“With his memories in a trunk” – Bob Dylan – 50th Anniversary Collection 1969

Out of the blue, early December 2019, Badlands Online announced a strictly limited version, exclusively UK release of Bob Dylan’s 50th Anniversary Collection from the days of 1969, just a month after the release of “Travelin Thru, 1967-69, Bootleg Series Vol 15” (which I posted about both before and after the release). The few sets available were sold out immediately.

The 2-cd set is following similarly strictly limited collections from both 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1965 (the last one a free download of 208 tracks exclusively for buyers of the collector’s edition of “Cutting Edge” – 1965-66 – Bootleg Series Vol 12). The sets are also known as copyright extension releases, primarily securing copyright in Europe for songs that otherwise would move into public domain fifty years after they were recorded.

“Travelin’ Thru” was a curated volume of the Bootleg Series, consisting just one chosen track of each song presented from the albums “John Wesley Harding” and “Nashville Skyline”. This method differs from the one chosen for both “Cutting Edge”, “Complete Basement Tapes” and “More Blood, More Tracks”, where we got all usable tracks. Paradise for some, exhausting for others. To each his own.

As for “Travelin’ Thru” the set consists of different “chapters” of recordings, but this time, a bit disappointing, with no more surviving tracks from John Wesley Harding Sessions.

The 44 tracks can roughly be sorted in three main “chapters”:

  • Nashville Skyline Sessions – outtakes
    (16 tracks, 5 different songs)
  • Dylan/Cash Sessions – February 1969
    (23 tracks, 9 songs)
  • Self Portrait Sessions – outtakes, 26th of April and 3rd of May 1969
    (5 tracks, 4 songs)

A must?

For the completists, of course, everything is a must, not depending of the quality or the importance of the tracks. It’s all pieces of the big jigsaw puzzle of Dylan’s art, telling the story about progress and experiments in the studio, bot successes and failures. The release is a too limited edition to satisfy all in this group, but that’s how it is, I guess.

For the die-hard fan of this special period in Dylan’s career, it surely is a nice companion to the “Travelin’ Thru” set, but bringing just slightly different versions of the “Nashville Skyline” songs, showing us a bit more of the work, joy and developing of the “Dylan/Cash” songs and relationship in studio already presented on “Travelin Thru”, and then it gives us one unique track for this set, the cool bluesy rocker “Running”, three more naked versions of released “Self Portrait” songs and one alternative version of “Ring of Fire”.

All in all, a nice and charming supplement to the “Travelin’ Thru” set of Bootleg Series, but with the extra song “Running” the one surprise and most interesting asset of this new set. The rest of the set show us more of the recording process, but most of the songs repeated in mostly the same arrangement, both vocally and musically. Dylan knew what he wanted from the start, and in the Dylan/Cash Jam Sessions they fell into the ring of classic Cash arrangements of the song, Dylan singing nice harmony and doing some phrasing gymnastics, but mostly the same as on “Travelin’ Thru”. Nevertheless, we should be grateful that also this archival documentation is presented in official releases, even in limited editions. Always something of interest, always pieces in the puzzle.

Nashville Skyline Sessions.

The seventeen first tracks are different takes of five of the “Nashville Skyline” songs, showing us that Dylan knew what he wanted already when he arrived in studio, these tracks not very different from they we’ve already heard. Still, we get a deeper feeling of the progress in studio, from rehearsal to more finished versions, mostly so with “To Be Alone With You” and “Lay, Lady Lay”.

“Tell Me That It Isn’t True” was a surprise in its more uptempo version on “Travelin’ Thru”, here you got one in the same tempo, and one closer to the take released on the album. It might be a little bit more of a country feel to “Peggy Day”, with a touch of western swing, musically, but Dylan’s vocal is not very different from the album version.

Details – for whom it may concern.

