Sunday, February 23, 2014

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

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

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


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

Download Link - Down The River

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

For a brief introduction to the tracks:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Standing In The Doorway: Unreleased Live Recordings, Spring 2004

Standing In The Doorway: Live Recordings, Spring 2004

Tombstone Blues - March 10
Ring Them Bells - April 3
If Not For You - April 9
Bye And Bye - April 3
Cold Irons Bound - March 10
Tears Of Rage - April 7
Dignity - April 3
Man In The Long Black Coat - March 17
Floater (Too Much To Ask) - March 19
Under The Red Sky - March 17
Drifter's Escape - March 19
Shooting Star - March 10
Standing In The Doorway - April 3

Bonus Tracks
Get Out Of Denver - March 16
Girl From The North Country - March 10
Hazel - April 2
Lonesome Day Blues - March 24
Tell Me That It Isn't True - March 26
Unbelievable - April 9

Download Link

Welcome back,

My goodness, what a list of songs! Dylan really dug deep into his catalog for the 2004 Spring Tour, and I think that's really what distinguishes it from the other fantastic tours of this era.

His 1989-1997 output is extremely well-represented in this set, accounting for a full 7 of the 13 songs included. Among the others are a unique cascading arrangement of "If Not For You," a slow-burning "Standing In The Doorway," and possibly definitive renditions of "Tombstone Blues," "Bye & Bye," "Floater (Too Much To Ask)" and "Drifter's Escape." The close listener will also find that "Tears Of Rage" has picked up some new lyrics hewing the the "Love & Theft" style of postmodern pastiche. Dylan's has "never been to Strawberry Fields" or "Penny Lane," though he's "been down in the Willow Garden and ridden on the Hellbound Train." I love it.

Unfortunately, not all songs could fit, and fine performances of "Girl From The North Country," "Tell Me That It Isn't True" and "Lonesome Day Blues" were narrowly edged out. Some notable recordings of the tour, "Get Out Of Denver," "Hazel" and "Unbelievable" in particular, did not stand up to the level of quality found in the thirteen tracks that made it to the compilation. They are included as bonus tracks for those who are interested.

In fact, much in the same way that The Red Rose & The Briar informed my 1988 collection, the fantastic House on Fire, Debts Unpaid was the source of a handful of these songs. It's an ideal 3-CD overview of the tour, and I recommend it unreservedly.

I hope this new compilation is up to the usual standards, and brings you some warmth in these winter months. Fans of Freddy Koella will be especially pleased, as his remarkable guitar work is all over this record.

If you find the songs compelling, you will surely appreciate their original studio recordings, which can be purchased from Sony at the following links:

Next week's release will be a compilation well-regarded in some circles. It consists of studio outtakes and notable live appearances from 1999 to 2012*, and has been expanded slightly from its earlier incarnation. I hope you all enjoy it as much as the folks at Expecting Rain have in the past. Until then, keep yourselves healthy and listen to some good tunes.


*Don't get too excited for outtakes - very few exist from this time frame, and all on my CD have been in circulation elsewhere already. I've just tidied them up and strung them together for maximum coherence.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Piano Blues & Barroom Ballads: Unreleased Live Recordings, Fall 2003

Piano Blues & Barroom Ballads: European Tour, Fall 2003

Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine) - Live - Zurich - November 3, 2003
Tryin' To Get To Heaven - Live - Amsterdam - November 11, 2003
Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues - Live - Zurich - November 3, 2003
Million Miles - Live - London - November 24, 2003
Desolation Row - Live - Berlin - October 20, 2003
Can't Wait - Live - Zurich - November 3, 2003
Jokerman - Live - London - November 24, 2003
Queen Jane Approximately - Live - Gothenburg - October 15, 2003
Cry A While - Live - Zurich - November 3, 2003
Boots Of Spanish Leather - Live - London - November 15, 2003
Highway 61 Revisited - Live - Zurich - November 3, 2003
A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall - Live - London - November 25, 2003

Bonus Tracks:
 Dear Landlord - Live - London - November 24, 2003
Love Sick - Live - London - November 25, 2003
Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn) - Live - London - November 23, 2003
Romance In Durango - Live - London - November 24, 2003
Silvio - Live - London - November 23, 2003
Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again - Live - Copenhagen - October 16, 2003


Welcome back,

This is undoubtedly my favorite leg of the Never-Ending Tour. Though 1995, 1999, 2002 and 2013 give it a fun for its money, this tour is the best representation of my ideal sound. That said, it is not for everyone.

