times (the New Dark Ages)," Dylan wrote in his brilliant liner notes to the record. "Technology to wipe out truth is now available, not everybody can afford it but it's available. When the cost comes down look out! There won't be songs like these anymore." And what songs he had chosen! Blind Willie McTell's "Broke Down Engine," traditional tunes like "Love Henry" and "Stack A Lee" and two breathtaking cuts from the amazing Mississippi Sheiks - "Blood in My Eyes" depicting a simple stroll from a pub through an English town. But now, he wasn't wearing a rapper's hoodie, he was decked out in a fine black beaver top hat and sporting a silver-tipped cane. The transformation was underway. Starting now, he would make his own archaic music.

He began by writing his first new songs in years and then reuniting with Daniel Lanois to record them. But, in Dylan's eyes, these new songs were "more all-encompassing" than the songs on Oh Mercy, "more filled with the dread realities of life." He told the New York Times that "many of my records are more or less blueprints for the songs. This time I needed to get to the heart of it." So they convened in a studio in Miami, Florida in mid-January with studio aces like Augie Meyers, Duke Robillard and Dylan's old friend Jim Dickinson supplementing, for the first time in the studio, Dylan's excellent touring band. The result was a series of brutally blunt lamentations on lost love, betrayal, and mortality, filtered through the consciousness of a perpetual stranger walking across a desolate landscape. "We're all strangers," Dylan said. "If you think you are not a stranger here you've got a big shock coming." The opening line sets the tone of the album. "I'm walking through streets that are dead" Dylan rasps. The effect was immediately chilling and spooky. "It is a spooky record because I feel spooky. I don't feel in tune with anything," Dylan told Newsweek. "I think it could add up to a little too much for some people if you listen to it at the wrong time of the day."

To present these blunt and economical lyrics, Dylan instructed Lanois to go out and listen to some old fifties records on the Chess and Excello labels, to inspire Lanois to create a natural depth of field in the recording that wasn't the result of manipulative mixing techniques. Listening to the record, we hear Dylan's voice in the foreground, in all its shattered glory, and the music in the background, enveloping those ominous utterances. The effect cut to the bone. Once again, the critics were bowled over. The record went on to win three Grammys®, including Album of the Year.

The reviewer's notions that this was an album where Dylan was confronting his mortality was amplified when a few months before the record's release, Bob fell seriously ill with histoplasmosis, a fungal infection that affects the heart and produces searing pain. The album was long completed before this episode but still the prevailing critical sentiment was that the songs were despairing and bleak confrontations with mortality. Pop culture critic Greil Marcus, writing in Mojo, found the record "shocking in its bitterness, in its refusal of comfort or kindness." These assessments seemed to shock Dylan himself. When asked by Robert Hilburn, the L.A. Times music critic, if Dylan agreed with journalists' assessments of the songs a "brooding and gloomy," the songwriter was hesitant. "I don't know... would you expect me to make an album of felicitous content? Why on earth would you expect that? The space between despondency and hope can be as large or as small as we make it, depending on who we are... I try to put my songs right exactly in there, and hope for the best. The album is what it is. There's nothing you or anybody else can do about it so why even talk about it. Make your own album." Those twin emotions of despondency and hope were evident on the tour de force of the record, the sixteen-and-a-half-minute closing track "Highlands." Based on a sweet Charley Patton guitar riff and borrowing its chorus "My heart's in the Highlands" from the Scottish poet Robert Burns, the song is an extended Gnostic meditation on the discrepancy between the material world and the world of the spirit, but one enlivened by a hilarious middle interlude between the singer and a waitress that he sketches in a Boston restaurant. "I was always sketching," Dylan said at the time. "Either one thing or another. Whatever looked good."

What seemed to be overlooked in the analysis of the record was that the act of retreating for solace in the "old songs" of his previous two albums had inspired Dylan to begin writing his own "archaic" songs, inhabiting lyrical landscapes of times past. Dylan was out of tune with contemporary culture. Except for the references to Neil Young and Erica Jong in "Highlands," the other songs on the album could all have been written in the twenties, thirties or forties. The people populating Time Out of Mind walk down dirt roads and listen to jukeboxes in roadhouses. They strum gay guitars and travel midnight trains. They ride in buggies with girls named Miss Mary-Jane and steep in parlors. And the trains that go to Dixie don't pull gamblers or midnight ramblers anymore. On the next album, he would go even further back in time an further expand his musical palette.

