Thursday, November 30, 2023

Still The One: Live, 2019


 Still The One: Live 2019

Things Have Changed - Live - Innsbruck - April 19, 2019
It Ain't Me, Babe - Live - Irvine - October 11, 2019
Highway 61 - Live - Palo Alto - October 14, 2019
When I Paint My Masterpiece - Live - Irvine - October 11, 2019
Can't Wait - Live - Santa Barbara - October 12, 2019
Boots Of Spanish Leather - Live - Braunschweig - July 6, 2019
Honest With Me - Live - Palo Alto - October 14, 2019
Scarlet Town - Live - Innsbruck - April 19, 2019
Early Roman Kings - Live - Irvine - October 11, 2019
Lenny Bruce - Live - St Louis - October 22, 2019
Pay In Blood - Live - New York City - December 3, 2019
Girl From The North Country - Live - Santa Barbara - October 12, 2019
Not Dark Yet - Live - Irvine - October 11, 2019
Soon After Midnight - Live - Gijon - April 28, 2019
Gotta Serve Somebody - Live - Irvine - October 11, 2019
Train To Cry - Live - Innsbruck - April 19, 2019

Bonus Tracks

Can’t Wait - Live - Stuttgart - July 10, 2019
Dignity - Live - Gijon - April 28, 2019
Long & Wasted Years - Live - Irvine - October 11, 2019
Love Sick - Live - Braunschweig - July 6, 2019
Scarlet Town - Live - Locarno - April 22, 2019
Tryin’ To Get To Heaven - Live - Milwaukee - November 26, 2019
Will The Circle Be Unbroken - Live - Kilkenny - July 14, 2019

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2019 will go down in history as one of Bob Dylan’s best touring years. The proof is in the music - give a listen to “Not Dark Yet” here and just try to resist a chill. It’s almost a challenge just to write about it.

The year started out as a continuation of 2018’s shows, with “Cry A While,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” as standards every night. Over the course of the year, though,  it evolved into something different. Tony Garnier’s bass got louder. Matt Chamberlain replaced George Receli on drums (after nearly 18 years on the road!). Bob Britt joined in the autumn to augment Charlie Sexton’s blazing guitar riffs. Along the way we were treated to a handful of noteworthy performances, including the first “Boots of Spanish Leather” since 2013 and the first “Dignity” since 2012, a funked-up arrangement of “Can’t Wait” in the summertime, an uptempo “Scarlet Town” in Locarno, and a duet with Neil Young on “Will The Circle Be Unbroken.” A re-written “Lenny Bruce” finally wound up back in Bob Dylan’s repertoire thanks to the singer encountering a band playing it in Amsterdam, according to Mixing Up The Medicine (2023).

Even so, the best renditions tended to be compositions that Dylan and his band knew well. “Things Have Changed” had been the opening song since 2013 and it remains a hoot and a half six years later. “It Ain’t Me, Babe” has more depth here than at any point since the early ‘90s. “Highway 61” sounds like it’s integrated elements of “Duquesne Whistle” without losing its unique swagger. “Honest With Me” features the same arrangement as the previous year, but the vocals have become more dynamic and sharp. “Early Roman Kings” is sung here with the passion of a song that’d been written the day before. “Pay In Blood” gets its definitive rendition thanks to a blistering vocal performance and some of the best playing that Charlie Sexton’s ever done. “Girl From The North Country” could make you weep. Dylan sings “Not Dark Yet” like a man possessed.

I hope you enjoy this record as much as I enjoyed compiling it. This is one of the gems in the Thousand Highways Collection, so don’t you dare miss it! Until next time, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.


Note: I stuck with original recordings by Soomlos, Spot, FOBSTL, zuma66, and Romeo for the most part, but found that Bennyboy's remaster of New York was a significant improvement on its source; I hope nobody will begrudge me using that one instead of the original! As ever, I'm grateful for all the hard work these folks do.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Voices in the Night: Live, 2007 - 2010

Billy - Live - Stockholm - March 22, 2009
Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues - Live - Bergamo - June 16, 2008
Friend Of The Devil - Live - Morrison - July 19, 2007
Stuck Inside Of Mobile - Live - New York City - November 18, 2009
Moonlight - Live - Atlantic City - June 22, 2007
Love Minus Zero/No Limit - Live - Warsaw - June 7, 2008
The Times We've Known - Live - Paris - April 8, 2009
Shelter From The Storm - Live - Tokyo - March 23, 2010
Tough Mama - Live - Amsterdam - April 11, 2009
Million Miles - Live - Calgary - October 27, 2008
What Good Am I - Live - Linz - June 12, 2010
It's All Good - Live - Chicago - October 31, 2009
Ain't Talkin' - Live - Birmingham - April 17, 2007

