Monday, January 1, 2018

Once Upon A Time: Unreleased Live Recordings, 2017

Once Upon A Time: Live 2017
Volume One

Things Have Changed - Live - Washington, DC - November 14, 2017
It Ain't Me BabeLive - Washington, DC - November 14, 2017
Highway 61 RevisitedLive - Syracuse - June 25, 2017
Why Try To Change Me NowLive - New York - November 24, 2017
Summer DaysLive - New York - November 24, 2017
Melancholy MoodLive - Washington, DC - November 14, 2017
Honest With MeLive - Uniondale - November 8, 2017
Tryin' To Get To HeavenLive - Uniondale - November 8, 2017
Once Upon A TimeLive - Washington, DC - November 14, 2017
Pay In BloodLive - Washington, DC - November 14, 2017
Tangled Up In BlueLive - Washington, DC - November 14, 2017
Soon After MidnightLive - New York - November 24, 2017
Early Roman KingsLive - Saskatoon - July 14, 2017
Desolation RowLive - Winnipeg - July 12, 2017
Thunder On The MountainLive - Washington, DC - November 14, 2017
Autumn LeavesLive - Upper Darby - November 12, 2017

Once Upon A Time: Live 2017
Volume Two

Things Have Changed - Live - Syracuse - June 25, 2017
Don't Think Twice, It's All Right - Live - Esch-sur-Alzette - April 22, 2017
Beyond Here Lies Nothing - Live - Esch-sur-Alzette - April 22, 2017
Standing In The Doorway - Live - Stockholm - April 1, 2017
Lonesome Day Blues - Live - Dover - June 17, 2017
Make You Feel My Love - Live - Saskatoon - July 14, 2017
Blind Willie McTell - Live - Dover - June 17, 2017
Full Moon & Empty Arms - Live - New York - November 22, 2017
It's All Over Now Baby Blue - Live - Dover - June 17, 2017
Tangled Up In Blue - Live - Bournemouth - May 4, 2017
Stormy Weather - Live - Calgary - July 16, 2017
Scarlet Town - Live - Buffalo - November 18, 2017
Early Roman Kings - Live - Upper Darby - November 12, 2017
Love Sick - Live - Bournemouth - May 4, 2017
Learning To Fly - Live - Broomfield - October 21, 2017

2017 was a good year for Bob Dylan's live performances. He managed to play intimate club shows and fun festival sets throughout the year in North America and Europe, developing his setlist significantly from the more static days of the last few years. There were some negative consequences, as the performances are perhaps not quite so tight as they were in 2014 or 2015, but the change overall was one that made a more exciting experience for fans in person and following along at home.

Happily, the tapers also came through in much more challenging conditions than have been faced in recent memory. Terrorism at concert venues has become a sadly common headline, and security has been tightened accordingly; smuggling in recording gear is harder than it used to be, of course. A number of dedicated individuals persevered, though, and we've been graced with extraordinary recordings from Spot, Soomlos, JF, Big Daddy Buffalo, EBR, beer and Imperfect Gravy, among others.*

I have compiled the most consistently strong tracks onto Volume One. This tracklist is less exciting than Volume Two, perhaps, but is the more compelling listening experience. Alex Leary's Washington, DC tape is my favorite combination of performance and recording quality, and is well-represented here. Listeners will notice that the bulk of content on this first volume comes from the Fall Tour of North America - this is because Bob Dylan played and sang in a more adventurous fashion on the final tour of the year, altering a number of arrangements quite significantly.

In particular, the arrangements for "Things Have Changed," "Summer Days," "Honest With Me," Tryin' To Get To Heaven," "Tangled Up In Blue," and "Thunder On The Mountain" have been dramatically altered. The changes to "Things Have Changed" and "Summer Days" occurred earlier in the year, but the others were largely altered by the Autumn concerts. "Honest With Me" and "Thunder On The Mountain" were the most significant of the alterations, as both unexpectedly became infused with a kind of surf rock aesthetic; "Summer Days" was only marginally less altered, becoming a violin-oriented up-tempo folk song more akin to "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" than its former swing sound.

One major change to Bob Dylan's own on-stage work in 2017 was his move to piano for virtually all non-cover performances. While he had been singing many songs center-stage without accompanying himself instrumentally for much of 2013 to 2016, he had moved back to playing piano on "Things Have Changed," "Pay In Blood," "Love Sick," and others. The cover songs were still performed almost exclusively without piano accompaniment.

