Friday, July 1, 2016

The Heat & The Pulse: Unreleased Live Recordings - Summer 1984

The Heat & The Pulse
Tour Of Europe: Summer 1984


Maggie's Farm - Live - Barcelona - June 28, 1984
Jokerman - Live - Barcelona - June 28, 1984
Senor - Live - Barcelona - June 28, 1984
Man Of Peace - Live - Offenbach - June 11, 1984
License To Kill - Live - Rome - June 19, 1984
I & I - Live - Barcelona - June 28, 1984

Mr. Tambourine Man - Live - Nantes - June 30, 1984
Desolation Row - Live - Rome - June 21, 1984
Tangled Up In Blue - Live - Paris - July 1, 1984

Love Minus Zero/No Limit - Live - Rotterdam - June 6, 1984
Enough Is Enough - Live - Paris - July 1, 1984
Knockin' On Heaven's Door - Live - Barcelona - June 28, 1984
When You Gonna Wake Up - Live - Rome - June 19, 1984
Every Grain Of Sand - Live - Barcelona - June 28, 1984
Tombstone Blues - Live - Barcelona - June 28, 1984

Bonus Tracks

It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry - Live - Nantes - June 30, 1984
Masters Of War - Live - Rome - June 19, 1984
Simple Twist Of Fate - Live - Rome - June 21, 1984
Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues - Live - Cologne - June 16, 1984

Welcome to our coverage of Bob Dylan's 1984 Tour of Europe. This is a special request, and I hope it lives up to expectations.

This tour had not yet been covered on the blog because it's not one that I am especially fond of. It was also represented by an official release on Columbia Records, Real Live. Given that a handful of tracks from the tour had found their way into The Thousand Highways Collection on my series of miscellaneous compilations, One More Night, or been part of my release focused on Dylan's sessions from 1983 to 1984, Faithful, a compilation dedicated exclusively to 1984 felt unnecessary. Still, a fan of the site talked me into reviewing my tapes, and I was pleasantly surprised.

Much of the tour is uninspired, but there are gems among the sets. The setlists themselves were actually fairly interesting, with a selection of songs drawn from throughout Dylan's recording career. The newest songs, as is typical with this artist, were the highlights, but older songs were often played well. "Knockin' On Heaven's Door," for example, features what I would consider the fulfillment of its reggae arrangement played with from 1978 to 1981; it's tighter and more compelling here than even the lovely renditions played three years earlier. Even the Gospel period was represented through the performance of songs like "Heart Of Mine" and "When You Gonna Wake Up," though only the latter appears here.

Interestingly, a handful of songs were written specifically for the tour. This is something that Bob Dylan has not tended to do, with notable exceptions - "Tell Me, Momma," "City Of Gold, " and "Ain't Gonna Go To Hell For Anybody" come to mind. This tour yielded fewer stellar results, but while the rehearsals reveal two songs that wouldn't ever be played live ("Almost Done" and "Dirty Lie"), three songs were either written or re-written and played on the road - "Enough Is Enough," "Tangled Up In Blue," and "Simple Twist Of Fate." The first never seems to have quite found a defined set of lyrics, as they vary from night to night; more than anything else, the song feels like an inspired riff on "Don't Start Me Talkin'", which Dylan had recently played to a live television audience on the David Letterman Show. The second song, "Tangled Up In Blue," is one of the most consistent highlights of the tour. A version from the United Kingdom was released on Real Live, and I included an alternative version as a bonus track elsewhere on The Thousand Highways Collection. Even with these earlier releases, it couldn't go unrepresented here, so the lovely performance from Paris is included; this is the recording discussed by Paul Williams in Performing Artist, Volume Two. Finally, "Simple Twist Of Fate" was extensively reworked and still never became a well-defined song. The most effectively realized version I found was from Rome, but the recording is indistinct and many of the lyrics are lost. I've included it as a bonus track.

Concerning the history of the tour, it was originally intended to be Bob Dylan's first tour of South America. Clearly, the continent was occupying his thoughts as it turned up repeatedly in his lyrics throughout the preceding few years. Unfortunately, the plans fell through, and he instead turned his eye to Europe. The concerts were performed to massive crowds in stadiums, and this lack of intimacy threatens to come through on many of the tapes - Dylan can sometimes sound like a broad caricature of himself. Still, the intent to please audiences shines through just as brightly, and offers such beautiful results as the version of "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" contained on this compilation, along with nightly examples of Dylan actually coaching the audience to sing along to "Blowin' In The Wind" (not included here). I'm not sure if that degree of audience outreach is unprecedented in his career, but it's certainly rare! Alongside him for much of the tour was Santana, and Joan Baez appeared at some of the shows as well. On the last few nights, he was joined onstage by Bono and Van Morrison, among others.

Notably, his band for this tour included guitarist Mick Taylor, formerly a member of the Rolling Stones. Taylor at times plays a bit too prominently, flavoring the recordings with a somewhat generic stadium rock sound, but at other times finds exactly the right tone to enhance the song. Key examples of the latter include the distinctly Muddy Waters sound on "Maggie's Farm," a distorted slide performance on "Man Of Peace," and an intense solo on "When You Gonna Wake Up," another song largely re-written for this tour.

The solo set is intriguing, as it is really the last time Bob Dylan would offer compelling solo performances. Though he would return to the format briefly on his 1986 tour with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the effect was less successful; from 1987 on, he would exclusively collaborate with one or more other players during his acoustic sets. Happily, 1984 presents an excellent picture of the man as a solo artist. The version of "Mr. Tambourine Man" is reminiscent of its outings in 1966, combined with the vocal experimentation of 1981. "Desolation Row" is heard in one of only a handful of solo renditions outside of 1966 - it was played in this format, less successfully, on 1974's tour with The Band. "Tangled Up In Blue," discussed above, was an extraordinary piece of work every time he played it in 1984, and Paris was no exception.

