Tuesday, October 19, 2021

DIY Playlist: Empire Burlesque Revisited


As a follow up to my Infidels Revisited DIY Playlist, posted earlier this month, I dipped into The Bootleg Series Volume 16: Springtime in New York to produce a more enjoyable version of Bob Dylan's Empire Burlesque record. Interestingly, I think the outtakes made available for this album offer an even more compelling vision than might have been available for Infidels.

  1. When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky (Fast Version) - Springtime in New York
  2. Emotionally Yours - Springtime in New York 
  3. Tight Connection To My Heart - Springtime in New York
  4. I'll Remember You - Empire Burlesque
  5. Seeing The Real You At Last - Springtime in New York
  6. Something's Burning Baby - Empire Burlesque
  7. Trust Yourself - Empire Burlesque
  8. New Danville Girl - Springtime in New York
  9. Dark Eyes - Springtime in New York

You'll note that two songs from the officially-released album are missing here: "Never Gonna Be The Same Again" and "Clean-Cut Kid." I'm not a fan of the former and the latter really only shines in a live setting; if you're inclined to include a version of "Clean-Cut Kid," I suggest the version featured on Springtime in New York and I'd slot it between "Emotionally Yours" and "Tight Connection To My Heart," pushing everything else back and increasing the tracklisting to ten songs. The biggest issue is one of tone, since everything else on the record is related to either romantic matters, spiritual matters, or both; "Clean-Cut Kid" is more of a piece with the Infidels album, though the studio outtake associated with Empire Burlesque is better than the one that would've appeared on Infidels.

With regard to what is here, I really like kicking off this album with the fast outtake of "When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky," one of two semi-apocalyptic tracts here (along with "Something's Burning Baby"). These strike an interesting tonal balance between the genuinely eschatological songs of Dylan's Gospel Era and the earthly romance that had pervaded his work from since the mid-1960s. We'd see much of this moving forward in 1989's Oh Mercy and 1997's Time Out of Mind, but you can see the origins of it here in songs that are as concerned with relationships as they are with the end times. As far as performances, I think the so-called Fast Version featured on Springtime in New York is heads above the Bootleg Series Volume 1-3 and Empire Burlesque renditions. Roy Bittan's piano solo is especially engaging.

"Emotionally Yours" is, like "When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky (Fast Version)," one of the highlights of Springtime in New York for me. It's absolutely wild that this take didn't make the final album, as it represents one of the singer's best vocal tracks from 1985 to 1989. The perhaps-maudlin lyrics avoid falling into the trap of sentimentality through a stunningly sympathetic performance.

"Tight Connection To My Heart" and "I'll Remember You" are the last of the strictly romantic songs, both offering a relatively positive impression of love even if they - per Bob Dylan's tendencies - reflect wistfully on what might have been rather than what is. The mix of "Tight Connection" on Springtime in New York is comparatively vibrant, freed as it is from 1980s artifice, even if its lyrics fall short of those in the original draft. "I'll Remember You" is one of Empire Burlesque's strongest tracks and remains so in light of its now-circulating outtake.

The Springtime in New York outtake of "Seeing The Real You At Last," on the other hand, is extraordinary. Where the snarling vocals and rough blues of the recording were smothered underneath synthesizers and reverb on Empire Burlesque, it hews much closer here to the live performances that would pop up throughout the Never-Ending Tour. Plus it's got an extra verse! Shame about the vocal distortion on this version, but I don't think it's intrusive enough to prevent the song from being more listenable than its more heavily-produced predecessor.

"Something's Burning Baby" and "Trust Yourself" are pulled directly from the original album. This is partially due to the absence of any outtakes on Springtime in New York - studio logs suggest that both were only recorded once during the sessions - and also due to how effective they were on Empire Burlesque. An alternate mix of the former circulates in bootleg circles with a different final verse, but the heightened Empire Burlesque production actually favors this one. "Trust Yourself" would be presented as a grungier, harder-rocking track at Farm Aid 1986 but I think the moody take present on the studio album is a decent rendering.