With regard to Volume Two, the recordings vary much more in quality and ambiance. Crystal Cat turned in a few of the year's more interesting tapes, but their work on delivering clarity came at the consequence of a warmer room sound. Interesting rare performances like "Standing in The Doorway" and "It's All Over Now Baby Blue" are unfortunately a bit thin. The performances are still excellent, though, and I can't imagine its anything that couldn't be overlooked by dedicated fans.

Three of the songs on Volume Two also appear on Volume One, but this is no error or the result of a lack of song diversity. In fact, the three songs are curiosities that should not be missed. "Things Have Changed" is played with a much more intense, dark country flair here. "Tangled Up In Blue" is an intriguing arrangement that exists halfway between the way it had been played from 2013 to 2016 and the new, more easygoing treatment it would receive at 2017's Fall shows. "Early Roman Kings," finally, is representative of the way that the song was played throughout the Autumn Tour - softer in tone than the pounding electric blues of early 2017 but with brief, jazzy instrumental interludes between verses; it also features some new lyrics.

Some other interesting rearrangements are present on Volume Two as well. "Love Sick" is performed in a soft, moody style that recalls its sound on 1997's Time Out of Mind. "Scarlet Town," one of my favorite songs from 2012's Tempest, has been rearranged to a slightly more dramatic, mid-tempo ballad; it happily retains its minor-key menace. "It's All Over Now Baby Blue" is perhaps not a major alteration, but it does sound strangely like the composer combined its lyrics with the more rollicking music of "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues." "Blind Willie McTell" is quite similar to the way it was played at the 2012 Critics Choice Awards, though the piano's prominence lends it a sound even more reminiscent of New Orleans in the early Twentieth Century.

Finally, the second volume ends on a bittersweet note. Bob Dylan's old touring partner and friend, Tom Petty, died on October 2, 2017, and received an on-stage musical tribute at the end of Dylan's show in Broomfield, Colorado. This song had not ever been publicly played by Bob Dylan before, but his delivery and the band's performance is as tight as if they'd been playing it nightly. The only capture of this performance circulating as of December 31, 2017 was a lossy recording from a cell phone. Listeners ought not criticize the sound quality, though, as without the work of this taper we'd not have any document of the night at all; I'm making an exception to my typical lossless-sourced rule to present the moving performance, and I suspect listeners will agree with the decision.

With that, I hope you all enjoyed the year's Bob Dylan performances as much as I did. These are challenging times, and we are lucky to have a musician as talented as this to help us muddle through; similarly, we are eternally blessed that the tapers spend their time and hard-earned money getting these recordings out to the wider world. Until we meet again, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.

- CS

* Note: A comment from one of the tapers reminded me that some of the names were not pseudonyms and could create problems for accessing venues in the future. If you were one of the tapers whose name has been redacted for this purpose, let me know an appropriate pseudonym and I will add it back into the source list.


  1. This morning I tried to read about "Trouble No More" on the ER forums, but 50 pages of comments were just too much for me to wade through. So I looked for YOUR comments, certain that they would be helpful as well as insightful. (And I was right.) Then I thought I'd check this site, to see if you'd posted anything else here - commentaries, DIY suggestions - and voila! A new collection! Thank you very much. I look forward to this New Year's gift.

  2. Thank you! Excellent curation as usual!

  3. What the guys above said . . . . . great notes and wonderful curating. It is appreciated as always. You have a great new year too CS. This is great way to start a New Year
    Take care and take it easy

  4. Thanks for sharing and putting this together.Much appreciated.
    Happy New Year to you

  5. Having had and very much enjoyed the chance to attend more than a handful of last years concerts I still was eagerly awaiting your look at what Mr. Dylan had presented us with. As always, your curated selection of last year´s outstanding performances is most profound and broadened my look at what I heard and saw that year. Thank you so much for going thru all this trouble ! Best Christmas present I could possibly have received !

  6. Anyone have a suggestion for a good free aiff to wav converter. I used to have one that worked great. After it being so long in using it, my Lenovo software deleted it.

  7. A thousand thank yous! You should be sainted for the work that you do every year!

  8. Outstanding compilation! Thank you for all your work in putting this together.

  9. Thank you for this. Outstanding versions of "Desolation Row", "Blind Willie McTell" and (ofcourse) "Learning To Fly".

    As for the upcoming 1979-1981 (re)additions...have you considered adding more obscure live performances from the era to them that "Trouble No More" did not highlight? Like say the full-band "When He Returns" from 11/4/1981 or even "It's All In the Game" from that same night. There's many live variants on "Jesus Is the One" as well that could be represented.