Some significant edits were carried out in shaping this set of recordings, and I hope that doesn't upset any purists checking in. "Man Of Peace" needed to be slowed down, much to my sadness, as I loved the speed but disliked the artificially high-pitched vocal tone on the circulating recording; I don't know how off it actually was, but the result of my tinkering is slightly more natural than it had originally sounded. Reverb and equalization was required for "Love Minus Zero" and "When You Gonna Wake Up," as the first was muffled and the second was a bit too thin. A splice was necessary in "Mr. Tambourine Man," a the tape dropped a portion of the second chorus - I spliced in some tape from later in the song, but I don't find it conspicuous when listening. Finally, I added some audience noise to the end of "When You Gonna Wake Up" and "Tombstone Blues." In the former, the end was too abrupt, and in the latter, I wanted it to function as an end to the CD. In both cases, the spliced audience noise was sourced from the same show to maintain consistency of sound.

Please enjoy the final result. In spite of my initial skepticism, I'm very proud of the compilation! It's a very pleasant summer listen, much like Dylan's other live output from 1981 to 1986.

As ever, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Update On Upcoming Releases - Summer 2016

Happy Summer!

In rather weird news, I stumbled my way into working out a 1984 Tour Compilation as a request from another community member, so the miscellaneous cuts will be delayed as well. I have a couple other ideas, which may turn into full compilations, so I hesitate to say which month the miscellaneous CDs will be published. This has the lucky bonus of allowing me to integrate newly circulating tapes from 1985, so I hope nobody is disappointed with the delay. For now, look forward to A Thousand Highways finally addressing the 1984 Tour in July, 2016.


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Beyond Here: Unreleased Live Recordings, Spring 2016

Bob Dylan
Beyond Here: Spring Tour of Japan - 2016


Things Have Changed - Live - Tokyo - April 25, 2016
She Belongs To Me - Live - Yokohama - April 28, 2016
Beyond Here Lies Nothing - Live - Yokohama - April 28, 2016
What'll I Do - Live - Miyagi - April 9, 2016
Duquesne Whistle - Live - Miyagi - April 9, 2016
Melancholy Mood - Live - Tokyo - April 6, 2016
Pay In Blood - Live - Osaka - April 12, 2016
I'm A Fool To Want You - Live - Tokyo - April 6, 2016
That Old Black Magic - Live - Tokyo - April 19, 2016
Tangled Up In Blue - Live - Tokyo - April 25, 2016


High Water (For Charley Patton) - Live - Tokyo - April 22, 2016
Why Try To Change Me Now - Live - Miyagi - April 9, 2016
Early Roman Kings - Live - Tokyo - April 23, 2016
The Night We Called It A Day - Live - Tokyo - April 18, 2016
Spirit On The Water - Live - Osaka - April 12, 2016
Scarlet Town - Live - Tokyo - April 6, 2016
All Or Nothing At All - Live - Tokyo - April 23, 2016
Long & Wasted Years - Live - Tokyo - April 22, 2016
Autumn Leaves - Live - Tokyo - April 23, 2016
Blowin' In The Wind - Live - Tokyo - April 6, 2016
Love Sick - Live - Yokohama - April 28, 2016

Bonus Content

What'll I Do - Live - Osaka - April 12, 2016
Pay In Blood - Live - Yokohama - April 28, 2016
Tangled Up In Blue - Live - Tokyo - April 22, 2016
Spirit On The Water - Live - Tokyo - April 19, 2016
Spirit On The Water - Live - Tokyo - April 23, 2016
Scarlet Town - Live - Tokyo - April 22, 2016
Long & Wasted Years - Live - Tokyo - April 19, 2016
Lucky Old Sun - Live - Tokyo - April 4, 2016

Welcome friends,

As ever, we've been blessed with the arrival of a new handful of lovely recordings from Bob Dylan's most recent tour. In this case, we are in the debt of tapers Spot, Hiroyuki Soto, catpochi, mk4 robert, izumiblue, SFY, and Saulsaul. In most cases, I used the Spot recordings for my collection, as they were the most impressive to my ears. These things are always a bit arbitrary, of course, so I hope you'll bear with my selections - I am deeply grateful to all tapers, even when their recording was not used for this compilation.

During the month of April, 2016, Bob Dylan toured Japan. He stopped in Miyagi, Osaka, and Yokohama, though much of the time was spent in Tokyo at the beginning and middle of the tour. His last stop in Japan, in the Spring of 2014, produced one of the best recordings of that year, so I was excited for the tapes even ahead of hearing them; Dylan often performs beautifully in Japan, and seems to have a special relationship with the region as far back as his 1978 tour, documented on At Budokan. Happily, the tapes themselves were even better than I'd hoped - the recordings were clean, though not overly crisp, and preserved a sense of what Dylan and the band were doing nightly.

As for the performances, they were almost uniformly excellent. From night to night, certain portions would be played better, but overall, it was a quality run. As the deluge of tapes began in late April, I realized that I had the opportunity to hear each night of the tour, and opportunity that I had not taken previously. Listening to the entire tour leg, mostly in sequence, was an exciting experience, though I'd be lying if I said I didn't suffer from a bit of burn-out; these concerts are performed for the people in the audience, not some person listening along at home, and they shouldn't be expected to offer a coherent or compelling narrative over the span of an entire month. Still, I'm happy I had the opportunity. In listening, I thought that a compilation of the finest performance of each song would form a nice souvenir for those who had attended, and a pleasant vicarious experience for those of us who'd not had that blessing.

I've included my rambling notes alongside the recordings, as I actually listened to every extant lossless tape, excluding portions of April 11, April 25, and April 26; you'll note that two recordings from the middle date are included in my compilation, though, as I took a brief browse towards the end of my project. As a brief summary here, I'd like to offer my overall thoughts, since we are in an unprecedented position of hearing the long-term development of a setlist that Dylan's been modifying only slightly over the past three years:

"Things Have Changed" is more dramatic than it once was, functioning as a more apparent performance piece to open the night. The band has more room to play between verses than they did in previous years. This song offers the first appearance of a greater presence for Tony Garnier - whether this is a function of the arrangements, the sound in the halls, or the recording technology, I cannot say.

"She Belongs To Me" is very similar to preceding tours, though the harmonica is one of the better solos I've heard for this song.

"Beyond Here Lies Nothing" is a song that developed significantly over the course of the tour. At the start, it sounded very similar to 2015, but by the end Dylan had developed an apparently new piano line that cycles and is integrated better with the band, particularly Charlie Sexton's guitar. The recording included comes from the final tour date.

