Dylan's Tell Tale Signs: The $175 Third (Disc) Rave

"Lily had two queens, she was hopin' for a third to match her pair"

     - Bob Dylan, "Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts"

Few things in life are quite as uplifting and inspiring as the onset of an early summer - a week of glorious, sunny, warm, summer-like days right in the middle of April. Well, at least for those of us living here in the rain forest known as British Columbia. However, one thing does come pretty close in the whole uplifting and inspiring department and that's receiving - for free, no less - a $175 Bob Dylan CD. Especially one as good as the third disc of Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series Vol. 8, Rare and Unreleased 1999-2006.

You might remember that last fall I wrote not one but two rave reviews of the amazing Tell Tale Signs collection: First Bob's Back: Tell Tale Signs of Joy... and A Complete Lack of Judgement and then Tell Tale Signs of Genius: Dylan's Best Album of The Past 20 Years? (Rave #2)

However, at that time I only owned the 2-disc version of this accidental masterpiece of outtakes and alternate tracks. I say "accidental" because, seriously, who ever expected a collection of outtakes and alternate tracks to rival some of Bob's greatest works for pure brilliance?

Highway Robbery

Obviously, I would have liked the 3-disc "Deluxe Edition" back then, but, being of good half-Scottish stock, there was no way in hell that I was going to pay the exorbitant $200 sticker price they wanted for the "Deluxe Edition". We're talking an extra $175 for one more disc, which was at least $160 more than I think anyone would agree was reasonable.

I mean, I love my Bob as much as the next guy, but $175 was simply a ridiculous amount of money for just 12 extra songs... no matter how great they may have been.

So, I stood my ground on principle and survived for five long months with just the first two discs. And, man, were they ever good! But I always knew I wouldn't be truly content until I had those other 12 songs from that overpriced third disc in my possession.


Then, last month, I received a superb, sumptuous spring-changing surprise from my friend, Joe, who burnt and sent me a copy of disc 3... and it's truly been one hell of a great month ever since.

This Joe fella's not necessarily any richer than you or I, or even a more committed Bob fan, for that matter. However, it would seem that he is more loved. For, you see, his girlfriend bought him the 3-disc "Deluxe Edition" for X'mas. And, so, while most of us had to buy our very own copies ourselves, which would have involved handing over $200 in total if we wanted that third disc, Joe simply unwrapped his.

The Songs

And how good, exactly, are these songs on this third disc, you ask? Well, if not quite as revelatory as the first two discs, not all that far behind.

Like discs one and two, which I've been loving so much these past six months, this third disc is an awesome mix of live and alternate studio versions of well known songs, as well as a few never-before-released tracks.

This third disc has just three previously unreleased songs: "Duncan & Brady" and "Mary And The Soldier", two terrific traditional covers recorded in the early-90s; and then "Marchin' To The City", a Time Out Of Mind outtake, which also made an appearance on disc one of this set in a much different, less upbeat, form.

The alternate studio versions of "Most of The Time", featuring a very different vocal from disc one, "Can't Wait", and "Born In Time" are all quite wonderful and all offer something new to discover. While the version of "Ring Them Bells" that appears here is simply sublime.

The live versions of "Cold Irons Bound", "Tryin' To Get To Heaven" and, especially, "Things Have Changed" are all truly magnificent.

And then there's "Mississippi". Yes, "Mississippi". Yet another terrific version of that majestic song, that late-era classic, that masterpiece about spending one day too many down in that most southern of states. But this version features some rather different lyrics from the other three versions that have hypnotized me so (one each on discs one and two of this set and then, of course, the version that appeared on Love & Theft).

I mean, this "Mississippi" song is so fucking good I could listen to another 10 versions and I'd never get tired of it.

Same goes for the beautiful, magical, mysterious, mystical "Red River Shore". The version here may not be as transcendent as the version that first surfaced on disc one, but it's completely enchanting nonetheless.

Give me an album with a dozen versions of these two masterpieces over anything on "American" or "Canadian Idol" any day.

Don't Think Twice

So, in other words, if you're a Bob Dylan fan, you absolutely need all three discs from the Tell Tale Signs set. This is, simply put, a collection of amazing must-hear tunes. The third disc is certainly not worth $175, but it is most definitely worth getting your hands on one way or another.

Tomorrow Is A Long Time

And, while we're talking Dylan, I should mention that there's now only one more day until the release of Bob's brand new album, Together Through Life. That's right, it comes out tomorrow here in Canada.

And the joy-filled spring/summer will continue, rain or shine.

Mike Cowie (Oredakedo)
Monday, April 27th, 2009


If you're a fan of The Bob then make sure to check this out: The 25 Greatest Dylan Songs of The Past 20 Years


To see my picks for the best music of 2008 click here: The Best 20 Albums and 50 Songs of 2008: Dylan Tops Both Lists


To read about an amazing music/talk show check this out: Attention All Music Fans! The Best Talk Show Ever: "Spectacle: Elvis Costello with..."


