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Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Better Days: Unreleased Recordings, 1995 - 2016

 
Volume 1

Seeing The Real You At Last - Live - Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - 1995
Tell Ol' Bill - Outtake - North Country Soundtrack Session - 2005
Things Have Changed - Live - The Oscars - 2001
A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall - Unreleased - Expo Zaragoza Session - 2008
The Night We Called It A Day - Live - David Letterman Show - 2015
Maggie's Farm - Live - The Grammys - 2011
I'll Remember You - Outtake - Masked & Anonymous Session, 2002
Cry A While - Live - The Grammys - 2002
Don't Think Twice, It's Alright - Live - With The Wynton Marsalis Band - 2004
Blind Willie McTell - Live - The Critic's Choice Awards - 2012
Forever Young - Live - Eucharistic Conference - 1997
Dirt Road Blues - Outtake - Masked & Anonymous Session - 2002
 
 
Volume 2
 
The Times They Are A-Changin' - Live - At The White House - 2010
Watching The River Flow - Live - Amazon.com 10th Birthday Session - 2005
A Change Is Gonna Come - Live - At The Apollo - 2004
Drifter's Escape - Outtake - Masked & Anonymous Session - 2002
Once Upon A Time - Live - Tony Bennett's 90th Birthday - 1995
Silvio - Live - Masters Of Music Concert for The Prince's Trust - 1996
Not Dark Yet - Live - Crossroads Centre Benefit Show - 1999
Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues - Live - Rockin' in Rio - 2008
Standing In The Doorway - Outtake - Masked & Anonymous Session - 2002
Train To Cry - Live - Crossroads Centre Benefit Show - 1999
Restless Farewell - Live - Frank Sinatra's 80th Birthday - 1995
Bottleneck Polka - Unreleased - Dharma & Greg Session - 1999
 
 Bonus Tracks
 
Seeing The Real You At Last - Live - Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - 1995 (Alternate Mix)
Maggie's Farm - Live - The Grammys - 2011 (Alternate Mix)
Don't Think Twice, It's Alright - Live - With The Wynton Marsalis Band - 2004 (Alternate Mix)
Drifter's Escape - Outtake - Masked & Anonymous Session - 2002 (Extended Version)
Things Have Changed - Live - AFI Tribute To Michael Douglas - 2009
You Win Again (With Willie Nelson) - Live - Outlaws and Angels - 2004
 
 
For the 10th anniversary of my Down the River collection - a group of unreleased studio and professionally recorded special events from 1999 to 2012, now delisted due to the official release of "Train To Cry" on Wynton Marsalis' United We Swing record - I thought it might be nice to revisit the same concept with an expanded perspective. Consequently, I've added nine new unreleased performances from the surrounding years and improved some of the original track; I've mostly reused my old song-by-song notes while dropping in new information where it's relevant. As for the songs themselves...

Seeing The Real You At Last - Perhaps the definitive rendition of the song, this was played live by Bob Dylan and his touring band at the The Concert For The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame on September 2, 1995. The recording comes from a live broadcast by HBO. I've re-equalized it to reduce some unpleasant high-end line noise, but included an alternate mix in the bonus tracks if you prefer the rawer sound.

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. I've sourced a new recording for this re-release, which resolves an irritating splice in the old Down the River album.

A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall - The song was recorded for a benefit event 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 more available for vulnerable people around the world.
 
The Night We Called It A Day - Bob Dylan was deep into his Sinatra crooning era when he was asked to perform during David Letterman's last week as a Late Show host, which meant that he had just the right song for the occasion. This doesn't differ significantly from the version on Shadows in the Night, but I love Dylan's approach to these old jazz standards so I had to include it here!
 
Maggie's Farm - This is a contentious performance from the 2011 Grammys, with accordion and backing vocals lending a unique character to the arrangement. I've used AI software to isolate and raise Dylan's vocals, producing a more listenable version that the one on Down the River, but included the old version as a bonus track for listeners who may be uncomfortable with the use of this technology.
 