"What'll I Do" is haunting, and was consistently excellent. The vocals were regularly a standout on this one, particularly as Dylan seems to get two distinct tones in the midst of the first line (on the word "you"), and Donnie Herron has the opportunity to present some lovely steel guitar.

"Duquesne Whistle" is as excellent a version as you'll ever hear. Much as we'll hear with "High Water" later in the set, the entire band has the opportunity to shine here. Of particular importance on this one are the vocals, the piano, and Charlie Sexton's lead guitar. The audience gets in on the fun, and you can hear them repeatedly shout "woo" in time with the music during the last guitar break of the song.

"Melancholy Mood" is no better or worse than it was in 2015, which is to say that it's utterly mesmerizing. This is one of those songs that you're surprised hadn't been performed earlier in the man's career, since it's incredible every night. April 6 took the nod, largely due to the clarity and elegance of the recording.

"Pay In Blood" was challenging, since it was performed well on many of the nights, but it differed fairly radically in the recording quality and the performance emphases (at least within the bounds of a single tour and arrangement). Overall, it sped up over the course of the month, a la "Isis" in 1975, and some of the later offerings were comparatively perfunctory. The recordings offered some nights where the bass or distorted guitar were at the fore, and others where the acoustic guitar was more prominent - I favored the former, since the latter added more of a folky sound than I like on this song. In the end, I added some bass and reverb to the April 12 recording and called it a day.

"I'm A Fool To Want You" is great, though Dylan misses an early note - I don't recall which at the moment, as I type these comments. Regardless of that minor quibble, the emotion in the performance is palpable. This one's on par with the one recorded in Spain last year.

"That Old Black Magic" was a fascinating study, as each performance had a wide range of pros and cons. One minor, humorous detail (discovered when listening to more performances than one ought to) is that Dylan regularly started to say "got me in a trance" in the opening lines, rather than the intended "got me in a spell." There's not much to say about this one - it was regularly delightful, if not remarkable.

"Tangled Up In Blue" was another challenging selection, since many of the performances were excellent in some respects and disappointing in others. In the latter category, I could find no rendition where the singer's voice didn't crack on the word "avenue" in the second chorus. This seems a minor complaint, though, as many of the recordings featured both highly expressive vocals and lovely piano in the final verse. While I heard from others that April 22 was a favorite version, I ended up selecting the April 25 performance; both are great, of course.

After the intermission, the band kicks into "High Water." This was not a tour highlight overall, but the version played on April 22 is absolutely superlative. Unlike some nights, it builds in intensity as the song moves on, somehow feeling like a whole orchestra's playing on it by the end. Every player is emphasized, which contributes to the feeling that Dylan's assembled a truly inspiring band for his live shows.

"Why Try To Change Me Now" is one of many great performances, though others tend to fall short of the magnificent version played on April 9.

"Early Roman Kings" was played with vim and vigor throughout the tour, though I'll admit that my final choice was an easy one. This is a song that can fall narrowly short of the ideal, whether through a (paradoxically) smooth vocal delivery or a recording that fails to emphasize the drums and crunchy guitar. Luckily, Spot perfectly captured the performance from April 23, in which Dylan and the band unleash a riff midway through that pulls you into the song from a different direction and doesn't let go.

Like "Why Try To Change Me Now," "The Night We Called It A Day" is not particularly notable, which says more about the consistently high level of Dylan's recent performing than it does anything negative about this song. It is the lovely, heartbreaking, poetic vision that it ought to be, and that it is nightly.

"Spirit On The Water" is worth a few lines, since this song differed more than any other from night to night. From the tour's earliest days, Bob Dylan had largely abandoned the song's central lilting piano melody in favor of experimentation. Some nights were more successful than others - on April 6, the band fails to follow the leading piano riff, while on April 12, they capture a uniquely melancholy version of the track. On April 23, a brighter outlook prevailed, while on April 19, an impressionistic jazz experiment was the result; most bizarrely, one of the versions featured an instrumental final verse, as the vocals were abandoned halfway through - I wish I'd noted which one this was! I ended up selecting April 12, since the vocals were superior, but any of these is worth a listen.

"Scarlet Town" was pretty consistently played, and I almost selected the version from April 22 purely on the strength of its ending. but the one performed on April 6 was stronger overall. Interestingly, I found that the quality of this song hinged largely on George Receli's drumming. It's not a song that is evidently centered on the percussion, but an inventive drum fill made all the difference in listening to multiple iterations.

"All Or Nothing At All" was lovely on multiple nights, and you pretty well have to take your pick based upon the overall ambiance of the recording and the quality of the guitar work. In the case of Spot's capture of April 23, both were superlative.

The penultimate song of the main set, "Long & Wasted Years," is regularly a concert highlight. As he has done on previous tours, Bob Dylan seems to have added some new lyrics. In this case, he's shifted the song to a more apparently gunfighter aesthetic, as his enemy "bled to death and lost his lust / He was too blind to see / I didn't notice until later that he'd wounded me." There's a variation on the middle line, there, but I can't recall at the moment what it is. In any case, I almost picked the version from April 19, as it features the best ending for the song that I've ever heard, but the band and the singer get a bit lost at the start of one of the verses; I attempted a splice, but it sounded clumsy. As a result, you get the version from April 22, which is stronger overall than the performance from the 19th anyway.

"Autumn Years" was regularly played to a high standard, but never moreso than the haunting, understated performance featured on this compilation. The final drum flourish can come across as abrupt on some nights, but here it is the perfect stunning close to a compelling second act.

In the encore, Donnie Herron shines again on "Blowin' In The Wind." It becomes effectively a duet between piano and violin, though the guitars are quite lovely as well. Dylan's vocals are also quite moving on this song.

The final track, "Love Sick," is a rock masterpiece. In that sense, it stands apart from the preceding songs, but the rich vocals and sense of melancholy tie it into what came before. I increased the bass a bit, since the Yokohama recording lacked a bit of low end, but otherwise it's a perfect version of this staple song.

I hope you enjoy reading about the songs. If you want more details, check out the miniature tour notes diary I created as I listened through the entire run of shows. It's really just a reflection of what I was hearing on first impression, so don't look for anything especially enlightening.

