Monday, December 30, 2013

Ring Them Bells: Unreleased Studio & Live Recordings, 1994


Ring Them Bells: 1994

Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You - Outtake: MTV Unplugged (11-18)
Ring Them Bells - Live: The Great Music Experience (05-20)
Masters Of War - Live: Woodstock '94 (08-14)
Lawdy Miss Clawdy - Unreleased Studio Session (09-30)
Absolutely Sweet Marie - Outtake: MTV Unplugged (11-18)
Tomorrow Night - Live: The Rhythm, Country & Blues Concert (03-23)
Everything is Broken - Outtake: MTV Unplugged (11-17)
Anyway You Want Me - Unreleased Studio Session (09-30)
The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll - Live: New York (10-20)
If You See Her, Say Hello - Live: New York (10-19)
Series Of Dreams - Live: Hiroshima (02-16)
I Want You - Outtake: MTV Unplugged (11-18)
Blue-Eyed Jane - Outtake: Jimmie Rodgers Tribute (05-09 to 05-11)
Jokerman - Live: Boston (10-08)
The Lady Came From Baltimore - Live: Besançon (07-04)
Money Honey - Unreleased Studio Session (09-30)
Hazel - Outtake: MTV Unplugged (11-17)

This compilations acts as a survey of the best unreleased studio and live recordings available by Bob Dylan from 1994. This was a productive year for Dylan, as he toured the world, took part in the Great Music Experience at Nara, Japan, visited MTV studios for an Unplugged taping, headlined Woodstock '94, and recorded several studio sessions.

The Great Music Experience was intended to be an annual gathering of notable world artists at cultural heritage sites, but the 1994 iteration proved to be the only one. Dylan is backed here by an orchestra, and sings beautifully.

The MTV Unplugged concert is generally not considered to be in the same league as the Supper Club Residency of 1993, which it is believed to have replaced as a document of Bob Dylan's live performances in the early '90s; even so, many of the tracks recorded at this session are outstanding. In particular, "Hazel" and "I Want You" are two of the best renditions of these classic songs.

The studio outtakes included here consist of two sessions: the first was for a Jimmie Rodgers tribute. Interestingly, though this songs was recorded in 1994 with backing vocals by Emmylou Harris, its vocals would be rerecorded several years later for its inclusion on the final tribute record. The second studio session was evidently intended to produce one or more songs for an Elvis Presley tribute, but no final product was released. Thus, the tracks remain out of public circulation.

"Tomorrow Night" comes from a guest appearance at the Rhythm, Country & Blues Concert and includes pleasant backing vocals by Trisha Yearwood. This performance only surfaced recently.

The live tracks are, as ever, quite inspired. In particular, "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" and "Jokerman" receive soulful readings, and the rearrangements of "Masters of War" and "Series of Dreams" are very successful. Though this acoustic version of "Masters of War" would go on to become a template for years to come, the experimental style of "Series of Dreams" would only appear in a handful of 1994 shows.

In short, this is one of the most complete and professional sounding sets in the series. I am quite proud of the finished product. Please enjoy this compilation! If you enjoy it, you should be sure to own the official recordings related to this era:

Next week, we will be exploring the recordings from Bob Dylan's residency at Prague in the Spring of 1995. That was regarded as one of the best series of shows from the Never-Ending Tour, so be sure to check it out. Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Series Of Dreams: Unreleased Recordings, 1989 - 1993 (Volume Two)

Series Of Dreams: 1989 - 1993
Volume Two

Trail Of The Buffalo - Live: June 10, 1989
Under The Red Sky - Outtake: Under The Red Sky
Little Moses - Live: September 5, 1992
God Knows - Outtake: Oh Mercy
Sloppy Drunk - Unreleased: 1992 Bromberg Sessions
Golden Vanity - Live: April 24, 1992
Unbelievable - Outtake: Under The Red Sky
Has Anybody Seen My Love - Live: November 16, 1993
Shooting Star - Outtake: Oh Mercy
Polly Vaughan - Unreleased: 1992 Bromberg Sessions
Blood In My Eyes - Live: November 17, 1993
Roving Blade - Live: July 1, 1992
Born In Time - Outtake: Oh Mercy
Delia - Live: November 17, 1993
Handy Dandy - Outtake: Under The Red Sky
The Water Is Wide - Live: June 3, 1989

This is the second of two volumes in my collection which pertain to the best of Bob Dylan's unreleased output between 1989 and 1993. It should be equivalent to the first in quality, but I would like to make note of several highlights that may raise this part to a superior rank.

