Monday, August 17, 2015

Beneath A Diamond Sky: Unreleased Acoustic Recordings, 1989

Beneath A Diamond Sky
Acoustic 1989

She Belongs To Me - Live - Rochester Hills - July 6, 1989
Girl From The North Country - Live - Chicago - July 2, 1989
Baby Let Me Follow You Down - Live - Berkeley - September 3, 1989
Mr. Tambourine Man - Live - Boston - October 24, 1989
Lakes Of Pontchartrain - Live - Frejus - June 13, 1989
Every Grain Of Sand - Live - Athens - June 28, 1989
Love Minus Zero/No Limit - Live - Chicago - October 31, 1989
In The Pines - Live - Milwaukee - July 3, 1989
It Ain't Me Babe - Live - Glasgow - June 6, 1989
Forever Young - Live - Barcelona - June 16, 1989


Art + Notes


This collection is not quite the revelatory set that the two other Thousand Highways Collection 1989 compilations are, but it is interesting nonetheless.

The songs consist entirely of acoustic performances from 1989. This is right in the heart of one of Dylan's most fertile periods for performing acoustic songs, alongside 1961-1966, 1975, 1995, and 1999-2002. The songs aren't as strong as those played the preceding year, but offer more intriguing renditions of the singer's own catalog; while 1988's acoustic sets were strongest when representing traditional songs, 1989's are at their best in the presentation of original material.

The summer tours make up the bulk of this set, due largely to Dylan's more limited vocal range in the Fall, and clearer tapes. The electric songs from the Fall Tour are loud enough to make it across the hiss of tape, but the acoustic songs fared less well. Even so, missing "Mr. Tambourine Man" from the Fall Tour would be a shame, so a performance from Boston graces this collection.

Notable inclusions are a very rare outing for "Baby Let Me Follow You Down," the only live acoustic performance of "Every Grain of Sand," one of only three live performances of "In The Pines," and a very beautiful "Forever Young." Note that "Every Grain of Sand" had appeared on another Thousand Highways compilation, but I thought it too good not to include here. It is, perhaps, the defining acoustic performance of the year.

"In The Pines" is intriguing, as it is said to be based on a version of the old song made popular by Bill Monroe, rather than the more familiar variant popularized by Leadbelly. I've not heard the Bill Monroe version, so I can't comment on whether this is true or not.

"It Ain't Me Babe" is the performance mentioned in Andrew Muir's One More Night, in which the singer messes around with the audience's capacity to sing along. "Lakes of Pontchartrain" is, as ever, utterly beautiful, and should be in everyone's collection. This is the performance that originally brought the song to my attention some years ago. I wish Dylan had recorded a studio cut of this at some point, but there is no evidence to suggest that he did.

The guitar work is pretty great throughout, owing to the combined efforts of the singer and the guitarist G. E. Smith, who played lead guitar in the year's electric sets. It really comes across in "Girl From The North Country," "Lakes of Pontchartrain," and "It Ain't Me Babe," but is quite pleasant throughout. Smith is one of the best accompanists that has played with Bob Dylan so far, and his talents are well-represented here.

As always, I hope you enjoy this pleasant collection. Next month will bring the Fall 1991 tour to this website. It's not one of Bob Dylan's more popular touring years, but I think a listen to this compilation might just push you into the fan camp. It's sure to be an interesting listen!

Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.


Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Water Is Wide: Unreleased Live Recordings, 1989

The Water Is Wide - Live 1989
Volume One

Seeing The Real You At Last - Live - Poughkeepsie - October 20, 1989
I Want You - Live - Ottawa - July 30, 1989
One Irish Rover - Live - Peoria - July 1, 1989
Dead Man, Dead Man - Live - New York City - October 12, 1989
Shelter From The Storm - Live - Milano - June 19, 1989
Queen Jane Approximately - Live - New York City - October 12, 1989
Man Of Peace - Live - New York City - October 12, 1989
House Of Gold - Live - Athens - June 28, 1989
The Water Is Wide - Live - Dublin - June 3, 1989
When You Gonna Wake Up - Live - Poughkeepsie - October 20, 1989
Trouble - Live - Atlanta - August 16, 1989
Congratulations - Live - Glasgow - June 6, 1989
Trail Of The Buffalo - Live - Atlanta - August 16, 1989
Most Of The Time - Live - Ithaca - October 29, 1989
Like A Rolling Stone - Live - The Hague - June 10, 1989