Much as in 1987, Dylan is all over the place here. From the relatively consistent vocals of 1999-2001, things have changed quite a bit. Many fans found his singing problematic during the 2003-2004 era, and that's reasonable. A strong growl and rasp crept in, as is audible in many of the recordings here. What is especially fascinating, however, is the alternation between different vocal styles.

"Tryin' To Get To Heaven" presents a deep growl, while "Boots Of Spanish Leather" finds the singer in an almost crystal-clear moment. Similarly, while Dylan howls in Berlin with "Desolation Row," you can hear the startling knifelike edge of the lyrics in "Can't Wait." It is that sense of being on the edge, of the craftsman struggling with his imperfect tools, that enhances the drama of this set.

Every song on here is a treat, though. This speaks to what I most want to hear in Dylan's live performances: an artist on the edge. In each of the tracks presented, the sound threatens to fall apart. Even so, they keep it together. The band and the singer are exploring new angles to classic songs old and new. I mean, just listen to the sarcastic sneer of the opening songs, in which the singer notes "You say you've got some other kind of lover and yes, I believe you believe you do." The broken howl of the final chorus in "Tryin' To Get To Heaven" is a fleeting highlight before "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" returns the set to a jauntier nature. Koella's guitar is the standout on so many of the songs here, but he's really laying on the beautiful flamenco flourishes in "Tom Thumb." "Million Miles" brings out the jokes, as Dylan follows up the line "I don't tell them everything I knew" with an off-mike "I just tell 'em some of it." You can just hear the weariness coming through in every moment of this song. Then, with "Desolation Row," the band is aiming for new heights and they hit them. This is a looser rendition of the song, and I prefer the more nuanced performance from Dublin '03, but the sound quality and passion of this recording could not be rivaled. "Can't Wait" puts the listener immediately in the same, post-midnight neon haze of an urban landscape, with Dylan sounding knowledgeable about those "on their way up," and those "on their way down." His reading of the line "the air burns" is so evocative. "Jokerman" contains the most inventive rhythms of the set, as Recile plays his heart out. "Queen Jane Approximately" is a towering monument to what a dedicated artist can do onstage. This is exquisite, and seems to contain all the heartache and desperation in the world, with the band and their leader totally in-sync. The vocals threaten constantly to break, and sometimes they do, but it adds to the masterpiece being presented to the audience. "Cry A While" is the polar opposite, a real barn-burner with some inspired growling. If you don't care for Dylan's rasp, you won't like this one; on the other hand, if you're like me it's just perfect. From that song, the band moves the music into a unique, almost baroque arrangement of "Boots Of Spanish Leather." Far from the introspective versions of 1995 or 1999, this one flows along as though the singer were narrating it with all of his hope and eventual anger plain to read. "Highway 61" is, like "Queen Jane," a definitive live performance; never before or again were these songs as powerful as they were on these nights, at least to my ears. Finally, the set closes with a transcendent, triumphant "Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," building to a crescendo in the final chorus.

My opinion on these songs is not objective, nor should anyone expect it to be. I am no critic, and I can only compile the songs I love and report on them subjectively. And this record sounds incredible. Part of that is the quality of recordings - for reasons I am unaware of, the clarity of the recordings collected here is almost unparalleled. This is not to disparage other tapers; many tours have stand-out recordings. I am just surprised at the sheer volume of quality recordings from Fall 2003.

As you can tell from reviewing the dates of the recordings, my favorite show from the leg is November 3. This concert is top-notch from beginning to end. Though most nights of this tour, like any other, were uneven, I think Bob Dylan landed the mark with the twelve tracks found on Piano Blues and Barroom Ballads. If I could keep just one of the compilations presented on A Thousand Highways (and thank goodness I don't), it would be this one.

