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Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets: desirable? Good value? Worthwhile investment?

How desirable are the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets?  Do they offer good value?  Are they a worthwhile investment?

The last Bob Dylan article in ROCK ART EDITIONS concluded that the ten standard releases in the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series are noteworthy for their “definitive photos and exquisite packaging”, as well as their music.

This follow-up article turns to the visual art of the four Deluxe box sets, focusing on their “rock art” – slipcases, books, photos and packaging.

The music – which ranges from very good to celestial – is largely ignored in this article.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets: Vol. 8 Tell Tale Signs

After releasing Vols. 1-7 in a standard 2CD-in-slipcase format, Columbia Legacy innovated for Vol. 8 with an added-value option, an “Expanded Deluxe Edition”, with a third CD and more artefacts.

The release introduced a handy new format in a rigid card slipcase, in an attractive new size, 8 5/8″ square x 1 5/8″ thick. The slipcase holds two hardcover books. A 60pp book with liner notes and photos is a bigger version of that in the standard-size 2CD release. The extra book, Collected Single Sleeves, is a 160pp hardback, with reproductions of the paper covers which housed Dylan vinyl 45rpm records released around the world.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series deluxe box sets

Tell Tale Signs Deluxe Edition

The Bob Dylan online store offered an incentive to customers ordering from them: an exclusive 7″ single. And the first 5,000 orders were also rewarded with a Theme Time Radio Hour poster.

Sony probably had mixed feelings when evaluating the success of the release. It must have been a commercial success – it seems to have sold out pretty quickly. But it attracted hostility from some hardcore Dylan fans. Many, perhaps shocked by the novel nose-bleed price level, labelled it a “rip-off” – bad news if the intention was to roll out subsequent releases.

The naysayers perceived Vol. 8 as an attempt to extract an unwarranted premium price for CD3. The problem was probably not the new price level (about £100 in the UK, from memory), but limited added value: the extras didn’t warrant the price differential over the 2CD release.

The music on the standard Tell Tale Signs is among the high points of the whole series. CD3 in the Deluxe Edition was, frankly, rather marginal. And the second book was an odd choice, appealing to a minority of purchasers. The book was also sold separately as a “limited edition”, undermining further the allure of the Deluxe box. I bought (for £15) the copy I happened upon in London.

The release of a single CD version of Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 8 Tell Tale Signs – another  novelty – probably confused buyers further.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets: the template is fixed

In hindsight, Columbia Legacy made errors with the Deluxe edition of Vol. 8.  But they proved there’s a market for high-priced, added-value product and worked out a template for subsequent releases: a rigid card slipcase, measuring 8 5/8″ square; two hardback books, the first an expanded version of the mainstream CD-sized version, also housing the discs, and a second with extra photos, vinyl cover art, studio logs and the like. They probably learned that they needed to offer more obvious added value.

Columbia Legacy also demonstrated their marketing nous by standardising the size and formatting of deluxe boxes.  It tempts collectors to buy the complete set… by buying Vol. 8 Deluxe Edition, many Dylan fans unconsciously signed up for subsequent deluxe box sets.

The next Bootleg Series release, Vol. 9 The Witmark Demos, probably came too soon to apply these lessons. It was only released as a CD-sized two disc package with card slipcase and matching booklet: a first-rate release, but not Deluxe. (In Concert – Brandeis University 1963, a seven track promo CD was offered as an exclusive incentive by Amazon, but it wasn’t part of the Vol. 9 package).

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets: Vol. 10 Another Self Portrait

Vol. 10 Another Self Portrait improves on the Deluxe model established with Vol. 8. It has two extra CDs of music, “the first complete release of the August 1969 Isle of Wight Festival performance newly re-mixed from the original source” and a “remastered version of the 1970 Self Portrait album, in its entirety with original sequencing.”