Bonus Tracks
Handy Dandy - Live - Vigo - June 27, 2008
I Believe In You - Live - Ottawa - November 16, 2008
Like A Rolling Stone - Live - Oneonta - November 19, 2008
Tangled Up In Blue - Live - Rothbury - July 5, 2009
Po' Boy - Live - Rothbury - July 5, 2009
Ain’t Talkin’ - Live - Pawtucket - July 21, 2009
Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking - Live - Boston - November 15, 2009

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Having discovered the organ setting on his keyboard in 2006, Bob Dylan saw fit to experiment with that sound on the road over the next five years (he’d discontinue it in 2012, as documented on the Thousand Highways' Ivory). The results were sometimes decried by longtime fans, but - as with any era of the artist’s career - there are more than a few highlights from this period. The best are compiled here for your enjoyment.

Debuted nearly 40 years after it was originally recorded for the Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid soundtrack in 1972, “Billy” starts the set with a bang. Spring 2009 was a pretty good time for Dylan overall, as it also produced two other rare tracks on this album: a rewritten “Tough Mama” from Amsterdam and the second of only two outings for Charles Aznavour’s wistful “The Times We’ve Known.”

Jam-heavy renditions of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” “Love Minus Zero/No Limit,” and “Million Miles” date from the preceding year. I’m particularly fond of the strange, poppy approach to vocals employed on the first two of these, while the third offers the opportunity for Dylan to lean into his harmonica playing. These years are pretty great for the harmonica overall, actually, perhaps because switching to organ allowed the singer to focus on keyboard chords rather than melodic lines. He also began employing a harmonica microphone setup around this time that produced a sound reminiscent of the harp solo in 1980’s studio recording of “What Can I Do For You.”

Speaking of rhetorical questions, “What Good Am I” reappeared in 2010 for the first time in over a decade and the results are transcendent. Dylan would happily return to the song a few years later, making it a standard on his 2013 and 2014 tours in a more or less identical arrangement inspired by Tom Jones’ cover. “Shelter from the Storm,” never missing for long, also popped up during 2010. The singer repeats a verse, but I couldn’t help leaving it in; the song’s raggedness is part of its charm, after all.

Grateful Dead cover “Friend of the Devil” is another comparative rarity from the era, as it hadn’t been performed at a Bob Dylan show since 2002 and wouldn’t reappear until 2022. This version is my favorite by the singer, much of it down to the laid-back approach by his band and a committed vocal performance. “It’s All Good” fares similarly well in the first of its three total airings, celebrating the return of blues guitarist Charlie Sexton after seven years away. “Moonlight” is less successful vocally, but provides a strong foundation for Stu Kimball and Denny Freeman to trade beautiful jazz riffs. Finally, “Ain’t Talkin’” is probably the best-sung track in the set - full of menace and drawn out lines that build on the previous year’s album take.

I’ve also included a selection of bonus tracks drawn primarily from the now-discontinued predecessor to this compilation, Pool of Tears: Live, 2006 - 2009. They include a couple soundboard recordings from Rothbury and a violin-driven version of “Ain’t Talkin’” from 2009, the only live “Handy Dandy” that Bob Dylan’s ever performed, and “Gonna Change My Way of Thinking,” which was cut from this album when I found “Billy” to be a better (if less traditional) opener.

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


Saturday, September 30, 2023

Cowboy Band: Live, 2006


The Levee's Gonna Break - Live - Philadelphia - November 18, 2006
She Belongs To Me - Live - Birmingham - April 30, 2006
Tweedle Dum & Tweedle Dee - Live - Las Vegas - April 7, 2006
Mr. Tambourine Man - Live - Sun City West - April 8, 2006
'Til I Fell In Love With You - Live - Boston - November 21, 2006
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll - Live - Sun City West - April 8, 2006
High Water - Live - Stockton - April 3, 2006
Masters of War - Live - Sun City West - April 8, 2006
Workingman's Blues #2 - Live - San Francisco - October 16, 2006
Cat's in the Well - Live - Auburn Hills - November 2, 2006
Every Grain of Sand - Live - Boston - November 21, 2006
Thunder on the Mountain - Live - St. Paul - October 29, 2006
Nettie Moore - Live - Philadelphia - November 18, 2006

