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Sunday, April 20, 2014

One More Night: Unreleased Live Recordings, 1961 - 2014 (Volume One)


One More Night
Unreleased Live Recordings, 1961 - 2014
Volume One

Maggie's Farm - September 22, 1985
Going, Going, Gone - May 16, 1976
Fourth Time Around - May 27, 1966
A-11 - March 11, 2005
When You Gonna Wake Up? - October 20, 1989
Saving Grace - November 16, 1979
Born In Time - January 17, 1998
Love Minus Zero/No Limit - May 3, 1976
Under The Red Sky - November 7, 2013
Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues - April 18, 1976
The Times We've Known - November 1, 1998
I Dreamed I Saw Saint Augustine - July 19, 1986
Subterranean Homesick Blues - August 3, 2002
Poor Lazarus - December 22, 1961
It Takes A Lot To Laugh (It Takes A Train To Cry) - February 3, 1990
Visions Of Johanna - November 27, 2005

Bonus Tracks

Handsome Molly - July 29, 1961
Just Like A Woman - May 27, 1966
She's Love Crazy - October 29, 1978
When Did You Leave Heaven? - July 21, 1989
My Blue-Eyed Jane - February 5, 1999
Like A Rolling Stone - June 24, 2004
Jolene - November 15, 2009

Link


Welcome friends,

This set constitutes the first volume of a “best of the rest” compilation. For those who have obtained the many earlier CDs of the Thousand Highways collection, certain periods may have gone under-represented. Conspicuously, 1996-1998 were absent, as were recordings from 2004 outside of the Spring Tour, 2005 outside of the Brixton Residency, 1989 – 1993 outside of the recordings associated with Dylan’s studio output from that era, and Rolling Thunder-period performances which were composed earlier than 1974. I hope this final 5-CD compilation fills in some of those gaps, and expands on the already-extensive Thousand Highways collection.

With that said, I would like to give some brief details on each track. The first, “Maggie’s Farm,” was played by Bob Dylan at the first Farm Aid set, and was highlighted by author Paul Williams as an especially spirited recording. I can’t say I disagree, and it came across as the highlight of an excellent concert.

The second track, “Going, Going, Gone,” remains to me the definitive rendition of this song. The singer is hardly word-perfect, but the song has been re-written to great effect. The final verse in particular is hair-raising.

“Fourth Time Around” is a beautiful rendition made warmer still by the pleasant vinyl transfer. I am unaware of the origin of this recording, but it came to me by way of the consistently great The Bob Dylan and The Hawks British Judas Concerts 1966 collection.

“A-11” is a personal favorite, as I love the old recording by Buck Owens. This recording is high-quality, and represents an aspect of Dylan’s performance art – his country covers from the early years of the 21st century. The violin is dazzling as well.

The fifth song, “When You Gonna Wake Up,” begins a brief suite of faith-based songs. This song has been radically rewritten for the 1989 tour, though it appeared just this once before never being played again (as of Spring 2014). The arrangement is stunning, and consists of Dylan’s piano leading the band into clearly uncharted territory.

“Saving Grace” is the second song in the suite, and is again a definitive performance. While the studio version is wonderful, this is positively inspirational. The singer wrings every ounce of emotion out of the song.

The seventh track, “Born In Time,” was a highlight of the 1998 tours originating with the 1989 Oh Mercy sessions. You can hear demo versions of the song on The Bootleg Series, Volume 8 and the first volume of the Series of Dreams field recordings collection. The live recording is particularly spirited, with beautiful instrumentation.

“Love Minus Zero/No Limit” is a rare performance of the song from 1976 at the well-regarded New Orleans concert. It features some pleasant harmonica and the smoky, textured vocals of that era.

“Under The Red Sky” was performed at the second of two Rome concerts in 2013, and stands out as representative of the high quality from that Autumn Tour. Dylan’s piano-playing is at the forefront, and that makes this even better than the frequently excellent performances of this song over the years. The song didn’t quite make the cut on an earlier compilation, Ivory, but it fits in very well her.