The first song, "Trail of the Buffalo," is a live outing of the track from 1989, and it appears here in its electric guise. It was played variously acoustically and electrically during the early years of the Never-Ending Tour, but I prefer the electric version. There is a violent kind of energy about this track that really puts the listener on edge. The band also briefly indulges in an almost klezmer-esque improvisation.

"Little Moses," also live, is about as fine a relationship as one can get between audience and singer. You can really hear the fans cheer as Dylan related the story of Moses in its old spiritual form, and you can hear the singer smile at times as he spins the tale.

"God Knows" is similar to the take heard on Tell Tale Signs, but has a slightly looser energy, culminating in a shouted "Aw!" between portions of the verse.

"Sloppy Drunk" is a jaunty tune recorded at the ill-fated Bromberg Sessions of 1992. These were intended to produce a full album follow-up to Under The Red Sky, but were found wanting for one reason or another; instead, Good As I Been To You was recorded. Though I am grateful for that fantastic record, one wonders at what other gems were recorded in 1992 but remain unreleased. The songs were drawn from various sources, including old country songs, mid-century rock songs, traditional ballads and contemporary singer-songwriter fare of the 1960s and 1970s. Many songs were connected to David Bromberg, who supervised the session.

"Has Anybody Seen My Love" is the esteemed recording from Dylan's 1993 live stint at The Supper Club, originally intended to be released officially; this was eventually shelved, ostensibly in favor of his MTV Unplugged record from the following year. Though this song is the only one that does not quite meet the criteria of this package (songs either originating in this period, or covers which are meaningful because of their significance to this time), it almost qualifies as a fully-formed reinvention of the Empire Burlesque original. There is something so free and jazz-like about this performance - the mood is so fully communicated.

"Shooting Star" is a good, though not great, performance and recording from the sessions for 1989's Oh Mercy record. It is interesting primarily because it has a radically different set of lyrics, an early draft that would be dramatically reworked for the final release.

"Polly Vaughan" is an allegedly original arrangement of an old Irish folk song, on which Wikipedia's knowledge is extensive. Dylan's arrangement and vocals are haunting, particularly the ambiguous final verse in which the eponymous woman appears as a ghost in a courtroom, "like a fountain of snow."

"Roving Blade" is one of my favorite live performances from this time period, and it sounds so fresh. The singer is committed to every word, and closes the song how he begins it. Though this would be performed twice more during the Never-Ending Tour, the 1992 rendition is the finest.

Finally, "The Water Is Wide" is one of the greatest extant recordings from Bob Dylan's live career, to my ears. It is so utterly passionate and courageous, sounding in no way like any other version of the song I've heard. The singer inhabits every syllable, culminating in a heartbreakingly harmonized final chorus. The band, too, is at the top of their game, providing all of the rhythm and sympathetic guitar that a listener could want. It's all been captured here in astounding clarity.

This set has been very carefully picked over and remastered to harmonize volume levels, though of course sometimes the vocals are quieter than one would like, or background noise is intrusive (I'm looking at you, "Shooting Star"). Still, every effort has been made to create a coherent listening experience. I hope you enjoy this compilation - your compiler certainly does. One final note - commenter Hilda Fernhout noted that the cover image above is Bob Dylan walking along Lake Ely by Antonin Kratochvil. It's one of the better images of the artist that I've encountered, and I'm happy to have the attribution added here.

Related studio releases include the following:

Next week, the 1990s rolls on with Bob Dylan's outstanding studio outtakes and a selection of live recordings from 1994; that was a great year, and the sound quality is fantastic. Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.


Note: This post was edited to reflect the accurate date of "Golden Vanity" - the original post provided the date April 22, but the track is from April 24. The artwork will be changed to reflect this when I get some spare time. Thanks to the reader who noted the error!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Series Of Dreams: Unreleased Recordings, 1989 - 1993 (Volume One)