Bonus Tracks

Ain't Talkin' - Live - New York City - November 20, 2006
Cold Irons Bound - Live - Fairfax - November 17, 2006
Down Along The Cove - Live - Sun City West - April 8, 2006
High Water (Extended) - Live - Stockton - April 3, 2006
Joey - Live - Denver - October 24, 2006
Never Gonna Be The Same Again - Live - Reno - April 1, 2006
New Morning - Live - Gelsenkirchen - July 2, 2006

Mediafire Download Folder

2006 is not generally a year of touring beloved by the Bob Dylan fan community. Even so, I think there are quite a few gems.

Specifically, the Modern Times LP was published in the fall and gave rise to a number of new songs that the singer had clearly been wanting to try out on the road. Most were debuted early in the subsequent tour and only grew in stature as the year continued, though a handful were still popping up for the first time at the last couple of concerts (including "The Levee's Gonna Break" on this CD).

Other warhorses were performed with semi-unique arrangements this year: note the deep resonance of the last line in each verse during "She Belongs To Me," as well as a circular "Mr. Tambourine Man" that recalls 1997's rendition of "Pretty Peggy-O." "High Water" and "Cat's In The Well" had rarely sounded better, while "Tweedle Dum & Tweedle Dee" gets an especially spirited rendition here.

The elephant in the room, of course, is the introduction of an electric organ. Bob Dylan had been playing a keyboard since late 2002, but fans were startled to find that he'd changed the settings between Fall 2005 and Spring 2006. Nothing on this collection is going to change your mind if you dislike it, but I think the organ is actually pretty engaging since it provides an ambient backdrop to all of the songs that fattens the sound. Though Bob Dylan is no Al Kooper or Jimmy Smith, I'm of the opinion that every track here benefits from its presence.

As ever, thanks for listening! Until next time, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.


Update: Lest ye be disappointed at the omission of some of the year's more surprising one-offs and setlist selections, I've added a few bonus tracks to sweeten the pot. These include the debut of "Ain't Talkin'," rare appearances of "Never Gonna Be The Same Again" and "New Morning," an arrangement of "Cold Irons Bound" played exclusively during this year's touring, and great outings for "Joey" and "Down Along The Cove." Finally, I've also included an extended recording of "High Water" from Stockton. Please look forward to an updated version of Pool of Tears: 2006-2009 next month, which will replace the 2006 tracks now shifted to this CD with additional songs from 2008, 2009, and 2010!

Monday, August 28, 2023

Rising Tide: Live, 1994


Bob Dylan
Rising Tide: Live 1994

Jokerman - Live - Boston - October 8, 1994
Man In The Long Black Coat - Live - Lewiston - August 16, 1994
If You See Her, Say Hello - Live - New York City - October 19, 1994
Tears Of Rage - Live - New York City - October 18, 1994
Series Of Dreams - Live - Hiroshima - February 16, 1994
Two Soldiers - Live - Boston - October 9, 1994
Masters Of War - Live - Saugerties - August 14, 1994
The Lady Came From Baltimore - Live - Besançon - July 4, 1994
I & I - Live - Urawa - February 18, 1994
Stuck Inside Of Mobile - Live - Nashville - November 9, 1994
Train To Cry - Live - Saugerties - August 14, 1994

Bonus Tracks
The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll - Live - New York City - October 20, 1994
Stuck Inside Of Mobile - Live - Nashville - November 9, 1994 (Full Version)

Mediafire Download Folder

Per Dylan's words in a 1991 interview with Robert Hilburn for the Los Angeles Times, “if you just go out every three years or so, like I was doing for a while, that’s when you lose touch. If you are going to be a performer, you’ve got to give it your all.” Clearly he’d made good on this approach to his art by 1994, having not spent more than a few months off the road at a time since 1987. There were highs, like the edge-of-your seat energy of 1988 and the delicate half-acoustic arrangements of Autumn 1992, as well as lows; 1990 and 1991 include many of the singer’s most controversial performances.

