Bob Dylan: Trouble No More: The Bootleg Series Vol. 13/1979-1981
Bob Dylan has courted controversy since the beginning of his career, whether walking off the set of The Ed Sullivan Show rather than sing a more user-friendly song or, of course, going electric at Newport and ruffling many a folkie feather. But to many of his most ardent supporters, the so-called Christian period of 1979–81 was the most baffling and misunderstood. With the release of 1979’s Slow Train Coming album, followed by Saved and Shot of Love, Dylan plugged into Jesus, turning his pen into a tool for the Lord. Dylan turned his back defiantly on nearly all he’d done before, eschewing his older material in concerts in favor of his new gospel-rooted ones, alienating many loyal fans who openly expressed their disdain for this latest twist. Those fans, in particular, should give Trouble No More—an 8-CD/1-DVD collection, all of it previously unreleased—a chance. Distance from the source reveals that Dylan was as passionate and fired up as he’d ever been—some of the live performances, which comprise the bulk of the set, are as intense as any he’d given before, while the music on the “Rare and Unreleased” discs offers insights into the creation of the music he was pursuing (as does the DVD, a film chronicling this corner of Dylan’s bio). By 1981, Dylan was ready to re-integrate some of his familiar works, and classics like “Maggie’s Farm” and “Girl From the North Country” sit comfortably side by side with “Gotta Serve Somebody” and “Man Gave Names to All the Animals” at a London concert. Some Dylan-philes will never warm to this patch of his history, but those open enough to give it a shot are likely to be surprised at just how brilliant—and forceful—it is.