I'll Remember You - Here's an outtake from the Masked and Anonymous sessions, which I dearly wish to see an official release someday. 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.
 
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. If you get the chance, look up images or video of this event to see the very strange stage setup Dylan used for this song!

Don't Think Twice, It's Alright - Here's a track from the same collaboration with Wynton Marsalis that produced the aforementioned "Train To Cry." It's a very odd arrangement, and completely unique. As with Maggie's Farm, I've used AI software to raise the vocals while not altering anything else in the original recording; my old Down the River mix is also included as a bonus track.
 
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 in tribute to filmmaker Martin Scorcese at the 17th Annual Critics Choice Awards. He breathes new life into the already moving song, and the last verse in particular is a stunning reminder of the lasting power of Dylan's poetry.
 
Forever Young - In one of the strangest events at which he's appeared, Bob Dylan and his touring band performed three songs for Pope John Paul II at the 23rd World Eucharistic Congress in Bologna. "Forever Young" is the best of the set, receiving a tender country-infused rendition with background harmonies on the chorus.

Dirt Road Blues - This is one of only two post-1997 performances of the song, which both occurred during the Masked and Anonymous sessions. While this one is more complete and lacks any dropouts or movie dialogue, it also lacks lyrics. Even so, I thought closing out each volume of this cinematic collection with an instrumental song, a la closing credits, was appropriate. Note that I re-sourced and edited this track to provide a slightly more engaging listening experience than was present on Down the River.

The Times They Are A-Changin' - Maybe my personal favorite song on Better Days, this one-off arrangement was played for President Barack Obama at an event celebrating the progress of civil rights in the United States. 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.
 
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. The song itself is one of the best contemporary 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.
 
Drifter's Escape - This is a Frankenstein-esque splice of a performance from the Masked & Anonymous Session. I've done my best to strip out the portions of the original recording which feature dramatically different ambience and sound quality, leaving us with a pretty rocking (if slight) result. I've included an uncut version of the song as a bonus track, but it's for completionists only.

Once Upon A Time - Here is the second jazz standard of the set, and I think it's even better than "The Night We Called It A Day." This heartbreaking song was played in a jaw-dropping rendition for Tony Bennett's 90th Birthday celebration, with Dylan and his band paying beautiful tribute to one of the nation's oldest active musical artists.

Silvio - Perhaps "Silvio" got overplayed at concerts during the 1990s, but I didn't want to hold that against this excellent performance from the Masters Of Music Concert for The Prince's Trust at Hyde Park in 1996. As a bonus, Al Kooper and Ron Wood are respectively sitting in on organ and guitar.

Not Dark Yet - Though I'm not a fan of Eric Clapton, thanks to his alarming dalliances with British right-wing causes from the 1970s to the 2020s, I can't deny that he put on an impressively star-studded event to raise funds for his Crossroads rehabilitation centre in 1999. Among the attendees was Bob Dylan, who was backed by Clapton's band on several songs drawn from his lengthy career. The best of these were "Not Dark Yet," featuring Tim Carmon on keyboards, and "Train To Cry." Interestingly, this arrangement is surprisingly similar to the "Version 1" outtake featured on The Bootleg Series Volume 17: Fragments.

Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues - If you hate Bob Dylan's late 2000s organ sound, you may hate this song. It's simply an excerpt from a stop in Rio de Janeiro 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.
 
Standing in the Doorway - I'm proud of the splicing here, which is more successful than my work on "Drifter's Escape." 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.
 
Train To Cry - This is the second of two tracks I've included from Eric Clapton's 1999 Crossroads Centre Benefit show. The vocals are a little looser than those on "Not Dark Yet," but David Sanborn's alto sax contributions make up for any lack of polish.

Restless Farewell - Finally, “Restless Farewell” concludes the main portion of the set. How could it be any other way? From the singer’s soft croon to the band’s harmonious backing, Dylan’s rarely delivered a greater performance than this. Don't miss the singer's dedication at the end of the song, which reminds us that this was played at a celebration of Frank Sinatra's 80th birthday as a special request.