What’s most impressive about where Dylan arrived after six years of the so-called Never-Ending Tour is the consistency. 1993 concerts could be pretty ragged, so it’s difficult to understand just how much the tour had improved by a February 1994 stint in the Far East (Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong Kong). Maybe that was down to disappointment with the Supper Club concerts from late 1993, which were recorded but evidently shelved at Dylan’s request. Maybe it was down to preparations for The Great Music Experience in Nara, which required Dylan to tailor his vocal approach to a symphonic backing rather than the garage bands he was used to. Whatever the case, fans could be reliably sure in 1994 that they were going to get a great show.

The tradeoff to this high level of quality was a relatively static setlist. “Jokerman” opened nearly every show, “Maggie’s Farm” closed nearly every show (before encores), and audiences were treated to approximately seven electric tracks and three acoustic tracks with the band in-between. Though a couple of songs received their first performances of the 1990s this year - “Jokerman” and “If You See Her Say Hello” - the only song played by Bob Dylan for the first time live was a cover of Tim Hardin’s “The Lady Came From Baltimore.” The singer’s latest record, World Gone Wrong, was more or less ignored.

Static setlists don’t have to be disappointing, of course. The Oh Mercy outtake “Series of Dreams” was played at over half of the Far East shows, but its minor-key rearrangement was a consistent highlight. “Man In The Long Black Coat” and “I & I” had been played frequently for years, but their menacing readings here are sure to send a chill down your spine. The rarities are still a treat too: “Tears of Rage” receives a near-definitive treatment in New York City while “Two Soldiers” wildly surpasses the middling reading it had received in-studio the previous year.

With regard to how this new release slots into the overall Thousand Highways Collection, you’ll notice that a few of the songs have been pulled from Ring Them Bells: 1994. I’ve left “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” off from the main set due to time restrictions, but included it here as a bonus track; the other bonus track is an extended version of “Stuck Inside Of Mobile,” which I had to trim a bit to ensure the core songs would fit onto a single compact disc. All other songs from the Ring Them Bells can be found on Reborn In Time.

Folks have been requesting a dedicated Live 1994 release for quite a while, so I’m happy to finally oblige and I hope this meets the standards set by my previous work. With the exception of “Masters of War,” all tracks are sourced from remasters produced by Expecting Rain’s Bennyboy in 2021 and 2022. It felt silly to reinvent the wheel when someone else had already done such an excellent job making these songs sound near-perfect. In short, this collection would simply not exist without the hard work of Bennyboy.

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


Monday, July 31, 2023

Reborn In Time: Unreleased Recordings, 1989-1994

Volume 1
Political World - Outtake - Oh Mercy Sessions - 1989
2X2 - Outtake - Under The Red Sky Sessions - 1990
Everything Is Broken - Outtake - MTV Unplugged Sessions - 1994
Polly Vaughn - Unreleased - Bromberg Sessions - 1992
I Want You - Outtake - MTV Unplugged Sessions - 1994
God Knows - Outtake - Oh Mercy Sessions - 1989
Tomorrow Night - Live - The Rhythm, Country & Blues Concert - 1994
Lawdy Miss Clawdy - Unreleased - Studio Session - 1994
Unbelievable - Outtake - Under The Red Sky Sessions - 1990
Born In Time - Outtake - Oh Mercy Sessions - 1989
Love Minus Zero/No Limit - Rehearsal - MTV Unplugged Sessions - 1994
Under The Red Sky - Outtake - Under The Red Sky Sessions - 1990
Kaatskill Serenade - Unreleased - Bromberg Sessions - 1992
Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright - Outtake - MTV Unplugged Sessions - 1994
Hard Times - Live - Willie Nelson’s Big 6-0 - 1993

Volume 2
Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You - Outtake - MTV Unplugged Sessions - 1994
Anyway You Want Me - Unreleased - Studio Session - 1994
Dignity - Outtake - Oh Mercy Sessions - 1989
Born In Time - Outtake - Under The Red Sky Sessions - 1990
Money Honey - Unreleased - Studio Session - 1994
Most Of The Time - Outtake - Oh Mercy Sessions - 1989
TV Talkin' Song - Outtake - Under The Red Sky Sessions - 1990
Hazel - Outtake - MTV Unplugged Sessions - 1994
Handy Dandy - Outtake - Under The Red Sky Sessions - 1990
Sloppy Drunk - Unreleased - Bromberg Sessions - 1992
Blue-Eyed Jane - Unreleased - Jimmie Rodgers Tribute Sessions - 1994
Wiggle Wiggle - Outtake - Under The Red Sky Sessions - 1990
Shooting Star - Outtake - Oh Mercy Sessions - 1989
Absolutely Sweet Marie - Outtake - MTV Unplugged Sessions - 1994
Ring Them Bells - Live - The Great Music Experience - 1994