Of particular note is the absence of both the lone performance of "Lucky Old Sun" from this tour, and any recordings from the excellent recording of Nagoya on April 15. Concerning the former, I was only able to track down a lossy copy, which would compromise the lossless aspect of the compilation; even steering clear of that potentially misguided concern, I wanted to represent the set as it existed overall - an exception would make it less representative. You can find an MP3 edit of that song in the bonus materials accompanying this compilation. Concerning the Nagoya show, I found that, while it was a great listen, individual songs didn't exceed the quality of those on preceding or subsequent nights. I suggest seeking out a copy of that concert to complement the material on Beyond Here.

As always, thanks for listening. Next month will feature the concluding "miscellaneous" chapter of the blog, in which I compile the odds and ends that didn't make it onto earlier collections. Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes!

- CS

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

June Update

So just to keep everyone in the loop: there will be a new compilation published in June, but it will not be the concluding chapter of A Thousand Highways. In fact, I was so inspired by the exciting new tapes from Japan that I collected the best performances into a 2-Disc set, which will be released on June 1, 2016. Apologies to anyone who was looking forward to my miscellaneous recordings compilation - you'll just have to wait until July. Everyone else, check back in on June 1 for some brilliant new tracks from Bob Dylan's 2016 Tour of Japan.

Thanks for listening,

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Fiddle & Bow: Unreleased Live Recordings, Spring 2005

Fiddle & Bow
On Tour - Spring 2005

Absolutely Sweet Marie - Live - Detroit - April 12, 2005
It's All Over Now, Baby Blue - Live - Seattle - March 8, 2005
Stuck Inside Of Mobile - Live - Seattle - March 7, 2005
Hazel - Live - Mashantucket - April 22, 2005
Tweedle Dum & Tweedle Dee - Live - Oakland - March 14, 2005
Senor - Live - Chicago - April 3, 2005
Under The Red Sky - Live - Detroit - April 12, 2005
I'll Remember You - Live - Detroit - April 12, 2005
Cat's In The Well - Live - Seattle - March 7, 2005
Moonlight - Live - Seattle - March 7, 2005
Honest With Me - Live - Oakland - March 14, 2005
Mississippi - Live - Reno - March 18, 2005
All Along The Watchtower - Live - Seattle - March 7, 2005

This is a truly superlative set of songs. In the Spring of 2005, violinist Elena Fremerman had joined Bob Dylan's band for a tour of the United States, and she contributed significantly to the overall sound of the band. At the same time, recording technology had progressed to the point of capturing audience recordings that often surpassed the soundboard tapes of previous decades. These factors combined to offer one of the most coherent, compelling compilations yet presented on The Thousand Highways Collection.

Highlights include the best renditions of "Absolutely Sweet Marie," "Honest With Me," and "Mississippi" ever played outside of a studio setting. "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" is played with a vocal unrivaled since it had been played in the mid-1990s. The collection also includes a rare outing of "Hazel," including a pleasant violin interlude. Outside of these highlights, the remainder of the songs prove quite strong as well - "Stuck Inside of Mobile," "Moonlight," and "Tweedle Dum & Tweedle Dee" are enhanced not by violin solos, but rather by the presence of a violin on their rhythmic sections, propelling the tracks along delightfully.

A handful of tracks didn't make it past the cutting room floor. "Folsom Prison Blues" was played to great acclaim in Reno, but I didn't think the vocals measured up to past outings of this classic. Similarly, "Sing Me Back Home" is an extraordinary song, but I didn't think it quite came together in the performances. I hope you'll forgive these omissions.

While Fremerman would depart the band at the end of this brief tour, the violin sound lingered on, thanks to the presence of multi-instrumentalist Donnie Herron. Never again, though, would it have such a prominent role. Luckily, due to our community's generous tapers, we've been left with extraordinary documentation of this unique period in Bob Dylan's performance career.

This will be the last entry in the chronological set of compilations that made up the second series of The Thousand Highways Collection, but I should have a set of remaining odds and ends to release next month as a 'best of the rest' affair. Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes!

Thanks for listening,

Friday, April 1, 2016

High Water Rising: Unreleased Live Recordings, 2001

High Water Rising: Live 2001

High Water - Live - Columbus - November 10, 2001
Sugar Baby - Live - Spokane - October 5, 2001
Tough Mama - Live - Telluride - August 20, 2001
Standing In The Doorway - Live - Perth - March 18, 2001
Drifter's Escape - Live - Spokane - October 5, 2001
Mr. Tambourine Man - Live - Fukuoka - March 9, 2001
Tangled Up In Blue - Live - Perth - March 18, 2001
This World Can't Stand Long - Live - Grand Rapids - November 6, 2001
Cold Irons Bound - Live - Las Vegas - August 24, 2001
Ring Them Bells - Live - Fukuoka - March 9, 2001
Cry A While - Live - Grand Rapids - November 6, 2001
Knockin' On Heaven's Door - Live - Spokane - October 5, 2001
Summer Days - Live - New York - November 19, 2001

On September 11, 2001, Bob Dylan released Love & Theft. Unsurprisingly, due to the significant news events unfolding on that day, the record went largely unnoticed. Happily, the artist himself was on the road in early October, playing songs from the album alongside classic songs from his repertoire.

Like many of his albums, though perhaps even a bit more than was typical, Love & Theft would contribute heavily to the live setlist over the coming decade. One could get the impression that the songs were made to be played live, given their origin being recorded live in-studio. In confirmation of that, virtually all of them were performed beautifully from their on-stage debut; note the presence of four such songs on this live collection alone. Within a year, every track from the album had been played for paying audiences!

While the majority of the songs on this compilation are from the extraordinary Autumn tour, some are from earlier in the year. Dylan's setlist was quite varied throughout the year, with some songs being played only a handful of times. Some of these, like "Standing In The Doorway," are carry-overs from the previous year's touring. Some are rarer, like "Tough Mama" or "Ring Them Bells." A recording of "Where Teardrops Fall" was almost included here, but was replaced with "Ring Them Bells" late in the compiling.