Disc 1

February 13, 1969
Columbia Studio A, Nashville, TN

1. To Be Alone with You – Rehearsal (1:11)
The band is learning the song in a jam-like start-up, before Dylan starts singing, some dirty guitar from Dylan himself, before it falls apart.
2. To Be Alone with You – Take 2 (:48)
A more finished arrangement, the band knows the song, still with a punky guitar from Dylan before it ends abruptly. The track is leaving the shuffle version known from “Travelin’ Thru”, starting the search for the Jerry Lee version, or at least for the perfect beat of the album version.
3. To Be Alone with You – Take 3 (1:00)
Dylan counts the song in with his voice, Tooo-beeee-aloooooone-with you, the band coming in on you, a more rock feel to it.
4. To Be Alone with You – Take 4 (1:52)
Same start as the track before, the band follows a bit longer, the guitar now more of a strong rhythm guitar. A complete take of the song.
5. To Be Alone with You – Take 5 (2:34)
Dylan stumbles over words and it fades out after forty seconds, then getting the work done in the rest of the take, the scratching guitar is back. The vocal a bit low in the mix.
6. One More Night – Take 1 (2:17)
A somewhat finished take, but Dylan’s vocal is a bit whimsical at finding the right tone between high and low register, the track is a bit rehearsal-like.
7. One More Night – Take 3. (:31)
Nice vocal, but just one verse.
8. Lay, Lady, Lay – Rehearsal (3:51)
The vocal on the takes of Lay, Lady, Lay are quite similar, Dylan does it as he wants it in every track, even on the rehearsal. Beautiful. The organ arrives in the last part of the rehearsal. Dylan is ending it with saying “All right?”, then humming a line before it ends.
9. Lay, Lady, Lay – Take 1 (3:27)
A complete beautiful take. Dylan again humming at the end.
10. Lay, Lady, Lay – Take 3 (3:29)
Some mistakes with the drums in the first verse, Dylan sings fine all through the take, with few exceptions. The drums is really never at the top of it. Humming at the end.

February 14, 1969
Columbia Studio A, Nashville, TN

11. Peggy Day – Take 2 (1:16)
Western swing, ends in the pedal steel solo.
12. Tell Me That It Isn’t True – Take 1 (2:06)
Close to the version on “Travelin’ Thru”, but a bit more rushed, the guitar solo not in place.
13. Tell Me That It Isn’t True – Take 3 (2:35)
A softer version, in tempo and vocal close to the album version.
14. Lay, Lady, Lay – Take 1 (3:15)
Then it’s time for the bongos and the cowbells. Maybe too close to the mike from the start, and all of them kind of rehearsing the surprising supplements, that sounds a bit strange on this take. No humming, but Dylan’s vocal is almost the same in each take.
15. Lay, Lady, Lay – Take 2 (1:24)
New instruments still high in the mix, still a rehearsal feeling. Not a finished take, you can almost feel that Dylan loses faith in the track.
16. Lay, Lady, Lay – Take 3 (3:15)
A nice finished take, the new instruments more balanced and better integrated than on the first two takes.

Bob Dylan – vocals, guitar, piano, harmonica
Kelton D. Herston, Norman Blake, Charlie Daniels, Wayne Moss: guitars
Bob Wilson: piano, organ
Peter Drake: steel guitar
Charlie McCoy: bass
Kenneth Buttrey: drums

Dylan/Cash Sessions.