Bottleneck Polka - This is an amusing instrumental ditty from Bob Dylan's appearance on Dharma & Greg in 1999, leading a band which includes T-Bone Burnett! You can read more about how this event occurred in Ray Padgett's informative Pledging My Time: Conversations With Bob Dylan Band Members. It's a fitting counterpoint to the previous disc's closing song, "Dirt Road Blues," and a fine way to wrap up the collection.
 
I've also included two bonus tracks that didn't quite match the standard set by the other recordings: "Things Have Changed" from 2009's AFI Tribute to Michael Douglas and "You Win Again," featuring Willie Nelson, from 2004's televised Outlaws & Angels event.

If you'd like more stray songs from one-off projects recorded during or near this time period, I recommend seeking out the following officially-released rarities:
 
 
Until next time, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes!
 
Cheers,
CS

Sunday, December 31, 2023

Update: December 2023

Hello friends!

Well, it's the last day of December 2023 and you may have noticed that there's no new CD published here yet. It's been one heck of a busy month, and I'm still hard at work on the blog. Consequently, the Thousand Highways Collection's 10th Anniversary Celebration will be continuing into early 2024. I hope you'll look forward to a handful of new compilations in coming year.

In the meantime, I hope your holiday season has been great and wish you all the best for 2024.

Cheers,
CS

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Still The One: Live, 2019

 

 Still The One: Live 2019

Things Have Changed - Live - Innsbruck - April 19, 2019
It Ain't Me, Babe - Live - Irvine - October 11, 2019
Highway 61 - Live - Palo Alto - October 14, 2019
When I Paint My Masterpiece - Live - Irvine - October 11, 2019
Can't Wait - Live - Santa Barbara - October 12, 2019
Boots Of Spanish Leather - Live - Braunschweig - July 6, 2019
Honest With Me - Live - Palo Alto - October 14, 2019
Scarlet Town - Live - Innsbruck - April 19, 2019
Early Roman Kings - Live - Irvine - October 11, 2019
Lenny Bruce - Live - St Louis - October 22, 2019
Pay In Blood - Live - New York City - December 3, 2019
Girl From The North Country - Live - Santa Barbara - October 12, 2019
Not Dark Yet - Live - Irvine - October 11, 2019
Soon After Midnight - Live - Gijon - April 28, 2019
Gotta Serve Somebody - Live - Irvine - October 11, 2019
Train To Cry - Live - Innsbruck - April 19, 2019

Bonus Tracks

Can’t Wait - Live - Stuttgart - July 10, 2019
Dignity - Live - Gijon - April 28, 2019
Long & Wasted Years - Live - Irvine - October 11, 2019
Love Sick - Live - Braunschweig - July 6, 2019
Scarlet Town - Live - Locarno - April 22, 2019
Tryin’ To Get To Heaven - Live - Milwaukee - November 26, 2019
Will The Circle Be Unbroken - Live - Kilkenny - July 14, 2019

Mediafire Download Folder

2019 will go down in history as one of Bob Dylan’s best touring years. The proof is in the music - give a listen to “Not Dark Yet” here and just try to resist a chill. It’s almost a challenge just to write about it.

The year started out as a continuation of 2018’s shows, with “Cry A While,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” as standards every night. Over the course of the year, though,  it evolved into something different. Tony Garnier’s bass got louder. Matt Chamberlain replaced George Receli on drums (after nearly 18 years on the road!). Bob Britt joined in the autumn to augment Charlie Sexton’s blazing guitar riffs. Along the way we were treated to a handful of noteworthy performances, including the first “Boots of Spanish Leather” since 2013 and the first “Dignity” since 2012, a funked-up arrangement of “Can’t Wait” in the summertime, an uptempo “Scarlet Town” in Locarno, and a duet with Neil Young on “Will The Circle Be Unbroken.” A re-written “Lenny Bruce” finally wound up back in Bob Dylan’s repertoire thanks to the singer encountering a band playing it in Amsterdam, according to Mixing Up The Medicine (2023).