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series deluxe box sets

Another Self Portrait Deluxe Edition

The musical extras might be underwhelming, but the packaging isn’t. The attractive rigid slipcase houses two excellent hardcover books. A bigger version of the standard version liner notes includes the revisionist essay by Greil Marcus (author of the notorious “What is this shit?” 1970 Self Portrait review in Rolling Stone).  It has the same exquisite front cover photo as the CD-sized booklet (uncredited, but probably by John Cohen). The second book, Time Passes Slowly – Photographs And More, is an “Exclusive Deluxe-Bound Book” of 127 pages of rare and unseen photographs, as well as magazine covers and sleeve art from worldwide Dylan releases.

The first 5,000 customers ordering from the Bob Dylan online store also received a fine poster promoting the original release of Self Portrait.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets: Vol. 11 The Basement Tapes Complete, Limited Deluxe Edition

With Vol. 11 The Basement Tapes Complete, a “Limited Deluxe Edition” of 6CDs, Columbia Legacy perfected the deluxe edition format. And hit the mother lode, commercially and creatively. Sony’s bean counters must have been as pleased as the legions of Dylanistas.

Steve Berkowitz, Sony’s Co-Producer for the whole series, claims that The Basement Tapes is the most sought-after bootleg in all rock music.  He’s absolutely right: gems from The Basement Tapes kick-started the (unofficial) bootleg industry nearly 50 years ago.  It has engaged hardcore rock fans ever since.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series deluxe box sets

The Basement Tapes Complete (Deluxe Edition)

Vol. 11 The Basement Tapes Complete sets a new benchmark for deluxe back catalogue product.  The musical content of The Basement Tapes Complete is so important, so revelatory, that Columbia Legacy could probably have sold the CDs in plain paper bags, without any embellishment. To their credit, they created a very high spec package, too.

The slipcase holds two books. The one holding the six CDs has the liner notes, with several long features including a nine-page essay by Dylan guru Clinton Heylin on the origins of the recordings. The cover has the original Reid Miles artwork from the 1975 album release, with Dylan pretending to play a mandolin. (The same cover is used on the standard-sized booklet of the 2CD “Raw” version of Vol. 11.)

The second book in the package, Lo & Behold: Photographs & More has exquisite photos by Elliott Landy, as well as pictures of tape reels, record sleeves and magazine covers. The “exclusive 120 page deluxe-bound book containing rare and unseen photographs and memorabilia” is a beauty, a very desirable bonus.

If I were to buy only one of the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets, it would be The Basement Tapes, because of its essential, often unheard, music and fine packaging. In my view, it’s the Deluxe Edition with most added value.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets: Vol. 12 The Cutting Edge Deluxe Edition

The music of The Cutting Edge is an alternative history of Peak Dylan, out-takes from his top three albums, all recorded in a whirlwind of creative genius in a short period in the mid-1960s.

The Deluxe Edition’s six CDs consist of alt versions of songs that were immortalised on the trio of albums, Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde. One disc is devoted entirely to different versions of Like A Rolling Stone.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series deluxe box sets

The Cutting Edge Deluxe Edition

Alone among the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets, The Cutting Edge gives you an entrée into Dylan’s creative process, as he chops and changes between different tempi, instrumentation, arrangements and lyrics.

The packaging follows the by-now-familiar deluxe format: slipcase, two hardback books, one with liner notes and the CDs, the other a collection of Bob Dylan photos. The first book is a bigger version of the liner notes booklet issued with the 2CD version and the bonus  book is the 120-page Mixing Up the Medicine: Photographs and More.

Having cemented the high value deluxe format with The Cutting Edge, Sony pushed the envelope again with an ultra deluxe edition, pitched at an atmospheric price point. The Collector’s Edition 18CD version was released in a numbered limited edition of 5,000, complete with the package number on the Certificate of Authenticity, and only available from the official Bob Dylan website.

Packaged in an attractive, hefty box, the Collector’s Edition comes complete with the two books of the Deluxe Edition (though Mixing Up the Medicine: Photographs and More is longer – 170pp).

Its massive collection of 18 CDs is housed in a third “book”. The product is enhanced by memorabilia, including nine x 7″ vinyl mono singles, housed in repro paper sleeves; a piece of celluloid with a few random frames from Don’t Look Back; and semi-transparent item separators featuring artwork promoting the mid-1960s releases.

