Song of the Day #1,888: ‘This Evening So Soon’ – Bob Dylan

dylan_another_self_portraitThe latest installment of Bob Dylan’s Bootleg Series (the tenth) is, at first glance, a bit of a head-scratcher.

Titled Another Self Portrait, it’s a collection of tracks recorded mostly for 1970’s Self Portrait, the album widely considered Dylan’s worst. That was the record that prompted critic Greil Marcus to start his infamous Rolling Stone review with the words “What is this shit?”

That shit was a collection of folk covers, pop covers (including Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘The Boxer’) and crappy live performances of classic Dylan songs. And it was a great big question mark. After a string of 60s masterpieces, Dylan had a motorcycle accident then released John Wesley Harding and Nashville Skyline, very different records than the world expected. Following those albums, Self Portrait made fans question whether Dylan would ever return to form.

The answer was no, and yes. Dylan didn’t have another Highway 61 Revisited or Bringing It All Back Home in him. But he did have Desire and Blood On the Tracks, two completely different albums that number among his very finest.

Looking back with hindsight, Self Portrait might not have seemed so scary if fans knew it didn’t mark an ending but merely a transition. And this new bootleg series release provides a golden opportunity to appreciate that work on its own.

The tracks that make up the double album are a combination of unreleased tracks from Self Portrait and New Morning as well as versions of album tracks stripped of overdubs and unnecessary production. Dylan is in fine voice throughout, sometimes slipping into that country croon that came as such a surprise on ‘Lay Lady Lay.’

It’s hard to imagine the sessions that produced these songs leading to such a poorly-received album. I can see Another Self Portrait redeeming Self Portrait after all these years.

I tell old Bill when he gets home this morning,
I tell old Bill when he gets home this evening,
I tell old Bill when he gets home,
To leave them downtown women alone
This morning, this evening, so soon.

Now old Bill’s wife she was baking bread this morning,
Now old Bill’s wife she was baking bread this evening,
Now old Bill’s wife she was baking bread
They came and told her Bill was dead
This morning, this evening, so soon.

Oh no, that can’t be so, this morning,
Oh no, that can’t be so, this evening,
Oh no, that can’t be so
Bill only left for town half an hour ago
This morning, this evening, so soon.

They brought Bill home on a hurry-up wagon this morning,
They brought Bill home on a hurry-up wagon this evening,
They brought Bill home on a hurry-up wagon
His head was down and his feet were dragging
This morning, this evening, so soon.

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20 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,888: ‘This Evening So Soon’ – Bob Dylan

  1. Dana says:

    I’m sorry, but this song is shit and, in my opinion, doesn’t seem to redeem Self Portrait, but rather reinforces how awful this post-accident period of Dylan’s career really was.

    I know you have a huge protective soft spot for Dylan, but, honestly, do you really like this? I suspect that if this were being sung by any other artist, you would be hitting the skip button and would never look back.

    • Dylan says:

      I’m sorry, but this comment is shit. I would try and squeeze your way out of that little bubble you have trapped yourself in. You are not a true Dylan fan if you have any expections of him. Lighten up on yourself. This is about you, not Dylan. Sure, you’ll find some “folks” to jump your wagon. Where was that wagon goin anyway? Don’t look so hard, just listen. You seem offended as if Dylan had you in mind when he sat and wrote. It would be great to see you on the left and Dylan on the right. You could share your opinion to his face. I have a feeling I would be laughing for 20 minutes or so. I’m sure this man has done nothing for you so I understand why it would be so easy to insult him. For all you know he could have been pulling your strings. It amazes me how easily people are controlled. The song is beautiful.

  2. Clay says:

    Seriously?

    Are you saying the song is shit or the recording is shit, or both?

    The song is a folk standard that dates back to the 1920s. Not sure what about it would generate such disdain.

    The instrumentation is lovely, with Dylan’s acoustic guitar and harmonica subtly accompanied by a piano and additional guitar… not sure what could possibly offend on that front.

    Then there’s Dylan’s voice… and if that’s the problem, I suppose you’d have a problem with Dylan’s entire catalog. I think his vocals here are pretty strong, actually.