Series Of Dreams: 1989 - 1993
Volume One

Hard Times – Live: April 28, 1993
Political World – Outtake: Oh Mercy
Pancho And Lefty – Live: June 21, 1989
2X2 – Outtake: Under The Red Sky
Ragged & Dirty – Live: November 17, 1993
Catskill Serenade – Unreleased: Bromberg Sessions, 1992
Jim Jones – Live: November 17, 1993
Born In Time – Outtake: Under The Red Sky
Female Rambling Sailor – Live: April 5, 1992
20-20 Vision – Live: October 25, 1991
Wiggle Wiggle – Outtake: Under The Red Sky
Series of Dreams – Live: September 8, 1993
Lucky Old Sun – Live: November 5, 1991
TV Talkin' Song – Outtake: Under The Red Sky
Lakes Of Ponchartrain – Live: June 15, 1989
Jack-A-Roe – Live: November 17, 1993
Most Of The Time – Outtake: Oh Mercy

Good morning/afternoon/evening,

I have been fine-tuning on this new collection for quite some time, and it is finally ready for release. This project was exciting enough that, for the first time, I've broken my primary rule - the single disc format. Though 'Still The Same Man' was a two-volume affair, that concerned separate eras: 1980 and 1981; in this case, both releases will cover the work Dylan did from 1989 to 1993. This will not be a habit, but I think that these years are too rich a time period to be confined to a single disc.

Standout tracks from the first volume include the first of three Bromberg Session tracks extensively remastered from the original circulating tapes (rather than the Dolby-ized version floating around), a grand performance of "Hard Times" from willie Nelson's 60th Birthday Tribute, an expanded "Political World," an evocative live rendition of "Series of Dreams," an unsettling outtake of "TV Talkin' Song," and a full suite of Supper Club performances from then-recently released World Gone Wrong and Good As I Been To You. Finally, not to be missed is the absolutely stunning "Female Rambling Sailor." Though many of the highlights from these years consist of Bob Dylan performing traditional songs with an otherworldly passion, "Female Rambling Sailor" stands out as heartbreaking.

If you are unfamiliar with the Supper Club recordings from 1993, those will be of special interest. The tracks from Good As I Been To You and World Gone Wrong benefit from acoustic band arrangements. Similarly, "Hard Times" has been accentuated with a small band, including an accordion; the effects are transcendent. Some of the finer details in the outtakes are fascinating - "Political World" retains several verses excised from its release on Oh Mercy, and "Most of the Time" is intriguingly a vocal take completely separate from the releases on Oh Mercy and Tell Tale Signs. The version of this song recorded for a promo video is worth seeking out, but apparently was officially released in 1990 and therefore not eligible for Series of Dreams. The Under The Red Sky outtakes are consistently intriguing as well, since in most there are lyrics that were eventually cut from the released versions; the final portion of 2X2 is noteworthy in this regard. Because those sessions involved extensive overdubs, these outtakes are also generally a bit raw, for better or for worse. There will be more notes concerning the unreleased 1992 Bromberg Sessions, from which "Catskill Serenade" is drawn, next week.

Much of Bob Dylan's recording career is fascinating, but I am certain that the tracks here represent the best available from this one of his peaks. Clearly, there was a rediscovery and redirection occurring during this time, as noted on the past two releases. This reached a peak in the early 1990s, when Dylan was at his most passionate and experimental. You'll be sure to enjoy this record, and its continuation in Volume Two.

If you find yourself humming along to these tracks, I would strongly encourage you to check out Bob Dylan's official releases from this time frame:

I can't stress enough how great these official releases are. Oh Mercy is so elemental, and feels like you've stepped into humid New Orleans on the edge of a  lightning storm. The best tracks left on the cutting room floor from these sessions ended up on The Bootleg Series, Volumes 1-3, Tell Tale Signs, and Greatest Hits Volume 3. Strangely enough, several songs from that CD evolved into the foundation of Under The Red Sky. Ostensibly a collection of fairy tale-esque narratives, Under The Red Sky was excellently produced, and features many guests that round out the talent involved. Good As I Been To You and World Gone Wrong are two of Dylan's finest releases to my ears, accomplishing what the singer had set out to do on his debut release.