Even so, the best renditions tended to be compositions that Dylan and his band knew well. “Things Have Changed” had been the opening song since 2013 and it remains a hoot and a half six years later. “It Ain’t Me, Babe” has more depth here than at any point since the early ‘90s. “Highway 61” sounds like it’s integrated elements of “Duquesne Whistle” without losing its unique swagger. “Honest With Me” features the same arrangement as the previous year, but the vocals have become more dynamic and sharp. “Early Roman Kings” is sung here with the passion of a song that’d been written the day before. “Pay In Blood” gets its definitive rendition thanks to a blistering vocal performance and some of the best playing that Charlie Sexton’s ever done. “Girl From The North Country” could make you weep. Dylan sings “Not Dark Yet” like a man possessed.

I hope you enjoy this record as much as I enjoyed compiling it. This is one of the gems in the Thousand Highways Collection, so don’t you dare miss it! Until next time, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.

Cheers,
CS

Note: I stuck with original recordings by Soomlos, Spot, FOBSTL, zuma66, and Romeo for the most part, but found that Bennyboy's remaster of New York was a significant improvement on its source; I hope nobody will begrudge me using that one instead of the original! As ever, I'm grateful for all the hard work these folks do.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Voices in the Night: Live, 2007 - 2010


Billy - Live - Stockholm - March 22, 2009
Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues - Live - Bergamo - June 16, 2008
Friend Of The Devil - Live - Morrison - July 19, 2007
Stuck Inside Of Mobile - Live - New York City - November 18, 2009
Moonlight - Live - Atlantic City - June 22, 2007
Love Minus Zero/No Limit - Live - Warsaw - June 7, 2008
The Times We've Known - Live - Paris - April 8, 2009
Shelter From The Storm - Live - Tokyo - March 23, 2010
Tough Mama - Live - Amsterdam - April 11, 2009
Million Miles - Live - Calgary - October 27, 2008
What Good Am I - Live - Linz - June 12, 2010
It's All Good - Live - Chicago - October 31, 2009
Ain't Talkin' - Live - Birmingham - April 17, 2007

Bonus Tracks
Handy Dandy - Live - Vigo - June 27, 2008
I Believe In You - Live - Ottawa - November 16, 2008
Like A Rolling Stone - Live - Oneonta - November 19, 2008
Tangled Up In Blue - Live - Rothbury - July 5, 2009
Po' Boy - Live - Rothbury - July 5, 2009
Ain’t Talkin’ - Live - Pawtucket - July 21, 2009
Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking - Live - Boston - November 15, 2009

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Having discovered the organ setting on his keyboard in 2006, Bob Dylan saw fit to experiment with that sound on the road over the next five years (he’d discontinue it in 2012, as documented on the Thousand Highways' Ivory). The results were sometimes decried by longtime fans, but - as with any era of the artist’s career - there are more than a few highlights from this period. The best are compiled here for your enjoyment.

Debuted nearly 40 years after it was originally recorded for the Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid soundtrack in 1972, “Billy” starts the set with a bang. Spring 2009 was a pretty good time for Dylan overall, as it also produced two other rare tracks on this album: a rewritten “Tough Mama” from Amsterdam and the second of only two outings for Charles Aznavour’s wistful “The Times We’ve Known.”

Jam-heavy renditions of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” “Love Minus Zero/No Limit,” and “Million Miles” date from the preceding year. I’m particularly fond of the strange, poppy approach to vocals employed on the first two of these, while the third offers the opportunity for Dylan to lean into his harmonica playing. These years are pretty great for the harmonica overall, actually, perhaps because switching to organ allowed the singer to focus on keyboard chords rather than melodic lines. He also began employing a harmonica microphone setup around this time that produced a sound reminiscent of the harp solo in 1980’s studio recording of “What Can I Do For You.”