The music of Bob Dylan has always been at the centre of music biz innovation: Great White Wonder kick-started the bootlegging revolution.  The Bootleg Series created a new “official” product category.  The Bootleg Series Vol. 8 opened up a higher value niche.  Vol. 12 Collector’s Edition has kick-started yet another segment of the market, for very high value product.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets: desirable?  Value for money?  A worthwhile investment?

So, are the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets desirable?

Yes: very desirable, both as beautifully designed artefacts and as collections of music.  They have found a ready market among Dylan devotees.  Some are more desirable than others, of course.  My favourites are Vols. 11 and 12.

Good value for money?  Deluxe Vol. 8 was released at the new high price to a chorus of outrage. But it quickly sold out. Subsequent releases contain rather more added value.  The Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets are affordable.

Value is in the eye of the beholder: if you think these box sets will give you pleasure, you’ll probably buy them.

But are they a worthwhile investment?  How likely are they to rise in value?

One or two might.  The first of the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series deluxe box sets – Vol. 8, Tell Tale Signs – has (limited) potential for growth – because it was released as a “limited edition”. Since its 2008 launch, it has roughly doubled in value. But only to about £160, according to the Discogs website. Hardly an “investment”, unless you risked buying a few cratefuls at discount on release!

It’s difficult to see increases in value in the deluxe editions of the other volumes, certainly not while you can still buy them new, from major retailers.  They’re not my idea of a worthwhile investment.

The Collector’s Edition of Vol. 12 is a true limited edition – Sony pegged the edition size at 5,000 copies and indicated that it would never be exceeded. As it’s a definitive record of Peak Dylan music, as well as a very fine artefact, I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t appreciate in value.

Conclusions: Bob Dylan Bootleg Series deluxe box sets are desirable and reasonably good value, but they have limited investment potential.

Fans are eagerly awaiting the release of many more volumes in the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series. Most will buy the standard 2CD versions, but a growing number will switch to the Deluxe Editions. And I’d guess Columbia Legacy will roll out the ultra deluxe format of Vol. 12 Collector’s Edition: expect more very high-priced limited editions.

Columbia Legacy/Sony Music Entertainment are outstanding curators of Dylan’s legacy. Their Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets are fine luxury products. Though it’s unfashionable to heap praise on record industry “suits”, I raise my glass to Sony’s long-term Bootleg Series Co-Producer, Steve Berkowitz.

Copyright of this article, Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Deluxe box sets: text © Gerald Smith, Rock Art Editions, pictures © Columbia Legacy/Sony Music Entertainment. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series: definitive photos, exquisite packaging

The Bob Dylan Bootleg Series is a superlative collection of music. Its studio and live recordings underline Dylan’s status as the benchmark musician of the rock age.

The Bob Dylan Bootleg Series also has definitive photos and exquisite packaging.  Beautifully designed slipcases, jewel case inserts and booklets turn all ten releases into cherishable artefacts.  The Bootleg Series is a visual feast.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series volumes 1-3 Rare & Unreleased 1961-1991

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series volumes 1-3 Rare & Unreleased 1961-1991 is an astonishing collection of great music. On release in 1991, it was welcomed by most Dylan fans as the Holy Grail.  Many of its tracks were greeted as equals of those which had been released on the first thirty years of Dylan albums.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series album covers

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series volumes 1-3

Michael Gray, the highly regarded Dylan commentator, waxed lyrical about it: “… 58 recordings, almost every one of which is of numinous excellence… could, of itself, establish Bob Dylan’s place as the pre-eminent songwriter and performer of the age and as one of the great artists of the 20th century.” (The Bob Dylan Encyclopaedia).

I’m with Gray: he wasn’t exaggerating.  For once, I can’t accept Greil Marcus‘s view: “A lot of it is dross… ” – Bob Dylan by Greil Marcus: Writings 1968-2010.

The artwork and packaging of volumes 1-3 are almost as impressive as its music. The 3CD set, originally released in an LP-sized box, has a front cover monochrome portrait by Don Hunstein which is one of the most recognisable, most intimate Dylan images ever released.