In general, the recordings and performances are of a uniformly high quality. I don't find that the 2001 tours reach the heights of 1997 - 1999 or 2002 - 2005, as the singer and band are fairly conservative. The preceding years had a tightness and precision in their arrangements, while the years to come would be more experimental; 2000 - 2001 sit squarely between these two eras as satisfying, if not overly exciting.

Some songs here, though, would never be played so well again. Listen to the intensity of "Drifter's Escape," or the emotion and harmony of "Knockin' On Heaven's Door." Despite it being newly introduced, this performance of "Summer Days" is one of the best you'll ever hear. Charlie Sexton even produces a 'dog bark' guitar noise on the relevant line! Additionally, one of the bluegrass songs common to Dylan's setlists at the time makes it into the acoustic set here.

Concerning production, very little was altered. The low volume was quite challenging on "Cold Irons Bound," and I shifted "Ring Them Bells" from the acoustic set in which it was originally played to the electric set, as it matched the following songs more effectively. Otherwise, only some volume adjustments were necessary.

I hope you enjoy the compilation. It's not one of the best, but it's a compelling listen. Next month will bring the final addition to the second run of the Thousand Highways Collection: Spring 2005. I've been very excited for that, and it'll be a heck of a note to go out on, since it features unique arrangements enhanced powerfully by Elana James' violin. Look forward to it!

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


UPDATE: So I had a bit of an April Fools prank going this morning with the link. I have since upped the actual files pertinent to this compilation, but I hope the 33 people who downloaded the file enjoyed a healthy dose of Spice Girls!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

DIY Playlist Corner: Studio Essentials, 1969 - 1972

Bob Dylan
Studio Essentials: 1969 - 1972

Volume One

To Be Alone With You - Nashville Skyline
Sign On The Window - Another Self-Portrait
Take A Message To Mary - Self-Portrait
Tell Me That It Isn't True - Nashville Skyline
Alberta #3 - Another Self-Portrait
Little Sadie - Another Self-Portrait
Time Passes Slowly #1 - Another Self-Portrait
Down In The Flood - Greatest Hits, Volume 2
If Not For You - New Morning
Pretty Saro - Another Self-Portrait
Lay Lady Lay - Nashville Skyline
This Evening So Soon - Another Self-Portrait
Copper Kettle - Another Self-Portrait
Railroad Bill - Another Self-Portrait
One More Night - Nashville Skyline
Wallflower - Another Self-Portrait
The Man In Me - New Morning
You Ain't Goin' Nowhere - Greatest Hits, Volume 2
Days of 49 - Another Self-Portrait
Father Of Night - New Morning
Gotta Travel On - Self-Portrait

Volume Two

If Not For You - Another Self-Portrait
Living The Blues - Self-Portrait
Belle Isle - Another Self-Portrait
Big Yellow Taxi - Dylan
Let It Be Me - Self-Portrait
Watching The River Flow - Greatest Hits, Volume 2
I Threw It All Away - Another Self-Portrait
New Morning - Another Self-Portrait
Spanish Is The Loving Tongue - Pure Dylan / Masterpieces
Day Of The Locusts - New Morning
Only A Hobo - Another Self-Portrait
Tattle O'Day - Another Self-Portrait
Bring Me A Little Water - Another Self-Portrait
A Fool Such As I - Dylan
Thirsty Boots - Another Self-Portrait
Went To See The Gypsy - New Morning
Country Pie - Nashville Skyline
I Shall Be Released - Greatest Hits, Volume 2
Time Passes Slowly #2 - Another Self-Portrait
When I Paint My Masterpiece - Another Self-Portrait

Alright folks, you should be used to the DIY Playlist drill by now. If not, check out Studio Essentials: The Cutting Edge, 1965 - 1966 and Studio Essentials: 1979 - 1988. The basic concept is taking officially released Bob Dylan recordings and compiling them into a pretty solid playlist to sit alongside your Thousand Highways field recording releases; necessarily, there are no files to download. I will provide the playlist, some cool notes, and links to the recordings necessary to complete the playlist.

Do yourself a favor and gather these jewels - 1969 to 1972 was an especially strong one for Dylan's studio output, in my estimation. After the exciting envelope-pushing of the surrealist mid-1960s, the singer had moved into rootsier material with The Basement Tapes and John Wesley Harding; the former of these will be the subject of a later DIY Playlist, while the latter stands alone as one of the more singular albums of the man's career.

From 1969 to the early 1970s, though, he would go on to perform in a very different style. Listeners would receive not the folksy Bob Dylan of the early 1960s, nor the rocker of the mid-1960s. Instead, they would receive a rather surprising country crooner version of their favorite singer. While this had a detrimental effect on his writing, it would dramatically improve Dylan's vocal performances; many former critics would find themselves nodding along happily with the pleasant tones of "Lay Lady Lay." While later releases in this time frame, including Self-Portrait and New Morning, would not be as well-received as 1969's Nashville Skyline, all contained some classic recordings. This would be made abundantly clear with the release in 2013 of The Bootleg Series Volume 10: 1969 - 1971.

Taking those incredible outtakes and alternate versions, along with the performances on the original releases, you can compile one heck of a two-volume set. While these 42 songs do not push the limits of what can fit on a single CD - Bob Dylan was recording fairly short songs in this era - they provide a delightful listening experience from beginning to end. Grab your cup of coffee, prop your feet up, and put on the stereo!

Volume One

To Be Alone With You - Nashville Skyline

This groovy recording from Nashville Skyline is an exciting way to kick off the set. Dylan spoken intro, a question to his producer, Bob Johnston, sets the tone for a rather laid back experience. Johnston would produce Nashville Skyline and Self-Portrait, but would part ways with Dylan mid-way through the recording of New Morning, being replaced with the keyboardist Al Kooper. It's unclear what came between the producer and the singer, but Dylan's lack of strong artistic direction in this period seems to be the culprit. Johnston was significantly different from Dylan's earlier producer, Tom Wilson, in that he was looking for something of an artistic collaboration. Like many, he saw Dylan's work from 1969 to 1971 as being somewhat commercial, or lacking in artistry. I'd beg to differ, but can understand where he was coming from. Whatever the case, Nashville Skyline is a beautifully recorded record, and we're lucky for the collaboration of the two Bobs, Dylan and Johnston, from 1965 to 1970.