    Really not getting your reaction to this one.

    Incidentally, Dylan’s post-accident period included John Wesley Harding, Nashville Skyline, New Morning, Planet Waves, The Basement Tapes and Blood On the Tracks. I bet most artists would kill for that output.

    • Dana says:

      Yes, seriously.

      The song might be a folk standard, but that doesn’t make it good. Hell, “This Land is Your Land” is a folk standard, but not one i ever crave to hear no matter who does it, and that song is considerably better than this one.

      The instrumentation is pedestrian and I don’t care much for Dylan’s vocals here.

      And with the notable exception of Blood on the Tracks, none of the other albums of new material you mentioned would rank anywhere near Dylan’s best work. The Basement Tapes doesn’t count since the songs came from his 60s work.

    • David says:

      yeah, i am not getting Dana’s opinion at all. this song, although at first listen i wasn’t sure what to think, has quickly become one of my favorites from another self portrait, along with little sadie, railroad bill, only a hobo, pretty saro, and countless others. i find his voice to be pretty good as far as the sound of it, but the WAY he sings it is what really makes this song great.

  3. Clay says:

    The Basement Tapes were recorded immediately after the motorcycle crash, though released years later. So that record certainly qualifies as post-accident.

    And I heartily disagree (as do most critics) about the quality of those other records. John Wesley Harding, in particular, is a wonderful album. Nashville Skyline and New Morning are lovely detours (though I suspect your anti-country bias gets in the way of your enjoying those) and Planet Waves is one of Dylan’s most under-appreciated albums.

    Saying they don’t rank “near Dylan’s best work” is certainly a tough bar to clear, as very few albums by anybody ever rank near Dylan’s best work. The word you used was “awful” and it’s a tremendous leap to suggest any of those records are anywhere close to awful. (I’ll give you much less of an argument about his 80s output, with the exception of Infidels and Oh Mercy).

  4. Shawn says:

    I’m sure Dana didn’t mean to make me chuckle when writing, ” I suspect that if this were being sung by any other artist, you would be hitting the skip button.” The irony is, yes, I WOULD hit the skip button if the song were being done by most any other artist. That’s a big point when it comes to Dylan. As a reviewer of this latest in the bootleg series said, “Dylan does know how to put across a song.” I don’t think the average songwriter/singer can learn much from listening to Dylan’s own creations, they are just too damn good and, frankly, unobtainable. But if you listen to him doing covers, even some of those 1961 boots before he was signed, you can see how he is adapting it to HIS style, and, hey, maybe you can then adapt something to YOUR style. It all starts to become clearer how Dylan learns or whatever it is a creative genius does. Any chance, Dana, you have heard Dylan doing “This Land” on Bootleg Volume 7? Maybe if you hear it, trying to remain hopeful here, you might have a come to Dylan moment. It ain’t no sing-a-long, pal.

    Clay made a great post here and all the replies to Dana are quite strong. I go back to JWH often, more so I think since I’ve aged, certainly more than Hwy 61 or even, surprisingly, B on B.

    One last question, why is it always the case that those who do not know Dylan’s material (this is usually a correct assumption) will say he is a great songwriter, but not a singer, and then will add the that Dylan’s version Tangled Up In Blue is a good song ? There’s something grating about this point of view to me.

  5. wandydustsprout says:

    To dismiss any aspect of Dylan’s catalogue, is akin to leaving out the primary colors in your box of crayons…aside from the fact, can you imagine the music industry now if every artist was to explore even a mere fraction of what Dylan has over his long and storied career?

  6. dss says:

    All I know is, I never heard this song before and after listening to the first three discs a few times, this is the song that stuck in my head all week. There’s something about the upbeat tune and harmonica with this matter of fact story of death.

    I think the sparseness of the lyrics gives it a haunting quality. Old Bill’s death isn’t described and the reason for it is only implied. And the mixing of “this morning” and “this evening, so soon” – time doesn’t matter, yet it’s mentioned every verse. His death was just too soon.