The tenth song, “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” is another Rolling Thunder gem. Despite the limitations in the Lackland tape from that year (also featuring a notable “If You See Her, Say Hello”), this track came through loud and clear. The vocals are heads above what was present on the 1976 rehearsal tape, and the singer turns many phrases inside out – see the verse concerning the “sergeant at arms.”

Song eleven, “The Times We’ve Known,” is a favorite in the fan community. Dylan’s performance of this Charles Aznavour classic is deeply touching. Though it often circulates as a soundboard recording originally offered for free download from bobdylan.com, this audience recording offers a warmer, fuller sound.

“I Dreamed I Saw Saint Augustine” is one of the greatest performances of this song that I’ve heard, though I may be biased in favor of its inclusion – the song is one of my favorites by this artist. It offers a stark portrayal of one’s humility when faced with the divine, and though I’m not sure this performance conveys those depths, Dylan’s aside (“it’s alright”) cements it as an absolutely committed rendition. Look forward to an recording of this song from the Rolling Thunder Revue on one of the later volumes in this series. As a fun fact, the 1986 performance is noted afterward as being a very special request from a very special person, though she’s apparently not at the show! Funny stuff.

“Subterranean Homesick Blues” is a fun recording from the Newport Folk Festival in 2002. Its rhythm is all over the place in the best possible way, and one wonders if Dylan had been influenced by his own recording of “Cry A While” the previous year.

The fourteenth song, “Poor Lazarus,” is one of the earliest we have a record of him performing, as documented on the Riverside Church tape of early 1961. This performance dates from the end of that year, when the singer’s had the chance to perfect his delivery of a truly tragic, archetypical American tale: the young man gunned down and mourned by his mother while his father laments him as a fool and his sister's poverty keeps her from being at his funeral. The song is deeply powerful, and is reminiscent to me of the old song “Delia.”

“It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry” is a growly blues song from Dylan’s lauded Hammersmith Residency of 1990. This was squeezed out of the compilation “Town Without Pity,” but seemed to accompany the other tracks here quite well. Check out the “whoa!” as the song comes to its conclusion.

The final track, “Visions of Johanna,” is a unique treat. Considered by many to be one of the finest renditions of the song, it was delivered to an adoring audience in Dublin in the autumn of 2005. You can almost hear a different singer in each verse, teasing out every bit of nuance in the lyrics. The band’s light accompaniment is spot-on, particularly Denny Freeman’s sparking guitar.

Concerning the bonus tracks, I'd like to highlight this version of "Like A Rolling Stone" as originating in Glasgow, 2004; it's the version described by author Andrew Muir in his excellent One More Night history of the Never-Ending Tour, and described by Bob Dylan as having "the best singing audience we've ever heard." In addition, this edgy recording of "She's Love Crazy" is from the St. Louis show praised by Paul Williams in Performing Artist Volume Two.

Please enjoy this selection of songs, strung together by nothing besides their excellence. I think that despite their temporal disparity, they offer a cohesive picture of the singer and his worldview.

If you like the tracks, please be sure to download the original studio recordings present on the following records:


It is worth noting that this set has the auspicious distinction of being released on Easter Sunday, the happiest day of the year for a Christian such as myself. In that spirit, I would like to bid everyone a Blessed Easter. I would also like to thank again, though one cannot thank enough, the uploaders at Expecting Rain who have made the acquisition of many of these tracks possible - Lilraven in particular is a hero to the field recording community.

Next week is the second volume in the set. Don't miss it! Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.