"New Danville Girl" is a meandering epic that was bewilderingly omitted from Empire Burlesque back in 1985 and I'm so happy to drop it in as the climactic song here. I don't have any especially unique observations on this - read more well-informed writers like Paul Williams for insight into the lyrics - but "New Danville Girl" pulls together so many of the album's themes into a single, committed track. 

"Dark Eyes" serves as a quiet coda, reminding us of more spiritual concerns even as the passion of the preceding song fades into the distance. I went back and forth between the Empire Burlesque and Springtime in New York recordings, especially since the former has a tighter harmonica line, but ultimately chose the outtake because the vocal is a little looser. It's forever fascinating to me that a searching, uncertain Bob Dylan performance is often more engaging than a tighter, well-rehearsed one. Maybe that connects even better to the deeply unsettling atmosphere provoked by this song.

I hope you enjoy this alternate impression of Empire Burlesque. I never enjoyed the original album, but love listening to this playlist quite a bit! Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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


Wednesday, October 6, 2021

DIY Playlist: Infidels Revisited


The Bootleg Series Volume 16: Springtime in New York has finally shed a brighter light on the Infidels and Empire Burlesque sessions. While The Bootleg Series Volume 1-3 gave us a taste of this content back in 1991, it's nice to have a fuller picture. It's also a joy to finally have some of the previously circulating outtakes in significantly higher quality.

This seemed to be an ideal opportunity to produce my own DIY playlist presenting an idealized version of Bob Dylan's flawed mid-'80s releases. The first of these, Infidels Revisited, strips out a song or two from the original 1983 album but replaces them with a host of more engaging, less produced tracks.

  1. Jokerman - Springtime in New York
  2. Sweetheart Like You - Springtime in New York
  3. Someone's Got a Hold of My Heart - Springtime in New York
  4. Julius and Ethel - Springtime in New York
  5. Lord Protect My Child - Springtime in New York
  6. Foot of Pride - The Bootleg Series Volume 1-3
  7. I & I - Infidels
  8. Union Sundown - Springtime in New York
  9. License to Kill - Infidels
  10. Man of Peace - Infidels
  11. Blind Willie McTell - Springtime in New York
  12. Don't Fall Apart on Me Tonight (Version 2) - Springtime in New York

I was excited to finally have the alternate versions of "Jokerman," "Don't Fall Apart on Me Tonight," and "Union Sundown" in particular, as each features a much stronger vocal delivery than the ones selected for Infidels. The latter is also noteworthy for a more scathing verse concerning the political dimensions of unfettered capitalism. I almost included the slow take of "Don't Fall Apart on Me Tonight" featured on Springtime in New York, but ended up preferring the up-tempo version as a nice wind-down from the intensity of "Blind Willie McTell."

I went back and forth on the inclusion of "Sweetheart Like You" here since it contains some of the singer's most notoriously sexist lyrics. The rest of the song is too good to lose, though, so it made it in. The same issue appears in "Foot of Pride," which opens on a disappointingly regressive couplet before going on to offer one of Dylan's best studio performances of the era. "Too Late," the song's earlier incarnation, is interesting but lacks the lyrical and vocal precision that would appear as the sessions progressed.

"Julius and Ethel" is briefer and more fun than "Neighborhood Bully," so it replaced it in my preferred Infidels tracklist. "Tell Me" is likewise absent since it feels a bit strained in both of the released outtakes. Sequencing actually proved to be a bit of a challenge here since some of the best songs are musically similar - see the introductions to "Lord Protect My Child" and "License to Kill" or the overall tone of "Someone's Got a Hold of My Heart" and "Don't Fall Apart on Me Tonight - but I think spacing them out allowed their unique charms to shine. 

"Blind Willie McTell" serves as the natural climax of the set. This isn't surprising, since it's among Bob Dylan's best compositions, but choosing a version was pretty difficult. The solo piano version is plainly superior, in my estimation, but the band version works better amid the rest of the Infidels material. It was also tricky to determine where it fell in the sequencing, but I found that offering it as a spookier counterpoint to "Man of Peace" and then resolving the tension with "Don't Fall Apart on Me Tonight" made for a lovely three-song cycle.

