Friday, January 18, 2013

Get Dressed, Get Blessed

You know how there are some things you really want but never expect to just stumble upon? Well, for me one of those things is the 1973 album Dylan. Not to be confused with the 1- or 3-disc fan-voted greatest hits album called Dylan, this record is a collection of covers done by Bob Dylan in that strange period between Nashville Skyline and Planet Waves. It has never been officially released on CD, and the company almost pretends that it never existed. One might refer to it as the "contractual obligation album". At the time, Dylan was recording a bunch of stuff but didn't really know what he wanted to put out. An intended album of covers morphed into a half-and-half album called Self Portrait. He followed that with New Morning which had new material, but he was still not quite back to full form. I forget the particulars, but I seem to recall reading that Dylan was mad at Columbia at this point so this album of songs he had recorded over this period was thrown together and released. I seem to recall reading that Dylan said he intentionally made a bad record. Or perhaps I'm misremembering and he just hated that they put out this album this way.

Either way, it's a "lost" item in the Dylan catalog. It's the only official studio album to not have a proper  CD release, at least in the States. Internationally, it can be found under the title A Fool Such As I. But it's still hard to get, and buying it retitled just isn't the same to me. So the only way to truly experience it is as a vinyl LP.

Some months ago I was at someone's house and they had a stack of records piled at the floor. I was just glancing through it and imagine my shock when I discovered this album. I had never seen a physical copy of it, let alone known anyone who had it. And it was in great condition. I have to tell you, I was metaphorically drooling for it. But I tried to contain myself and not covet my neighbor's goods, despite the part of my brain that would have paid any price at that moment to go home with it.

Fast forward to this morning. I went to Newbury Comics because there was an out-of-print DVD I had seen there a few weeks ago that I wanted. Side note, at first it seemed the disc I wanted was not there, which was a real bummer, but I found it in another section and was very happy! Newbury Comics is one of the few places that carries a good selection of vinyl records and I like to browse sometimes, even though I know I can't afford to just splurge on them most days. The store also has a good selection of used movies and music (such as the DVD I wanted), but now I discovered they had added used records to the collection as well. I was just flipping through some of these, and there was some great stuff. I had never seen a U.S. release Beatles record in person. The U.S. releases were very different in the early years from their British counterparts, and it was cool to hold one in my hand. I was half thinking about purchasing one, when I decided to flip through the Ds. And there it was. Right behind the Greatest Hits album that I already have, I saw the gorgeous cover art of that record I never thought I'd see. The price was extremely reasonable and I snatched it up right then and there.

There were a few other cool records I thought about picking up. A Blues Brothers album, and the Traffic album The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys, which I like a lot. I never knew (because you get no sense of this from the CD) that the original album sleeve was rhomboid in shape. It's really cool and I was tempted, but I already had snagged (to my mind) the best item there. So I left it for another day.

There are one or two Dylan albums that are far more collectible. For example there's an early pressing of Freewheelin' that has a different roster of songs. It's the rarest Dylan item out there that I know of. I don't expect to ever find that. The only other comparable item I could really possibly want is a copy of Saved with the original album art.

Sadly, even the official website now only has the new cover art for that album.

Maybe someday I'll stumble upon that too. But for right now I'm just really happy to have found something I never thought I would. It's not even that the album is good, because it's not, but it's just not something that's easy to find. So I'd like to thank Marianne at Newbury Comics for getting all those used records for the store, and thank the One who blessed me today beyond my expectations.