Universal acclaim - based on 17 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 15 out of 17
  2. Negative: 0 out of 17
  1. Tell Tale Signs feels like a new Bob Dylan record, not only for the astonishing freshness of the material, but also for the incredible sound quality and organic feeling of everything here.
  2. The material from '97 on offers many surprises, particularly a dreamy alternate take on "Someday Baby" from "Modern Times" and the strident "Dreaming of You," which wouldn't have fit at all on "Time Out of Mind. Less essential are the live cuts, which only reinforce how Dylan's unpredictable phrasing and enunciation can render a song transcendent one moment ("Lonesome Day Blues," which sounds sourced from a bootleg), then unrecognizable ("Things Have Changed") or ordinary the next ("Cocaine Blues").
  3. Blender
    The eighth volume of the erractic and fancinating Bootleg Series, exhumes his unreleased music. [Nov 2008, p.80]
  4. With a musician as important as Bob Dylan, our appetite for fresh material and new insights is as deep as the artist's song trove, and Tell Tale Signs, the eighth installment of the songwriter's Bootleg Series, is a feast for casual fans and Dylanologists alike.
  5. Excitingly, Tell Tale Signs jumps decades ahead to offer an alternate history of a less leaky period: the creative renaissance that started at the end of the 1980s and has been bearing fruit ever since.
  6. The result is a wealth of different musical imaginings, which provides a fascinating glimpse of his creative process on Tell Tale Signs.
  7. Mojo
    Maybe if they'd dated this collection back to 1979 and the Christian albums, they'd have a more interesting storyline, but we definitely wouldn't have had a better collection of songs. [Nov 2008, p.122]
  8. Not everything is perfect here, the five live cuts, in particular, not particularly inspired choices. But you could lose yourself in these recordings.
  9. Tell Tale Signs subtly makes a good argument that Dylan’s later work is richer than expected.
  10. The reason Tell Tale Signs works so well from start to finish is that all the songs, even those that are modest on their own ('God Knows,' 'Miss the Mississippi'), are illuminated by the company they’re in.
  11. Q Magazine
    Nothing here is essential, but there will always be enough completeist to warrent airing of Dylan's old laundry. [Nov 2008, p.127]
  12. Tell Tale Signs makes plain that Dylan knows the caprices of the world he lives in, now more than ever.
  13. While the album undoubtedly brings more than a few great moments, what is most disappointing is that instead of celebrating the past two decades of Dylan's career, it calls the idea of such a celebration into question.
  14. As Dylan's official bootlegs go, this is one of the series' best.
  15. The eighth treasure trove in Dylan's Bootleg Series of unreleased material and alternate takes further illustrates that there is no such thing as a definitive recording of a Dylan song, just a snapshot of the great man's prevailing mood.
  16. For the familiar songs the original album choices were usually better, with tauter lyrics and arrangements pushing away from the generic. Still, with a songwriter like Mr. Dylan the rough drafts, alternate lyrics and multiple versions of “Dignity” and “Mississippi” are fascinating glimpses of how restlessly he tinkers with mood and meaning.
  17. 100
    Tell Tale Signs is awash with evidence of his staggering mercuriality, his evident determination even in the studio to repeat himself as little as possible, re-takes not merely the occasion for refinement, the honing of a song into static finality, but serial re-imaginings.

Awards & Rankings

User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 62 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 57 out of 62
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 62
  3. Negative: 5 out of 62
  1. PenineH.
    Nov 23, 2008
    Fantastic, many revealing surprises, and at least 2 of my now favorite Dylan songs.
  2. MatthewB.
    Nov 23, 2008
    My only quibble, and it's a small one, is that I'd rather have more studio boots (more Bromberg sessions, please!), and less of the My only quibble, and it's a small one, is that I'd rather have more studio boots (more Bromberg sessions, please!), and less of the live stuff. The Bootleg Series has worked terrific when the live stuff has been specific shows (Live '66) or compilations of specific tours (Rolling Thunder). Taken out of those contexts and thrown in haphazardly...they just seem jarring and unexpected. I felt this way about Biograph, too. Still...there's not a track on there that won't become immediately essential to those who care about Mr. Dylan's work. The genius glows like burning coal (to steal from...let's see...who was that...?). Full Review »
  3. JohnH.
    Nov 10, 2008
    A dark and gloriously complex take on modern times, this album will be playing in my house every day for a long time. Rich, thick, beautiful.