Sign On The Window - Another Self-Portrait

The version of "Sign On The Window" released on New Morning is a perfectly lovely song, and perhaps the strongest on that record, but the strings added by Al Kooper in post-production manage to enhance it even further. This version was finally released on Another Self-Portrait in 2013, though it had circulated among collectors in the intervening years. The lyrics provide something of a motto for Dylan's music in these years; his original compositions tended to espouse a domestic tone, lauding the virtues of a life spent with one's family in a rural setting. This would change dramatically with 1974's Blood On The Tracks, but the consistency of theme makes for a pretty nice throughline to this compilation.

Take A Message To Mary - Self-Portrait

Backing vocals providing a spoken introduction to this song probably exemplify what fans objected to in Dylan's bizarre 1970 album, Self-Portrait. Luckily, this Everly Brothers cover manages to overcome the production hurdles that one would anticipate in a commercial 1970 recording. Unlike his earlier and later recordings, Dylan doesn't strike an especially authentic sound as the murderous narrator, but the tone of the song is quite pretty.

Tell Me That It Isn't True - Nashville Skyline

We're back to 1969 with this excellent country song, recorded with a stable of session musicians in Nashville. We are lucky that Dylan saw the song's charms in later years, and resurrected it on the Never-Ending Tour in the 2000s. The chord progression, along with the song's timeless theme of suspected infidelity, should make for an instant classic. Of particular interest is the slick ending, rather uncharacteristic of the singer's more typically casual approach to the recording process.

Alberta #3 - Another Self-Portrait

All three of the renditions of this traditional song are quite well-done. The third has the benefit of being the rawest in presentation, though, and that's what secures it a spot on this compilation. There's not much to be said about "Alberta," except that you can't help tapping your foot while listening.

Little Sadie - Another Self-Portrait

"Little Sadie" is one of the songs that benefits the most from being freed of overdubs on Another Self-Portrait. It might as well be a different song from the one on the original 1970 album! The song itself is a classic traditional recording most often associated with Leadbelly. Johnny Cash played it to great acclaim on his Live At Folsom Prison record, and that's how I became familiar with it. Dylan doesn't do it quite as well as Cash, but it's still a great recording. The related oddity from these sessions, "In Search Of Little Sadie," doesn't appear on this collection, but it's a fun addition nonetheless.

Time Passes Slowly #1 - Another Self-Portrait

This song would end up being played more strongly in the sessions that led to New Morning, but this whimsical recording featuring George Harrison is too charming not to be included. In particular, Harrison and Dylan singing their "la la las" is a match made in heaven. The two players had been in communication for years, but 1969 represented their earliest artistic collaboration. You can find more of these recordings on the Thousand Highways compilation Pastures of Plenty: 1969 - 1971.

Down In The Flood - Greatest Hits, Volume 2

"Down In The Flood" was originally part of The Basement Tape sessions with The Band in rural New York, but the song was first officially released on Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits, Volume 2. It was evidently selected as a response to the popularity of Basement Tape bootleg recordings, since those were deemed to be unreleasable due to their rough aesthetic and recording quality. I may be in the minority opinion, but I find the versions recorded for Greatest Hits, Volume 2 to be even more effective than their earlier iterations; I only wish Dylan and Happy Traum had recorded more songs!

If Not For You - New Morning

Described by Bob Dylan as an attempt at a Tex-Mex style, the results seem not to have been rated too highly by the singer. A couple other version circulate, including one recorded with George Harrison and one with a piano and violin, but the one chosen to lead 1970's New Morning is exemplary. The mix isn't ideal, as the song suffers a bit from sounding a bit flat, but the joyful tone is truly infectious. This track would go without a live performance until 1992, though it was rehearsed ahead of 1971's Concert For Bangladesh - a recording of this rehearsal performance is available on the Thousand Highways compilation Enough Is Enough: The Best of the Rehearsal Tapes, 1971 - 1989.

Pretty Saro - Another Self-Portrait

Here is one of the best songs on Another Self-Portrait, and one of the strongest rebukes against the old argument that Bob Dylan can't sing. While the vocals are enhanced a bit with some reverb, this guy's clearly got talent. The song itself is quite old, originating with an eighteenth century English song but being preserved in America's Appalachian performance traditions. A rather intriguing music video was produced to accompany the release of this version, in which old Farm Security Administration images from the early twentieth century were set alongside the recording - it's worth seeking out, as it's strangely moving.

Lay Lady Lay - Nashville Skyline

"Lay Lady Lay" was Bob Dylan's most successful song, commercially speaking, from the period covered by this compilation; indeed, it may remain the most commercially successful song from his entire career. Of note is the uncharacteristic bongo accompaniment. While a more generic rhythm track may have been serviceable for the recording, it's nice that the studio musicians opted for this more unique arrangement. The song rapidly became part of the singer's live repertoie, being played in concert in 1969, then regularly on the 1974 and 1976 tours; the 1976 arrangement is notable for being fairly aggressive, and quite distinct from its original studio incarnation. After that, it experienced something of a hibernation from 1978 to 1988, before appearing frequently on the Never-Ending Tour.

This Evening So Soon - Another Self-Portrait

While the song is traditional, the title is actually derived from a story by American author and essayist James Baldwin. It is also commonly known as "Tell Old Bill," from which Dylan would later derive the title for an unrelated recording for the North Country soundtrack. The song itself is quite pleasant, particularly the last bit. At the beginning, he references Bob Gibson, who recorded a version in 1958.

Copper Kettle - Another Self-Portrait

"Copper Kettle" has truly mysterious origins, as it has been dated to various times and places in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Happily, it stands as one of the great successes of the album Self-Portrait, overcoming the poppy string arrangement added to the recording. Like "Belle Isle," you could really take your pick between the more heavily produced version on the original album, or the one on Another Self-Portrait, since both contain the same excellent basic track. The "whiskey tax" referred to in the the song is a reference back to an oft-forgotten historical moment, the Whiskey Rebellion, which was the first true test of federal power against local revolt in the relatively new United States.
Railroad Bill - Another Self-Portrait

This is a song in the same vein as "Stagger Lee," "Pretty Boy Floyd" or "Duncan and Brady," in which the narrator describes a run-in between a charismatic criminal and the corrupt society. In this case, the song was commonly associated with Leadbelly, who'd himself been in prison at one time. Interestingly, it bears no similarity to the song "Railroad Boy," which Bob Dylan performed in 1961 and 1976.