Thanks for listening,
CS

Note: If you downloaded this on 4/20/14 before 11:20 PM EST, your set was missing a lossless recording of "When You Gonna Wake Up?" This has been fixed in a newly linked upload.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

In London: Unreleased Live Recordings, 2013


In London: Royal Albert Hall Residency, 2013

 Things Have Changed - November 28
She Belongs To Me - November 28
Beyond Here Lies Nothing - November 26
Pay In Blood - November 28
Waiting For You - November 26
Duquesne Whistle - November 28
Tangled Up In Blue - November 27
Love Sick - November 27
High Water - November 26
Simple Twist Of Fate - November 26
Forgetful Heart - November 26
Spirit On The Water - November 27
Long & Wasted Years - November 28
Roll On, John - November 26
Blowin' In The Wind - November 27


Welcome,

We were blessed with an extraordinary touring year by Bob Dylan in 2013, culminating in a triumphant residency at London's Royal Albert Hall. The evenings were filled with beautiful music, both joyful and reflective. This single-CD retrospective of those cool November nights will leave the listener with a warmth only found in the finest music.

Highlights include "She Belongs To Me," in a new arrangement, "Pay In Blood," "Waiting For You," perhaps the most perfect performance of "High Water" since 2005, a meditative "Simple Twist Of Fate," the majestic "Long & Wasted Years," and the absolutely radiant "Roll On, John."

Songs not included here are "What Good Am I," which was not as strong as it was on the Spring tour, "Early Roman Kings," "Soon After Midnight" and "Scarlet Town" from 2012's Tempest, and "All Along The Watchtower." None were as strong as the fifteen songs presented here, but all have been included as bonus tracks if you would like to add them to a playlist to complete the setlist.

If you were at these shows, I have no doubt you will be talking about them for years to come. If you weren't there, I hope you can live vicariously through this collection. If one or more of the tracks stand out to you, you can check out the great recordings by Soomlos and Spot, without whom this compilation would not exist. If you like the performance but not the tape, search around - alternate recordings exist for each night, and the alternates are excellent in their own right.

Minimal work has been done on the tracks: harmonizing volume levels and adding necessary unobtrusive fades to transition between songs comprise the majority of my involvement beyond compiling.

If you enjoy these marvelous concert recordings, give a listen to the records on which they appear in their original studio incarnations:

Bringing It All Back Home
Blood On The Tracks
Time Out Of Mind
The Essential Bob Dylan
"Love & Theft"
Modern Times
Together Through Life
Tempest

And it is with this release that the chronological CDs cease. In the coming five weeks, I will be uploading five overall retrospective sets not strung together by chronology or theme. These will contain tracks found on no other compilations here, and represent the "best of the rest," as it were. Since there were years not covered on my blog (1996 - 1998) and songs which did not fit the theme (pre-Blood On The Tracks songs on my Rolling Thunder set), I had a vast catalog of great songs to pick from. Hopefully these five final CDs will fill in the gaps effectively, completing the sketch of an artist collected on this website.

Thanks,
CS

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Ivory: Unreleased Live Recordings, 2012 - 2013


Ivory: Unreleased Live Recordings, 2012 - 2013

Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues - November 7, 2013
Saving Grace - August 29, 2012
It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) - October 12, 2013
Simple Twist Of Fate - October 22, 2013
Shadows - October 9, 2012
Joey - October 17, 2012
When The Deal Goes Down - November 7, 2013
Rollin' & Tumblin' - November 19, 2012
Ain't Talkin' - November 7, 2013
Delia - October 27, 2012
Mississippi - November 1, 2012
Highway 61 Revisited - November 19, 2012
Tangled Up In Blue - October 20, 2013

Bonus
Leopard-Skin Pill Box Hat - November 6, 2013
Dignity - November 1, 2012
Suzie Baby - July 10, 2013
Tryin' To Get To Heaven - July 8, 2012
Beyond Here Lies Nothin' - October 19, 2013


We should count ourselves lucky, because this set is the real deal: thirteen jazzy tracks from Dylan's piano-playing era. This began with 2012's European Tour and has continued to the current time (Spring 2014). It has been rapturously received, and has been a component of Dylan adopting a softer, jazz-like sound. Harder tracks have not been absent, but the piano-driven songs have tended toward a more introspective quality. Dylan can add one more "late-career renaissance" to an already well-populated list.