Bob Dylan kicked off the Never-Ending Tour with a show in Concord on June 7, 1988. Given the performer’s renewed sense of purpose after several years in the wilderness, fans must have been eager to hear what he might create when he got off the road and back into the studio. On September 12, 1989 they’d find out - with the aid of producer Daniel Lanois, Bob Dylan had found his way down to New Orleans and recorded a swampy, electric set of new compositions called Oh Mercy. The following years were less successful, as we’d receive a nursery rhyme-inspired song cycle called Under the Red Sky in 1990 and an inconsistent interpretation of past classics with MTV Unplugged in 1994. But this is only part of the story.

Behind the scenes and mostly off-stage, Bob Dylan was creating myriad works that would never see the light of day. Many of these are documented on The Bootleg Series Volume 8: Tell Tale Signs, but many others remained in the vault. Mercifully, quite a few of the recordings from these years have surfaced unofficially via bootleg tapes. I’ve compiled the cleanest versions of these recordings - using CaptainAcid’s Oh Mercy and Under the Red Sky outtake remasters as well as McG’s brilliant sonic improvements on 1992’s Bromberg Session recordings - into Reborn In Time.

The Oh Mercy tracks sounds here are overall pretty similar to those on Tell Tale Signs, presenting a slightly different look at songs like “God Knows,” “Born In Time,” and “Dignity,” but there are two exceptions: “Political World” and “Shooting Star” both include numerous lyrics omitted from the version on the final album. 1990 is where the most interesting outtakes start to appear, as the outtakes from this year are stripped of the celebrity overdubs that crowd Under the Red Sky. “TV Talkin’ Song” fares best, offering an alternate narrative with numerous lyrical variations and a menacing vocal take, while others like “Handy Dandy” and “Unbelievable” call to mind producer Don Was’ recollection that he and the musicians were trying to create a new Highway 61 Revisited.

1992 saw Dylan abandon a collaboration with songwriter David Bromberg at Chicago’s Acme Studios in favor of traditional songs recorded on acoustic guitar in his garage. The latter was ultimately published as Good As I Been To You in November 1992, while the former has only been officially acknowledged through the inclusion of two tracks - “Miss the Mississippi” and “Duncan and Brady” - on Tell Tale Signs. The three remaining circulating songs from these sessions are included here and are among the most interesting work that the singer produced in the 1990s. It’s a shame we haven’t heard more, but Dylan seems to have been thoroughly disappointed with the results.

In 1994, a duet with Emmylou Harris on Jimmie Rodgers’ “My Blue-Eyed Jane,” was recorded during the sessions that produced “Boogie Woogie Country Girl,” Dylan’s contribution to Till The Night Is Gone: A Tribute To Doc Pomus; this track wouldn’t be entirely abandoned, however, as it later resurfaced with a new vocal overdub on The Songs Of Jimmie Rodgers - A Tribute in 1997. An afternoon spent at Sony Music Studios in New York between touring legs in September 1994 would similarly result in three Elvis covers - “Anyway You Want Me,” “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” and “Money Honey” - never published on an official album.

Finally, Dylan’s appearance on the MTV Unplugged television show also left behind more than a few discarded gems. “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” is presented with the jaunty arrangement that would characterize its appearance throughout the 1990s and 2000s, “Hazel” is played for the first time since 1976 and the last time until 2004, and “Everything Is Broken” represents the only time this song has been performed on acoustic instruments. “I Want You” is the standout, slowed down to a crawl that recalls its 1978 arrangement, while a rehearsal of “Love Minus Zero/No Limit” impresses with the interplay between Bob Dylan’s voice and Bucky Baxter’s steel guitar.

In the midst of these studio sessions and a heavy touring schedule, Dylan also found time to appear at several one-off events. I’ve documented the best of those here, including an accordion-heavy acoustic performance of Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times,” a duet with Trisha Yearwood at the Rhythm, Country & Blues Concert, and a performance of “Ring Them Bells” backed by Michael Kamen and the Tokyo New Philharmonic Orchestra at The Great Music Experience in 1994. I wanted to include the “Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” that was also played in Nara with orchestral backing, but it was actually released by Sony as the b-side to “Dignity (MTV Unplugged)” in 1995! This extraordinary performance is worth tracking down if you can.