    P.S. He says “Old Sal” not “his wife” as quoted in the article.

  7. This is a great song and performance. I wish it were by someone else! Then I would have a new artist to admire. As for John Wesley Harding, I sometimes think it is Dylan’s best album.

    • Dana says:

      Clay, yes the basement tapes were recorded post-accident, but the songs were written pre-accident. Surely, you can recognize this important distinction.

      I admit to not being sufficiently familiar with John Wesley Harding to review it, save for Dylan’s cover of the Hendrix classic “All Along the Watchtower.” (Calm down Dylan fanatics…that was a joke.:-))

      And no I don’t like country music even done by Dylan and I don’t even see you all crowing about the greatness of those albums.

      As for today’s song, I just don’t like it. Sue me. Calling it shit or awful was hyperbole, but, no, I don’t like it.

      Shawn, to your point, let me just say that I like Dylan’s voice and style (except for that post accident creepy voice and less so his craggy limited range of the past few decades). However, even when Dylan was at his vocal finest, his was never a voice I loved no matter what he chose to sing. Now, I do understand that you feel that way about him, and I can appreciate that as I feel that way about other artists. Though I hardly love everything Sting has done, I have often said that I find his voice so compelling that he could be singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and make it sound good. And I feel that way about other artists from Stevie Wonder to Natalie Merchant to James Taylor and so on.

      And while I confess to having not heard Dylan’s “This Land is Your Land,” I have heard others interpret the song well, including Springsteen, but it’s still not a song I feel like hearing no matter who does it (though maybe a version by Sting would change my mind:-))

      Now, I KNOW I am talking to Dylan zealots when it is suggested that no part of his catalogue should be dismissed, but, I’m sorry, I’m just not the guy who wants to hear Dylan’s spin on Christmas songs. And, unless all of your families are also Dylan fanatics, I truly feel bad for them if you try to put that album into the rotation during the holidays.:-)

      • Shawn says:

        That was a very thoughtful response, Dana. It’s just most of Dylan’s 80’s output that is hard to get through. But I can’t think of anyone else who has as many albums that are as listenable (maybe because some people died, bands broke up) . I like Willie a lot but there really aren’t more than a dozen albums needed from him. Haggard, same thing. Um, I don’t think I have another xmas album but Dylan’s. Oh, maybe Willie’s Pretty Paper, if that’s the name. I’ve said about xmas music, generally, I don’t lower my musical standards for the holidays. Did you say something about James Taylor and Sting? I’ll just pretend you didn’t.

  8. Clay says:

    I won’t prolong the discussion, except to point out that The Basement Tapes songs were indeed written post-accident, mostly during the recording sessions themselves.

  9. If the song reject from his first LP ” BOB DYLAN”. I would of said “okay”.
    But the whole SELF PORTRAIT was a disaster, and then Columbia records put out some out takes on an other album called DYLAN when Dylan signed with Asyulm for PLANET WAVES, to put out whats left in the vaults of this is a waist of time. It doesn t fit in with the Bootleg series which is rejects of Dylan songs. These aren t Dylan songs, they are written by others. There are lots of performers doing other peoples songs, and they do it much better than Dylan. Dylan is great doing his own stuff, but other peoples songs he fails in like those two LPs he made latter GOOD AS I BEEN TO YOU and WORLD GONE WRONG, they are a waist of time, and also very louzy. But Dylan in his latter years has made some good LP s like TIME OUT OF MIND, and even OH MERCY.

  10. Clay says:

    And so eloquently. 🙂

  11. Andrea Katz says:

    Sorry i missed out on the fray. Huge Dylan fan here. I agree with Shawn on that criticism of great songwriter, terrible singer. I just think, “not everyone can actually have good taste”, right? 🙂
    Appropos of not much, I have a great memory of passionately belting out “This Land is My Land” with an audience at a 1970’s Pete Seeger concert.IIt felt wonderful to be a lefty AND patriotic.

  12. JR Dylan says:

    Holy shit this is amazing! This guy shits brilliance! Can anyone put this on like youtube or something I need to download it!

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