The long-form 72-page booklet is outstanding. A detailed track-by-track analysis by pioneering Dylanologist John Bauldie fills out a fabulous collection of photos by many of the big names who documented Dylan’s first thirty years of performing, including Joe Alper, Don Hunstein, John Cohen, and Ken Regan, as well as Howard Alk, Joel Bernstein, and some uncredited Columbia staff photographers.

Later versions of Bob Dylan Bootleg Series volumes 1-3 Rare & Unreleased 1961-1991 have different formats. As Alan Fraser shows in his commendably exhaustive Searching for a Gem  website documenting Dylan rarities, even the UK releases have at least three formats:

  • the original 1991 12″ x 12″ box, with 12″ x 6″ 72-page book and three CDs in separate jewel cases
  • a 1997 remastered version, housed in what became the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series standard format of CD-sized card slipcase with matching booklet, and
  • (least desirable from the perspective of this article) the 2010 version, housed in a 3CD jewel case, without a slipcase and with a shortened booklet, which has John Bauldie’s text, but only a single photograph.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 4 Live 1966: The “Royal Albert Hall” Concert

Bob Dylan’s performance captured on The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 Live 1966: The “Royal Albert Hall” Concert is one of the high points of rock music – rock’s ne plus ultra – It simply doesn’t get any better than this.  You could even argue that Vol. 4 is one of the high points of all music, sitting comfortably alongside the other high peaks of the musical canon like Bach’s B Minor Mass or Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series album covers

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series vol. 4

So the artwork and packaging had to be special.  It is.

Jerry Schatzberg‘s Dylan portrait on the slipcase front cover is appropriately ethereal – one of the defining images of the singer’s career.  And Schatzberg’s portrait is complemented by telling images by Don Hunstein, Barry Feinstein and several other, slightly less familiar, photographers.

The package design for Vol. 4 established the template for future releases in the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series: two CDs in a jewel case, plus a substantial booklet with expert text and a cornucopia of photographs, both housed in a striking CD-size card slipcase.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 5 Live 1975: The Rolling Thunder Revue

The packaging artwork of Vol. 5 Live 1975: The Rolling Thunder Revue is remarkable, even by the high standards of the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series. It’s the work of only two hands: liner notes are by Larry “Ratso” Sloman, and his text is as entertaining as you’d hope from the author of the wonderful On The Road with Bob Dylan. Uniquely in the series, all the marvellous photos are by a single photographer, Ken Regan.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series vol. 5

Portrait by Ken Regan – Bob Dylan Bootleg Series vol. 5

Regan had a very photogenic subject – creative adults at play. He certainly made the most of his opportunity. Many of his shots are magnificent. The definitive close-up of Dylan in face paint and cowboy hat, cropped for use on the inside of the jewel case front insert, is among the best-liked of all Bob Dylan photos. It’s a breathtaking image.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 6 Live 1964: Concert at Philharmonic Hall

Vol. 6 Live 1964: Concert at Philharmonic Hall’s haunting slipcase cover photograph of a vulnerable, callow Dylan is the work of  Hank Parker. The bulk of the photographs in the package are by Daniel Kramer and Douglas Gilbert, with contributions by Barry Feinstein and Slinky Speiser.

Long-form liner notes, by Sean Wilentz, combine the passion and insights of a long-term fan with the analytical skills of a leading academic historian. Wilentz actually attended the Philharmonic Hall gig, aged 13! He is, of course, “Historian-in-Residence” of the official Dylan website, so is also privy to insider information. His text and the super photos make the Vol. 6 56-page booklet into a fine snapshot of early Dylan, an appropriate complement to the precocious music.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 7 No Direction Home: The Soundtrack

Like the revelatory Martin Scorsese film it accompanied, the artwork of the No Direction Home CD package is a telling document of crucial early-to-peak-period Bob Dylan.

The slipcase, like the DVD box, has Barry Feinstein’s shot of listless traveller Dylan in front of his car and film-maker Howard Alk, waiting for the Aust Ferry to take them across the River Severn to the next gig, in Cardiff.

The jewel case front cover has an intriguing variant of Daniel Kramer’s cryptic set-up used on the front cover of Bringing It All Back Home. The inside cover reproduces  Jerry Schatzberg’s era-defining Blonde on Blonde cover shoot.