I hope you enjoy this new, more finely-tuned collection of (mostly) studio tracks from 1989 to 1994. It replaces Series of Dreams and Ring Them Bells - two previous Thousand Highways releases - since those included quite a few live tracks that either have been or will be presented more holistically elsewhere in the Thousand Highways Collection. Hopefully we’ll get to hear even more lost recordings from this era someday.

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


PS: I discovered a typo in the notes after initial publication, so new versions of the files have been uploaded to Mediafire as of August 1, 2023.

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Screaming At The Moon: Live, 1988-1989


Volume 1 - Electric Set, 1988
Subterranean Homesick Blues - Live - Sacramento - June 9, 1988
Pretty Peggy-O - Live - Mansfield - July 2, 1988
My Back Pages - Live - Mountain View - June 11, 1988
License To Kill - Live - Salt Lake City - June 13, 1988
Gotta Serve Somebody - Live - Salt Lake City - June 13, 1988
In The Garden - Live - Wantaugh - July 1, 1988
Big River - Live - Santa Barbara - June 9, 1988
Train To Cry - Live - Berkeley - June 10, 1988
Masters Of War - Live - Upper Darby - October 13, 1988
Hallelujah - Live - Montreal - July 8, 1988
Frankie Lee & Judas Priest - Live - Old Orchard Beach - July 3, 1988
Visions Of Johanna - Live - Manchester - September 3, 1988
Gates Of Eden - Live - East Troy - June 18, 1988

Volume 2 - Acoustic Set, 1988 - 1989
Wagoner's Lad - Live - New York - October 16, 1988
She Belongs To Me - Live - Rochester - July 6, 1989
San Francisco Bay Blues - Live - Canandaigua - June 28, 1988
In The Pines - Live - Old Orchard Beach - July 3, 1988
Mama You Been On My Mind - Live - East Troy - June 18, 1988
Every Grain Of Sand - Live - Athens - June 28, 1989
Lakes Of Ponchartrain - Live - Madrid - June 15, 1989
Eileen Aroon - Live - Denver - June 15, 1988
Give My Love To Rose - Live - Canandaigua - June 28, 1988
Pretty Boy Floyd - Live - Oakland - December 4, 1988
Baby Let Me Follow You Down - Live - Berkeley - September 3, 1989
Love Minus Zero - No Limit - Live - Chicago - October 31, 1989
Barbara Allen - Live - Syracuse - August 31, 1988

Volume 3 - Electric Set, 1989
 Seeing The Real You At Last - Live - Poughkeepsie - October 20, 1989
Tears Of Rage - Live - Patras - June 26, 1989
One Irish Rover - Live - Peoria - July 1, 1989
Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues - Live - Milwaukee - July 3, 1989
When You Gonna Wake Up - Live - Poughkeepsie - October 20, 1989
John Brown - Live - Birmingham - June 7, 1989
Ring Them Bells - Live - Poughkeepsie - October 20, 1989
Congratulations - Live - Glasgow - June 6, 1989
Pancho & Lefty - Live - Cava de'Tirreni - June 21, 1989
Queen Jane Approximately - Live - New York City - October 12, 1989
Trail Of The Buffalo - Live - Atlanta - August 16, 1989
Trouble - Live - Atlanta - August 16, 1989
The Water Is Wide - Live - Dublin - June 3, 1989


 Mediafire Download Folder


After a fallow period from 1985 to 1987, Bob Dylan found his muse again in 1988. As he’d done in the early 1970s, he once more taught himself to do consciously what he’d previously done unconsciously. One of the key parts of this arrangement was constant touring, as Dylan believed that intermittent years off of the road had been negatively impacting his approach to music. To that end, the so-called Never-Ending Tour kicked off with a bang in June 1988. Screaming At The Moon captures a snapshot of the first two wild years in this experimental long-form piece of performance art.

Volume 1 covers 1988, when Bob Dylan attacked his work with the ferocity of a punk singer. Few of the songs are word-perfect - especially impressionistic half-remembered anthems like “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and a rambling “Frankie Lee & Judas Priest” - but all feature performances unrivaled in pure energy since the Rolling Thunder Revue. I’m especially partial to this thoroughly on-the-edge take on “My Back Pages,” an impassioned “Hallalujah,” the only up-tempo performance of “Visions of Johanna” delivered live, and a blistering “Gates Of Eden.” The rewrites in “Gotta Serve Somebody” are a lot of fun too.