I hope you enjoy this playlist! You can purchase the songs individually online or compile them using the Infidels, The Bootleg Series Volume 1-3, and Springtime in New York. I recommend buying the full collections since you might prefer different takes and can easily substitute them in for my choices. Be sure to let me know what you think in the comments below. Next week we'll be covering a revised version of Empire Burlesque. 

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


P.S. If you haven't heard it, please buy Daniel Romano's Outfit Do (What Could Have Been) Infidels By Bob Dylan & the Plugz. It's an extraordinary interpretation of the official Infidels tracklist in the style of Dylan's appearance on Letterman with The Plugz by a talented indie artist. For my money, it's better than the actual album!

Thursday, December 31, 2020

DIY Playlist: The Best of the 1970 Anniversary Collection


In 2020, Columbia Records released their standard 50th Anniversary Collection covering all unreleased 1970 recordings by Bob Dylan. Unlike previous sets, this one had a plethora of bizarre one-offs from the sessions that produced Self-Portrait and New Morning. Passed over for 2013's Another Self-Portrait, it would be easy to assume that most of these recordings were either incomplete or disappointing. That is true for many of the session's most tantalizing songs - "Universal Soldier" and "Little Moses" are attempted only briefly - but other songs offer a fascinating window into the evolution of Dylan's own compositions and expansion of his cover repertoire.

The 15 songs I've selected from the release's 74 total represent a combination of these originals and renditions of others' songs. Several come from the brief session that featured Dylan and Harrison jamming together on 9 tracks, a session that I tend to enjoy more than most of my fellow fans. I strove to produce a listenable quasi-album in the spirit of The Bootleg Series, though I'll acknowledge that few of the tracks would have been essential enough to merit inclusion on Another Self-Portrait.

There are exceptions to that general wisdom: "Jamaica Farewell" is pleasant and seemingly complete, an editor could have chopped this twice-through performance of "Long Dark Veil" into a more commercial product, "Tomorrow is a Long Time" is an unsympathetic but groovy arrangement (I've selected an alternate take to the one which has circulated among collectors for years), and "Lily of the West" reflects the intensity of the song's lyrics better than the heavily overdubbed version on 1973's Dylan. A very Nashville-style "I Forgot to Remember to Forget Her" might be the highlight of the set for me. 

Less essential but still engaging are a version of "If Not For You" in which Dylan is heard teaching his band the guitar melody, a solo piano performance of "Sign on the Window," and a previously-unheard arrangement of "Went to the See the Gypsy" featuring a country twang. I opted not to include New Morning songs that include minor lyrical variations because they tended to be flawed in some other key way. The alternate take of "Winterlude" is very nice but breaks down in its final verse. An early version of "Sign on the Window" with the lyrics "Brighton girls are all the same" is likewise interesting but sounds musically unfinished. You can browse the set for these tracks at your leisure.

With all of that said, here is a playlist of what I consider to be the standout recordings from Bob Dylan's 1970 Anniversary Collection:

  1. Untitled 1970 Instrumental #1
  2. If Not For You (take 1)
  3. Jamaica Farewell
  4. Tomorrow is a Long Time
  5. Went to See the Gypsy (take 6)
  6. Mama You Been On My Mind
  7. I Forgot to Remember to Forget
  8. It Ain't Me Babe
  9. Sign on the Window [no take information]
  10. Matchbox (take 1)
  11. Come All You Fair and Tender Hearted
  12. Alligator Man (country version)
  13. Lily of the West
  14. Long Black Veil
  15. Song to Woody (take 1)

Happy New Year, everybody! May it bring you joy, peace, and prosperity.


Tuesday, August 11, 2020

State of A Thousand Highways in 2020

Hello folks,

I just logged back in for the first time in a while and discovered that people have been speculating on my whereabouts. Truth be told, I'm heavily occupied with other creative endeavors and political activism these days; I'd get more specific but believe that part of my role here is ensuring that I don't personally profit from content ultimately owned by Bob Dylan and Columbia Records. 

