Friday, June 15, 2018

In The Summertime: Unreleased Live Recordings, 1981

Volume One

Gotta Serve Somebody - Live - London - June 29, 1981
I Believe In You - Live - London - June 29, 1981
Like A Rolling Stone - Live - Avignon - July 25, 1981
I Want You - Live - New Orleans - November 10, 1981
The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll - Live - Houston - November 12, 1981
Man Gave Names To All The Animals - Live - Houston - November 12, 1981
Maggie's Farm - Live - London - June 29, 1981
Girl Of The North Country - Live - Basel - July 23, 1981
I'll Be Your Baby Tonight - Live - Houston - November 12, 1981
All Along The Watchtower - Live - New Orleans - November 10, 1981
Barbara Allen - Live - Birmingham - July 4, 1981
Watered-Down Love - Live - New Orleans - November 10, 1981
Shot Of Love - Live - New Orleans - November 10, 1981
Simple Twist Of Fate - Live - New Orleans - November 10, 1981
A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall - Live - Houston - November 12, 1981
Forever Young - Live - New Orleans - November 10, 1981

Introduction to Maggie's Farm - Live - Houston - November 12, 1981
Introduction to Watered-Down Love - Live - Columbia - June 14, 1981
Introduction to Shot Of Love - Live - Avignon - July 25, 1981

Volume Two

The Times They Are A-Changin' - Live - Houston - November 12, 1981
Saved - Live - Avignon - July 25, 1981
Solid Rock - Live - Houston - November 12, 1981
Just Like A Woman - Live - New Orleans - November 10, 1981
Dead Man, Dead Man - Live - London - June 28, 1981
Heart Of Mine - Live - Houston - November 12, 1981
Ballad Of A Thin Man - Live - Birmingham - July 4, 1981
Jesus Is The One - Live - Avignon - July 25, 1981
Lenny Bruce - Live - Avignon - July 25, 1981
Let's Begin - Live - Avignon - July 25, 1981
Slow Train - Live - Avignon - July 25, 1981
Mr. Tambourine Man - Live - Drammen - July 9, 1981
When You Gonna Wake Up? - Live - London - June 29, 1981
In The Summertime - Live - Avignon - July 25, 1981
Love Minus Zero/No Limit - Live - London - June 29, 1981
Knockin' On Heaven's Door - Live - Basel - July 23, 1981

Introduction to Ballad Of A Thin Man - Live - Nashville - November 14, 1981
Introduction to Lenny Bruce - Live - London - June 26, 1981
Introduction to Knockin' On Heaven's Door - Live - Houston - November 12, 1981

Volume Three

Gotta Serve Somebody - Live - Houston - November 12, 1981
I Believe In You - Live - Drammen - July 10, 1981
Like A Rolling Stone - Live - London - June 28, 1981
What Can I Do For You? - Live - Birmingham - July 4, 1981
Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues - Live - Columbia - June 14, 1981
When He Returns - Live - Cincinnati - November 4, 1981
Heart Of Mine - Live - Drammen - July 9, 1981
Solid Rock - Live - London - June 28, 1981
Let It Be Me - Live - Toronto - October 29, 1981
Dead Man, Dead Man - Live - Birmingham - July 4, 1981
It's All In The Game - Live - Merrillville - October 19, 1981
Masters Of War - Live - New Orleans - November 10, 1981
Abraham, Martin & John - Live - Columbia - June 14, 1981
When You Gonna Wake Up? - Live - Houston - November 12, 1981
Don't Think Twice, It's Alright - Live - Drammen - July 9, 1981
City Of Gold - Live - Birmingham - July 5, 1981

1981 is my favorite year of Bob Dylan's touring career. Consequently, I've put quite a bit of time and attention into this uncharacteristically lengthy entry in the Thousand Highways Collection.