    God bless.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I'm happy you asked about this, since I am certainly considering them. To be honest, the full-band "When He Returns" is genuinely quite bad, so I'm not sure it'll make the cut, haha - the sounds quality's not great either. It's definitely a curiosity, though, so you never know. "It's All In The Game" will be included as an interesting live track, even if it doesn't make the main 1981 live compilation, so to speak. "Jesus Is The One" will be there, since the one I tend to regard as the standard (great sound quality and very good performance) sounds very different from the one on Trouble No More.

    3. I appreciate the response. As you note of that “When He Returns” it’s not great- but it’s of historical value I guess and I find it...interesting.

      “Jesus is the One” from Avignon is one of my favorite performances. It’s rocking.

      One thing I wished “Trouble No More” included or that would leak from other sources is the often rumored/noted tracks Bob recorded at the time “King on the Throne” and “Fur Slippers” lol. Two totally different spectrums of songs I would imagine, but completely in tune with Bob.

  10. Thanks! I saw Bob this summer and it was nice hearing some of the new arrangements. I wished I taped the show or something, but now it looks like someone else did!

  11. I've only listened to the first disc so far, and I have to say I love these arrangements. 'Pay In Blood' is one of my favorite BD songs, and it sounds fantastic here. Thank you for sharing!

  12. Thanks! I didn't get to see Mr. D. last year but I heard recordings of the fall Beacon Theater shows in NYC and he is in great form right now. And your collections are always a treat.

  13. Yet another fantastic collection of music. As ever, compilations are a matter of personal choice and you can't please all of the people, all of the time...but, as is usually the case, these two discs are satisfyingly full of well chosen, nicely compiled performances. Enjoyable in their own right, for sure - but also a great springboard for further listening of last years shows. Many thanks!

  14. hey I've been going through and collecting every one of your comps and have to tell you how impressed I am with the whole deal. Not just the quality of the selections, both in performance and sound quality, but also in the tone of your notes. Very much in the Paul Williams vein of loving the music unabashedly without pretensions. At this time I have 70 of your releases, does that sound right? I could not find anything specific to the years from 2006-10 - Rod

    1. Oh my goodness, I didn't realize I'd made so many! It was actually supposed to be a small collection, but I guess the size is a consequence of Mr. Dylan's lengthy recording/performing career, eh? Anyway, I can't think of any higher compliment than being compared to Paul Williams, so you've certainly made my day.

      As for 2006 to 2010, you're right that there are no year- or tour-specific compilations. I think songs from that period are covered on Pool of Tears (2006-2009) and Center Stage (2008-2012). Though that was when I first started seeing Dylan's live shows, I'm not too fond of the period overall. I did a few drafts for a 2006 Fall Tour CD but couldn't ever get it off the ground. Such is life!

    2. haha yes, I wouldn't say your writing style was necessarily like Paul, but your attitude of loving the music without being pretentious is the key element. Very refreshing. and you have made a tremendous contribution to the Dylan community with your compilations!

  15. and of course, its no sweat that those years don't have their own comps, you've done enough for 2 lifetimes!

    1. The one thing I'd really like you to do is come up with a "Best of" the Grateful Dead tour, which I know is challenging, but I know there are some gems there to be found.

    2. It's like you're reading my mind! I actually did try that, and got through a couple of shows, but genuinely couldn't find a single song I liked. Actually, a version of "Chimes Of Freedom" from the Grateful Dead tour was set to show up on one of my Another Night: 1961-2016 CDs but didn't quite make the final cut. I'll give it another shot again someday (now that you've made my day with that Paul Williams reference I owe it to you, haha!).

  16. Dylan's voice was tough to take on that tour, but I do believe that the Dead added some good things to the mix. (I am a fan of the GD) if you get around to this, you could email me the results at and once again, your work is appreciated!

  17. this blog might be helpful in divining the worthwhile stuff in that tour.

  18. Thank you for all the great work! I'm enjoying all the music you selected. Really hope you will release lots of compilations in the near future.

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  20. Thank you so much for your labor of love that you share with all of us! You're definitely a priceless member of the community, for which I'll be forever grateful :)