Reinforcing the scope of the Scorsese project, the 60-page booklet’s front cover is an out-take by Don Hunstein from his Freewheelin’ shoot, Suze Rotolo on Dylan’s arm. The booklet is a near-perfect photographic sketch of Bob Dylan, from Hibbing High School to the 1966 European tour, including work by many of the key Dylan photographers of the era – Joe Alper, John Cohen, Barry Feinstein, David Gahr, Jerry Schatzberg, Daniel Kramer and John Launais, as well as the unnamed staffers of Sony Archives (including work recognisably by Don Hunstein).

The liner notes are a personal memoir of the period by sometime Rolling Stones manager Andrew Oldham and a track-by-track analysis by Dylan associate Eddie Gorodetsky. The highlight is the entertaining insider essay by the ever-reliable Al Kooper.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 8 Tell Tale Signs: Rare & Unreleased 1989-2006

Bob Dylan photos from the 1960s are very familiar – some readers will have been seeing them for over half a century!  But photos of the later Dylan – since his mid-1980s fall from grace (surely you remember albums like Knocked Out Loaded and Down In The Groove!) are less well-known.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series album covers

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series vol. 8

The packaging of Tell Tale Signs fills a gap, with its definitive collection of late Dylan photos, not least the dignified William Caxton portrait of Bob as middle aged-going-on-old man on the slipcase front cover. This wonderful portrait says to me: “listen very carefully to this wise man… for he has many things to teach you.”

The 64-page booklet also has many highlights, not least the trio of shots by Ana Maria Valez, portraying Bob Dylan in top hat and coat on a publicity walk around London’s Camden Town.

Liner notes by Larry “Ratso” Sloman, both the essay and the track-by-track analysis, are entertaining bonuses in this key volume of the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 9 The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964

The artwork of Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 9 The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964 stands as an impressive photo album of Bob the folkie. Photographers John Cohen, Ted Russell, Don Hunstein, Daniel Kramer, Barry Feinstein and Douglas Gilbert make up a virtual Who’s Who of early Dylan chroniclers.

The most striking photo in the package is the 60-page booklet’s front cover shot of Dylan playing in a smokey folk club in The Pindar of Wakefield pub in Gray’s Inn Road, King’s Cross, London on 22 December 1962. It was his first visit to England, and the native folkies, who reportedly gave him a less-than-ecstatic welcome, seem slightly perplexed. Dylan seems hesitant but defiant. You can almost smell the beer and cigarette smoke. If the original photo hadn’t been cropped for Vol. 9, you might also detect the whiff of sweaty, smug purism rising from the self-regarding audience.

It was shot by Brian Shuel (“Schuel” in the Vol. 9 credits), a photographer who produced fine portraits of Shirley Collins, doyenne of the English folk revival, and contemporaries like Bert Jansch and Anne Briggs, as well as showbiz celebs. London’s National Portrait Gallery has over 50 of Shuel’s portraits.

The expert liner notes, by Colin Escott, explain the music, its derivation and commercial context.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 10 Another Self Portrait (1969-1971)

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series album covers

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series vol. 10

The striking slipcase front cover of Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 10 Another Self Portrait (1969-1971) is, appropriately, a recent self-portrait painted by Dylan.

His original self-portrait, on the cover of Self Portrait (1970), attracted derision, much like the music it introduced. The 2013 self-portrait, like the reworked music within, was received far more favourably. It’s a commendably painterly painting which will cement Bob Dylan’s reputation as an artist deserving serious attention.

Most of the photographs in the 56-page booklet are by folk singer/photographer John Cohen. Freezing Dylan in home surroundings, both in upstate New York and in the city, Cohen’s series captures the Zeitgeist. His masterful shots are complemented by some fine work by Elliott Landy.

Liner notes by Greil Marcus place both the 1970 and 2013 releases in their historical context. Michael Simmons’ notes are a more straightforward critique of the new collection.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 11 The Basement Tapes Raw

The Basement Tapes Raw booklet includes two early examples of (unrelated) Bob Dylan’s faux-naïf Woodstock-era paintings – the album cover for Music From Big Pink by The Band and the cover of Sing Out! magazine.