And to read my two earlier rave reviews of Tell Tale Signs click here: Bob's Back: Tell Tale Signs of Joy... and A Complete Lack of Judgement


And here: Tell Tale Signs of Genius: Dylan's Best Album of The Past 20 Years? (Rave #2)


Or if you happen to be a Neil Young fan try this: The Neil Young Rave: A Film, Two Albums and Incarnations For Everyone


And for much more on all things Dylan click here: The Bob (as in Dylan)


Or for more on other artists and albums click here: Music Homepage


Or here: Music: Album and Concert Raves


MikesAndDislikes Home

Tell Tale Signs 3rd disc

Uh- I bought the 3 disc set from Amazon for $99 when it was first released....

$200 here

Here in Canada Amazon.ca wanted $200 when it was first released. Today they want $205.99.

Did anyone actually buy the third disc?!

Then again does anyone actually buy CDs anymore? The third disc was available immediately on piratebay. "Together Through Life" was on piratebay three days ago - hundreds of seeders. Joe's girlfriend needs to wake up and smell the coffee. Or at least download bittorrent.

Tell Tale Signs Disc 3

Hello Mike, found your site via a link from Expecting Rain. While I would agree with much of what you say about the overpriced 3rd disc, if you listen carefully to "Most of the Time" and "Ring Them Bells" you will find that almost the whole vocal track in both songs is exactly the same as the released versions. "Most of the Time" has just one line change, while "Ring Them Bells" has a different take of the first verse. My review of Disc 3 below:

1) Duncan and Brady

A stonking cover from the Bromberg sessions - has much of the gut-bucket flavour of Under The Red Sky. Loose as a goose vocal from Dylan, great smears of guitar, great fun, fantastic. A superb way to kick off the most expensive disc Dylan has ever released!

2) Cold Irons Bound

A great live version of this Time Out Of Mind classic - Dylan is fully focussed as he attacks the vocals and backing from his band swirls and soars like a great rattling stagecoach - fantastic.

3) Mississippi # 3

A dreadful reggae lilt adorns this, the most inferior version of this song collected here. Lyrically all over the place, Dylan has yet to focus his late great narrative. One for completists only.

4) Most of the Time # 2

Rather like the version of Series of Dreams over on CD 2, this sounds to me like exactly the same vocal as the released Oh Mercy version. The phrasing and intonation is identical - the only difference is a couple of lyric changes, which were obviously "dropped in" prior to the release of Oh Mercy. In fact, listening again to this, it sounds like the new words are actually "dropped in" to this version. Superflous.

5) Ring Them Bells # 2

A longer intro, less cluttered, naked vocal from Dylan - this kicks off starting like a superb alternate take. However, we've been had. While the first verse is clearly a different version, the rest of the song is the same vocal track as the officially released Oh Mercy version. Shame.

6) Things Have Changed

I've never been as much of a fan of this song as Dylan obviously is and this version is a case in point. The backing from the band is great, but the vocal is lacklustre - not a great performance, Dylan sounds on autopilot here.

7) Red River Shore # 2

Another version of this masterpiece, more muted than that which appears earlier on CD1. Dylan sounds like he's maybe sung it one time too many, and the arrangement is not as sympathetic as the earlier version.

8) Born In Time

Another Lanois stab at this tune, long available to collectors and inferior in every way to the superb Under The Red Sky version.

9) Trying To Get To Heaven

This is one to get my pulse racing as Dylan does that which he is often accused of - completely reworks a song's melody so it becomes another song. This is Dylan as Sinatra, a lounge version of the Time Out Of Mind masterpiece. Committed vocal, superbly realised alternate tune, he's done to this what he did to I Want You and Tangled Up In Blue during the 1978 tour - magical and heartbreaking.

10) Marchin to the city # 2

Kicks off with some Rainy Day Women drums, and bounces along to an organ driven back beat, not as good as the version that graces CD 1 but intriguing none the less.

11) Can't Wait # 2

Spooky organ intro, spooky Dylan vocal. Mesmerising, this meanders along in mysterious and moving ways. Dylan as supreme blues singer, just great.

12) Mary and the Soldier

Another fantastic and touching performance from the sessions that spawned the superb World Gone Wrong album. Flawless.

Best wishes - Martin Cowan

Born in Time

It's hard to agree that the Born in Time released on Under the Red Sky is superior to the Tell Tale version or any any of the bootlegged Deeds of Mercy versions. And I should reserve comment because I haven't heard Disc 3 but a Dylan vocal is either the exact same recording or it's simply not 'the same vocal'. So if you say there's even one word different, it's a different vocal.

I'd say

I'd say that if a line or a few words are different, but the rest of the vocal is exactly the same as the released version, that doesn't make it "rare and unreleased". Ok, it may be a different mix, but then that's what it should say on the tin. Martin