Springtime in New York: The Bootleg Series Vol. 16 1980-1985 - Deluxe Edition
Sound & Vision|December 2021 - January 2022
Discussing the merits of Bob Dylan’s ’80s output is a lightning rod for even his most ardent fans.
By Mike Mettler

Yet there are those who would agree a good portion of the first half of Dylan’s MTV Decade output ranks among his strongest mid-period songwriting efforts—even if some of what appeared on the original wax was not always supported by the best choices for backing tracks, final takes, and/or arrangements.

Good thing we have Dylan’s absolutely sweet Bootleg Series to bring some of his figurative basement tapes to the surface. As curated by ace Dylanologists Jeff Rosen and Steve Berkowitz, the aptly, albeit somewhat breezily named Springtime in New York: The Bootleg Series Vol. 16 1980-1985 5CD box set includes 57 outtakes, alternate versions, rehearsals, and live readings of songs culled from the better half of Dylan’s ’80s output. Springtime centers around the sessions held for the three studio albums Dylan released during that time window: August 1981’s Shot of Love, October 1983’s Infidels, and June 1985’s Empire Burlesque. I can neither confirm nor deny whether I own bootleg vinyl and/or CDs containing a number of these and other of-era selections. That said, if I did have access to any of those boots, I could indeed confirm the vast majority of their contents most certainly do not sound as good as these Springtime mixes do. (Or so I’ve heard.)

As is typical with many modern multidisc boxes, Springtime is available in multiple physical configurations, namely: 1) a 5CD box set with all 57 tracks; 2) 2CD highlights set with 25 tracks; 3) 2LP highlights set with 11 tracks; and 4) limited-edition 4LP colored-vinyl box with 42 tracks. I’ve purchased three of the four, but here, I’ll focus on the 5CD release in order to achieve—to borrow a phrase from Elmore Leonard—Maximum Bob.

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