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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Voice Without Restraint: Unreleased Live Recordings, 1986



A Voice Without Restraint
Live Recordings - 1986

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

Links


Good morning/afternoon/evening, folks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks,
CS

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Looking For Heaven: Unreleased Live Recordings, Fall 1978



Looking For Heaven
Fall 1978

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

Links


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!

Thanks,
CS

Monday, June 1, 2015

Back In The Rain: Unreleased Live Recordings, 1976



Back In The Rain
The Rolling Thunder Revue - 1976

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

Bonus Tracks

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

Links


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

-CS

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Still Dreaming: Unreleased Acoustic Recordings, 1975



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

-CS

Friday, May 1, 2015

Unknown Country: Unreleased Live Recordings, 1975



Unknown Country
The Rolling Thunder Revue
1975

When I Paint My Masterpiece - Live - New York City - December 8, 1975
It Ain't Me, Babe - Live - New York City - December 8, 1975
The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll - Live - New Haven - November 13, 1975 (Early)
Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You - Live - New York City - December 8, 1975
It Takes A Lot To Laugh - Live - New York City - December 8, 1975
Romance In Durango - Live - Waterbury - November 11, 1975
Isis - Live - Toronto - December 1, 1975
Never Let Me Go - Live - Waterbury - November 11, 1975
I Dreamed I Saw Saint Augustine - Live - Toronto - December 1, 1975
Dark As A Dungeon - Live - Boston - November 21, 1975 (Late)
Mama, You Been On My Mind - Live - Boston - November 21, 1975 (Late)
I Don't Believe You - Live - Boston - November 21, 1975 (Late)
Oh Sister - Live - Providence - November 4, 1975 (Late)
Hurricane - Live - Toronto - December 2, 1975
One More Cup Of Coffee - Live - Providence - November 4, 1975 (Late)
Sara - Live - Plymouth - October 31, 1975
Just Like A Woman - Live - New York City - December 8, 1975
A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall - Live - Waterbury - November 11, 1975

Bonus

The Times They Are A-Changin' - Live - Toronto - December 1, 1975
I Shall Be Released - Live - New York City - December 8, 1975
Mama, You Been On My Mind - Live - Bangor - November 27, 1975
Isis - Live - Waterbury - November 11, 1975
It Takes A Lot To Laugh [Extended Edition] - Live - New York City - December 8, 1975

Links

Welcome to the Rolling Thunder Revue. This set is made up of eighteen tracks depicting the mayhem associated with Bob Dylan's outstanding 1975 tour. It's all a bit hectic, and sometimes sounds a bit disorganized, but the result is some of the best art in the man's career.

I won't be writing a history of the Revue here. For that, I suggest consulting Larry Sloman's On The Road and/or Sid Griffin's Shelter From The Storm; as always, the best account of the music is Paul Williams' Performing Artist. I mention these because it's worth reading about the tour. It's aesthetic and sound were very tied up in its genesis - Dylan collaborated with playwright Jacques Levy for the composition of his new Desire songs and stage direction for the show, while recruiting various New York Greenwich Village personalities both known and unknown to populate a caravan inspired by his recent visit to rural France.

Concerning the songs themselves, they really form a rich tapestry of Bob Dylan's music up to 1975. Desire is very well-represented, having just been recorded prior to the tour. Interestingly, the texture of Dylan's voice and delivery change on these quite a bit from the start of the tour to its conclusion barely over one month later. Generally, early dates catch the singer with an airier voice but the arrangements suffer from caution; by the tour's end, the arrangements are loose and lived-in but the vocals are necessarily rougher. Unsurprisingly, Columbia's own excellent document of the period is largely derived from shows in the middle of the tour. My selections are a bit broader - songs that benefit from a bit of madness ("Isis", "When I Paint My Masterpiece") are generally from later in the tour, while songs that benefit from more precise vocals ("One More Cup Of Coffee," "Sara") tend to originate from earlier dates. The balance come from mid-November.

Note that no songs are included from the esteemed Montreal show of December 4. This is entirely down to sound quality, and good representation elsewhere. Columbia has done a very good job documenting this tour in general, and that concert in particular. Similarly, the Wolfgang's Vault soundboard releases were excluded here since they are considered officially released. You aren't missing too much there, though, since their thinness can be detrimental to the overall sound at times. If you like the tracks on Unknown Country, I strongly recommend seeking out these various official releases.

