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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Down The River: Unreleased Outtakes & Special Appearances, 1999 - 2012


Down The River: Outtakes & Special Appearances, 1999 - 2012

Dirt Road Blues: Outtake - Masked & Anonymous Session, 2002
The Times They Are A-Changin': Live at the White House - 2010
Tell Ol' Bill: Outtake - North Country Session, 2005
Things Have Changed: Live at the Oscars - 2001
Maggie's Farm: Live at the Grammys - 2011
It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry: Live with the Wynton Marsalis Band - 2004
Standing In The Doorway: Outtake - Masked & Anonymous Session, 2002
A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall: Expo Zaragoza Session - 2008
Cry A While: Live at the Grammys - 2002
Watching The River Flow: Amazon.com 10th Birthday Session - 2005
A Change Is Gonna Come: Live at the Apollo - 2004
Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues: Live in Rio - 2008
Don't Think Twice, It's Alright: Live with the Wynton Marsalis Band - 2004
Blind Willie McTell: Live at the Critic's Choice Awards - 2012
I'll Remember You: Outtake - Masked & Anonymous Session, 2002
Bottleneck Polka: Dharma & Greg Session - 1999

Bonus

Things Have Changed: Live at the AFI Tribute to Michael Douglas, 2009

Download Link - Down The River

This set collects the best of Bob Dylan's unreleased outtakes, sessions, and special appearances from 1999 to 2012. All are available here as uncompressed WAV files derived from the original video or FLAC sources. As you can imagine, establishing that these are of a "lossless" origin is problematic, since the original record is in many cases either broadcast or streaming video. Still, they are as good as you can get, given the issues with the source.

For a brief introduction to the tracks:

Dirt Road Blues - This is one of the only two performances of this, which both occurred during the Masked and Anonymous sessions. They are likely two portions of the same performance, but this one is more complete and lacks any dropouts or movie dialogue. Unfortunately, it also lacks lyrics. The instrumentation offers a good introduction to the CD, however, so it is present here.

The Times They Are A-Changin' - My personal favorite of the CD. At an event celebrating the progress of Civil Rights in America, Virtually every word is heartbreaking, as all of the broken and fulfilled promises of the 1960s come to the surface in this brief performance. The piano sounds like raindrops, and Tony Garnier's bass weaves deftly through the song.

Tell Ol' Bill #3 - This is a radically altered, slow blues outtake of "Tell Ol' Bill," which appeared on the North Country soundtrack and Dylan's own Bootleg Series Volume 8. Frankly, this is my favorite of the three, with soulful vocals pouring everything they've got into each line, along with a beautiful instrumental break at the end of the song.

Things Have Changed - Bob Dylan performed this at the 2001 Oscars, and though a verse has been excised, it is pretty faithful to the studio version. The audio here is an improvement on the version present on the Hollow Horn's Some Big TV Network collection, with more space in the recording.

Maggie's Farm - This is a contentious performance from the 2011 Grammys. The mix is lacking for the first verse, but a ragged passion pervades the rest of the recording. The accordion and backing vocals really lend a unique character to this track.

It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry - Here is one of the highlights of the collection, recorded at a benefit event with the Wynton Marsalis band. It's a jazz take, complete with horns. This remastering was carried out by Crystal Cat for their Rochester '04 record, and is an improvement on the other circulating track.

Standing in the Doorway - I am proud of the splicing present here. The outtake remained full of movie ambiance and dialogue, which has been carefully removed to present as complete a recording as possible. The vocals are extraordinary, though not as strong as the live renditions that would be performed in 2004. We can only hope a full version surfaces someday.

A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall - The song was recorded for a water benefit in 2008. Dylan and his touring band created a mid-tempo, shuffle arrangement of the poetic classic. It's not the best rendition, but the organ shines out here as a driving force. The final fade is abrupt, due to the nature of the original recording, but you get to here a Theme Time-era announcement of the singer's support for the mission to make water pure.

Cry A While - We move into much bluesier territory here, with a scathing performance of a song from the "Love and Theft" LP. It hews close to other performances of the tune from 2002, but the recording is very high quality. Unfortunately, there are serious signal issues at the end, which were present on all files I could find. I've minimized the intrusiveness through editing, but it could not be removed entirely. Regardless, it barely detracts from the outstanding song.

Watching the River Flow - Admittedly, the audio on this recording is of a slightly lower quality than other tracks on this compilation, as it came from a streaming broadcast on Amazon.com's website. Still, the stream was fairly high quality and the difference is not especially noticeable. The song itself is one of the best renditions of this tune, which first appeared on Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Volume II. Of particular interest is the arrangement's startling similarity to "Spirit on the Water," which would be released the following year.

A Change is Gonna Come - Wow, what can be said about this. The vocals are transcendent, and the significance of the song, a civil rights ballad inspired by Dylan's own "Blowin' in the Wind" is clear. The audio here is superior to that present on Genuine Bootleg Series 4.

Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues - If you hate the organ sound, you may hate this song. It is simply an excerpt from Bob Dylan's stop in Rio during his 2008 tour, but his enthusiasm and the soundboard quality recording make this worthy of inclusion. An excellent TV clip of the performance is available, and I recommend seeking it out.

Don't Think Twice, It's Alright - Here is the second and final track from Dylan's collaboration with the Wynton Marsalis band. It's a very odd arrangement, and completely unique. Even though the vocals are a bit buried, it's worth the download for this track alone.

