This official soundtrack to the Martin Scorsese-directed PBS biopic No Direction Home could well be subtitled The Alternatin' Bob Dylan. The two-CD set consists entirely of rarities and previously unreleased versions of Robert Zimmerman's best-known songs. While a few selections lack the polish of today's sonic standards, the unparalleled musical and historical significance of No Direction Home more than compensates. Covering 1959 to 1966, from Dylan's genesis as a songwriter to his ascendance as the heppest of the hep, Direction begins with a home recording, the insistent, haunted, Lightnin' Hopkins-style folk-blues "When I Got Troubles," and ends with (what else?) a live-with-the-Hawks (a.k.a. the Band) "Like a Rolling Stone." In between we find many gems: a live "Chimes of Freedom" with Dylan's lacerating, indignant, impatient vocals; "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," which is gentler yet filled with even more wistful resignation than the "final" version; a live "Maggie's Farm" with some supremely wired, ecstatically noisy electric guitar; and an ironically bouncy "Memphis Blues Again" (in which the Zim muffs the lyrics). Direction is, strangely, liable to please everybody: Fanatics will faint, casual fans will be captivated, and neophytes will learn what all the clamor's about.
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