Sourced from the original master tapes, pressed at RTI, and housed in a Stoughton jacket, Mobile Fidelity's numbered-edition 180g SuperVinyl LP of Good As I Been to You reveals the immediacy, detail, and stripped-down nature of recording sessions that took place in Dylan’s garage studio in California. Simple, raw, and unplugged, the record presents Dylan in peak form — and showcases a diversity of vocal phrasing, soulful chording, harmonica accents, and close-up ambience that on this reissue emerge like never before. As the first-ever audiophile edition of this almost-lost classic, this LP also benefits from SuperVinyl’s extraordinary properties: a nearly inaudible noise floor, superb groove definition, and dead-quiet surfaces among them.
Recorded and mixed by Micajah Ryan, and supervised by Debbie Gold, Good As I Been to You took shape at Dylan’s home shortly after the singer-songwriter completed sessions in Chicago with a full band. Unaccompanied, he again gravitated to existing works — in this case, traditional folk music — and, with Gold serving as a trusted advisor, performed the songs in multiple keys and tempos until he arrived at what he desired. That careful, determined albeit loose, organic approach emanates from this reissue, on which each note, movement, and space come across more directly, fully, and immediately than on the original formats. It helps draw a through-line to Another Side of Bob Dylan (1964) as well as the similarly themed follow-up, World Gone Wrong (1993) and immersive old-world storytelling of Tempest (2012) and Rough and Rowdy Ways (2020).
Well before Dylan made those renowned 21st century LPs, however, he needed to find a way out of a funk that — save for his 1989 collaboration with Daniel Lanois, Oh Mercy — followed him for years. As author Clinton Heylin reported Dylan admitting in 1997: “My influences have not changed — and any time they have done, the music goes off to a wrong place. That’s why I recorded two LPs of old songs, so I could personally get back to the music that’s true for me.”
Truth: Few, if any, concepts better encapsulate Good As I Been to You. It resonates with the same originality, honesty, resolve, and age- and time-defying relevance as the seminal Anthology of American Folk Music that fired Dylan’s imagination as a kid in small-town Minnesota and, later, per Greil Marcus’ That Old Weird America book, informed Dylan and the Band’s Basement Tapes sessions. This record also contains the type of music Dylan was playing during his acoustic sets at his period Never Ending Tour shows; within a year of the record’s release, Dylan would play half the album’s songs live.
As for those songs: Rife with strange mystery, common circumstance, and epic adventure, the stories appeal to our base instincts. Their themes — jealousy, temptation, sacrifice, love, revenge, identity, opportunity — operate on a fundamentally human level immune to trends, generations, or eras. They’re ancient and modern, serious and comical, open and disguised, simple and multi-layered. They talk of vengeance and justice (“Frankie & Albert”; “Jim Jones”), romance and tenderness (“Tomorrow Night,” “Froggie Went a Courtin’”), the troubled and trouble-free (“Hard Times,” “Sittin’ on Top of the World”). They lend voice to lovers scorned and freed (“Blackjack Davey”), the used and users (“Diamond Joe”), the powerful and powerless (“Arthur McBride,” “Canadee-I-O”), the followed and followers (“Little Maggie”). And akin to much of Dylan’s finest output, things are not always what they appear to be.
Spanning country, folk, sea shanty, bluegrass, and blues motifs, Good As I Been to You re-confirms Dylan’s position as an elite interpreter and sculptor — not of just structure but emotion. Dylan delivers the tunes as if he’s known them forever. He plays with a subtle sense of mischievousness and retains a largely upbeat demeanor; his eyes seemingly twinkle as he sings and picks. His guitar serves as the guidepost for shuffles, boogies, ballads, and mess-arounds while his innate feel for each specific arrangement and melody helps inform pacing, tone, attack.
Like a great author, he understands the importance of adhering to concision, luring an audience, holding their attention, and maximizing the impact of details, actions, and unexpected turns. Though already coarse and ragged, his voice feels ideal for the subject matter and his phrasing — from the clever ways he stretches syllables to underline meanings on the surprise twists of “Canadee-I-O” to the sheer delight he gets from singing “rowdy-dow-dow” on the protest song “Arthur McBride” — outstanding.