Even the uptempo songs play out like a painting on canvas, like the ever-reliable "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues," an inventive "Rollin' & Tumblin'," a unique violin-driven arrangement of "It's Alright Ma," a bold "Joey," the adventurous "Mississippi," and a bluesy "Highway 61 Revisited." Perhaps even stronger are the quiet songs, the nostalgic "Simple Twist of Fate," Gordon Lightfoot's "Shadows," an airy "When The Deal Goes Down," and the eerie "Ain't Talkin'." In the middle are the other tracks, gospel throwback "Saving Grace," the old blues "Delia," and an exquisitely beautiful performance of "Tangled Up In Blue."

The piano is the centerpiece of each song. Though the 2012 songs are excellent, Dylan's playing consistently improved during its presence in the set. The 2013 songs showcase the piano at its finest, but among the earlier track "Highway 61" and "Mississippi" are driven almost entirely by this instrument, embellished of course by the band.

From a production standpoint, some of these tracks proved problematic, though I'm proud of the results. Crystal Cat's fine Stockholm 2013 recording sounded great, but the vocals were comparatively muffled when juxtaposed with the surrounding songs; it was re-EQ'd to fit in, and still sounds great. "Shadows" proved tricky as well, as something about the recording makes it a bit indistinct. Though equalization could make it clearer, the overall tone of the recording suffered and I thought it best to leave it as is. None of the other tracks required such drastic alterations.

I hope you enjoy the songs and this peek into the set's production. The recordings are top-notch, and Dylan's performance is consistently engaging. Something about the airy quality produced by the piano creates a texture that runs through the full CD. Set it to play, sip some fine wine and have a lovely time.

If you like the CD, don't forget to purchase the original studio recordings of these songs, found on the following releases:

Bringing It All Back Home
Highway 61 Revisited
Blood On The Tracks
Desire
Saved
World Gone Wrong
"Love & Theft"
Modern Times

One editorial note concerning the above official releases: though I've not heard it yet, word is that the recently remastered Saved is very good, especially if you were a member of that album's fairly limited fan club (a club in which I count myself).

Next week will be the final chronological release, a review of Bob Dylan's very esteemed residency at the Royal Albert Hall in November 2013. It's really quite beautiful, and presents a compelling bookend when placed alongside the first set in this collection, Shades of Blue. I hope you think so too. Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.

Thanks,
CS

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Soon After Midnight: Unreleased Live Recordings, Spring 2013



Soon After Midnight - Spring Tour 2013

Things Have Changed - April 14, 2013
Workingman's Blues #2 - April 25, 2013
High Water - April 6, 2013
Soon After Midnight - April 19, 2013
Early Roman Kings - April 9, 2013
Pay In Blood - April 10, 2013
Visions Of Johanna - April 19, 2013
Spirit On The Water - April 9, 2013
Blind Willie McTell - April 10, 2013
What Good Am I - April 9, 2013
Beyond Here Lies Nothin' - April 19, 2013
Scarlet Town - April 14, 2013
Thunder On The Mountain - May 2, 2013


Here is my best attempt at compiling a best-of for such an extraordinary tour. To those who haven't listened to the shows, this tour may have seemed uninteresting or dull due to the unvarying setlists. To those who have heard them, this Spring tour was noted for its renewed attention to nuance.

For example, not even a chatting audience can damper the intensity of the opening "Things Have Changed." This song had been a highlight since 2011, but it really comes alive here.

"Workingman's Blues #2" appears for its only performance in 2013. The arrangement, while similar to the version on Modern Times, it unique to this tour. It's exceedingly stripped down, and is almost solo. Guitar, bass and drums occasionally make their presence known, but it is carried by the piano and vocal; if you listen closely, you can catch some interesting new lyrics.