It's been a great time creating this collection, which represents my favorite unreleased recordings, but I don't think I have much else to add to it for now. I was planning to create a 2019 live album but found that I couldn't meaningfully improve on Looks Like I'm Moving: 2019, the record produced by Expecting Rain users BennyBoy and JudasPriest.

All of that said, you never know when inspiration might strike. I won't write off returning to create more content for you someday and will continue maintaining my MediaFire subscription to preserve access to the music currently available. Heaven knows you'd need a lot of time to work through it all.

Until next our paths cross, thanks for listening.

- CS

Monday, April 1, 2019

DIY Playlist - Adios Mi Corazon: More Blood More Tracks

Adios Mi Corazon
Selections from More Blood More Tracks

Tangled Up In Blue - Take 2, Remake
Simple Twist of Fate - Take 2
Up To Me - Take 2, Remake 2
You're A Big Girl Now - Take 1
Idiot Wind - Minnesota Version
Meet Me In The Morning - Take 2, Remake
Call Letter Blues - Rehearsal
You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go - Take 5
Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts - Minnesota Version
Spanish Is The Loving Tongue - Take 1
Shelter From The Storm - Take 1
Buckets Of Rain - Take 2

Welcome back, friends.

It's springtime in the Northern Hemisphere and that means that it's time to look forward to what the rest of the year will bring. At the moment, in the Dylan sphere at least, that means a Rolling Thunder Revue documentary and an accompanying archival live recording release. Before we get along to finding out what gems Columbia has locked in its vaults, I thought it would be nice to reflect on the era immediately preceding that ramshackle 1975 tour. What better way to do so than by building a playlist of the best recordings found on 2018's Bootleg Series Volume 14: More Blood More Tracks (Deluxe Edition) but absent from the standard edition of that collection?

Tangled Up In Blue - Take 2, Remake

This painting-inspired song came to the studio largely intact, though its lyrics would undergo a revision between the 1974's September New York recording sessions (from which much of More Blood More Tracks is drawn) and the December Minnesota sessions which informed about half of 1975's Blood on the Tracks LP. This September 17 performance is interesting largely for its instrumentation. While most versions feature Dylan accompanied only by Tony Brown on bass, Paul Griffin appear on this rendition playing organ. Organ would end up absent from all non-Minnesota recordings on the final album but this offers a window into what might have been.

Simple Twist Of Fate - Take 2

Bob Dylan first played "Simple Twist Of Fate" solo in the studio. The song would then undergo one of the most varied evolutions of the recording sessions in a short period, being attempted unsuccessfully with a full band arrangement - which resembles the arrangement from 1978's live At Budokan album - and then another stripped-down approach with Tony Brown on bass. The performance of the latter arrangement would end up on Blood on the Tracks, but the two early solo takes were the most interesting to me. Of these, the second stands out as most fully realized. It includes an interesting guitar riff between verses that is more prominent on Take 1 but more successful on Take 2; this oddly compelling element would be stripped from the song in later recordings.

Up To Me - Take 2, Remake 2

"Up To Me" is among the most beguiling compositions of the Blood on the Tracks sessions. The song was rightly omitted from the final album, as its most effective performance (found on 1985's Biograph retrospective) heavily resembles "Shelter From The Storm." Its lyrics are often fascinating, containing many of the era's finest couplets, but it has just as many unfortunate filler lines; consider the juxtaposition of "It was like a revelation / When you betrayed me with your touch / I'd just about convinced myself nothin' had changed that much" with the remainder of the fourth verse: "The old rounder in the iron mask he slipped me the master key / Somebody had to unlock your heart, he said it was up to me." The surrealist lines work as an exercise in obsuscation but little else. The remainder of the song, on the other hand, feels like the brutal, beating heart of Dylan's starkest record. This performance is more uptempo than the one that made it onto Biograph and features a vocal performance that takes some time to find its footing; the singer never quite finds the right timing for each verse's final line, but this awkwardness is compensated by an excellent circular guitar line between each verse and an mind-bogglingly warm delivery on the last few verses. Dylan's delivery of the line "baby remember me" in the final verse alone might be among the most beautiful moments captured in these sessions.