Speaking of rhetorical questions, “What Good Am I” reappeared in 2010 for the first time in over a decade and the results are transcendent. Dylan would happily return to the song a few years later, making it a standard on his 2013 and 2014 tours in a more or less identical arrangement inspired by Tom Jones’ cover. “Shelter from the Storm,” never missing for long, also popped up during 2010. The singer repeats a verse, but I couldn’t help leaving it in; the song’s raggedness is part of its charm, after all.

Grateful Dead cover “Friend of the Devil” is another comparative rarity from the era, as it hadn’t been performed at a Bob Dylan show since 2002 and wouldn’t reappear until 2022. This version is my favorite by the singer, much of it down to the laid-back approach by his band and a committed vocal performance. “It’s All Good” fares similarly well in the first of its three total airings, celebrating the return of blues guitarist Charlie Sexton after seven years away. “Moonlight” is less successful vocally, but provides a strong foundation for Stu Kimball and Denny Freeman to trade beautiful jazz riffs. Finally, “Ain’t Talkin’” is probably the best-sung track in the set - full of menace and drawn out lines that build on the previous year’s album take.

I’ve also included a selection of bonus tracks drawn primarily from the now-discontinued predecessor to this compilation, Pool of Tears: Live, 2006 - 2009. They include a couple soundboard recordings from Rothbury and a violin-driven version of “Ain’t Talkin’” from 2009, the only live “Handy Dandy” that Bob Dylan’s ever performed, and “Gonna Change My Way of Thinking,” which was cut from this album when I found “Billy” to be a better (if less traditional) opener.

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

Cheers,
CS

Saturday, September 30, 2023

Cowboy Band: Live, 2006

 

The Levee's Gonna Break - Live - Philadelphia - November 18, 2006
She Belongs To Me - Live - Birmingham - April 30, 2006
Tweedle Dum & Tweedle Dee - Live - Las Vegas - April 7, 2006
Mr. Tambourine Man - Live - Sun City West - April 8, 2006
'Til I Fell In Love With You - Live - Boston - November 21, 2006
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll - Live - Sun City West - April 8, 2006
High Water - Live - Stockton - April 3, 2006
Masters of War - Live - Sun City West - April 8, 2006
Workingman's Blues #2 - Live - San Francisco - October 16, 2006
Cat's in the Well - Live - Auburn Hills - November 2, 2006
Every Grain of Sand - Live - Boston - November 21, 2006
Thunder on the Mountain - Live - St. Paul - October 29, 2006
Nettie Moore - Live - Philadelphia - November 18, 2006

Bonus Tracks

Ain't Talkin' - Live - New York City - November 20, 2006
Cold Irons Bound - Live - Fairfax - November 17, 2006
Down Along The Cove - Live - Sun City West - April 8, 2006
High Water (Extended) - Live - Stockton - April 3, 2006
Joey - Live - Denver - October 24, 2006
Never Gonna Be The Same Again - Live - Reno - April 1, 2006
New Morning - Live - Gelsenkirchen - July 2, 2006

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2006 is not generally a year of touring beloved by the Bob Dylan fan community. Even so, I think there are quite a few gems.

Specifically, the Modern Times LP was published in the fall and gave rise to a number of new songs that the singer had clearly been wanting to try out on the road. Most were debuted early in the subsequent tour and only grew in stature as the year continued, though a handful were still popping up for the first time at the last couple of concerts (including "The Levee's Gonna Break" on this CD).

Other warhorses were performed with semi-unique arrangements this year: note the deep resonance of the last line in each verse during "She Belongs To Me," as well as a circular "Mr. Tambourine Man" that recalls 1997's rendition of "Pretty Peggy-O." "High Water" and "Cat's In The Well" had rarely sounded better, while "Tweedle Dum & Tweedle Dee" gets an especially spirited rendition here.

The elephant in the room, of course, is the introduction of an electric organ. Bob Dylan had been playing a keyboard since late 2002, but fans were startled to find that he'd changed the settings between Fall 2005 and Spring 2006. Nothing on this collection is going to change your mind if you dislike it, but I think the organ is actually pretty engaging since it provides an ambient backdrop to all of the songs that fattens the sound. Though Bob Dylan is no Al Kooper or Jimmy Smith, I'm of the opinion that every track here benefits from its presence.