Blind Willie McTell - This one of the gems of the collection. Bob Dylan pulled out all the stops to deliver a powerful performance of this classic American tale. He breathes new life into the already moving song, and the last verse in particular is a stunning tribute to the lasting power of Dylan's poetry.

I'll Remember You - Here is another outtake from the Masked and Anonymous sessions, and certainly the best of the three. It offers a full acoustic rearrangement of the Empire Burlesque song, and is heads above the original album take. The vocals are spellbinding. I was unable to fully remove the interfering audio from the beginning of the song, but minimized its presence through volume adjustment. It fades out rapidly, and the listener is left to hear the singer's testimony.

Bottleneck Polka - This is an amusing little ditty from Bob Dylan's appearance on Dharma & Greg in 1999, leading a band which included T-Bone Burnett! It's a fitting counterpoint to the disc's opener, "Dirt Road Blues," and a fine way to bring this compilation full-circle.

The 2009 AFI Tribute performance of "Things Have Changed" is featured as a bonus track. It does not appear as a primary song in the set, since it would have been a duplicate. Feel free to add it at the end if loaded onto an iPod or burned onto disc, since there is space.

Admittedly, there are some minor holes in the collection: "Do Re Mi" is the saddest omission, but it is readily available for purchase on The People Speak soundtrack. "Train of Love," an excellent performance from 1999, and "You Win Again," from a 2004 set with Willie Nelson, are also available on the Kindred Spirits CD and Willie Nelson's Outlaws & Angels DVD respectively. Several other interesting tracks were recorded during this time, including "I Can't Get You Off Of My Mind," which appears on Timeless: A Hank Williams Tribute, and "Red Cadillac & A Black Moustache," which you can find on Good Rockin Tonight: The Legacy of Sun Records. Finally, and most importantly, some excellent tracks recorded by Bob Dylan for his film Masked & Anonymous are available on the Masked & Anonymous Soundtrack, including a surprising rendition of the nineteenth century "Dixie." Note that all links are to amazon.com, as they are absent from bobdylan.com, but these CDs and MP3s are likely available elsewhere.

"Rollin' & Tumblin'" and "It Ain't Me Babe," were performed alongside "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" at the Rockin' in Rio show, but had to be left behind because their sound quality is atrocious. For some reason, the included track had a hi-def audio feed. Amazon.com 10th Anniversary Concert's remaining tracks are also omitted. Frankly, none of them stood out besides this lovely rendition of "Watching the River Flow."

I hope you enjoy the collection, and my rambling notes. The compilation is based on the strong foundation of several other collections. Among other sources, the record Masked Songs And the Ghosts of Electricity and the video compilation Ladies and Gentlemen were instrumental in crafting this CD. I have not reduced the audio fidelity of those recordings, and all tracks here are offered in the best quality available.

Next week we will move ahead to the Brixton Residency of 2005 for some wonderful recordings, including the outstanding live debut of Basement Tapes classic "Million Dollar Bash." Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.
Thanks,
CS

Note: Original download link did not include "Blind Willie McTell" from the Critics' Choice Awards in 2012. This has been corrected with an updated link.

12 comments:

  1. Hi man ! Thank you for all your work ! Just wanted to say that Blind Willie McTell is unfortunately missing from the wav file of your last one !

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    1. Thanks for the tip. It's such a great song - I'd hate for it to go unheard, haha!

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  2. I, too love this version of Times They are a Changin .... simply beautiful

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  3. And that version of I'll Remember You... just wow.

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  4. I can’t get over how good this comp is. I’m not sure the Winston Marsalis stuff stands up to the rest of it, but they are interesting curiosities. Even that version of Hard Rain has won me over. And the M&A stuff is just gold... there must be a whole Bootleg Series worth of stuff in the vaults from those sessions...

    Excited about your 2005 comp, those were astonishing shows. Having seen the tracklist for your original version, though, can I make a plea for the inclusion of London’s Calling? It was a defining moment of that residency, even more so than Rumble.

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    1. Good call on the 2005 "London Calling." I haven't really listened to that one since I put it together, and had a false memory of that song being included. I suspect it was excluded due to it leading directly into "Like A Rolling Stone," which did not make the cut. Perhaps I can work out some compelling edit to make it work in context. Thanks for the suggestion!

      In other news, I agree that the Marsalis tracks aren't a perfect fit with the others, and those familiar with the earlier iterations of these compilations will be aware that those songs were not included on the first version. Several people had requested them, and the mix on them was not appreciably poorer than on "Maggie's Farm," plus they are just so darned entertaining and unique, so they made their way onto the disc this time. I was surprised to find out recently that they are among my wife's favorite Bob Dylan recordings!

      With regard to the Masked & Anonymous Sessions, they are high on my wishlist for a Bootleg Series release. Everything we've heard so far is so good that I imagine the songs remaining in the vault are pretty great too.

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  5. Prior experience leaves me with absolute faith in your editing skills! I have no skill in this area but I would guess you could dovetail it into one of the rockier tracks like Maggie's Farm?

    Agree completely about the M&A sessions. In my head they (along with fall 2002) showcase the last gasp of his old reedy, nasal dexterity before the growl took over. Weren't the supposed to be hours and hours of recordings? One day. *sigh*



    (no comment re your wife's judgement ;-)

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  6. The bonus track - Things Have Changed: Live at the AFI Tribute to Michael Douglas, 2009 - doesn't appear to download with the file. How do we access it?

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  7. Never mind! Found it. It's listed separately from the other tracks.

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  8. Frankly, it almost could be an official release. I just love that one. Many thanks.

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  9. Great selection and notes.

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  10. This is fantastic - thank you!

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