The third and final year in Bob Dylan's so-called 'gospel period' is a peculiar, unique experience. The early days of the tour were actually quite reminiscent of the preceding Musical Retrospective Tour of Fall 1980. Note the appearance on Volume Three of "Abraham, Martin & John," which was played only twice in 1981 after being featured regularly throughout the earlier tour. Other songs shared between Dylan's four appearances in the United States during June 1981 and his popular return to secular performances between November to December 1980 after a year of pure gospel were "Rise Again," "Covenant Woman" and "We Just Disagree." These tracks would disappear from the set after the singer set foot on European soil for a Summer tour, and the new year would quickly acquire its own identity.

Most conspicuously, a Caribbean influence pervaded Dylan's sound. Tracks which had formerly been compellng but staid, like "I Believe In You," somehow grew in power after receiving more idiosyncratic vocals and a more complex drum pattern courtesy of Jim Keltner. The new tracks, which would be published on Shot of Love in August 1981, were a consistent highlight of the concerts and contributed to the Caribbean flair. As he'd done during the Rolling Thunder Revue in 1975, Dylan managed to put across these new songs even more powerfully on the road.

The recent Trouble In Mind, by Clinton Heylin, presents a narrative of the tour running out of steam as it moved from Summer to Fall. I disagree wholeheartedly with this assessment, much as I respect Heylin's research into the unreleased recordings of this time period. The Summer shows are incredible - Avignon is among the best recordings of the singer's career - but Fall includes a more bizarre setlist and increasingly on-the-edge performances. Check out the seemingly Cheap Trick-influenced "I Want You" or the passionate "Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" for a look into Dylan's idiosyncratic reinventions of classic songs. A soundboard recording of New Orleans, mixed by studio legend Daniel Lanois, circulates in fan circles, but my favorite show from the Fall Tour is Houston. Introduced by Hugues Aufray, a French artist and fan, Dylan performed a particularly loose concert to the enthusiastic Texas audience. The show circulates in a lossless audience recording, but I have opted here for the comparatively lossy cassette master that sounds absolutely magnificent to my ears.

As his performances grew in unique arrangements - consider the total reinvention of "Mr. Tambourine Man" featured in Drammen on July 9 - Dylan also grew uncharacteristically talkative with his fans. At Columbia on June 14, he offered his amusing if condescending assessment of a writer penning a biography of him. At Avignon on July 25, on the other hand, he lauded fans who had followed the tour from Toulouse. At London on June 26 he offered insight into how quickly "Lenny Bruce" had been written (two minutes), and at Nasvhille on November 14 he reminisced about how dangerous the city was for a man with long hair when he'd recorded Highway 61 Revisited in 1965. In my favorite instance, he mused about the ascent of computers and their role in air traffic at Houston on November 12. All in all, it's a lovely year for the singer's on-stage commentary.

The first two volumes here are intended to represent something of a standard show. As Paul Williams notes in his inimitable Performing Artist series of books, Bob Dylan's 1981 tours were something of an anomaly. Rather than focus on a single element of the singer's career - either a self-conscious career retrospective like 1974 or 1978, or an emphasize on recent albums like 1966 or 1975 - this year would be uncharacteristically free of such constraints. Setlists were clearly used, as many song sequences remained the same throughout the year, but the overall selection of songs would be wider than anything that had come before. 1981 was a year where the singer seems to have felt untethered by expetations: he played songs from his upcoming (or recently released) record, but didn't dwell on it, while looking to the past through a new lens.

The third volume instead focuses on tracks which didn't make the initial selection. Some of these have been included on other Thousand Highways compilations and I wanted to centralize them here. Others, like an unsuccessful yet entirely unique full-band performance of "When He Returns," are new to my collection. "Gotta Serve Somebody" represents the surprising fact that the song went from the exciting rearrangement that appeared on the Summer Tour to a more straightforward, if charmingly rendered, arrangement from the following Fall Tour. "Solid Rock" moved in the opposite direction, as it was performed in a guise reminiscent of 1979-1980 during the Summer but was rearranged as a slow funk crawl in the Fall. Other tracks appear here which sadly lacked better-quality recordings - "It's All In The Game" and "Let It Be Me" chief among these - while "Heart Of Mine" is an intriguing look at what might have been: Dylan played organ on the up-tempo Summer 1981 performances of this Shot Of Love single, but it reverted to a more standard arrangement on the Fall Tour.