As ever, thanks for listening! Until next time, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.

Cheers,
CS

Update: Lest ye be disappointed at the omission of some of the year's more surprising one-offs and setlist selections, I've added a few bonus tracks to sweeten the pot. These include the debut of "Ain't Talkin'," rare appearances of "Never Gonna Be The Same Again" and "New Morning," an arrangement of "Cold Irons Bound" played exclusively during this year's touring, and great outings for "Joey" and "Down Along The Cove." Finally, I've also included an extended recording of "High Water" from Stockton. Please look forward to an updated version of Pool of Tears: 2006-2009 next month, which will replace the 2006 tracks now shifted to this CD with additional songs from 2008, 2009, and 2010!

Monday, August 28, 2023

Rising Tide: Live, 1994

 

Bob Dylan
Rising Tide: Live 1994

Jokerman - Live - Boston - October 8, 1994
Man In The Long Black Coat - Live - Lewiston - August 16, 1994
If You See Her, Say Hello - Live - New York City - October 19, 1994
Tears Of Rage - Live - New York City - October 18, 1994
Series Of Dreams - Live - Hiroshima - February 16, 1994
Two Soldiers - Live - Boston - October 9, 1994
Masters Of War - Live - Saugerties - August 14, 1994
The Lady Came From Baltimore - Live - Besançon - July 4, 1994
I & I - Live - Urawa - February 18, 1994
Stuck Inside Of Mobile - Live - Nashville - November 9, 1994
Train To Cry - Live - Saugerties - August 14, 1994

Bonus Tracks
The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll - Live - New York City - October 20, 1994
Stuck Inside Of Mobile - Live - Nashville - November 9, 1994 (Full Version)

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Per Dylan's words in a 1991 interview with Robert Hilburn for the Los Angeles Times, “if you just go out every three years or so, like I was doing for a while, that’s when you lose touch. If you are going to be a performer, you’ve got to give it your all.” Clearly he’d made good on this approach to his art by 1994, having not spent more than a few months off the road at a time since 1987. There were highs, like the edge-of-your seat energy of 1988 and the delicate half-acoustic arrangements of Autumn 1992, as well as lows; 1990 and 1991 include many of the singer’s most controversial performances.

What’s most impressive about where Dylan arrived after six years of the so-called Never-Ending Tour is the consistency. 1993 concerts could be pretty ragged, so it’s difficult to understand just how much the tour had improved by a February 1994 stint in the Far East (Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong Kong). Maybe that was down to disappointment with the Supper Club concerts from late 1993, which were recorded but evidently shelved at Dylan’s request. Maybe it was down to preparations for The Great Music Experience in Nara, which required Dylan to tailor his vocal approach to a symphonic backing rather than the garage bands he was used to. Whatever the case, fans could be reliably sure in 1994 that they were going to get a great show.

The tradeoff to this high level of quality was a relatively static setlist. “Jokerman” opened nearly every show, “Maggie’s Farm” closed nearly every show (before encores), and audiences were treated to approximately seven electric tracks and three acoustic tracks with the band in-between. Though a couple of songs received their first performances of the 1990s this year - “Jokerman” and “If You See Her Say Hello” - the only song played by Bob Dylan for the first time live was a cover of Tim Hardin’s “The Lady Came From Baltimore.” The singer’s latest record, World Gone Wrong, was more or less ignored.

Static setlists don’t have to be disappointing, of course. The Oh Mercy outtake “Series of Dreams” was played at over half of the Far East shows, but its minor-key rearrangement was a consistent highlight. “Man In The Long Black Coat” and “I & I” had been played frequently for years, but their menacing readings here are sure to send a chill down your spine. The rarities are still a treat too: “Tears of Rage” receives a near-definitive treatment in New York City while “Two Soldiers” wildly surpasses the middling reading it had received in-studio the previous year.