Idiot Wind - Minnesota Version

I don't know if it's a controversial opinion, but I don't care for the New York recordings of "Idiot Wind." The most caustic composition of Blood on the Tracks deserves a fierce reading rather than a self-reflective one. Happily, the song would find its identity in Minnesota and then evolve still further on the road in 1976. More Blood More Tracks finally reveals the song in its true glory with a remix reproduced at the correct speed rather than the comparatively tinny, sped-up version on the original 1975 LP.

Meet Me In The Morning - Take 2, Remake

The Blood on the Tracks version of "Meet Me In The Morning" was recorded with a band called Deliverance during the September 1974 sessions which - outside of abandoned takes on "Simple Twist Of Fate" and "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go" - produced few other recordings of note; this process is extensively documented in Andy Gill's excellent book Simple Twist of Fate. Before it would be played with the band, though, Dylan played "Meet Me In The Morning" twice in a striking solo arrangement. The first of these performances appears on More Blood More Tracks' standard edition, but I thought the second was even better. Both takes are highly reminiscent of songs recorded in the 1930s by American blues singer Robert Johnson.

Call Letter Blues - Rehearsal

"Call Letter Blues" is, like a handful of unrecorded compositions featured in Dylan's legendary 1974 notebook in which much of Blood on the Tracks was originally composed, another fairly straightforward blues song. It shares its underlying structure with "Meet Me In The Morning," though its lyrics are perhaps a bit more (allegedly) autobiographical. In any case, a complete rendition featuring overdubbed distorted guitar would eventually appear on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3: 1961-1991 after failing to appear on the singer's 1975 album. The recording featured on this DIY Playlist, on the other hand, is a very funky early rehearsal with Paul Griffin's piano emphasized in the mix. It's incomplete, but I think I like it even more than the final version.

You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go - Take 5

This song was among the sessions' most challenging to record, occupying a full twelve tracks on The Bootleg Series Volume 14: More Blood, More Tracks (Deluxe Edition). It was played solo and in several arrangement with a full band in New York. One of the former would be released on Blood On The Tracks, but I'm partial to this very strange slow version which sounds more like the singer's 1970 New Morning LP than anything he had recorded since then. It's not fully developed, but is a very warm recording of a very warm song. The arrangement is actually surprisingly similar to one briefly attempted at rehearsals for Bob Dylan's 1978 World Tour.

Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts - Minnesota Version

No other recordings remain extant from the December 1974 Blood on the Tracks sessions than those which would appear on the final album. This is a shame, though rumor has it that only one take ever existed of "Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts." This is astounding, given the song's length, but session musicians claimed that the singer had simply told them to keep playing and they'd followed his orders. Whatever the case, the song's uptempo full-band arrangement is miles ahead of its two comparatively lugubrious outings in New York.

Spanish Is The Loving Tongue - Take 1

By 1974, Bob Dylan had played this quasi-cover song several times (at 1968's Basement Tapes and 1970's Self-Portrait sessions). The latter had even produced an unfortunately over-produced take published on 1973's Dylan LP. Most of the song's outings, whether in the recording studio or live, are similar to this version: a genuinely mournful reflection on lost love. I don't think the slightly truncated performance from the Blood on the Tracks sessions is as successful as it had been in 1968, 1970, or 1976, but it is engaging in its own right. One wonders if it had inspired Dylan's own new composition "If You See Her, Say Hello." That song is absent on this DIY Playlist, since the best version of the song already appears on More Blood More Tracks standard edition, but I think its content is represented well by "Spanish Is The Loving Tongue."

Shelter From The Storm - Take 1

"Shelter From The Storm," alongside "Tangled Up In Blue" and "Simple Twist Of Fate," would go on to become one of the singer's most regularly-performed compositions from this era. It would be rearranged again and again, though the performances from September 1974 are strikingly uniform. One exception exists, however: the first take of the song includes a prominent Paul Griffin piano fill between each verse. An additional verse is included, too, though this is not unique to Take 1. Some listeners have expressed happiness that the piano was omitted from the version which graced the final album, but I'm always excited to hear a little more Paul Griffin.

Buckets Of Rain - Take 2

Along with "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go," "Buckets Of Rain" took a surprisingly long time to record in New York. The song is deceptively simple - it is short by the album's standards, and has none of the acidic wordplay which characterizes Blood on the Tracks most memorable tracks. Its guitar line seems to have bedeviled Dylan, however, and more than a few takes feature missed notes or lyrics. Take 2 is one of the most successful, however, perhaps offering an even more textured palette than the version chosen for the standard edition of More Blood More Tracks. Whatever your preference, I think you'll enjoy this disarmingly charming performance.

I hope that you, like me, enjoyed this dive into Columbia's archives. More Blood More Tracks was less thrilling than 2017's Trouble No More, but it still offered quite a bit of fascinating material to explore. It's always an engaging process to listen to a supremely skilled musician developing a masterpiece in the studio. The final album is unparalleled, but these outtakes are pretty great too.

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


Friday, February 1, 2019

Scarlet Town: Unreleased Live Recordings, 2018

Scarlet Town: Live 2018
Volume One

Things Have Changed - Live - Roanoke - November 10, 2018
It Ain’t Me, Babe - Live - Newcastle - August 22, 2018
Highway 61 Revisited - Live - Rome - April 3, 2018
Tryin’ To Get To Heaven - Live - Lisbon - March 22, 2018
Cry A While - Live - Roanoke - November 10, 2018
When I Paint My Masterpiece - Live - Roanoke - November 10, 2018
Honest With Me - Live - Brno - April 15, 2018
Scarlet Town - Live - New York - November 29, 2018
Early Roman Kings - Live - Rome - April 3, 2018
Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright - Live - Roanoke - November 10, 2018
Thunder On The Mountain - Live - Lisbon - March 22, 2018
Soon After Midnight - Live - Rochester - November 15, 2018
Gotta Serve Somebody - Live - Roanoke - November 10, 2018
It Takes A Lot To Laugh (Train To Cry) - Live - Phoenix - October 4, 2018
Long & Wasted Years - Live - Bliefield - April 21, 2018

Scarlet Town: Live 2018
Volume Two

Things Have Changed - Live - Rome - April 3, 2018
Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright - Live - Brno - April 15, 2018
Duquesne Whistle - Live - Brno - April 15, 2018
Simple Twist Of Fate - Live - Bielefeld - April 21, 2018
All Along The Watchtower - Live - New York - November 29, 2018
Visions Of Johanna - Live - Sydney - August 19, 2018
High Water - Live - Tucson - October 5, 2018
Tangled Up In Blue - Live - Brno - April 15, 2018
Pay In Blood - Live - Thackerville - October 13, 2018
Love Sick - Live - Macon - November 27, 2018
Summer Days - Live - Lisbon - March 22, 2018
Moon River - Live - Savannah - November 6, 2018
Like A Rolling Stone - Live - Chattanooga - October 27, 2018
Gotta Serve Somebody - Live - Melbourne - August 13, 2018
It’s A Man’s World - Live - Roanoke - November 10, 2018

In 2018, Bob Dylan made a few major changes to his live performances. A repertoire of ballads popularized by Frank Sinatra gave way to more original compositions by mid-year. This came as a relief to some fans who had tired of the moody style Dylan had employed since 2015, though others lamented the replacement of these covers with songs largely pulled from the singer’s 2012 to 2014 setlists. By the end of the late summer Pacific Tour, however, Dylan and his band had begun to offer more surprising fare: “Gotta Serve Somebody” and “When I Paint My Masterpiece” would become setlist standards for the first time since 2001 and 1991 respectively.

More importantly, the spirit of experimentation which characterized song arrangements the Fall 2017 Tour persisted through 2018. “Honest With Me,” “Summer Days,” “Tangled Up In Blue,” “Thunder On The Mountain,” and “Tryin’ To Get To Heaven” retained their distinctive 2017 arrangements while entirely new styles were applied to “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” “Pay In Blood,” and “Gotta Serve Somebody” mid-tour. The first “Gotta Serve Somebody” arrangement, which was played only briefly on the Pacific Tour and appears on Scarlet Town Volume Two, is heavily influenced by Henry Mancini’s “Theme From Peter Gunn.” The later arrangement, which was played for the remainder of the Pacific Tour and throughout the following United States Tour, owes more to the American boogie woogie musical style. The arrangement of “Cry A While” is very similar to Link Wray’s instrumental “Rumble,” which Dylan played several times at a London residency in 2005.

“Like A Rolling Stone” is a fascinating fusion of old and new, with a scaled back chorus reminiscent of the 1976 Rolling Thunder Revue’s start-stop arrangements. “Things Have Changed” was updated slightly at the start of the Fall Tour, as the portion of the verse immediately preceding its chorus now has cascading drums in the style of “Beyond Here Lies Nothin’.” Dylan seemed to have grown more comfortable with being highlighted in the mix, especially on the Fall 2018 Tour, as lengthy portions of “When I Paint My Masterpiece” and “Don’t Think Twice” feature him playing piano and singing with little band accompaniment.

The Fall Tour also brought with it a few new covers. For the first time since 1990, Bob Dylan sang the famous ballad written Harry Mancini and Johnny Mercer and popularized by Andy Williams. It debuted at Savannah’s Johnny Mercer theater, likely as a nod to the theater’s namesake; I prefer to think that it was inspired by The Simpsons’ episode “Bart on the Road,” as it was indeed played as a second encore. “It’s A Man’s World” was also played by Bob Dylan for the first time in his career at Augusta on November 7 before appearing three more times. This intense James Brown and Betty Jean Newsome song closed out the concert each time it was played.

A few neat oddities popped up throughout the year, as they tend to. “Visions of Johanna” was played once in Sydney. The arrangement is lovely, and a rumor circulating at the time suggested that the song was a tribute to the cast of Rigoletto; Dylan had recently visited the Sydney Opera House to take in that performance and chatted with the cast backstage. “High Water” was played six times throughout the year in two different arrangements. One rendition of the latter one, uncharacteristically performed in a major key, is included on Scarlet Town.

The highlight of the Fall Tour, as indicated by many in attendance, was a rearranged version of 2012’s “Scarlet Town.” The structure remains similar to the song’s studio recording, but the final line of each verse is lengthened for dramatic effect. By the mid-point of the track, a distinctive guitar riff begins to amp up the menace. George Receli’s complex rhythm accompaniment enhances the song still further, and I found that this was represented best on a New York recording late in the year.

It was an excellent year for shows, and perhaps better still for incredible recordings. The tapers really outdid themselves with 2018. I referred to recordings created by spot, FL, hhtfp, Manie, philandjenny, SFY, Falconidave, Bach, and soomlos; all were a treat, and I feel truly blessed to live in an era when these individuals are laboring to bring Bob Dylan’s music to those who might not have the opportunity to see a show in person. I would encourage listeners who enjoy the selections on Scarlet Town to seek out the following full concerts for more:

- Lisbon: March 22, 2018 (spot)
- Rome: April 3, 2018 (FL)
- Brno: April 15, 2018 (hhtfp)
- Macon: October 27, 2018 (soomlos)
- Chattanooga: October 28, 2018 (soomlos)
- Roanoke: November 10, 2018 (Bach)

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


Saturday, January 12, 2019

News Update: Coming Soon

Hi everybody,

As you can imagine, I enjoyed Bob Dylan's increasingly experimental 2018 tour. A 2-CD compilation of the best 2018 live recordings will be coming to Thousand Highways on February 1, 2019.

I'll also be putting out a handful of DIY Collections at a bimonthly interval afterwards. Check in on the 1st of each even-numbered month in 2019 for a new one.

I'm looking forward to sharing some great music with y'all this year. Until next time, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.

- CS