I almost opted for the banjo-less "High Water" from Lewiston, but it lacked the drive found in those with Donnie Herron's imprint. Plus, though the electric guitar is less prominent here than on other nights, Dylan's vocals more than make up for it.

The performance of "Soon After Midnight" from the 19th stands above those from the rest of this tour, as Dylan finds new ways of singing this song. And Duke Robillard really gets the opportunity to open up on this one.

"Visions Of Johanna" is perhaps the most expressive performance since 2005. This song is always a treat, but it's surprising to hear it carried out so delicately.

The jazz vibe continues through the remainder of the evening. "What Good Am I" was described by one listener as defining the tour, and I agree wholeheartedly. The plaintive cry takes on new meaning in this rendition. When I saw the band in California, Pennsylvania, I was on the edge of my seat. It was just devastating, and that confessional quality is foregrounded here.

"Scarlet Town" is intriguing, and is not a song that worked every night of the tour. In Ithaca, however, it shone like a diamond. There is a delicate tone here that is typically reserved for "Visions of Johanna," and part of its power comes from the threat that it could slide off the edge at any moment. The piano is more prominent here than elsewhere, to the song's benefit.

And don't tune out before the end - this must be the best "Thunder On The Mountain" I've heard committed to tape since the studio release. Robillard casts a long shadow.

As always, some songs had to be cut. Neither "Ballad Of A Thin Man" nor "Tangled Up In Blue" were as strong on this tour as they have been in recent memory, and "All Along The Watchtower" did not stand out as particularly notable. "Tangled Up In Blue" would improve throughout the year, however, becoming one of the most consistent nightly songs by the Autumn Tour.

I hope you enjoy the collection - the shows were especially well-recorded this Spring, and we should all be deeply grateful to JF, emptyhandedpainter, Spot, Tom Moore, nic1333, jefft3881, and Dan Schram. They put posterity ahead of their own enjoyment, and we would not have these songs without their efforts. Their songs remain lossless here, and the only edits were to standardize volume and add fade-ins/fade-outs. If you like the sound of a track, I encourage you to check out that night's tape. Odds are the rest of it retains a similar level of quality. One technical note - the recording of Champaign (04-25-13) is rumored to be lossy-sourced. Whether this is true or not, the compilation benefits from its presence.

If you like these songs, be sure to purchase the original recordings, available on the following releases at bobdylan.com:

Blonde On Blonde
Oh Mercy
"Love & Theft"
Modern Times
Together Through Life
Tempest
The Essential Bob Dylan
The Bootleg Series, Volumes 1 - 3

Next week we will be looking back at the piano tours of 2012 to 2013 in an overview of the finest performances from that time, including a remarkable and unique rendition of Gordon Lightfoot's "Shadows." Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.

-CS

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Living By The Golden Rule: Unreleased Live Recordings, Spring 2011


Living By The Golden Rule: Spring Tour of Asia, 2011

Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking - April 13, 2011
My Wife's Home Town - April 10, 2011
Don't Think Twice, It's Alright - April 8, 2011
Tangled Up In Blue - April 8, 2011
Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum - April 8, 2011
Sugar Baby - April 3, 2011
Gotta Serve Somebody - April 3, 2011
Blind Willie McTell - April 12, 2011
Honest With Me - April 8, 2011
Simple Twist Of Fate - April 13, 2011
High Water - April 13, 2011
Desolation Row - April 8, 2011
Forever Young - April 6, 2011


Thanks to tapers Hide, Bach, Ghodlin, and Soomlos for gathering these rare and precious songs.

2011 was a good showing for Dylan's "Never-Ending Tour," and the Spring of that year was notable for representing his first concerts in China. This caused a bit of a media stir, including a direct response from the man himself; more on this later.