As far as particularly strong performances, it would be very hard to single them out. The relatively short running time of Bob Dylan's contribution to the Rolling Thunder shows (which were composed of many artists' sets) made it possible to include a fairly complete hypothetical setlist. Of the included tracks, "Isis" sounds particularly wild, "Hurricane" is an exceptionally spirited performance, and "Just Like A Woman" features a harmony vocal that is dramatically improved from earlier appearances in the tour; "Hattie Carroll" is also slowed down a bit, providing a particularly moving experience. Finally, the rhythm section on "One More Cup Of Coffee" is more inventive than some nights, which improves an always-welcome song just a hair.

A purist might note that the acoustic sets were sometimes longer, and this is true, but Dylan's solo portions were rarely the most noteworthy parts of the show. The final two songs of each night, "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" and "This Land Is Your Land," are omitted because they are just not that interesting. Both were very collaborative, and in my eyes suffer a bit for this. I'm sure it would have been great to be there, but I rarely want to hear Roger McGuinn when listening to a Bob Dylan album - they duet on "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" - and "This Land Is Your Land" tends to be a bit rudderless.

Edits were kept to a minimum, but some work needed to be done. The tracks from December 1 contained a very distracting buzz, and this was eliminated through limited noise reduction; the overall sound was not hurt a bit. The tracks from December 2 ran fast, and had to be slowed slightly; similarly, the December 8 tracks were sourced from Knight of the Hurricane, and had to be sped up slightly. Admittedly, between-song chatter is not emphasized here, in order to accommodate all eighteen songs. The only track that really loses much from this omission is "It Takes A Lot To Laugh," in which Dylan introduces Robbie Robertson as a guest on guitar and describes attendee Al Grossman as a man who "won't be the next president." Your guess is as good as mine.

I hope you enjoy the songs! This compilation took quite a bit more work than most of the Thousand Highways Collection, due to the sound peculiarities discussed above and the rather extreme differences in performances from night to night. I have about 200 tracks in a folder on my computer, though most of these are versions of the ones on the CD in louder, quieter, faster, slower, longer, or shorter forms. If these pique your interest, I strongly suggest seeking out the complete shows from November 4, December 1, and December 8. Overall, they probably represent the best of the unreleased content.

Next month we will be covering the second, even more on-the-edge 1976 Rolling Thunder Revue tour. At some point in May, I am hoping to release a small bonus, so check in on the site every once in a while; I promise it'll be worth your while. Until next time, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.

-CS

Update - May 2 2015: A generous soul has informed me that the CD ran approximately 2 seconds too long to fit onto a standard CD. I have re-edited the final track to be 4 seconds shorter, and all links have been updated. As an added bonus, I have included four "outtakes" - among these a much slower "Isis" and more countrified "Mama, You Been On My Mind" that is unfortunately marred by some vocal distortion - and an extended version of "It Takes A Lot To Laugh" that retains the introduction discussed above. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Testament - Unreleased Live Recordings, 1979 - 1981



 Testament: Live Recordings, 1979 - 1981

Gotta Serve Somebody - Live - Houston - November 12, 1981
I Believe In You - Live - Santa Monica - November 18, 1979
When You Gonna Wake Up - Live - Santa Monica - November 18, 1979
When He Returns - Live - Toronto - April 20, 1980
Man Gave Names To All The Animals - Live - Santa Monica - November 18, 1979
Precious Angel - Live - Santa Monica - November 18, 1979
Dead Man, Dead Man - Live - London - June 28, 1981
Saved - Live - Avignon - July 25, 1981
Covenant Woman - Live - Seattle - January 15, 1980
Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking - Live - Santa Monica - November 18, 1979
Do Right To Me Baby - Live - Santa Monica - November 18, 1979
Solid Rock - Live - London - June 28, 1981
What Can I Do For You - Live - Portland - January 16, 1980
Blessed Is The Name - Live - San Francisco - November 16, 1979
Pressing On - Live - Seattle - January 15, 1980
City Of Gold - Live - Birmingham - July 5, 1981

Links

Surprise - Happy Easter! I have been feeling particularly inspired during the last few days of Lent, and wanted to share an Easter gift with you fine people. It was put together much quicker than my usual compilations, but I don't think it suffers unduly for this difference.

These tracks comprise a fairly broad overview of Bob Dylan’s exploration of gospel music between 1979 and 1981. After his conversion to Christianity in 1978, Dylan jumped fully into creating faith-oriented music, and his devotion is present in every one of these songs, from the whimsical (“Man Gave Names To All The Animals”) to the intense (“When You Gonna Wake Up”) to the uplifting (“Pressing On”).

Hopefully I'm not getting too personal, but as a Catholic, I’ve often found a lot of inspiration in Dylan’s spiritual music. Be aware that, if you dislike the themes of Slow Train Coming and Saved, this compilation is not going to convert you into enjoying this era. If you enjoyed those, though, you will find these live performances to be very moving. The man is as dedicated to his craft here as he was in 1966, 1975, or 2014.