The Water Is Wide - Live 1989
Volume Two

Absolutely Sweet Marie - Live - Poughkeepsie - October 20, 1989
Tears Of Rage - Live - Patras - June 26, 1989
What Good Am I - Live - New York City - October 13, 1989
Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I Go Mine) - Live - The Hague - June 10, 1989
It Takes A Lot To Laugh - Live - New York City - October 13, 1989
John Brown - Live - Birmingham - June 7, 1989
Early Morning Rain - Live - Stanhope - July 17, 1989
Silvio - Live - Glasgow - June 6, 1989
Tomorrow Is A Long Time - Live - Rochester - July 6, 1989
I Believe In You - Live - Boston - October 24, 1989
Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues - Live - Milwaukee - July 3, 1989
Ring Them Bells - Live - Poughkeepsie - October 20, 1989
Just Like A Woman - Live - Glasgow - June 6, 1989
Everything Is Broken - Live - South Kingston - October 22, 1989
Peace In The Valley - Live - Frejus - June 13, 1989


Hello friends,

Welcome to the hotly anticipated 1989 installment of the Thousand Highways Collection! Settle in, because this set is a whopping two discs long.

1989 is a very weird, intense year for Bob Dylan concerts when juxtaposed with its immediate predecessor, 1988. Not only was the scope of the tour broadened to include many more countries (1988 only hit the United States) - the musical palette was expanded considerably. This was coupled with a significant increase in the gruffness of Dylan's vocals to create a tour that looked a lot like the one before but with very little musical similarity. While 1988 represented a performer playing his music with the most energy he could muster, 1989 presents a much more edgy, experimental side of the singer and band.

Due to the large number of songs on this set (30 in total!), I will not be conducting a track-by-track review. Instead, let's focus on some of the broader trends at work.

One of the primary sounds in the palette, and my favorite aspect of the year, was an emphasis on darker, minor key songs. This was more evident in the Fall Tour, as songs from Oh Mercy made their tour debut, but was present too in the summer. "What Good Am I?", "Most Of The Time," "Tears Of Rage," and "One Irish Rover" represent the more melancholy presentation of this sound. There is a bitterness that is particularly well-served by the growly delivery associated with these ballads.

The more uptempo manifestation of this sound is perhaps even more interesting. "John Brown," "Trail Of The Buffalo," "When You Gonna Wake Up," and "Dead Man, Dead Man" are all interestingly off-kilter performances. The words are not all there, but the vibe is expertly achieved. Check out that strange klezmer-esque instrumental in "Trail Of The Buffalo" or the pulsing bass of "John Brown." Even the feedback near the end of "Dead Man, Dead Man" serves to produce this environment of dark heat.

Dylan's 1960s material is given rather impressionistic treatment here as well. "Tears Of Rage" was spectacularly debuted in Greece, and "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" is as inventively arranged as Paul Williams suggests in his Performing Artist series. The author Clinton Heylin singles out this performance of "Queen Jane Approximately," played at the Beacon Theater in New York, as especially praiseworthy, and it's impossible to disagree. Evident on that song, as well as a handful of others (including a blisteringly paced "I Want You"), is the second interesting trend of the year - bizarre, rambling song endings. This sounds like a negative, and indeed sometimes it was, by the effect could be entirely mesmerizing. The end of "Queen Jane Approximately," for example, plays out like a completely different beautiful song.

This presents a challenge for the compiler, since songs had a tendency to evolve directly into the next track. I avoided this by splicing in some audience applause and using careful fades. Hopefully you won't find this intrusive!

The third trend in Dylan's sound on these tours was an increased reliance on inventive cover performances. This presents a continuity with the 1986 tour, but represents a striking break with 1987 and 1988. While the acoustic set had included covers in 1988, the electric set consisted primarily of Dylan originals. As suggested by the circulating rehearsals for 1989's touring, though, there was a distinct emphasis on performing a wide, wide ranger of covers in this year.