I hope you enjoy this selection of songs. I absolutely adore Bob Dylan's 1981 live performances, and I'll admit a touch jealousy for those who had the chance to attend them in person. Still, I'll remain content with this surprisingly extensive set of beautiful recordings. Until next time, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.


Saturday, June 2, 2018

Coming Soon: In The Summertime - Live 1981 (3 Disks)

Welcome to summer, friends! 

I haven't forgotten you all. The new collection should have posted yesterday, wrapping up our re-exploraiton of the gospel years in light of Sony's 2017 release of Trouble No More: Live 1979 - 1981. Unfortunately, I started a new job in the past month (after ten years at my last one!) and have been more than a little distracted. 

This is all the more challenging because 1981 is my favorite year of Bob Dylan's touring career and I really want to do it justice with an expanded set. Consequently, I have an exhaustive three-volume set coming to you soon. I'm still putting the finishing touches on it, but it should be ready by June 15. Check back in on that day and I'm sure you'll find an exciting new chapter of the Thousand Highways Collection. Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Caribbean Wind: Unreleased Studio Recordings, 1980 - 1981

Caribbean Wind
Unreleased Studio Recordings
1980 - 1981

Mystery Train - Outtake, 1981
Heart Of Mine - Outtake, 1981
Caribbean Wind - Outtake, 1980
Wind Blowing On The Water - Outtake, 1981
Shot Of Love - Outtake, 1981
Watered-Down Love - Rough Mix, 1981
Hallelujah - Outtake, 1981
Let It Be Me - Outtake, 1981
Is It Worth It? - Outtake, 1981
Let's Keep It Between Us - Outtake, 1980
Magic - Outtake, 1981
Dead Man, Dead Man - Rough Mix, 1981
Ah Ah Ah Ah (High Away) - Outtake, 1981
In The Summertime - Rough Mix, 1981
Borrowed Time - Outtake, 1981

Mediafire Link

Welcome to a lovely and oft-overlooked corner of Bob Dylan's recording career - the sessions that led to 1981's Shot of Love. Shot of Love is a remarkably good record, whatever else you've heard, and was Dylan's last to sound like a bunch of people playing in the same room until Love & Theft in 2001. There was no sleek shine to this production, and consequently it breathed with the passion found in much of the man's best work. Unfortunately, many of the finest recordings from these sessions were not released on that album. In particular, "Yonder Comes Sin" and "Caribbean Wind" are absolutely essential, and "Heart of Mine" was recorded in a much better rendition than the one that appears on the official release.

Outside of these classics, more minor gems were recorded. No collection of Dylan outtakes would be complete without these covers of "Mystery Train" and "Let It Be Me." The fragmentary songs, including "Hallelujah" (not the Leonard Cohen song) and "Borrowed Time" make one wonder what could have been; "Is It Worth It" and "Ah Ah Ah Ah (High Away)" point to the reggae-influenced road ahead to Infidels, and contribute to the overall Caribbean sound of this era.

The other studio cuts are intriguing as well. "Let's Keep It Between Us" is a fairly recently unearthed prototype for a song that would become transcendent on the road in Fall, 1980; you can find a live recording of the song on Rise Again: Live, Fall 1980. The rough mixes of "Dead Man, Dead Man," "Watered-Down Love," and "In The Summertime" are all interesting, but "Watered-Down Love" stands above the others, retaining an extra verse not present on the official release but conspicuous in live performances from 1981. It's likely that, like the longer version of "Dead Man, Dead Man" that appears on 2017's Trouble No More, this extra verse was cut for time constraints on the 1981 Shot of Love LP. "In The Summertime," too, stands out for the inclusion of a mournful harmonica that extends the song by a full minute beyond its officially released version.

A handful of songs have been cut from this updated publication of an earlier Thousand Highways compilation. Of these, "The Groom's Still Waiting At The Altar" was abandoned for its similarity to the officially released studio performance; the only difference was an extended conclusion in which the band eventually stops playing. Live recordings have also been omitted to improve the sense of cohesion. An extended two-disc collection representing the 1981 tours will cover this material.

