A bevy of acetate recordings that Bob Dylan used while recording his “Nashville Skyline,” “Self Portrait” and “New Morning” albums in 1969 and 1970 was discovered and purchased recently in New York by a veteran Dylan collector.
The batch of 149 acetates — test recordings usually made directly from master tapes, and therefore typically very high sound quality — were discovered in an apartment building that Dylan used in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. They came to light after the building’s owner died and her brother was going through its contents.
He found two boxes labeled “Old Records,” and noted Dylan’s name on many of them. He got in touch with veteran record executive and collector Jeff Gold, who made the trip to New York to examine them and wound up buying them.
“When I opened the boxes and took a quick look at the contents, I was blown away,” Gold noted on the blog of his Record Mecca website. “They were indeed all by Dylan, all were in excellent condition, and many had handwritten notes on the sleeves. They all dated from the sessions for Dylan’s albums ‘Nashville Skyline,’ ‘Self Portrait’ and ‘New Morning,’ about equally split between 10″ discs with a single song and 12″ discs with multiple songs.
“Though I couldn’t listen to them on site, I knew this was a major discovery, and made an offer for the collection more than double what I had expected to pay.”
Gold wrote that, “We took a moment to contemplate what might have happened if he hadn’t found them. The building would have sold, the new owners would have hired a crew to gut and renovate the place, and the boxes tossed into a dumpster from a third floor window. Phew.”
Gold enlisted a friend to make digital transfers “of the most interesting discs,” and said he has provided copies of everything to Dylan’s camp, as he owns the copyrights on the songs, most of which are alternate takes or different mixes from what eventually ended up on the studio releases. It’s similar to the alternate versions that appeared last year on Dylan’s “Bootleg Series Vol. 10: Another Self Portrait.”
Among the highlights, according to Gold: “There are outtakes too, including electric versions of Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring of Fire’ and ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ recorded during the ‘Self Portrait’ sessions, and a gospel tinged version of 'Tomorrow is Such a Long Time' recorded during the ‘New Morning’ sessions."
Gold, formerly an executive at Warner Bros. Records, is offering a few of the acetates for sale at prices ranging from $1,750 to $7,000.
“These 149 acetates provide a remarkable look into Dylan’s working process at the time,” Gold notes. “Dylan recorded ‘Nashville Skyline’ in Nashville; ‘Self Portrait’ in Nashville and New York and ‘New Morning’ almost entirely in New York. Dylan’s producer at the time, Bob Johnston, worked out of Columbia Records’ Nashville studios. These acetates were for the most part cut in Nashville and sent by Johnston to Dylan in New York for his comments and approval.
“This kind of collection is very unusual,” he writes. “Usually an artist and producer would make decisions about takes, mixes and overdubs while together in the studio. But Dylan was living in New York and Johnston headquartered in Nashville – so acetates were a simple way for Dylan to monitor what Johnston was doing.”
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