On The Water Is Wide, you will find "Peace In The Valley," "House Of Gold," "Early Morning Rain," and an electrified rendition of "The Water Is Wide." Of these, one is a gospel song popularized by Elvis Presley, one is a moralizing Hank Williams country tune, one is a mournful lament by Dylan's contemporary, Gordon Lightfoot, and one is a traditional English song of seventeenth century origin. He had "Early Morning Rain" and "The Water Is Wide" before, on Self-Portrait and the Rolling Thunder Revue respectively, but never performed them so effectively. "The Water Is Wide," in particular, remains one of Bob Dylan's most powerful live performances, at least to this listener.

Other intriguing bits include an uptempo country arrangement of "Tomorrow Is A Long Time," apocalyptic electric blues as represented by "Man Of Peace" and "Everything Is Broken," one of the only two airings of the Traveling Wilburys' "Congratulations," and one of the most rollicking performances of "Like A Rolling Stone" this side of 1981.

These trends would continue into 1990, and is represented by the winter London / Paris residency on the Thousand Highways Collection with a CD called Town Without Pity. I'm not sure any of the following years accomplished quite the scope of 1989, however. 

The one thing you are missing on this release is representation of the singer's acoustic sets. I will be rectifying that with an all-acoustic bonus disc later this month, so keep your eyes on the blog. The sound quality of 1989's tapes is wildly inconsistent, and favored the electric tracks, so in general the acoustic songs do not have the same impact as those in the preceding year. Still, there are some truly remarkable performances, and I'd hate for them to pass you by.

Until next time, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes!


Update - August 3, 2015: Volume One was several seconds too long for a single disc, so all relevant links were re-uploaded tonight with altered versions of "Congratulations" and "Most Of The Time." Let me know if the problem persists.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Non-Music Resource Post

Hello everyone!

Since there is no bonus disc for the month of July, I thought you might enjoy some kind of update. In this case, it will be a brief explanation of pleasant online resources available to the diehard Dylan fans of the world. This is in the spirit of my recommended reading, which you can find here. Be aware that the following resources are in no particular order:

(1) Oloj Bjorner

This website has virtually everything you might want to know. The Yearly Chronicles section is a thoughtful analysis of Bob Dylan's artistic output (music, movies, books) divided into pages centered on specific years. It offers a remarkably detailed breakdown of live songs played on a tour, recommended shows, and even an outline of unreleased content becoming available. The Still On The Road page is my favorite part of the site, though, and functions as the primary resource from which I pull my information. It is a text list of every show played by the artist, along with songs played, band information, notable firsts or last, transcribed banter, and more. You really couldn't ask for a more helpful resource than this, and I wish more musicians had such inspired fan projects!

(2) Lossless Bob

This one is comparatively new to me, though I have been aware of it for years. It is a catalog of Bob Dylan unreleased recordings, which is each assigned a number. An analysis of the recording is presented, along with resources like relevant text files and checksum data (for my fellow archival nerds out there). This person has essentially generated a cataloging standard for unreleased recordings, and it is very helpful when you hear a concert and wonder if an alternative tape exists.

(3) Electric Ladyland

Electric Ladyland is a top-notch website for finding unreleased music. Their search feature is significantly better than Dimeadozen, and the community is very responsive to requests for reseeding concerts. Much of the second round of the Thousand Highways collection was downloaded from fellow fans on this site.

(4) Bob Dylan Official Website

This official website may have seen its best days in the 1990s and 2000s, when its staff was publishing unreleased and rare content via downloadable files, but it's still one of the better artist pages out there. You will find a list of every Bob Dylan song, and a little exploring will take you to lyrics and a list of times the song was played live. It's updated pretty frequently, and features some cool multimedia content (music videos, articles, etc.).

(5) Searching For A Gem

Searching For A Gem is, like Lossless Bob, a wonderful resource for tracking official releases. In the case of my blog, this has sadly led to a handful of intended tracks not making it onto compilations, since they have been officially released in very obscure ways. The orchestral "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," for example, was released on a European version of the MTV Unplugged Dignity single. Happily, being aware of these releases keeps the material on this website from stepping on anyone's toes and making it fall into more problematic content. I am always impressed at the capacity for comprehensiveness of the contributors to Searching For A Gem.