Nearly all the photographs are by Elliott Landy. His work is particularly evocative, especially the familiar shot used on the slipcase front cover, a portrait of country boy Dylan in white hat and matching shirt and the booklet’s striking shot from the same session which has Dylan leaning on a car, framed by the vibrant reds of maple trees in autumn.

The booklet also reproduces the inventive narrative cover shot used for the 1974 LP release by Reid Miles (best known as the creative force behind the famed covers of Blue Note jazz albums).

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series album covers

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series vol. 11

The 56-page booklet’s liner notes has an instructive context essay by writer/musician Sid Griffin, track-by-track notes by Ben Rollins and data on the technical production of the restored Basement Tapes by Jan Haust.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 12 The Best of the Cutting Edge 1965-1966

The music of the most recent release, Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 12 The Best of the Cutting Edge 1965-1966, is probably the most talked about since the release of volumes 1-3.

Understandably, as it documents in detail the creative process of peak Dylan. Hence, it illuminates one of the key periods in twentieth century culture.

The photography and packaging of Vol. 12 is appropriately impressive. My favourites photos include shots by Jerry Schatzberg, especially the slipcase front cover; work by Columbia staffer Don Hunstein, including the iconic photograph of Dylan at the piano, on the back cover of the jewel case; and lesser-known shots by French photographer Jean-Marie Périer.

The 60-page booklet’s liner notes include a long essay by renowned historian of contemporary USA Sean Wilentz, an insider muso’s view from the irrepressible Al Kooper, plus short pieces by Ben Rollins, Rowland Scherman and Angeline Butler.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series: many versions

The albums described above are the original UK CD releases. Other territories and later re-releases have different artwork and packaging. The 2010 Europe re-releases, for example, present the great music in its entirety, often at a very low price, but their photos and packaging are inferior to the originals: they come without slipcases and include cut-down versions of the booklets, often without photos, making them less attractive to anyone buying the collection for its visual art.

And, starting with Vol. 8, Sony have also released enhanced versions of most new volumes, targeting hardcore fans and collectors with deep pockets. Thus Bootleg Series Vol. 8 Tell Tale Signs was issued as a Deluxe Edition, with an extended hardback book, plus a second hardback of the sleeves of Dylan vinyl singles (as well as a third CD). Vols 10, 11 and 12 were also released in Deluxe versions, with attractive additional packaging and artwork, as well as extra music.

Catering for the recent re-emergence of a significant market for vinyl, several of the Bootleg Series volumes are also available in boxed collections of LPs.

Bob Dylan Bootleg Series: overview

Reviewing The Cutting Edge, Bootleg Series vol. 12, in The Guardian newspaper, top writer Richard Williams praised the package’s “meticulous assembly and handsome design”.

You could say the same of every release in the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series: it’s outstanding visual art. While the different releases vary in musical value – vols 1-3 and 8 are the key releases, but even the weaker volumes, such as 6 and 9, are indispensable – the packaging and artwork of all the volumes is uniformly desirable.

The slipcases, jewel case inserts and especially the ten booklets, running to almost 600 pages, are key Bob Dylan collectables. Their rich array of photographs, insightful prose from a galaxy of expert writers, and level of technical detail could keep the Dylan nut happy for weeks.  Even in the unloved CD format, the Bootleg Series offers the tactile pleasures that many music lovers get from vinyl LPs.

Bob Dylan’s management, notably Producer Jeff Rosen – presumably the driving force behind The Bootleg Series since its inception – and record label Columbia/Legacy Recordings/Sony Music Entertainment‘s Steve Berkowitz, are diligent, often inspired, curators of the Dylan legacy; the Bootleg Series must be one of their finest achievements. It’s an exemplary blend of fine rock art and smart commerce.

If you haven’t explored The Bootleg Series recently, you might consider setting aside some quality time to dig into its photos and packaging while you listen to the peerless music.

Copyright: text © Gerald Smith, ROCK ART EDITIONS Ltd 2016; record artwork © Columbia/Legacy Recordings/Sony Music Entertainment 1991-2015. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.