One More Night - Nashville Skyline

Here is one of my favorite songs from Nashville Skyline, a pretty straightforward country song. You can find a fairly rare outtake of it on the Thousand Highways title Pastures of Plenty. The song has only been played live twice, once with vocals by Ronnie Hawkins!

Wallflower - Another Self-Portrait

I'm surprised that multiple takes of this song have been released, as it's a rather odd footnote to Dylan's catalog. He recorded it with Doug Sahm in 1972, and it's a reasonably simple country waltz. The version on Another Self-Portrait is narrowly superior to the one on The Bootleg Series, Volumes 1-3, as the vocals are improved and the harmonica is less piercing.

The Man In Me - New Morning

"The Man In Me" is one of the gems of New Morning, though it received comparatively little popularity until it appeared on the soundtrack to the Coen brothers' film, The Big Lebowski. One wishes a horn arrangement was extant for this song, a la "New Morning", but no such take is known to exist. It went on to have a noteworthy re-written version performed on tour in 1978, and you can find that here.

You Ain't Goin' Nowhere - Greatest Hits, Volume 2

While my personal favorite version of "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" is the truly bizarre lyrical variant played at in 1967 and finally released on The Bootleg Series 11: The Basement Tapes RAW, this one is probably the strongest performance of the song. It originates from the same Happy Traum session that produced other Basement Tapes re-recordings on Greatest Hits, Volume 2.

Days Of 49 - Another Self-Portrait

Here is a rather peculiar track that is more complex than it seems at first glance. One could be mistaken for believing it to be a nineteenth century traditional song, as the singer has often recorded songs of that vintage. In fact, while its roots are in traditional songs collected by John Lomax, the specific words as sung here were written by John Lomax, Alan Lomax and Frank Warner as an adaptation of disparate songs concerning California's gold rush. As for this recording, it's outstanding - benefiting from the absence of overdubs on its Bootleg Series release, Dylan's off-mike remarks are a delight and the guitar accompaniment is solid.

Father Of Night - New Morning

New Morning is noteworthy for being the first album on which Bob Dylan played a significant amount of piano, and this song is the most emblematic of that musical aspect. It is almost unaccompanied, except by some backing vocalists, and stands out as a stark conclusion to an otherwise light record. After John Wesley Harding, it is also one of the singer's earliest songs explicitly pertaining to matters of faith. This would end up being the primary focus of a few later records, including Slow Train Coming and Saved, but those would be less ambiguous than this fleeting piece from 1970.

Gotta Travel On - Self-Portrait

"Gotta Travel On" is not a song that's received much praise, but I would like to offer that here. This is a fantastic, light recording that concludes Volume One with the same feeling of hope that characterizes much of Dylan's output from 1969 to 1971. It was eventually played on stage with the Rolling Thunder Revue in 1976, though no especially compelling recordings of that arrangement circulate. Luckily, we are blessed with this performance from the sessions for Self-Portrait.

Volume Two

If Not For You - Another Self-Portrait

This version of the opening track from Dylan's New Morning LP is a mellow way to start a mellow collection. The unknown violist lays the groundwork for a poetic rendition, as the singer pines away to his muse. The only blemish is an overly hot moment on the vocal track, which evidently could not be scrubbed away when the outtake was compiled on The Bootleg Series Volume 10: Another Self-Portrait. A version of "Went To See The Gypsy," possibly from this session, was released alongside this song on Another Self-Portrait, but it did not make it onto this collection due to similar issues with the recording.

Living The Blues - Self-Portrait

This groovy little song was one of Dylan's only original compositions between Nashville Skyline and New Morning, when he was primarily recording covers. Luckily, it's outstanding, as the backing vocals and band accompaniment provide a distinctly Elvis-esque soundscape. Surprisingly, the melody is based on Thelonius Monk's 1957 recording "Blue Monk." "Living The Blues" would go on to be performed live exactly one time, on Johnny Cash's television show. You can find a recording of this performance on The Thousand Highways Collection.

Belle Isle - Another Self-Portrait

Opting for the version of this on Another Self-Portrait or the original 1970 Self-Portrait LP is something of an arbitrary decision. Both releases are great, though the Bootleg Series version allows David Bromberg's guitar work to shine a bit brighter. This is a very, very old song - this lyrical was collected from Canada in the early twentieth century, but the template is actually a much older traditional Irish ballad.

Big Yellow Taxi - Dylan

In stark contrast to the preceding song, this was written and released in 1970 by Dylan's contemporary, Joni Mitchell. While the version on Dylan was not released until 1973 (as something of a retaliation by Columbia to Bob Dylan switching recording labels), it was recorded only a couple of months after Mitchell had released her original performance. This rendition is not revelatory, but it's a lot of fun.

Let It Be Me - Self-Portrait

This English-language performance of a French original is a pet favorite of mine. Surprisingly, the song would be performed live twice in 1981, eleven years after this version was released! On the first of those occasions, the song was played in its native France, while Canada received the second airing.

Watching The River Flow - Greatest Hits, Volume 2

Unlike Greatest Hits, released in the midst of Bob Dylan's 1960s popularity, Greatest Hits, Volume 2 was actually compiled by the singer himself. As a result, the final side of the record contained a number of formerly unreleased recordings from sessions in the early 1970s. One of these was "Watching The River Flow," backed by Leon Russell. It's a rough, bluesy number that had more in common with the years to come than it did with Nashville Skyline, Self-Portrait, or New Morning.

I Threw It All Away - Another Self-Portrait

This song sounds great in its original release, on 1969's Nashville Skyline, but I find the one on Another Self-Portrait slightly prettier. In either case, it's a beautiful, succinct confession of lost love. While it never entered the live setlist for that long, it was played on tour in 1976, 1978, and several times throughout the 1990s and 2000s. Despite the strength of the original composition, the song's lyrics tend to be altered to varying degrees in concert; you can find one such example on the 1976 live release, Hard Rain.