The shows, of course, were great. They favored newer material, and new arrangements of old songs. "Tangled Up In Blue," "Simple Twist Of Fate," "Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum," and "Honest With Me" were all given updated, marvelous treatments. All remained consistently in the set for the rest of the year, delighting fans around the world.

Of the songs here, "My Wife's Hometown" and "Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking" are probably the rarest, though both had been being played since 2009. "Gotta Serve Somebody," while not revelatory, is interesting primarily for the organ and band interaction. "Blind Willie McTell" is excellent, though it had not yet hit the peak it would from 2012 to 2013. "Desolation Row" is a fascinating exploration, in which several vocal techniques are used to great effect on various verses. It's an essential time capsule of Dylan's singing styles around this time.

Finally, "Forever Young" is just incredible. The last verse, in particular, is so moving you may just have to wipe a tear from your eye. This is not a song that I tend to seek out, but this version is truly significant.

As noted above, the media furor prompted a response from Bob Dylan. On his website, he published the following defense of the tour:

To my fans and followers

Allow me to clarify a couple of things about this so-called China controversy which has been going on for over a year. First of all, we were never denied permission to play in China. This was all drummed up by a Chinese promoter who was trying to get me to come there after playing Japan and Korea. My guess is that the guy printed up tickets and made promises to certain groups without any agreements being made. We had no intention of playing China at that time, and when it didn't happen most likely the promoter had to save face by issuing statements that the Chinese Ministry had refused permission for me to play there to get himself off the hook. If anybody had bothered to check with the Chinese authorities, it would have been clear that the Chinese authorities were unaware of the whole thing.

We did go there this year under a different promoter. According to Mojo magazine the concerts were attended mostly by ex-pats and there were a lot of empty seats. Not true. If anybody wants to check with any of the concert-goers they will see that it was mostly Chinese young people that came. Very few ex-pats if any. The ex-pats were mostly in Hong Kong not Beijing. Out of 13,000 seats we sold about 12,000 of them, and the rest of the tickets were given away to orphanages. The Chinese press did tout me as a sixties icon, however, and posted my picture all over the place with Joan Baez, Che Guevara, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. The concert attendees probably wouldn't have known about any of those people. Regardless, they responded enthusiastically to the songs on my last 4 or 5 records. Ask anyone who was there. They were young and my feeling was that they wouldn't have known my early songs anyway.

As far as censorship goes, the Chinese government had asked for the names of the songs that I would be playing. There's no logical answer to that, so we sent them the set lists from the previous 3 months. If there were any songs, verses or lines censored, nobody ever told me about it and we played all the songs that we intended to play.

Everybody knows by now that there's a gazillion books on me either out or coming out in the near future. So I'm encouraging anybody who's ever met me, heard me or even seen me, to get in on the action and scribble their own book. You never know, somebody might have a great book in them.


-Bob Dylan

It made for excellent reading, especially for his fans who knew what the critics did not: Bob Dylan is no nostalgia act, playing for an imagined 1960s folk audience. And that, I suppose, says it all.

If you enjoy these songs, you will undoubtedly enjoy the original studio recordings, available for purchase on the following albums:

Freewheelin'
Highway 61 Revisited
Planet Waves
Blood On The Tracks
Slow Train Coming
"Love & Theft"
Together Through Life
The Bootleg Series, Volumes 1-3

Next week, we will jump ahead to 2013 for Bob Dylan's spring tour with Duke Robillard on lead guitar. If you were at one of those shows, you know how special they were; if not, get ready to find out. Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.