I hope you enjoy this newest compilation, and include it in your collections alongside the inimitable Shot of Love and extraordinary Trouble No More. It was a blast to put together. Until next time, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.


Monday, April 2, 2018

Rise Again: Unreleased Live Recordings, Fall 1980

Rise Again
Live: Fall 1980

Blowin' In The Wind - Live - San Francisco - November 13, 1980
A Couple More Years - Live - Portland - December 3, 1980
What Can I Do For You? - Live - Portland - December 3, 1980
Precious Angel - Live - San Francisco - November 12, 1980
Slow Train - Live - Seattle - November 29, 1980
We Just Disagree - Live - Portland - December 4, 1980
Fever - Live - Seattle - November 30, 1980
To Ramona - Live - San Francisco - November 16, 1980
Senor - Live - San Francisco - November 11, 1980
Mary From The Wild Moor - Live - San Francisco - November 15, 1980
Let's Keep It Between Us - Live - Portland - December 3, 1980
Monologue: The Same Man - Live - San Francisco - November 12
Rise Again - Live - Seattle - November 29
The Groom's Still Waiting At The Altar - Live - San Francisco - November 16, 1980
Ain't Gonna Go To Hell For Anybody - Live - Seattle - November 29
In The Garden - Live - San Francisco - November 11, 1980
City Of Gold - Live - San Francisco - November 13, 1980

Intro & False Start to Slow Train - Live - San Francisco - November 11, 1980
Intro to Fever - Live - San Francisco - November 22

After touring with an all-gospel revue in 1979 and early 1980, Bob Dylan made the surprising decision to reintegrate some of his classic songs with his newer bible-influenced repertoire while touring the US West Coast. At the same time, he pulled in a number of cover songs ranging from traditional Scottish ballads ("Mary From The Wild Moor") to recent radio hits (Dave Mason's "We Just Disagree") and contemporary Christian songs (Dallas Holm's "Rise Again").

It is not clear what moved Dylan to alter his earlier goal of playing explicitly religious material to fans night after night, regardless of the reception. As he and his band rehearsed in Los Angeles' Rundown Studio during September 1980, the change was apparent. The earliest focus from the rehearsal sessions was on newly written content, including "Caribbean Wind," "Every Grain of Sand" and "Yonder Comes Sin." Then after tossing off a handful of attempts at songs played on previous tours, Dylan then led his crew into numerous country and pop covers. Several of these would work their way into the following shows, but most remain unheard. One rare gem unearthed from these sessions by 2017's excellent Bootleg Series Volume 13: Trouble No More is an acoustic rendition of "Rise Again"; it's fascinating to hear just how much the song had changed between the studio and the stage in November.

For an extended residency at San Francisco's Warfield Theater from November 9 to November 22, Bob Dylan would pull out all the stops on his setlist. It varied little from night to night, but the breadth of material performed was enormous. Most shows opened with the same two songs that had introduced his concerts since the preceding year - "Gotta Serve Somebody" and "I Believe In You" (neither present on Rise Again) - before he launched into an electrified gospel arrangement of "Like A Rolling Stone." The latter is omitted from this set since it would be dramatically enhanced the following year.

With these introductory songs played, along with a nightly one-song performance by Regina McCrary, the setlist then began to open up to an intriguing combination of old and new material. "To Ramona" and "Girl From The North Country" appeared often, the former in a toned-down version of its 1978 arrangement and the latter in an all-new elegant semi-acoustic guise; Jerry Garcia, only one of numerous guests throughout the tour, plays guitar on the November 16 performance of "To Ramona" included on Rise Again. Though some of his recent gospel songs had lost a bit of their luster during the summer touring hiatus, tracks like "Slow Train" and "In The Garden" seemed to have somehow gained even more strength.