I hope you enjoy these links. Let me know if I missed anything!


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Voice Without Restraint: Unreleased Live Recordings, 1986

A Voice Without Restraint
Live Recordings - 1986

Let The Good Times Roll - Live - Reno - June 11, 1986
All Along The Watchtower - Live - Philadelphia - July 19, 1986
Clean Cut Kid - Live - Chicago - June 29, 1986
I'll Remember You - Live - New York City - July 15, 1986
Shot Of Love - Live - New York City - July 17, 1986
Lenny Bruce - Live - Nagoya - March 8, 1986
Union Sundown - Live - Saratoga Springs - July 13, 1986
I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know - Live - Sydney - February 24, 1986
Band Of The Hand - Live - Chicago - June 29, 1986
When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky - Live - New York City - July 15, 1986
I Dreamed I Saw Saint Augustine - Live - Philadelphia - July 19, 1986
Red Cadillac & A Black Mustache - Live - Chicago - June 29, 1986
Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues - Live - Nagoya - March 8, 1986
I & I - Live - New York City - July 17, 1986
In The Garden - Live - Los Angeles - August 3, 1986
One Too Many Mornings - Live - Chicago - June 29, 1986
Rock 'Em Dead - Live - Los Angeles - August 3, 1986
House Of The Rising Sun - Live - New York City - July 17, 1986


Good morning/afternoon/evening, folks!

Welcome to the 1986 Bob Dylan show. This is one of the more intense years of touring, in terms both of shows performed and style of performance; it bears a striking resemblance to 1978 in its nearly unprecedented (until that point) number of concerts, and is quite similar to 1974 and 1988 in the forceful vocal delivery. Don't let that put you off, though! There's plenty of gold in these shows, in spite of the singer's own admission of feeling adrift in 1986 in his autobiography.

Of particular thematic interest is the year's emphasis on 1950s rockabilly songs. These are represented on this compilation by "Let The Good Times Roll," "Red Cadillac & A Black Mustache," and "Rock 'Em Dead." The first is a very well-known early rock tune, but the second and third have more peculiar histories.

"Red Cadillac" was written and recorded by Warren Smith in 1957, but went unreleased until 1973. Others recorded the song between those two years, and Dylan recorded and played live a version of the song in 1986. He would also go on to record a very different version for a Sun Records tribute in 2001, but that is off-limits for the blog since it has been officially released.

"Rock 'Em Dead" is also rather bizarre. Though the song is often referred to as "Uranium Rock," it bears little resemblance to that Warren Smith recording. Notably, it makes no reference to uranium! Instead, it is fairly representative of a writing technique employed by Dylan in the mid-1980s. Much like his re-write of Roy Head's "Treat Her Right" into "Shake," and his re-write of his own song "Someone's Got A Hold Of My Heart" into "Has Anybody Seen My Love," this was largely a revision of a pre-existing song into something different. Arguably, this is the root of the writing technique that the singer would go on to use to excellent effect on "Love & Theft" and "Modern Times."

Prior to the beginning of the Never-Ending Tour in 1988, Dylan played his 1980s songs with regularity, so those are emphasized on this set. "I'll Remember You" and "Lenny Bruce" are offered here in definitive performances. The latter features a lengthy introduction comparing the song's titular figure to Tennessee Williams in their influence and lack of recognition in their own lifetimes.

"Union Sundown" is sadly a bit incoherent, aside from the chorus, but the emphatic nature of the rendition makes up for its lyrical confusion. "Clean Cut Kid" and "Band Of The Hand" are quite spirited too, and in the same vein as Dylan's other 'rant' songs from the '80s like "Foot Of Pride" and "The Groom's Still Waiting At The Altar." Perhaps unfortunately, this is a style he wouldn't generally return to after this decade (excepting perhaps "TV Talkin' Song" from 1990).

"When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky" is more suggestive of the direction Dylan would be headed with the early Never-Ending Tour in 1989, with its dark sound and darker themes. It is a bit more atmospheric than the interesting version played in 1987, but no less rocking. "In The Garden," too, is a bit atmospheric, and represents my favorite arrangement of this intense gospel song. Along with "I & I," this song is heavily dependent on the background vocals.