With regard to how this new release slots into the overall Thousand Highways Collection, you’ll notice that a few of the songs have been pulled from Ring Them Bells: 1994. I’ve left “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” off from the main set due to time restrictions, but included it here as a bonus track; the other bonus track is an extended version of “Stuck Inside Of Mobile,” which I had to trim a bit to ensure the core songs would fit onto a single compact disc. All other songs from the Ring Them Bells can be found on Reborn In Time.

Folks have been requesting a dedicated Live 1994 release for quite a while, so I’m happy to finally oblige and I hope this meets the standards set by my previous work. With the exception of “Masters of War,” all tracks are sourced from remasters produced by Expecting Rain’s Bennyboy in 2021 and 2022. It felt silly to reinvent the wheel when someone else had already done such an excellent job making these songs sound near-perfect. In short, this collection would simply not exist without the hard work of Bennyboy.

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

Cheers,
CS

Monday, July 31, 2023

Reborn In Time: Unreleased Recordings, 1989-1994


Volume 1
Political World - Outtake - Oh Mercy Sessions - 1989
2X2 - Outtake - Under The Red Sky Sessions - 1990
Everything Is Broken - Outtake - MTV Unplugged Sessions - 1994
Polly Vaughn - Unreleased - Bromberg Sessions - 1992
I Want You - Outtake - MTV Unplugged Sessions - 1994
God Knows - Outtake - Oh Mercy Sessions - 1989
Tomorrow Night - Live - The Rhythm, Country & Blues Concert - 1994
Lawdy Miss Clawdy - Unreleased - Studio Session - 1994
Unbelievable - Outtake - Under The Red Sky Sessions - 1990
Born In Time - Outtake - Oh Mercy Sessions - 1989
Love Minus Zero/No Limit - Rehearsal - MTV Unplugged Sessions - 1994
Under The Red Sky - Outtake - Under The Red Sky Sessions - 1990
Kaatskill Serenade - Unreleased - Bromberg Sessions - 1992
Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright - Outtake - MTV Unplugged Sessions - 1994
Hard Times - Live - Willie Nelson’s Big 6-0 - 1993


Volume 2
Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You - Outtake - MTV Unplugged Sessions - 1994
Anyway You Want Me - Unreleased - Studio Session - 1994
Dignity - Outtake - Oh Mercy Sessions - 1989
Born In Time - Outtake - Under The Red Sky Sessions - 1990
Money Honey - Unreleased - Studio Session - 1994
Most Of The Time - Outtake - Oh Mercy Sessions - 1989
TV Talkin' Song - Outtake - Under The Red Sky Sessions - 1990
Hazel - Outtake - MTV Unplugged Sessions - 1994
Handy Dandy - Outtake - Under The Red Sky Sessions - 1990
Sloppy Drunk - Unreleased - Bromberg Sessions - 1992
Blue-Eyed Jane - Unreleased - Jimmie Rodgers Tribute Sessions - 1994
Wiggle Wiggle - Outtake - Under The Red Sky Sessions - 1990
Shooting Star - Outtake - Oh Mercy Sessions - 1989
Absolutely Sweet Marie - Outtake - MTV Unplugged Sessions - 1994
Ring Them Bells - Live - The Great Music Experience - 1994


Bob Dylan kicked off the Never-Ending Tour with a show in Concord on June 7, 1988. Given the performer’s renewed sense of purpose after several years in the wilderness, fans must have been eager to hear what he might create when he got off the road and back into the studio. On September 12, 1989 they’d find out - with the aid of producer Daniel Lanois, Bob Dylan had found his way down to New Orleans and recorded a swampy, electric set of new compositions called Oh Mercy. The following years were less successful, as we’d receive a nursery rhyme-inspired song cycle called Under the Red Sky in 1990 and an inconsistent interpretation of past classics with MTV Unplugged in 1994. But this is only part of the story.