One of the most impressive elements of the Fall 1980 shows, though, was the emphasis on new compositions which, in many cases, failed to make it onto any albums. We know now that these were being worked up during the September 1980 studio sessions, perhaps in anticipation of a forthcoming album, but at the time they must have been quite surprising to audiences. "Let's Keep It Between Us," "Caribbean Wind," "The Groom's Still Waiting At The Altar," "City Of Gold" and a newly re-written "Ain't Gonna Go To Hell For Anybody" are extraordinary compositions, and we are lucky to have so many of them performed and recorded in marvelous condition at these shows. Only "The Groom's Still Waiting At The Altar" would make it onto 1981's Heart of Mine single as a b-side, and even that song had been heavily re-written between its November 1980 live appearance and the recording studio. Some of the others were recorded in the studio to less success, like "Let's Keep It Between Us" and "Caribbean Wind," or seem not to have ever been attempted in a studio session, like "City Of Gold." Whatever the case, they are excellent concert performance pieces and I'm sure you'll enjoy them here.

While "Caribbean Wind" has been omitted from Rise Again due to an official release on The Bootleg Series Volume 13, I felt compelled to include its introduction. No direct mention is made of the song, and a problem with the soundboard recording kept it from being published on said official release. It's an illuminating meditation on Dylan's own philosophy regarding his mercurial performance philosophy, as he muses about Leadbelly recording prison songs, then children's songs, all while remaining the same man; Leadbelly's audiences, of course, had been polarized about which version of him they preferred. This discomfort with audience expectations would go on to be explored more bitterly during the following year's European tour, as Dylan would openly speculate from the stage that audiences should enjoy the new songs now since, if he came back, he'd eventually just be playing the old hits that everyone wanted to hear.

I've also included a lengthy introduction to Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell's "Fever," which had been a hit in the '50s when recorded by Little Willie John and then Peggy Lee. Though the timeline doesn't quite sync up, Bob Dylan recalls his first time coming face to face with R&B in a Detroit bingo parlor as a young man. Having formerly listened primarily to country music, this seems to have been a formative experience in pushing the young Minnesotan out of his element and into a relationship with other musical genres. This is one of my favorite on-stage speeches by the singer, so I'm happy to include it alongside the great songs on Rise Again.

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


Saturday, March 31, 2018

Slight Delay: Rise Again - Live, Fall 1980

Happy Easter/Passover/April Fool's Day, folks!

The blog post today will be going up a day late. It's more or less done, but I need to touch up the art and notes. You'll have it on April 2, 2018. Enjoy your weekend, friends :)

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Things That Remain: Unreleased Live Recordings, Early 1980

The Things That Remain
Live: Early 1980

Gotta Serve Somebody - Live - Los Angeles - February 27, 1980
Covenant Woman - Live - Seattle - January 15, 1980
When You Gonna Wake Up - Live - Knoxville - February 5, 1980
Monologue: Ronnie Hawkins As Bob Dylan - Live - Toronto - April 20, 1980
Ain't Gonna Go To Hell For Anybody - Live - Toronto - April 20, 1980
Cover Down, Pray Through - Live - Toronto - April 20, 1980
Saving Grace - Live - Seattle - January 15, 1980
Do Right To Me Baby (Do Unto Others) - Live - Knoxville - February 5, 1980
Monologue: The End Times - Live - Toronto - April 20, 1980
Solid Rock - Live - Portland - January 16, 1980 *
What Can I Do For You - Live - Portland - January 16, 1980
Saved - Live - Toronto - April 20, 1980
Pressing On - Live - Seattle - January 15, 1980
Are You Ready? - Live - Toronto - April 20, 1980
I Will Sing - Live - Akron - May 18, 1980

* Introduction from April 20, 1980

Link: Mediafire

After the shock of 1979's radical reinvention, Bob Dylan fans could be forgiven for imagining he'd return to a more typical setlist when playing concerts in 1980. Unfortunately for the folks who hoped he'd get back to secular material ASAP, he continued to play the same gospel songs, more or less, that he'd taken on the road the preceding Autumn.