I believe that Dylan's vocal relationship with his backup singers came to its peak in 1986. Though he had a trio singing behind him since 1978, he seems to have improved in complementing them as the years went by. In this year of touring, particularly, he weaves around their well-structured harmonizing in a very intriguing fashion. Listen to how he simply leaves aside vocalizing certain lines in "I & I" and "In The Garden," favoring instead the emphasizing of a final word or phrase. It's pretty interesting stuff, no doubt. One technical note - I have spliced out the lengthy repetition of the chorus phrase at the conclusion of “I & I.” According to Olof Bjorner’s website, a few days earlier “sees my face and lives” was repeated 56 times! You can’t hear the splice, but in case someone would prefer a purer version, and un-shortened version is included as bonus material alongside the art and notes.

Though the 1980s material is emphasized, Bob Dylan's 1960s songs are present here as well. "All Along The Watchtower" is featured in a fairly unique slow arrangement that sounds a bit similar to "When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky." "I Dreamed I Saw Saint Augustine" is an absolutely beautiful rendition, as is the acoustic "One Too Many Mornings." Paul Williams described the singer as having seemingly dedicated himself fully to performances of "One Too Many Mornings" on this summer tour, and it's hard to argue with that assessment. Interestingly, this would essentially mark the end of Bob Dylan's solo acoustic performances, since from 1988 his acoustic sets featured, at minimum, one additional guitarist. Finally, "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" is a notable one-off from the 1986 tour. If you listen closely, you can actually hear Dylan calling out the chords during the song's opening. Unsurprisingly, it comes off a bit under-rehearsed, but is a beguiling performance nonetheless. It's one of my favorite songs, so I was glad to hear that it was played at least once with the Heartbreakers.

A few more covers round out the set. "I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know," which was recorded for and published on Self Portrait in 1970, appeared with regularity on this tour. It works largely due to Tom Petty's subtle harmony on the title line. "House Of The Rising Sun" is also presented here in a rare outing. It would go on to be played less successfully in 1987, but here it is simply sublime. Though it is not present on this edit, after playing the song Bob Dylan explained to the extremely receptive New York City crowd that the band was into overtime and could not keep playing! They certainly earned a break, having played a full 23 songs that night.

Please note that a handful of absolutely wonderful songs are not present on this set, but are available elsewhere in the Thousand Highways Collection. In particular, "Lucky Old Sun" is on the One More Night compilation, and "Emotionally Yours," "Across The Borderline," "We Had It All," and "Lonesome Town" can be found on Ashes & Dust: 1985 - 1986.

I hope you enjoy the set. Having not enjoyed the 1986 shows for a long time, I was converted by the Wasteland Of Your Mind compilation, created by Expecting Rain member Nellie. While a fair number of recordings from this year suffer from being performed in the early days of digital recording and feature a rather harsh, metallic sound, it is possible to find some rather outstanding tapes; I like to think that A Voice Without Restraint presents the best of this material.

Next month, we will jump forward to a rather extensive compilation concerning Bob Dylan's ambitious 1989 tours. There is some very cool, very intense music there, so don't forget to check back in on August 1! Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Looking For Heaven: Unreleased Live Recordings, Fall 1978

Looking For Heaven
Fall 1978

My Back Pages - Live - Jackson - November 28, 1978
I’m Ready - Live - New York City - September 30, 1978
Shelter From The Storm - Live - Charlotte - December 10, 1978
Tangled Up In Blue - Live - Seattle - November 10, 1978
Ballad Of A Thin Man - Live - Charlotte - December 10, 1978
Maggie’s Farm - Live - Charlotte - December 10, 1978
Going, Going, Gone - Live - New York City - September 30, 1978
One More Cup Of Coffee - Live - Carbondale - October 28, 1978
Where Are You Tonight - Live - Columbia - December 9, 1978
I Want You - Live - New York City - September 30, 1978
Masters Of War - Live - Seattle - November 10, 1978
To Ramona - Live - Columbia - December 9, 1978
All Along The Watchtower - Live - Carbondale - October 28, 1978
All I Really Want To Do - Live - Jackson - November 28, 1978
Band Introduction - Live - Seattle - November 10, 1978
It’s Alright Ma - Live - Seattle - November 10, 1978
Forever Young - Live - Columbia - December 9, 1978


Alright, friends: I got too excited about this tour and just had to publish this as a bonus release.