Volume 2 leads us through Dylan’s contemporary acoustic sets, which included covers alongside originals primarily pulled from his 1960s oeuvre. Among the former, “In The Pines” and “Give My Love To Rose” are rare one-offs while others - like “Eileen Aroon” and “Lakes Of Ponchartrain” - are just strong performances of frequently played gems. “Baby Let Me Follow You Down” gets one of its only post-1966 airings, and “Pretty Boy Floyd” and “San Francisco Bay Blues” recall the artist’s earliest days playing in New York coffee shops. We close with one of Dylan’s best renditions of “Barbara Allen,” a very old ballad he’d last played with electric backing in 1981.

Volume 3 is perhaps the most experimental portion of this collection. Following a year of relatively straight blues and rock in 1988, Dylan branched out into stranger arrangements seemingly influenced by Neil Young’s more avant-garde work. In an effort to capture this unique period of the Never-Ending Tour, I’ve opted to primarily include songs that contribute to a sense of place - a dark bar at the end of the night - rather than presenting the singer’s 1989 shows “as they were,” so to speak. No actual show included this many strange, brooding songs, but I like to think this approach offers a better understanding of what was unique in Dylan’s ‘89 performances. And it is unique! Just give a listen to this sinister “When You Gonna Wake Up” or the urgent plea of “The Water Is Wide.” Alternately, dig into the sharp guitar breaks in “Trail Of The Buffalo” and “One Irish Rover.” Bob Dylan’s rarely sung “Pancho & Lefty” so carelessly, but he’s also rarely sung it so meaningfully.

Longtime followers of the Thousand Highways collection will notice that most of these tracks are repurposed from previous releases: Renaissance (1988), The Water Is Wide (1989), Beneath A Diamond Sky (1989), and Series Of Dreams (1989-1993). The purpose of my effort here is to present the recordings more holistically and with a greater sense of unity, as I’ve often found myself disappointed when returning to those original CDs. Don’t worry, though - all tracks cut from The Water Is Wide and Beneath A Diamond Sky are included as bonus tracks so you can still assemble compilations that match the old versions if you prefer those.

Thanks for listening, and I hope you enjoy it. Until next time, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes!

- CS

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Self-Portrait II: Unreleased Recordings, 1985-1987

Self-Portrait II: Unreleased Recordings, 1985-1987

Trust Yourself - Live - Farm Aid 1985
Important Words - Outtake - Down in the Groove
Got Love If You Want It - Outtake - Down in the Groove
Sidewalks Fences and Walls - Outtake - Down in the Groove
A Couple More Years - Outtake - Hearts of Fire
I Shall Be Released - Live - Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration 1986
To Fall In Love With You - Outtake - Hearts of Fire
Just When I Needed You Most - Outtake - Down in the Groove
The Usual - Outtake - Hearts of Fire
Thank God - Live - Chabad Telethon 1986
Treasure Of Love - Unreleased - 1987 Studio Session
Across The Borderline - Live - Farm Aid 1986
Had A Dream About You Baby - Outtake - Hearts of Fire
Soon - Live - George Gershwin Celebration 1987
Maggie’s Farm - Live - Farm Aid 1985

Bonus Tracks

Old Five and Dimers - Outtake - Hearts of Fire
When The Ship Comes In - Live - Live Aid 1985
Lucky Old Sun - Rehearsal - Farm Aid 1985

 Lossless Version | MP3 Version

Bob Dylan was not at his best in the mid 1980s - he’s told us himself in Chronicles, Volume 1, but it’s certainly evident from the albums released during this era (Real Live, Knocked Out Loaded, and Down in the Groove are particularly challenging listens). A decay had set in after Shot of Love in spite of the handful of great songs written for and either published or left off of Infidels and Empire Burlesque. There are still luminous performances from this time frame, but they became rarer and were more often associated with older songs or covers of others’ work. The writing well had more or less run dry by 1985.

With that in mind, I see this collection as something of a sequel to 1970’s Self-Portrait. That album had been produced during another relatively quiet period where the artist had been abandoned by his muse, and similarly featured a combination of covers, rearranged live songs played at a special event, and a small number of original compositions. The results are less successful here, but still worth a listen.