There were some changes. Personnel in the band shifted, as he added Regina Peeples to his backing vocal roster, then brought in Gwen Evans and Mary Elizabeth Bridges. The setlist for January to February remained similar to the year before, but the April and May shows included "Are You Ready?" from Saved, along with a few songs never played in a studio - "Ain't Gonna Go To Hell For Anybody," "Cover Down, Pray Through," and "I Will Sing." The last was a song by Max Dyer, who had developed the song in a largely improvisational live setting and was surprised to hear (twenty years later) that Bob Dylan had covered it at an Ohio show in 1980; "I Will Sing" is also notable for having been the only song played at a concert between 1979 and May 1980 that was not included on The Bootleg Series Volume 13: Trouble No More.

With regard to the nuances of the performances themselves, Dylan's on-stage style in 1980 differed little from 1979. In my personal experience of the recordings, particularly in the Winter months, the bass and drums stand out more prominently than the keyboards. Spooner Oldham and Terry Young remain important players, but Tim Drummond and Jim Keltner are more clearly felt than they had been at the 1979 concerts. Certain songs here highlight that more than others - "Do Right To Me Baby," "Solid Rock" and "Are You Ready" are fantastic vehicles for Bob Dylan's rhythm section.

I find myself in a rare disagreement with noted author Paul Williams, in that I'm not convinced Dylan's early 1980 shows are in any way inferior to his 1979 concerts. Williams claims that there's a falling off of energy, but if that's true, the singer more than makes up for it in the genuinely experimental spirit with which he wove his vocal lines. Check out "Covenant Woman," "What Can I Do For You," or especially "Saving Grace" to discover what happens when Dylan wants to play around with a song without altering its arrangement. I do wish he'd continued playing more of these songs, as he discarded quite a few after the early 1980 shows - "Covenant Woman," "Are You Ready," "Pressing On," and "Cover Down, Pray Through" would never again resurface after May 1980; "Do Right To Me Baby" would be played once on that year's Musical Retrospective Tour, "When He Returns" would appear once in a surprising and unsuccessful full-band arrangement in 1981, and "Saving Grace" wouldn't appear again until the new millennium. Happily, "Gotta Serve Somebody," "Solid Rock," "When You Gonna Wake Up" and "What Can I Do For You" still had some developing to do throughout 1980 and 1981.

The concerts themselves were extraordinary, as was Bob Dylan's appearance at the 1980 Grammy Awards. He played "Gotta Serve Somebody," and even managed to add some new lyrics and a smoky harmonica solo. His raps continued in 1980, though they were comparatively limited according to the extant tapes. We are lucky to have a record of his comments at a Toronto concert in April 1980, and these makes up the bulk of his prose commentary here. This, surprisingly, includes something of a reflection on his notoriously poor reception by a college crowd in Arizona during the preceding year's tour. Dylan weaves that experience together with his expectation of a forthcoming apocalypse, but manages to make the entire story compelling through his uniquely engaging stage voice. Additionally, he ruminates humorously upon Ronnie Hawkins role as Bob Dylan in the poorly received film Renaldo & Clara; it really makes you wish he spoke a bit more often, eh?

There's not much else to say - early 1980 presented something of an expansion and refinement of Bob Dylan's 1979 shows. Audiences were treated to new songs, though no radical reinventions of his gospel tracks. A cover managed to work its way into the set, briefly, but was then dropped again. It seems that this particular style of performance had run its course; by Fall 1980, the singer would be incorporating secular covers and older compositions with his post-1978 catalog in concert.

I hope you enjoy this set! Until next time, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Pressing On: Unreleased Live Recordings, 1979

Pressing On
Live 1979

Gotta Serve Somebody - Live - Santa Monica - November 18, 1979
I Believe In You - Live - San Francisco - November 7, 1979
When You Gonna Wake Up - Live - Santa Monica - November 18, 1979 *
When He Returns - Live - San Francisco - November 16, 1979
Slow Train - Live - San Francisco - November 7, 1979 **
Covenant Woman - Live - Santa Monica - November 19, 1979
Sermon: End Times - Live - Albuquerque - December 5, 1979
Solid Rock - Live - San Francisco - November 16, 1979
Saving Grace - Live - San Francisco - November 16, 1979
Precious Angel - Live - Santa Monica - November 18, 1979
Sermon: Every Knee Shall Bow - Live - Tempe - November 26, 1979
Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking - Live - San Francisco - November 16, 1979
What Can I Do For You - Live - Santa Monica - November 18, 1979
Blessed Is The Name - Live - San Francisco - November 16, 1979
Pressing On - Live - San Francisco - November 4, 1979