Welcome to the bizarre road trip that is Bob Dylan’s 1978 Fall Tour. While portions of the tour have appeared on the earlier 1978 Thousand Highways compilation, The Road Is Long, it struck me that the tour is notable enough to have a full disc dedicated to it. The earlier compilation focused on songs that were unrepresented on the official At Budokan album; for this new set, any song was fair game. Let’s walk through them, one-by-one.

The instrumental “My Back Pages” was too excellent an opener to omit from the CD. While the final chorus proclamation was either inaudible or not present on other recordings, this version from Jackson presents it clearly.

“I’m Ready” is a swinging Willie Dixon cover. Prior to finding this clean tape from New York, I had not heard a high quality recording and it does not disappoint. It sounds surprisingly like Dylan’s later original composition, “Beyond Here Lies Nothin’.” It's also hard not to hear significance in the lines "I been looking for heaven / Ain't found it in this world at all" in light of later recordings from 1979 to 1981.

By the time that Bob Dylan’s 1978 “big band” tour had moved from Japan to the United States by way of Europe, the arrangements had developed significantly. “Shelter From The Storm” was the most changed - it has lost the operatic chorus overture and has instead been given a vocal chorus by the back-up singers.

“Tangled Up In Blue” is yet another beautiful performance of this classic song, introduced as a ballad about three people in love with each other all at the same time. This vocal is the sound of a man telling the truth.

The fifth song, “Ballad Of A Thin Man,” sounds like it was written for this tour. The horns and back-up singers raise the bombastic qualities of this menacing narrative. Plus Dylan’s bizarre introduction about the circus geek is just delightful.

“Maggie’s Farm,” the third and final song from December’s noteworthy Charlotte concert, is a truly rollicking version. The drum interlude seems unique to this night’s performance.

“Going, Going, Gone” is another track that had changed significantly since its appearance on the Spring Japanese tour. The tempo changes and altered lyrics have gotten much more precise.

Track eight, “One More Cup Of Coffee,” is sadly not one that includes this tour’s peculiar introduction. I recommend seeking it out, but the performance on this version was worth the loss. In particular, the rambling conga and piano duet during the song is clearer and stronger here than when it was played at later dates.

“Where Are You Tonight” is played following a self-deprecating remark concerning the sales of Street Legal. Though the track was not consistently performed throughout the year, it is on fire on this recording. The blaring organ is reminiscent of Dylan’s finest 1960s material.

On the other hand, “I Want You” is both a song that was consistently performed in 1978, and one that doesn’t sound a bit like Bob Dylan’s 1960s recordings. The song is performed here as a vocally centered ballad. The singer’s brief improvisation on the final chorus is reminiscent of his beautiful renditions of “Nobody ‘Cept You” from 1974.

“Masters Of War” is the prototype for how the song would be played until 1994’s acoustic revision, and is a scathing performance. The guitar work is so powerful that the band picks the song back up for a brief encore.

This iteration of “To Ramona” sounds like what the song could have been like on Dylan’s 1966 tour. The lyrics are spat out with gusto and swelling instruments fill in between verses.

“All Along The Watchtower,” which is often performed with driving guitar, is instead propelled here by a fiery violin. David Mansfield, as ever, is ready to rise to the occasion.

The rarely played “All I Really Want To Do,” is one of the greatest successes of Bob Dylan’s 1978 World Tour. Played from the beginning of the year to the end, it is pushed along by a buoyant saxophone and largely improvised lyrics. From night to night, they vary, but are generally along a pretty whimsical central line of being… ‘friends’ and nothing more.

I don’t tend to include band introductions, but this is an exception. Among the other wacky intros, Dylan introduces his back-up singers as his ex-girlfriend, current girlfriend, and fiancee. David Mansfield is described as knowing nothing about smoking dope, drinking whiskey, or chasing women. The singer sums up the more decadent aspects of the tour by following up this comment with the off-hand remark, “he’s learning, though.”