Two bookends, “Trust Yourself” and “Maggie’s Farm,” are drawn from Bob Dylan’s impressive Farm Aid 1985 performance and suggest an alternative to what we got on the official albums from this time. The singer is equally committed to a new song and one written twenty years earlier but updated with a rockabilly arrangement not dissimilar to the 50s covers that were prominent on the following year’s tour with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Rehearsals for this event, along with audience recordings of other songs not captured in the radio broadcast from which these two recordings are sourced, were considered for the CD but ultimately omitted due to poor sound quality. While the 1986 Farm Aid is essentially just a televised excerpt from one of that year’s co-headlining shows with Tom Petty, I couldn’t help including Ry Cooder’s “Across the Borderline” since it’s such an excellent capture of a good performance.

Other live recordings here include a fascinating rewrite of “I Shall Be Released” from 1986’s Stevie Wonder-organized Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Concert and a one-off rendition of Fred Rose’s “Thank God.” Though “Thank God” was recorded at a soundcheck prior to the singer’s concert at Mountain View on August 5, 1986, it was broadcast a month later during a televised anti-drug event organized by The Lubavitchers Chabad Telethon; Dylan would later contribute harmonica to a live performance of “Hava Nagila” at the organization’s 1989 telethon alongside actor Harry Dean Stanton! The final live track is a solo acoustic rendition of “Soon,” which was played at 1987’s George Gershwin Tribute Celebration. It must have seemed like an odd choice of material at the time, as the performer was then best-known for his contributions to the folk and rock genres, but modern audiences now know that Bob Dylan was exploring the American Songbook in rehearsals as early as the Infidels sessions and would eventually produce three albums of this material during the 2010s.

We also have a variety of songs recorded during the meandering studio sessions that produced Down in the Groove. Some of the covers are more effective than others, as “Sidewalk, Fences, and Walls” recalls the would-be soul voice Dylan had adopted two years earlier on Allen Toussaint’s “Freedom for the Stallion” and would rarely revisit in the decades ahead. “Important Words” and “Just When I Needed You Most” are stranger picks - the former echoes the standards Dylan would occasionally pull out on-stage during the early years of the Never-Ending Tour, while the latter resembles the pop songs that Dylan played with better results during his 1980 and 1981 concerts - but I think the arrangements are sympathetic enough to merit inclusion here. James Moore’s “Got Love If You Want It” has a particularly interesting history, as it was originally released on a promotional cassette version of Down in the Groove before being cut from the final LP’s tracklist. “Treasure of Love,” which was recorded at the home of Ted Perlman prior to Dylan’s appearance on the aforementioned Gershwin event, may or may not have been planned for Down in the Groove; it’s a baffling cover that’s not remotely in the singer’s traditional style, but serves as a fun, listenable novelty if nothing else.

Our final group of studio outtakes are drawn from sessions that produced the soundtrack to 1986’s Hearts of Fire. Though the film is an unmitigated disaster - Bob Dylan is not leading man material - the studio sessions are much more successful. Among the covers, John Hiatt’s “The Usual” is a great rocker in spite of some unpleasantly misogynist lyrics and Shel Silverstein’s “A Couple More Years” sounds very different from the big band arrangement it received on Dylan’s 1980 Musical Retrospective Tour; the background noise is a result of this capture being pulled directly from the film, where the song is performed in a barnyard setting. “Had A Dream About You Baby” is a rare original composition from this era, but it’s more of a rough set of lyrics thrown together over a pretty slick blues riff. “To Fall In Love With You” is even less complete, consisting of half-finished lines strung together between an evolving chorus in the style of 1967’s “I’m Not There”, but it’s so beautiful that it makes you wish they had tried it a few more times. In the end, it’s a reminder that Bob Dylan was facing a deficit of lyrical inspiration in the mid-1980s. We’re lucky that, with the benefit of hindsight, we now know that better times were only a couple years away.

- CS

Note: The bonus tracks here include content that I didn’t think was good enough to make it onto the CD but was still interesting. Hearts of Fire outtake “Old Five and Dimers” originally appeared on Thousand Highway’s delisted Ashes and Dust compilation, but I found that it grated upon relistening; your mileage may vary. “When The Ship Comes In” is noteworthy for being the only time that the song was played live since 1964, but its dubious quality reflects the broader lack of passion on display at Dylan’s Live Aid 1985 appearance. Finally, this rehearsal of “Lucky Old Sun” ahead of the 1985 Farm Aid show is full of vim and vigor but marred by a fairly poor recording. Give them a listen if you enjoy the main collection and are left wanting more!