"I was beginning to encounter a different audience at my shows at the time. A younger audience... faces I'd never seen before... people I could tell who were more open to the edgier aspects of life. My usual audience, which had followed me from sometime in the sixties, were locked into a certain time warp. They liked to hear the old songs and the old songs were fine, but I felt that these new folks appearing at my shows could handle a much tougher and freer type of expression. I sort of was betting on my new audience, and I kind of forgot about the old one."

In October of 1997, Dylan was interviewed by a German reporter for Der Spiegel who asked him what music influenced him recently. "Simple music from the twenties and thirties and a little bit from the fifties," he answered. "The influence is very limited: American folk music, blues, some rockabilly." Four years later, Dylan delivered a stunning album that would encapsulate all those influences, and it would be done on his terms, under his total control. Holing up in a small studio in downtown Manhattan, with his longstanding band members, along with Augie Meyers and his fabled Vox organ, Dylan produced one of the great albums in the American music canon, "Love And Theft." "Good artists borrow, great artists steal." Picasso said that. "It takes a thief to catch a thief." Dylan said that, right on this record. "Love And Theft" is rife with loving theft, right down to the album's title, an appropriation from an academic book about 19th century blackface minstrel shows. The album is riddled with lines taken from both popular American culture (pre-1950) - Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Twain, and old bluesmen, as well as variations on Shakespeare, Donne, Virgil, Petrarch and the Bible. And of course the lines are all twisted out of shape, bounced on their head. Song titles are borrowed from Blind Willie McTell ("Lonesome Days Blues") and Dock Boggs ("Sugar Baby"). The end result is a sweeping panorama of sound and fury, redefining the Great American songbook. There are straight-ahead blues tunes ("Lonesome Day Blues"), 30's show tunes ("Bye And Bye"), Louis Jordan-inspired jazzy swing songs ("Summer Days"), Depression era standards ("Moonlight"), beautiful poignant laments("Sugar Baby") and a rollicking yet ominous banjo-driven tribute to Charley Patton's account of the great Mississippi flood of 1927 ("High Water"). The breadth of both the musicality and the lyrics are staggering. "I think of it as a greatest hits album - without the hits," Dylan wryly told one interviewer.

"I've been conjuring up all these long dead souls from their crumblin' tombs" - "Rollin' And Tumblin'" from Modern Times

Five years after "Love And Theft," Dylan returned to that same NYC studio with the latest incarnation of his touring band to complete what many critics would later consider a classic musical trilogy that began with Time Out of Mind. Modern Times is a worthy successor to "Love And Theft." The familiar topics are addressed - songs of prophetic declaiming ("Thunder on The Mountain"), and longing and regret over love lost, ("Spirit on The Water" and "Nettie Moore," one of Dylan's finest blues efforts ever). But there are tender ballads again, ("When The Deal Goes Down") and a stirring ode to salt of the earth laborers ("Workingman's Blues #2). Then there's "Ain't Talkin'," a nearly nine-minute exegesis on suffering, honor, vengeance, the innate cruelty of mankind, and the personal sacrifices made in the pursuit of creating art. In short, a poignant summation of Dylan's own creative odyssey.

When a Rolling Stone interviewer asked him if he considered Time Out of Mind, "Love And Theft" and Modern Times to form a trilogy, Dylan disagreed. "Time Out of Mind was me getting back in and fighting my way out of the corner. But by the time I made "Love And Theft," I was out of the corner. On this record, I ain't nowhere, you can't find me anywhere, because I'm way gone from the corner. I'm out of the ring. I think I've left the building." And it's true. He ain't talking, but he's still walking, heart burning, still yearning. He's trampling through the mud, through the blistering sun, getting damp from the misty rain. He's got his top hat on, ambling along with his cane, stopping to watch all the young men and young women in their bright-colored clothes cavorting in the park. Despite all the grief and devastation he's seen on his odyssey, his heart isn't weary, it's light and it's free, bursting over with affection for all those who sailed with him. Deep down he knows that his loyal and much-loved companions approve of him and share his code. And it's dawn now, the sun beginning to shine down on him and his heart is still in the Highlands, over those hills, far away. But there's a way to get there and if anyone can, he'll figure it out. And in the meantime, he's already there in his mind. That mind decidedly out of time. And we're all that much richer for his journey.

Larry "Ratso" Sloman
New York City, June 2008