“It’s Alright Ma” is fascinating, in that it bears a striking resemblance to the arrangement played in 2007. Besides that, the song is quite a firecracker in its own right, sounding shockingly like you could be hearing a lost tape from 1976.

Finally, the set wraps up with a beautiful performance of “Forever Young.” As Paul Williams wrote, this song can sometimes sound a bit too anthemic, but comes straight from the heart on this night.

A note about the concerts: 1978 offers one of the more varied and eccentric sets of recordings, as far as sound profile is concerned. The setlist changed little from night-to-night, but the recordings sound radically different. My preference is for December 9’s Columbia show, as the sound is compressed into utter immediacy. The Carbondale show from October 28 is probably the clearest tape. November 28 would be better represented here, but is a bit quieter than the other nights and did not fit well between the other songs on this compilation.

For the avid collector, I strongly recommend seeking out complete tapes from the concerts represented in this compilation. It was a tight run between nightly performances, so the track was generally chosen from two to three worthy alternatives. It’s a pretty entertaining tour overall, descending into some pretty outrageously over-the-edge nights, before Dylan converted that energy into his powerful gospel shows the following year.



Monday, June 1, 2015

Back In The Rain: Unreleased Live Recordings, 1976

Back In The Rain
The Rolling Thunder Revue - 1976

Stuck Inside Of Mobile - Live - New Orleans - May 3, 1976
Isis - Live - Oklahoma City - May 18, 1976
I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight - Live - Lakeland - April 18, 1976
One Too Many Mornings - Live - Fort Worth - May 16, 1976
You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome - Live - Oklahoma City - May 18, 1976
You’re A Big Girl Now - Live - New Orleans - May 3, 1976
Positively 4th Street - Live - Houston - January 25, 1976
Romance In Durango - Live - San Antonio - May 11, 1976
I Pity The Poor Immigrant - Live - New Orleans - May 3, 1976
Just Like A Woman - Live - Clearwater - April 22, 1976
I Want You - Live - Oklahoma City - May 18, 1976
Shelter From The Storm - Live - New Orleans - May 3, 1976
Going, Going, Gone - Live - Fort Worth - May 16, 1976
Idiot Wind - Live - Fort Worth - May 16, 1976

Bonus Tracks

Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I Go Mine) - Live - Clearwater - May 19, 1976
A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall - Live - Fort Collins - May 23, 1976
(Sooner Or Later) One Of Us Must Know - Live - Wichita - May 19, 1976


Welcome back to the Rolling Thunder Revue! This set covers the second of the two Rolling Thunder tours. The first was in 1975, and the second was in 1976. While the first tour was fairly loose, the second was a rawer, rougher-hewn affair.

The personnel were similar, but the sound had changed radically. Gone was the standard setlist, replaced by a rotating set of songs. The emphasis had been altered from Dylan’s recently released Desire record to include a wider variety of songs, particularly from Blonde On Blonde and Blood On The Tracks.

1975’s more imaginative arrangements featuring congas, mandolins, and violins were largely replaced by distorted guitar, sometimes featuring a slide. Dylan himself took over lead guitar duties on occasion, though the band included such late twentieth century notables as T-Bone Burnette and Mick Ronson. Piano remained a significant force in the arrangements, as found on this compilation on “I Pity The Poor Immigrant” and “You’re A Big Girl Now.” The violin was still present, and is particularly fierce here on a raucous one-off performance of “Positively 4th Street.” Dylan doesn’t recall all of the words, but the song has lost none of its punch in the ten years since it was last played in concert. “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” is also rather endearing, presented as an appropriately boozy rendition.

Several of the songs here are earlier performances of those that would appear on Columbia’s official document of the tour, Hard Rain. They tend to lack the harsh power of those later shows, but make up for that loss with more nuanced vocals. “One Too Many Mornings” has not yet picked up the extra verse that it would by the end of the tour, and “Shelter From The Storm” features one of Dylan’s strongest voice performances.

While at the beginning of the tour, as found in the original un-aired Clearwater TV special, “Isis” had lost much of the punch that it had the previous year, it had picked up a radical new arrangement by mid-May. The version from May 16 seems to have been transitional, as that recording suggests a slow song that shifts tempo after a verse or two. By May 18, when the version on this set was recorded in Oklahoma City, the song was a fully rollicking, uptempo tune.