Behind the scenes and mostly off-stage, Bob Dylan was creating myriad works that would never see the light of day. Many of these are documented on The Bootleg Series Volume 8: Tell Tale Signs, but many others remained in the vault. Mercifully, quite a few of the recordings from these years have surfaced unofficially via bootleg tapes. I’ve compiled the cleanest versions of these recordings - using CaptainAcid’s Oh Mercy and Under the Red Sky outtake remasters as well as McG’s brilliant sonic improvements on 1992’s Bromberg Session recordings - into Reborn In Time.

The Oh Mercy tracks sounds here are overall pretty similar to those on Tell Tale Signs, presenting a slightly different look at songs like “God Knows,” “Born In Time,” and “Dignity,” but there are two exceptions: “Political World” and “Shooting Star” both include numerous lyrics omitted from the version on the final album. 1990 is where the most interesting outtakes start to appear, as the outtakes from this year are stripped of the celebrity overdubs that crowd Under the Red Sky. “TV Talkin’ Song” fares best, offering an alternate narrative with numerous lyrical variations and a menacing vocal take, while others like “Handy Dandy” and “Unbelievable” call to mind producer Don Was’ recollection that he and the musicians were trying to create a new Highway 61 Revisited.

1992 saw Dylan abandon a collaboration with songwriter David Bromberg at Chicago’s Acme Studios in favor of traditional songs recorded on acoustic guitar in his garage. The latter was ultimately published as Good As I Been To You in November 1992, while the former has only been officially acknowledged through the inclusion of two tracks - “Miss the Mississippi” and “Duncan and Brady” - on Tell Tale Signs. The three remaining circulating songs from these sessions are included here and are among the most interesting work that the singer produced in the 1990s. It’s a shame we haven’t heard more, but Dylan seems to have been thoroughly disappointed with the results.

In 1994, a duet with Emmylou Harris on Jimmie Rodgers’ “My Blue-Eyed Jane,” was recorded during the sessions that produced “Boogie Woogie Country Girl,” Dylan’s contribution to Till The Night Is Gone: A Tribute To Doc Pomus; this track wouldn’t be entirely abandoned, however, as it later resurfaced with a new vocal overdub on The Songs Of Jimmie Rodgers - A Tribute in 1997. An afternoon spent at Sony Music Studios in New York between touring legs in September 1994 would similarly result in three Elvis covers - “Anyway You Want Me,” “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” and “Money Honey” - never published on an official album.

Finally, Dylan’s appearance on the MTV Unplugged television show also left behind more than a few discarded gems. “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” is presented with the jaunty arrangement that would characterize its appearance throughout the 1990s and 2000s, “Hazel” is played for the first time since 1976 and the last time until 2004, and “Everything Is Broken” represents the only time this song has been performed on acoustic instruments. “I Want You” is the standout, slowed down to a crawl that recalls its 1978 arrangement, while a rehearsal of “Love Minus Zero/No Limit” impresses with the interplay between Bob Dylan’s voice and Bucky Baxter’s steel guitar.

In the midst of these studio sessions and a heavy touring schedule, Dylan also found time to appear at several one-off events. I’ve documented the best of those here, including an accordion-heavy acoustic performance of Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times,” a duet with Trisha Yearwood at the Rhythm, Country & Blues Concert, and a performance of “Ring Them Bells” backed by Michael Kamen and the Tokyo New Philharmonic Orchestra at The Great Music Experience in 1994. I wanted to include the “Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” that was also played in Nara with orchestral backing, but it was actually released by Sony as the b-side to “Dignity (MTV Unplugged)” in 1995! This extraordinary performance is worth tracking down if you can.

I hope you enjoy this new, more finely-tuned collection of (mostly) studio tracks from 1989 to 1994. It replaces Series of Dreams and Ring Them Bells - two previous Thousand Highways releases - since those included quite a few live tracks that either have been or will be presented more holistically elsewhere in the Thousand Highways Collection. Hopefully we’ll get to hear even more lost recordings from this era someday.

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

Cheers,
CS

PS: I discovered a typo in the notes after initial publication, so new versions of the files have been uploaded to Mediafire as of August 1, 2023.