February 17, 1969
Columbia Studio A, Nashville, TN

17. One Too Many Mornings – Rehearsal (7:38)
Very nice to get this rehearsal, starting out with Johnny Cash singing, Dylan falling in to the last line of the first verse. Then Johnny starts and Dylan sings harmony vocal. At first it’s like they are standing in the back of the studio, apart from the microphone, coming closer during the track, then they fades away again, but they pretty much finds the version they are working with the rest of the time, and the one we know so well. We can even hear June Carter and Bob Johnston talk and laugh at the end of the track, before it ends with Bob and Johnny trying the repeated chorus at the end.
18. One Too Many Mornings – Take 1 (4:14)
Cash sings the first verse alone, then Dylan the second, Johnny humming in the background. Johnny singing the third verse, Dylan commenting with his “M-hm!!!” before singing the fourth verse, playing with his phrasing. It ends with the endlessly repeating of the chorus, before it collapses.
19. One Too Many Mornings – Take 2 (3:40)
A beautiful first verse of Johnny fades out…Dylan sings the second verse, then it fades…. Then we get the complete version we know from the “Other Side of Nashville” documentary.
20. One Too Many Mornings – Take 3 (4:45)
Another nice version. Johnny, then Bob, then Johnny singing to Bob: “You are right from your side, Bob”, Bob replying “I’m not so sure”, Johnny continuing “You are right from your side, and I am right from mine”, laughing and singing the last line alone. The repeating of the chorus does really not work well…Bob throwing in “another thousand” but it doesn’t really help. Still charming, adding to the sitting room feeling of the session.
21. I Still Miss Someone – Rehearsal (:58)
Dylan starts to sing the song, some strange guitar chords, but Dylan keeps singing a soft version of one of Johnny Cash’ greatest songs.
22. I Still Miss Someone – Rehearsal (1:14)
Incomplete, they are still trying to find the tempo, Dylan trying out his light harmony vocal.
23. I Still Miss Someone – Take 1 (1:04)
Dylan starts in the middle of the first verse, singing a bit deeper than first. Duetting on the second verse, Dylan even asks if Johnny want him to sing. Then it fades.
24. I Still Miss Someone – Take 2 (:40)
Duet from the start. Dylan tries another harmony part. Dylan continues but then cut.
25. I Still Miss Someone – Take 3 (2:23)
Bob again starts in the middle of first verse, then they sing the second together, continuing with a nice version. They lose theirselves in the song, not perfect, but a nice version.
26. I Still Miss Someone – Take 4 (4:19)
Duet from the start, then Dylan alone the bridge, then duet. Dylan repeats the bridge, then duet on the last verse again. Dylan starts the bridge again, not hitting the notes, Cash commenting, they are humming and having fun with it, Cash laughs and starts the song one more time. Eternal circle.
27. Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right/Understand Your Man – Take 1 (1:44)
The mash-up of the two songs. Dylan singing deep from the start, Cash, too. Some laughing and it ends as a really mash-up, if not worse. Fun, though.

Disc 2

February 18, 1969
Columbia Studio A, Nashville, TN

1. One Too Many Mornings – Take 2 (4:01)
New day, continuing the work with “One Too Many Mornings” – a nice complete take, starting with a duet refrain, before Cash sings first verse, Dylan second with his yo-yo phrasing as usual for this song. Third verse, they are swapping lines, then continuing with repeating the refrain, the song fading quietly. Might be the best of all takes of this song.
2. I Still Miss Someone – Takes 1 & 3 (:58)
Duet from the start. Complete first verse, then fades. Take 3 is just Cash starting the first verse alone, then it fades.
3. I Still Miss Someone – Take 4 (2:21)
Complete version. Duet from the start, Dylan this time sings a bit low harmony vocal, then sings the bridge, Cash starts next verse, Dylan follows, then sings the bridge again, Cash sings behind him and start the last verse, Dylan follows, they both repeating the chorus line.
4. Matchbox – Rehearsal (:51)
Dylan rehearses alone a few verses, don’t remember the lyrics completely.
5. Matchbox – Take 2 (3:05)
We can hear Carl Perkins’ play the guitar. It really swings, Dylan and Cash in duet. Perkins with a nice solo. A nice jam and a complete take.
6. Big River – Take 2 (1:59)
A rather fast version. The train is picking up speed. Dylan sings the first verse, both sings the next. Classic Cash backing. Duet on next verse, Dylan alone the next, both sings the last.
7. I Walk the Line – Take 1 (2:15)
Dylan starts one of his favorite Cash songs, Cash follows and starts the next verse in his deep voice, Dylan starts the next, Cash instructs the chord changes, and then bids Dylan to sing, and they are duetting the last verse, Dylan starts “I find it very, very….” but it then fades.
8. Ring of Fire – Takes 2 & 3 (2:44)
Fast and rambling duet version of the classic Ring of Fire. No trumpets.
In the end they are repeating the chorus one more time and it ends.
9. Guess Things Happen That Way – Take 1 (:45)
Dylan quietly starts the first verse, Cash follows, they don’t really find the words or notes, Cash ends in his very deep voice. Fumbling take of Cowboy Jack Clement’s great song.
10. Guess Things Happen That Way – Take 2 (1:37)
Duetting from the start, both strong from the start. Complete take, Cash ends it with shouting; That’s good!
11. Guess Things Happen That Way – Take 6 (1:44)
Even stronger, and a more balanced take. Complete.
12. Waiting for a Train – Take 1 (:55)
Cash starts singing the song of the singing brakeman alone, and yodels at the end.