Nest week I will publish the second volume of this compilation, containing many wonderful tracks; if you know of any that seem conspicuously absent from this week's release, you will probably be pleasantly surprised next Monday. Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Town Without Pity: Unreleased Live Recordings - 1990 London & Paris Residencies

Town Without Pity: The Best of the London & Paris Residencies, 1990

Absolutely Sweet Marie - February 8
Where Teardrops Fall - January 30
You Angel You - February 8
Hang Me, Oh Hang Me - February 8
You're A Big Girl Now - January 29
 All Along The Watchtower - January 29
I Shall Be Released - January 29
It's Alright, Ma - February 7
One Too Many Mornings - January 29
Boots Of Spanish Leather - January 30
Dark As A Dungeon - February 6
Simple Twist Of Fate - January 30
Ballad Of Hollis Brown - February 1
Man In The Long Black Coat - January 30
Disease Of Conceit - February 8
Has Anybody Seen My Love? - January 30
Queen Jane Approximately - February 3

Lossless Links:

MP3 Link:

These songs are all performances from Bob Dylan's esteemed residencies in Paris and London during the winter of 1990. This was a very fruitful tour, as Dylan reinvented classic songs and sharpened his interpretation of newer releases.

Highlights include a rare airing of “You Angel You,” an electrified Civil War ballad, “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me,” an absolutely intense “It’s Alright Ma,” the mournful “Simple Twist Of Fate,” the ominous “Man In The Long Black Coat,” a piano-driven “Disease Of Conceit,” and one of my personal favorites, “Has Anybody Seen My Love.”

Several changes had occurred between the beginning of the Never-Ending Tour in 1988 and this series of concerts. Dylan’s voice had altered significantly, drawing away some of the power of those ’88 shows while offering an opportunity to sing with more nuance. You can really hear the singer reaching for now depths in “One Too Many Mornings,” and “Queen Jane Approximately.” Another major change was the inclusion of harmonica from 1989 on. Though my overall impression of harmonicas is not necessarily a positive one, it really adds a melodic quality to many of the tracks here, particularly “You’re A Big Girl Now” and “One Too Many Mornings.”

If you like what you hear, you might enjoy listening to the original studio versions of these songs, released by Columbia Records:

Next week I will post one of the highlights of this series - the first of two volumes concerning unreleased studio and live recordings from 1989 to 1993. You'll get to hear some great outtakes and live tracks from Oh Mercy, Under The Red Sky, Good As I Been To You, World Gone Wrong, with related songs from that era. Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Renaissance: Unreleased Live Recordings, 1988

Renaissance: Live Recordings, 1988

Subterranean Homesick Blues - June 9, 1988
Pretty Peggy-O - July 2, 1988
My Back Pages - June 11, 1988
License To Kill - June 13, 1988
Gotta Serve Somebody - June 13, 1988
Wagoner's Lad - October 16, 1988
Eileen Aroon - June 15, 1988
Mama, You Been On My Mind - June 18, 1988
Give My Love To Rose - June 28, 1988
San Francisco Bay Blues - June 28, 1988
Barbara Allen - August 31, 1988
Masters Of War - October 13, 1988
It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry - June 10, 1988
Frankie Lee & Judas Priest - July 3, 1988
Visions Of Johanna - September 3, 1988
Gates Of Eden - June 18, 1988

Greetings, folks. This is my companion to the 1988 field recordings of Bob Dylan. Compiling it was one of the finest experiences I've had since beginning my practice of developing compilations based around certain time periods or themes in Dylan's recorded art. Previously, I suppose I'd only heard so-so sounding 1988-era soundboard recordings, which are frequently lacking in ambiance and sound quality. Still, if one digs around, there is gold to be had in this year. 

Perhaps moreso than at any time since 1979, he sounds truly spirited, demanding the listener's attention. Dylan's fiery breath brings new life to old gems like "Masters of War" and "Gotta Serve Somebody," while songs that are great in most performances shine to their typically high standard here ("Visions of Johanna," "License to Kill"). The acoustic set is interesting as well for the restraint paid to vocals on "Give My Love To Rose" and "Wagoner's Lad." "Mama, You Been On My Mind" receives one of its most pleasant airings here.

By contrast to 1987 and 1989, Dylan's voice is powerful in a way that evokes 1974 with a shade more nuance. The most striking conclusion I reached while listening to the vast array of tapes from 1988 is how similar '88 and '74 are in tone. Both are perhaps a bit under-appreciated and well-served by delving into them with an open mind.

If you'd like a single disc to represent this frenzied year of touring, this could be the one. On the other hand, if this piques your interest, a 5-disc bootleg called The Red Rose and The Briar was the source for a number of these recordings, and offers a comprehensive look at a fascinating period of Dylan's always-interesting performance art.

Original studio recordings of the live tracks from Renaissance can be found on the following official releases:

Next week, we will move ahead to the London and Paris residencies of 1990, which both produced much gold. Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes!