In 1969, when rock’s first real bootleg, “Great White Wonder,” appeared, Bob Dylan responded with “Self Portrait.” When his label released the retrospective “Biograph” set in 1985, Dylan counterattacked with “Knocked Out Loaded.” After Columbia rolled out “The Bootleg Series” in 1991, and celebrated his songwriting legacy at Madison Square Garden the following year, Dylan decided to release two albums of Americana covers. No matter where Dylan travels, the past is close behind.

To combat European copyright laws, Dylan and Columbia have been emptying their vaults to maintain control over their intellectual property.

The first few volumes were released in extremely limited numbers in Europe only. More recently, all of his recordings from 1965-66 - 54 CDs in all, along with a treasure trove of live downloads -- were officially released over the last couple of years. Since these releases forced his hand, Dylan has released no original material since 2012’s “Tempest.”

Why would Dylan want the aggravation of competing with his past, when every Tom, Dick, and Heylin who passes for a music journalist these days is free to snark (and expose) their ignorance at Dylan’s expense, all over the internet? Dylan bravely, intelligently, side steps this problem by replaying a different past, one belonging to a previous, long gone era.

By revisiting, and transfiguring, the Great American Songbook, Dylan refracted these standards mostly through a prism of Frank Sinatra’s shot glasses. In a way, 2015’s “Shadows in the Night” was Dylan’s “Sings for Only the Lonely,” while last year’s “Fallen Angels” was his “Songs for Swingin’ Lovers.”


Which brings us to “Triplicate,” three diverse, 10-song, 32 minute albums, packaged together as a single statement.

Here, Dylan mirrors his 50 year old, mid-60s electric trilogy -- two single albums followed by a multiple set. Each of the three separate albums here, “‘Til the Sun Goes Down,” “Devil Dolls,” and “Comin’ Home Late,” offer a collection of standards with a unique, definitive theme, yet occasionally cross pollinate as if to comment on each other.

While “Triplicate” initially appears to be more of the same material explored over the previous two releases, after a couple of listens, different images emerge from the shadows.

It’s always tricky to read too much into Dylan’s songs, especially with the compositions selected here. However, it’s difficult not to recognize some of the themes found on “Triplicate” that populate his entire catalog: Restlessness (“I Guess I’ll Have To Change My Plans”), the elements (“Trade Winds,” “Stormy Weather”), wordplay (“There’s a Flaw in My Flue”), twists of fate (“This Nearly Was Mine”), existential dilemmas (“Why Was I Born?”), changing times (“The Best is Yet to Come,” “September of My Years”), and, of course, the mysteries of love (take your pick.) So, “Triplicate” is basically your typical Dylan album, except for the arrangements and the material.


There are some differences here, contrasting with his previous two outings, most notably the prominent presence of brass on a number of selections, as also favored by Ol’ Blue Eyes. While Dylan previously pared down the big band arrangements usually associated with Sinatra’s recordings, here on tracks like “Braggin’” and “Day In, Day Out,” for example, the music bursts out from the speakers with all its required swagger. Dylan’s voice -- part Frank, part Groucho -- is one of satisfaction and relaxed confidence. You can almost see his repressed smile.

Baby Boomers may congratulate themselves on toppling the former musical regime, with Dylan, the Beatles, and the like, purposefully or not, leading the battle charge.

However, the material chosen here shines a light on a time when musical talent and knowledge ruled the day (and night). Emotions were transcribed, then expressed by others with class and style. Dylan may be a tough ol’ bird, but deep down, apparently he’s a real softie.