Luckily we, only through the Dylan/Cash Sessions, gets the documentation of this historic Mount Rushmore mix of Country Music, Jimmie Rodgers, Johnny Cash & Bob Dylan. What Dylan said about Jimmie, could have been said of all of them: “Jimmie Rodgers of course is one of the guiding lights of the Twentieth Century whose way with song has always been an inspiration to those of us who have followed the path. A blazing star whose sound was and remains the raw essence of individuality in a sea of conformity, par excellence with no equal.” 

Bob Dylan: vocals, guitar
Johnny Cash: vocals, guitar
Carl Perkins: guitar
Bob Wootton: guitar
Marshall Grant: bass
W.S. Holland: drums

Self Portrait Sessions.

April 26, 1969
Columbia Studio A, Nashville, TN

13. Running (2:27)
The big surprise, of course, one song that isn´t officially released before, and not included on “Travelin’ Thru”. It might be a cover, but for me it appears to be one of those sketches Dylan sometimes improvises in the studio, both mid-sixties and in the Basement. “I’m running, I just can stay, I’m sorry, little girl, but this po’ boy can’t stay.” We can hear the girl singers in the background, making it all sound like a funky Ray Charles Jam, with the “Dylanettes” singing back-up. It really swings, both vocally and musically. “Let’s go away now”, Bob shouts before the solos, maybe combining old blues phrases and own jumping ideas, like so many times before. A great surprise and worth the collection. For me, at least.

Bob Dylan: vocals, guitar
Fred F. Carter, Norman Blake, Charlie Daniels: guitars
Bob Wilson: piano
Peter Drake: steel guitar
Charlie McCoy: bass
Kenneth Buttrey: drums
Delores Edgin and Dottie Dillard: background vocals

May 3, 1969
Columbia Studio A, Nashville, TN

14. Take A Message To Mary (2:31)
In my ears, this is the same vocal track as on “Self Portrait”, but without the girls intro, and without the dominant guitar – a more naked version makes us hear the beauty of the vocal even better. We can still hear the girls, Delores and Dottie, in the back of the mix. (Dottie was a known member of the famous Anita Kerr Singers).
15. Blue Moon (2:29)
The same beautiful and tender vocal as we know, Dylan emulating the Elvis version from 1954. Almost identical with the album version, a few minor differences in vocal.
16. Blue Moon (2:19)
I think this just must be a different mix of the album version, the girl singers more in the background.
17. Ring of Fire (2:33)
The “Travelin’ Thru” version is more of a rock version than this one, with a much more dominant piano. The vocal tracks are much alike, but f.i. the line “I fell for you like a child, oooooooh, but the fire went wild” is here delivered in a smoother, more quiet, and in my opinion, more beautiful phrasing on the track presented here. All in all, I like this version better in this more sparsely arrangement, making the vocals really shine bright and blue.

Bob Dylan: vocals, guitar
Fred F. Carter, Norman Blake, Charlie Daniels: guitars
Bob Wilson: piano
Peter Drake: steel guitar
Doug Kershaw: fiddle
Charlie McCoy: bass
Kenneth Buttrey: drums
Delores Edgin and Dottie Dillard: background vocals

And then….?

What next? Will the 50th Anniversary Editions continue? Let´s hope so! Many of the coming years that will be very interesting – including 1970.

Will the Bootleg Series continue? Let’s really hope so. It’s mighty funny, the end of time has just begun.

Johnny Borgan

4 thoughts on ““With his memories in a trunk” – Bob Dylan – 50th Anniversary Collection 1969

  1. Takk! Skulle gjerne hørt låtene med Cash.

    Godt nytt år –


    søn. 5. jan. 2020 kl. 20:56 skrev Johnny B. :

    > johnnyborganblogg posted: ” Out of the blue, early December 2019, Badlands > Online announced a strictly limited version, exclusively UK release of Bob > Dylan’s 50th Anniversary Collection from the days of 1969, just a month > after the release of “Travelin Thru, 1967-69, Bootleg Series” >

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The official version Travelin’ Thru was in the best case a selection, this 50th Anniversary Collection 1969 is undoubtedly more than a complement a rectification that is certainly appreciated, in the Steve Hoffman forum I read this from a user named Redsock: Release everything: the ‘release everything’ crowd will be super-happy and the ‘I like curated sets’ crowd can curate their own sets from the big box. … Everyone wins! It’s so simple. And he is absolutely right!


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