-CS

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Center Stage: Unreleased Live Recordings, 2008 - 2012



Center Stage
Unreleased Live Recordings, 2008 - 2012

Gotta Serve Somebody - November 21, 2008
Shooting Star - October 13, 2009
Things Have Changed - July 30, 2011
Every Grain Of Sand - March 19, 2010
John Brown - October 9, 2012
This Dream Of You - October 15, 2009
Can't Wait - June 15, 2010
The Man In Me - June 12, 2010
Beyond Here Lies Nothing - October 13, 2009
Forgetful Heart - June 20, 2011
Cold Irons Bound - November 11, 2009
I Dreamed I Saw Saint Augustine - June 11, 2011
This Wheel's On Fire - March 16, 2010
Not Dark Yet - June 12, 2010
Ballad Of A Thin Man - July 6, 2012


Greetings,

This release consist of center stage performances by Bob Dylan from Autumn 2008 to Autumn 2012. Though this style of performing would continue past that point, it was especially novel and unique during these years. You won't catch the onstage visual idiosyncrasies that increased the concert-goer's delight, but I think the sound of these tracks provide enough of a picture.

I don't think it unfair to note that the singer is especially in control during these performances when he is able to focus entirely on his primary instrument - the voice. Though Dylan's quite growly at this point, nowhere more than the opening song, he communicates both power and vulnerability through the phrasing. From the smoking condemnation of "John Brown" to the reverie of "This Dream Of You," this release runs the spectrum of themes and poetry. Those of us who enjoy Bob Dylan's gospel side will appreciate "Gotta Serve Somebody," "Every Grain of Sand," and a particularly moving "I Dreamed I Saw Saint Augustine," its only airing since 2005. Those who enjoy his bluesier, raunchier side will enjoy the dark heat of "Things Have Changed," "Can't Wait," "Beyond Here Lies Nothing," (with trumpet!) "Cold Irons Bound" and "This Wheel's On Fire." Those who enjoy his introspective pieces will no doubt be moved by "This Dream of You," Forgetful Heart" and "Not Dark Yet." Those who are just looking for a good time will get a kick out of this delightful, airy performance of "The Man In Me."

As a confession of bias, I have to note that several recordings on here rank among my favorites: "Gotta Serve Somebody" is one of only a small number of performances of that song from 2002 to present, and it is actually my favorite rendition of that song in Dylan's career so far. It is at times incoherent, as much of the content is ad-libbed, but there's just some kind of late-night preacher vibe to it, and a truly unique sound to the vocals, that just makes it a home-run; Dylan does something to the end of many lines, like adding an extra half-silent syllable for emphasis ("out[t]," "in[n]"), that enhances it so well. "Can't Wait" is also extraordinary, and makes me grin ear to ear each time I hear it; the last verse, in particular, stands out for the deep notes - "I thought somehow" being the highlight of the track, or perhaps "I'm strolling through the lonely graveyard of my mind," with the final word being strung along powerfully. The following year (2011), Dylan would again perform a memorable version of this song, but the overall effect was less rewarding to me. Lastly, the recording of "This Wheel's On Fire" found herein is the finest performance of it that I've heard - in full disclosure, I don't find the original track very interesting. It's one that's improved in concert, and peaked (for me, of course) in 2010.

Perhaps most notable to me is the texture of the vocals and harmonica. I'm not a technician, but I suspect a new set of equipment was in use from 2008 to 2012, since their is an almost metallic tone to the vocals and harmonica in the opening song and a handful of others - listen to the way "alive with fiery breath" sounds in "Saint Augustine." There's a strange aura to the recordings that only serves to reinforce the notion that you've stepped through to another world.

Along those lines, I believe that this collection is one of the more coherent documents in the series. The songs share a sensibility, and a common aural environment, without sounding too similar. I hope you find the same to be true.

If you enjoy this, don't forget to purchase the original studio recordings of these tracks from the following albums, available on bobdylan.com:

The Bootleg Series Volume 9: The Witmark Demos
Highway 61 Revisited
The Basement Tapes
John Wesley Harding
New Morning
Slow Train Coming
Shot of Love
Oh Mercy
The Essential Bob Dylan
Time Out of Mind
Together Through Life

Next week we will move away from general retrospectives with a focus on one specific tour: the Spring 2011 Tour of Asia. Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.

-CS

Note: The date was originally incorrect on "Gotta Serve Somebody." Though it was listed as 11-12-08, it should have been listed as 11-21-08. An astute viewer on Expecting Rain pointed this out, and it's been altered. Re-edited notes, artwork, and link have replaced the original material.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Pool Of Tears: Unreleased Live Recordings, 2006 - 2009


Pool of Tears: Unreleased Live Recordings, 2006 - 2009

Cat's In The Well - November 2, 2006
Friend Of The Devil - July 19, 2007
The Levee's Gonna Break - November 18, 2006
Moonlight - June 22, 2007
Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again - November 18, 2009
Mr. Tambourine Man - April 8, 2006
Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking - November 15, 2009
Every Grain Of Sand - November 12, 2006
Love Minus Zero/No Limit - June 7, 2008
Billy - March 22, 2009
'Til I Fell In Love With You - November 12, 2006
It's All Good - October 31, 2009
Nettie Moore - November 18, 2006

Bonus Tracks
Senor - November 12, 2006
Handy Dandy - June 27, 2008
Million Miles - October 27, 2008
I Believe In You - November 16, 2008
Like A Rolling Stone - November 19, 2008
Tangled Up In Blue - July 5, 2009
Po' Boy - July 5, 2009


Friends,

This set includes the absolute best of Bob Dylan's years playing the electric organ. Though this instrument extended out to 2012, it was the centerpiece from 2006 to 2009, and the most interesting organ arrangements were delivered during this time.

This period is not a favorite one among most fans. There was said to be a sameness to the arrangements that did not allow the sets to reach the same dynamism of 2004 or 2013. The organ's use came to an end with the introduction of the piano, and it was discontinued entirely after the final tour of 2012.

Before that time, however, there were gems to be found. In particular, this performance of "Friend Of The Devil" stands superior to the earlier renditions in the 1995-2002 era, at least to my ears. Similarly, check out this unique hard-driving arrangement of "The Levee's Gonna Break," reliant largely on the powerful train-like blare of the organ; despite this being the debut performance, the song would revert to an arrangement more reminiscent of the album version in subsequent years. "Mr. Tambourine Man" here, while not as inventive as the recordings from 1981 or 1995, succeeds in making the song truly uplifting. This performance of "Every Grain Of Sand" was the first time that I really enjoyed the song, and once that occurred I've found virtually all versions of it great; there's something of the preacher in this performance, however, and it still stands out as my favorite.

Though many of Dylan's blues songs were played to great effect in this era, the best can be found here: "Cat's In The Well," an end-times jump blues with delightful interplay between the violin and guitar, the fiery "Change My Way Of Thinking," the best "'Til I Fell In Love With You" put to tape, and an absolutely gleeful "It's All Good," with Dylan displaying the love of language that we all enjoy in his finest singing.

And finally, the set closes with a jaw-dropping, definitive recording of "Nettie Moore." The heart breaks with each line, especially with the violin pushed to the fore. You don't want to miss this song.

The bonus tracks have some highlights as well, in particular the only live performance to date of "Handy Dandy" and a truly unique arrangement of "Tangled Up In Blue."

In short, this will not be likely to change your mind if you hated the organ years, but feel free to give it a try. You might find something great that you missed back in the midst of it. Many, like myself, started listening to Bob Dylan during this time - these recordings will always hold a special place as the ones that got me into this music.

Original studio recordings of the songs on this compilation can be found on the following releases, and purchased from bobdylan.com:

Bringing It All Back Home
Blonde On Blonde
Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid
Slow Train Coming
Shot Of Love
Under The Red Sky
Time Out Of Mind
"Love & Theft"
Modern Times
Together Through Life

Next week we will give a listen to a similar compilation of performances during Dylan's years of "center stage" singing, 2008 to 2013. That one is a real gem, and I'm sure you'll enjoy it. Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.