* Introduction: Santa Monica - November 19, 1979
** Introduction: San Francisco - November 16, 1979

In November 2017, Sony finally published a significant portion of Bob Dylan's unreleased live and studio performances spanning 1979 to 1981 as The Bootleg Series Volume 13: Trouble No More. This period had gone almost entirely untouched by Dylan's record company outside of the contemporary studio albums (Slow Train Coming, Saved, and Shot of Love) and a handful of live tracks recorded at 1981's noteworthy New Orleans concert - "Heart of Mine" on 1985's Biograph and "Dead Man, Dead Man" on 1989's "Everything Is Broken" single. 

While the new Bootleg Series addition is a welcome addition to any collection (and perhaps my favorite Bootleg Series entry so far), there is always another side to the story. In the case of 1979, the other side is perhaps less important than usual; Dylan didn't significantly alter arrangements or setlists on his first Gospel Tour, so the average fan would likely be perfectly happy listening to the excellent versions chosen and presented in exquisite sound quality for the official compilation. The more enthusiastic fan of Bob Dylan's gospel period, though, might be interested in hearing alternate versions of songs.

More importantly, the official CD set entirely omitted the between-song commentary offered by the singer at these concerts. 1979 and 1980 were genuine rarities in Dylan's career, as the typically reserved performer opened his heart up to audiences. He spoke at times in clearly rehearsed phrases and at other times spontaneously. He had recently converted to Christianity and felt a sense of responsibility to preach the gospel using the two methods most readily available to him - his albums and his concerts. Given the outsized role of Dylan's preaching at shows and its absence from the official Bootleg Series entry, I emphasized it on Pressing On: Live 1979.

Two songs here have extended introductions, while two more lengthy sermons have been isolated as discrete tracks. Many, myself included, find the omission of between-song prose on Trouble No More to be a bit more conducive to repeat listens, so I wanted listeners to have the same option on this unofficial compilation. The first of the two sermons, which I've arbitrarily titled "End Times," is a lengthier explication of the apocalyptic biblical reading that informs songs like "Slow Train Coming" and "Are You Ready?" The second sermon represents the most confrontational moment in the singer's career since feuding with his audience on-stage in Britain on the 1966 tour; he is heckled relentlessly while telling a story about 'false deceivers' and has the lights turned on in the hall, telling his hecklers to go see a KISS concert and 'rock and roll down to the pit' if they don't care for his message.

With regard to the music, there will be few surprises here for those who own Trouble No More. The arrangements and performances are more or less the same, though the sound quality is appreciably worse on these recordings. That said, a handful of tracks benefit from the reduced instrument separation: "Gotta Serve Somebody" is more full here than on Disc One of Trouble No More, "Covenant Woman" is more compressed so the song's first verse isn't unreasonably quiet, the blown bass of "Slow Train" hammers home the sense of smoke and brimstone, and the organ on "Precious Angel" offers a warmth that can be lacking on crisper recordings of the song's 1979 arrangement.

All of this being said, the most significant musical inclusion on this compilation is "Pressing On." When played on November 4, 1979, the song featured an additional third verse that was rapidly dropped and (seemingly) never even made it to the studio when the song was recorded at Muscle Shoals in 1980. The rare verse doubles down on the second verse's references to an internal battle with Satan, so perhaps it was dropped for de-emphasizing the song's broader, more inspirational message. It's hard to say, but I'm glad that the song was recorded in a reasonably clear manner before the verse disappeared permanently.

The next installment in The Thousand Highways Collection will document Bob Dylan's tours of early 1980, including unreleased tracks from the much-beloved Toronto residency. Until next time, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.

- CS