For the people who want to hear the song purely as it was played, you may be disappointed to find slightly truncated versions of "Most Likely You Go Your Way And I Go Mine," "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues," and "Boots of Spanish Leather." To accommodate the runtime, something had to go, and I think those tracks hold up just as well with missing instrumental passages. Note that the only vocal loss is the final repeated verse and chorus of "Most Likely." This is because the song loses its momentum, and is served better (to my ears) by the shorter cut. I am sure some listeners disagree with this decision, and will be happy to find extended cuts of these three songs in their own folder within the download. Similarly, a handful of bonus tracks round out the set. These consist of some notable performances ("Romance In Durango" chief among them) that are interesting, but which I didn't think met the quality of the other tracks recordings presented.

This tour contained all the passion and power of a true performing artist. I hope you will find as much to enjoy on this release as I do.

You can find original studio recordings of these songs on the following records:

Next week you will find a compilation of the best performances from Bob Dylan's Spring 2004 American Tour. As you can guess, I rather enjoy the Koella/Campbell band. The sound of the next release is quite similar to this week's collection, but with an arguably more eclectic selection of songs. Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Memories: Live Recordings, Fall 2002

Memories: Live Recordings, Fall 2002

Seeing The Real You At Last: October 17
You're A Big Girl Now: October 7
Tombstone Blues: November 5
Accidentally Like A Martyr: October 17
You Ain't Goin' Nowhere: October 29
The End Of The Innocence: November 15
Lawyers Guns And Money: October 17
Carrying A Torch: October 19
Solid Rock: October 20
It Ain't Me Babe: October 7
Po' Boy: November 15
Yea! Heavy & A Bottle Of Bread: November 11
Mutineer: October 17
Things Have Changed: November 15
Don't Think Twice, It's All Right: November 15
Something: November 13

Bonus Tracks:
 Boom Boom Mancini: October 4
Honest With Me: November 2
In The Summertime: October 30
Watching The River Flow: October 26

This selection of songs really has something for everyone. From rockers to ballads, from jazz to folk and gospel, rarities and old classics made new again. This was truly one of Bob Dylan's greatest moments as a performing artist. The way he interpreted others' songs and intermingled them with his own compositions, both new and old, is extraordinary.

Of course, many of the finest songs from that legendary series of concerts were tributes to the dead and dying. George Harrison's "Something" was performed with tenderness, while Warren Zevon's "Accidentally Like A Martyr," "Lawyers, Guns and Money," and "Mutineer" stand out as truly inspiring dedications to that master of songwriting.

Though "The End of Innocence" is not often regarded as being in the same league with these other songs, and on most nights I would agree with that assessment, the rendition here is positively radiant with passion. It caught my attention on first listen, and I think it is actually among the highlights of this tightly packed celebration of life.

Among the originals, "Seeing The Real You At Last" is my favorite performance of that song, and "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" has got to be the best this song has sounded since 1971. The harmonies really elevate it above its normal quality. "Yea! Heavy and a Bottle of Bread" is a truly odd performance, but one that is quite pleasant. Similarly, "You're A Big Girl Now" contains one of Dylan's more peculiar rewrites (or lyrical flubs, depending upon who you ask); listen to it, and you'll know what I'm talking about.

In short, though it would always be challenging to put together a set representative of Dylan's 2002 Fall Tour, I have done my best. Certain songs had to be left out. Among the most conspicuous losses were "In The Summertime," "Old Man," and "Brown Sugar." I may be in the minority, but I could not find any performances of those songs that matched the quality of these sixteen tracks. They are interesting, and worth seeking out, but I do not miss them here.

For those interested in the more technical aspects, this volume was very tricky to balance for volume. The result is that it is a bit quieter than some of my other compilations. It is, after all, far easier to lower the volume of loud songs than to raise it for the quiter ones. The tracks from October 7 were the most impacted by volume reduction, but that leaves little qualitative impact on them. More importantly, "Tombstone Blues" is slightly truncated with a splice and "Solid Rock" had some careful work done with the channels to salvage some of the volume at the end of the song; the latter still has some trouble with channels at the beginning that could not be fully eradicated, but the effect is not especially detrimental.

With all of that said, I hope you this most recent effort agreeable. It was a lot of fun to put together, and hopefully does some justice to one of Bob Dylan's most luminous moments in the spotlight.

Original studio recordings of these songs can be found on the following records:

Next week you will get to hear a chronicle of one of my very favorite legs of the Never-Ending Tour: Fall 2003. While 2002 retains the greater critical acclaim, the European Tour of 2003 is even greater to my ears. You can judge for yourself next week! Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.