Many of the recordings are from the recently surfaced Mike Millard tapes. He was a live recording genius, and his recordings of the shows on November 18, 1979 and January 15, 1980, have become some of the finest records we have of Dylan’s “gospel” period. Other tapes include the ever-excellent 1981 shows, an improved version of the “Contract With The Lord” bootleg from ‘79, and the esteemed “Born Again Music” Toronto 1980 set. Some of the recordings are fairly surprising - a full band “City of Gold” from 1981 is the most notable. All songs here are positively magnetic.

Though this ground has been covered in the Thousand Highways Collection with Serve Somebody, 1979-1980 and Still The Same Man, Volumes 1 & 2, 1980-1981, Easter inspired me to craft a new mix. I’m very pleased with the results, and I hope that you will be too.

CS

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Rites Of Spring - Unreleased Live Recordings, 1966



Rites of Spring - World Tour - 1966
Disc One

She Belongs To Me - Live - Sheffield - May 16, 1966
Fourth Time Around - Live - London - May 27, 1966
Monologue On ‘Drug Songs’ - Live - London - May 27, 1966
Visions Of Johanna - Live - Melbourne - April 20, 1966
It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue - Live - Melbourne - April 20, 1966
Desolation Row - Live - London - May 27, 1966
Just Like A Woman - Live - Sheffield - May 16, 1966
Mr. Tambourine Man - Live - Sheffield - May 16, 1966




Rites of Spring - World Tour - 1966
Disc Two

Tell Me Mama - Live - Liverpool - May 14, 1966
I Don’t Believe You - Live - Liverpool - May 14, 1966
Baby, Let Me Follow You Down - Live - Liverpool - May 14, 1966
Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat - Live - Sheffield - May 16, 1966
Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues - Live - Melbourne - April 20, 1966
One Too Many Mornings - Live - Sheffield - May 16, 1966
Ballad Of A Thin Man - Live - Birmingham - May 12, 1966
Like A Rolling Stone - Live - London - May 26, 1966

Links


Bob Dylan’s 1966 concerts are considered by many critics to be among the finest achievements of twentieth century rock music. With these recordings, you have the opportunity to judge for yourself.

Though the most notable concert, performed in Manchester, was released to great acclaim in the 1990s, and a few other incredible performances were released over the years, like “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” from Liverpool on Masterpieces and “I Don’t Believe You” from Belfast on Biograph, many other recordings have circulated among collectors over the past half-century. The acoustic sets are, overall, better represented. Many of the electric sets suffer from extreme distortion or truncated run-times. Still, one is able to piece together a ‘full show’ from circulating unreleased recordings. Concerning lineage, the recordings that make up this compilation are drawn entirely from the unparallelled “Genuine Live 1966” box set.

The concert setlists remained static from the start of the tour to its conclusion, excepting some early performances of “To Ramona” and “Love Minus Zero/No Limit” in the United States and “Positively 4th Street” in Sydney (found on The Thousand Highways Collection - Shades of Blue). No good recordings of the American shows are extant as of early 2015.

One of the most interesting aspects of the songs above are the between-song commentary. “Visions of Johanna” is introduced as ‘not a drug song,’ and its author asserts his disdain for British music journalism. “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” is explained as a tale of Tom Thumb, a 125-year-old Mexican painter. Dylan reminds his audience ahead of “One Too Many Mornings” that he, too, was just a baby once. Finally, he gives his only band introductions of the tour before the final, caustic “Like A Rolling Stone,” assuring the audience sarcastically that he and The Hawks have enjoyed every minute of playing for them.

This is a deeply confrontational series of songs. Though the acoustic songs manage to express a kind of delicate beauty rarely found outside of classical music, the electric songs hurl every ounce of raw sound at the audience. At times, the quality suffers, as “I Don’t Believe You” gets a bit distorted and “Like A Rolling Stone” threatens to fall apart throughout its ten minutes, but you just can’t turn away. It’s really fascinating, and sounds no less alive and moving than the day it was recorded. In particular, “Just Like A Woman” is utterly heartbreaking, “Mr. Tambourine Man” is spellbinding, and “Ballad Of A Thin Man” is a truly definitive performance.

I hope you enjoy the songs. If you haven’t purchased it yet, do yourself a favor and obtain the official Bootleg Series release documenting this tour - its sound quality is quite remarkable, and puts this compilation to shame. If you really find yourself wanting more, look into the recently released Side Tracks album for a few more top-notch performances.

Thanks for listening! In May, we will move on to the wild, unknown country of Bob Dylan's 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue tour. Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.