The bonus cuts here were found to be wanting in one way or another. All were very rare performances, but the sound quality on “Most Likely You Go Your Way” and “One Of Us Must Know” is very poor. “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” is interesting, and more traditional in arrangement than the bluesy version from 1975, but suffers from its increased length.

Since the songs are longer, not as many could be featured from the tour. Not present are any of the fantastic acoustic performances that tended to open the sets. You can find many of the best ones on other Thousand Highways collections.

I hope you enjoy the compilation. It’s been fun, but was fairly tough to assemble. The wide variety of quality in tapes from the second Rolling Thunder tour was challenging to arrange without presenting jarring transitions between songs. Hopefully, I’ve been reasonably effective in doing so. Here’s my one recommendation: play it loud.

Next month, we will be skipping ahead ten years to Bob Dylan's 1986 tour with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. While their more experimental 1987 tour has been featured on this site before, 1986 has been documented only through a handful of cuts on Ashes & Dust and the One More Night releases. Get ready to receive a healthy dose of Dylan's rockabilly renaissance, with an emphasis on his covers and contemporary songs of the 1980s. Until next time, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Still Dreaming: Unreleased Acoustic Recordings, 1975

Tangled Up In Blue - Live - Toronto - December 2, 1975
With God On Our Side - Live - Providence - November 4, 1975 (Early)
I Don’t Believe You - Live - Bangor - November 27, 1975
Simple Twist Of Fate - Live - New York City - December 8, 1975
Mr. Tambourine Man - Live - Toronto - December 2, 1975
Fourth Time Around - Live - Augusta - November 26, 1975
Love Minus Zero/No Limit - Live - Toronto - December 1, 1975
It’s Alright Ma - Live - Providence - November 4, 1975 (Late)
It's All Over Now, Baby Blue - Live - Toronto - December 1, 1975

I told you there would be a bonus in May, and here it is!

This set of recordings is fairly interesting, if a bit short. Bob Dylan performed at least one acoustic song per night on his 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue tour, and as many as three. This was a brief interlude of sorts between another performer’s act and his second electric set, but was met with significant warmth by the audiences. Just listen to the start of Mr. Tambourine Man, included in this collection, for evidence of the crowd’s appreciation.

Unfortunately, unlike the surprisingly varied selection of acoustic songs in the following year, only nine separate songs are known to have been performed in 1975. One version of each is included here. Generally, sound quality is not as great as the electric sets. I find this a bit shocking, since typically the reverse is true (refer to the 1966 tapes for comparison). In some cases, the entire tape is problematic, like Augusta, but in others, the acoustic songs are inexplicably less distinct than electric tracks from the same night; December 2 is a characteristic example. I altered harmonica levels, re-EQ’d tracks, added some reverb and performed some very minor noise reduction to eliminate some distortion on the November 27 and December 1 & 2 recordings. On the performance from November 4 (Early), a splice was necessary to eliminate feedback.

Happily, some tracks here are crystal clear. “With God On Our Side,” “Simple Twist of Fate,” and “It’s Alright Ma” are beautiful recordings, and little work has been done to them. I worked on the remainder of the tracks to make them a bit clearer. You can compare the edits and the originals to judge for yourself, but I am reasonably proud of the results. There is no way to make these sound as excellent as Columbia’s Bootleg Series Volume 5, but they make an interesting addition to that official release. Much like the electric sets, Dylan’s performance of the acoustic tracks could vary radically from night to night. The songs overall maintain something of a dreamlike character, which inspired the title of the collection.

In short, this compilation should serve as a convenient way to assemble the acoustic performances of the year in one place. It also acts as a nice extension of the full Thousand Highways Rolling Thunder exhibition, Unknown Country. If you haven’t sought that one out, do so as soon as possible. Similarly, Columbia has released several incredible documents from the 1975 tour, including The Bootleg Series Volume 5, The Renaldo & Clara EP, and Biograph/Side Tracks. If you enjoy the tracks here, you’ll love those official releases all the more.

Until next time, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.