The recordings, which cover the singer-songwriter’s working process on ‘Nashville Skyline, ‘ ‘Self Portrait’ and ‘New Morning’ albums, were found in a closet during a New York house clearance.
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Jeff Gold, former executive at Warner Bros. Records and avid fan of Bob Dylan, flew to New York a few months ago following a highly intriguing call from a friend. He has learned that a gentleman from the Northwest, who was the executor of his recently-deceased sister’s estate, had found two boxes labeled “Old Records” in a closet while he was preparing the building for sale. The boxes were filled with what seemed to be some sort of records, most had labels with Bob Dylan’s name, the address of Columbia Records, and a song title.
The executor was aware that Dylan had rented out the ground floor of the building (at 124 W. Houston St. in Greenwich Village) and figured that the artist had left the boxes there when he vacated the space.
Gold, a longtime record collector/historian and proprietor of memorabilia website RecordMecca, was contacted to examine and handle the fascinating discovery.
“Nothing matches the rush of discovering something previously unknown and historically significant, which adds to the collective understanding of a great musical artist.” Gold writes on his website. “And three months ago I made one of the great finds in a lifetime of looking.”
The boxes contained 149 unknown Bob Dylan acetate records, discs that Dylan himself used during the making of the “Nashville Skyline”, “Self Portrait” and “New Morning” albums, all produced by Bob Johnston between 1969-1970 for Columbia Records.
“Acetates”, he explains, “are individually cut on a lathe in real time, in a process that is basically the reverse of playing a record. A blank aluminum disc coated in lacquer is put on a turntable, and the master tape of a recording is played, the signal of which is sent to a heated needle which cuts a groove into the revolving disc. Acetates are made so an artist or producer can listen to a recording that is a work-in-progress; they can be played on a regular turntable, but after 20 or 30 plays the sound quality begins to deteriorate. But the sound on a carefully preserved acetate can be incredible–it’s a first generation record made in real time directly from the master tape. And that was the case here.”
The well-preserved over-40-year-old acetates include unreleased versions of songs, some with different overdubs, mixes and edits. Outtakes include electric versions of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” and “Folsom Prison Blues” cut during the sessions for 1970’s “Self Portrait”, and a gospel-tinged version of “Tomorrow Is Such a Long Time” recorded during the “New Morning” sessions.
The sleeves contain notes written by Dylan and producer Bob Johnson, indicating which takes were good, as well as some Dylan doodles. Johnson confirmed his and Dylan’s handwriting to the record collector.
Noting that the collection includes several different sequences for the albums, Gold writes, “These acetates were Dylan’s working tools, and it’s easy to understand why he didn’t keep them — they were used to get the albums to the point where he felt they were finished and ready to release, but once the albums had been released, these became redundant.”
After purchasing the boxes, Gold had the recordings preserved digitally, and has provided the digital transfers to Dylan’s office. While Columbia may still have the master tapes for the recordings, he postulates that these original, in-progress mixes might not exist anywhere else.
So far, Gold has placed six of the acetates up for sale on RecordMecca. Among the recordings are a different mix of “Winterlude” and an unreleased version of “It Hurts Me, Too, ” which range in price between $1, 750 and $2, 500. The most expensive item currently up for sale is an acetate containing a different sequence of “Nashville Skyline”, which is going for $7, 000.
Bob Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman in the small town of Duluth, Minnesota, and grew up in the industrial city of Hibbing, Minnesota.
In 1960, Zimmerman adopted the name Bob Dylan, after being influenced by Dylan Thomas, the Welsh poet.
Dylan’s musical style, unique singing voice and beatnik-style appearance captured the imagination of the folk music world in the early 1960’s, and his fame spread rapidly. Three of Dylan’s earliest releases, “Blowin’ in the Wind”, “The Times They Are a-Changin’” and “We Shall Overcome”, have become staples of the tumultuous period of social change that swept America of the 1960’s.
Dylan is credited with having sold more than 100 million records throughout the world has been the recipient of a number of significant awards from the music industry, including winning 38 Grammys, six Grammy Hall of Fame awards, five Rock’N’Roll hall of fame awards, a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award, both for the song “Things Have Changed” from the movie “Wonder Boys”, released in 2000.
Bob Dylan was also a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, presented by President Barack Obama in 2012, and the Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur the following year.