New Morning - Another Self Portrait

The title track of New Morning is great on that 1970 album, but Al Kooper's horn overdubs add a lot to the recording. It ended up being one of the standout tracks on the second disc of Another Self-Portrait even though its basic recording, sans horns, had already been released decades before! This is one of the songs that is said to have been written for an Archibald Macleish play.

Spanish Is The Loving Tongue - Pure Dylan / Masterpieces

Bob Dylan played this song several times between 1967 and 1976. My favorite rendition, aside from the solo piano performance released on the 1978 Japanese compilation Masterpieces, is the one played at San Antonio in 1976. As for that solo piano rendition, a remastered recording appears on the same obscure German CD, Pure Dylan, that includes a remastered recording of "Trouble In Mind." As I said when that album came up on an earlier DIY Playlist, you really ought to add this compilation to your collection. Other than Masterpieces and Pure Dylan, alternative versions of "Spanish Is The Loving Tongue" were recorded and released on The Bootleg Series Volume 10: Another Self-PortraitThe Bootleg Series Volume 11: The Basement Tapes Complete, and Dylan. A stray comment in the liner notes of either Another Self-Portrait or The Basement Tapes Complete suggests that an outtake exists from the Blood On The Tracks session too, and fans of the song like me are eagerly awaiting that release, as it does not circulate. If you can't secure the version on Pure Dylan or Masterpieces, I suggest substituting the very similar version from Another Self-Portrait.

Day Of The Locusts - New Morning

"Day Of The Locusts" chronicles a trip by Bob Dylan, his wife, and David Crosby to a ceremony at Princeton awarding Dylan an honorary degree. This is the song that first made me a fan of New Morning, as it's a fairly uncharacteristic gospel-esque track. It may, in fact, be the singer's first public flirtation with the genre, though he would go on to play that style quite effectively from 1979 to 1981. Additionally, it contains one of (but not the only) sample of insect noises in Dylan's catalog; "Man In The Long Black Coat," from 1989, would return to this rather odd technique.

One More Weekend - New Morning

Though New Morning was not characterized by a blues sound, as earlier and later Bob Dylan albums would be, at least one blues track managed to work its way in. "One More Weekend" is a paean to domestic bliss, as the narrator looks forward to spending some time alone with his sweetheart after having left all the children home. It's nice stuff, and is actually fairly rare in its portrayal of this situation within the blues genre.

Only A Hobo - Another Self-Portrait

"Only A Hobo" is one of four songs recorded by Bob Dylan and Happy Traum in anticipation of Greatest Hits, Volume 2. Unlike the three others, this one is a unique banjo arrangement of one of the singer's earliest recordings. The harmonica is a bit piercing, but it's otherwise a beautiful recording of a moving piece.

A Fool Such As I - Dylan

This is a surprisingly funky take on the venerable country song popularized by Hank Snow. Like "Spanish is The Loving Tongue," it was first recorded by Bob Dylan at the Basement Tape sessions in rural New York. Unlike that other song, though, the version released on 1973's Dylan LP is a joy to listen to.

Thirsty Boots - Another Self-Portrait

Similar to "Big Yellow Taxi," "Thirsty Boots" is one of the singer's performances of his contemporaries' original compositions. In this case, the original song was released by Eric Andersen on a 1966 album. It is perhaps the earliest resurgence of Bob Dylan's interest in songs concerning civil rights after he had largely abandoned that subject from 1964 to 1969. He would go on to record and release "George Jackson" and "Hurricane" about the same subject in the 1970s.

Went To See The Gypsy - New Morning

We are lucky to have three different recordings of this song to choose from! This version, released in 1970 on New Morning, was one of the highlights of that record. Though it is said to relate a story of the singer visiting Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan has explicitly denied this interpretation. If only fictional, the story in the song is a compelling tale of the narrator briefly meeting some mystical musical figure before being left to watch the sun rise over a little Minnesota town. Beautiful tale, to be sure.

Country Pie - Nashville Skyline

This song is reminiscent of "Father of Night" in its brevity, though in content they couldn't be further apart. A fragmentary outtake was released on Another Self-Portrait, but the final take couldn't really be bettered. As a fun fact, Dylan's mother apparently once stated that this was her favorite song that he had recorded!

I Shall Be Released - Greatest Hits, Volume 2
Along with "Only A Hobo," "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" and "Down In The Flood," Dylan recorded this Basement Tapes song with Happy Traum for his Greatest Hits, Volume 2 LP.

Time Passes Slowly #2 - Another Self-Portrait

"Time Passes Slowly" was first recorded with George Harrison in 1970, and it went on to be recorded at the studio sessions for New Morning. This is the most electrified rendition. Relatively laid-back in the other performances, it was appreciably louder in one of the arrangements; that's the one I find most effective, and is indeed the one I picked for this compilation. If you don't feel the same way, I suggest including the pleasant one played with George Harrison, also released on Another Self-Portrait.

When I Paint My Masterpiece - Another Self-Portrait

This classic song was originally released on Greatest Hits, Volume 2, but the definitive studio version is actually the solo demo released on Another Self-Portrait. It lacks some of the nice lyrics that it picked up before the final take was recorded, but they are replaced by some whimsical words about an old victrola, and that good old rock and roll-a. The song would go on to be featured somewhat frequently in Dylan's live shows after its first appearance at The Band's New Year's Eve show in 1972 - this was released as Rock of Ages.

You can buy these albums using the links below, or seek them out wherever you purchase your music. I would especially recommend Amazon's The Complete Album Collection MP3 versions, as they tend to sound quite nice alongside each other - little volume adjustment is necessary. You may need to bring down the volume on the tracks from Another Self-Portrait, but not by much.

Nashville Skyline
New Morning
Greatest Hits, Volume 2
Pure Dylan
The Bootleg Series, Volume 10: Another Self-Portrait
The Complete Album Collection - The 60's
The Complete Album Collection - The 70's

I hope you all enjoy the sets! They don't quite fill up the CDs, but I think they offer a very listenable, pleasant overview of Bob Dylan's recording career from 1969 to 1972. This wasn't one of the singer's most popular periods, but quite a bit of treasured recordings were produced; at this point, it is one of the more well-documented portions of his career.

Check back in on April 1, as we will be reviewing Bob Dylan's 2001 tour, which introduced Love & Theft to the setlist. until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.