Sunday, March 30, 2014

Soon After Midnight: Unreleased Live Recordings, Spring 2013

Soon After Midnight - Spring Tour 2013

Things Have Changed - April 14, 2013
Workingman's Blues #2 - April 25, 2013
High Water - April 6, 2013
Soon After Midnight - April 19, 2013
Early Roman Kings - April 9, 2013
Pay In Blood - April 10, 2013
Visions Of Johanna - April 19, 2013
Spirit On The Water - April 9, 2013
Blind Willie McTell - April 10, 2013
What Good Am I - April 9, 2013
Beyond Here Lies Nothin' - April 19, 2013
Scarlet Town - April 14, 2013
Thunder On The Mountain - May 2, 2013

Here is my best attempt at compiling a best-of for such an extraordinary tour. To those who haven't listened to the shows, this tour may have seemed uninteresting or dull due to the unvarying setlists. To those who have heard them, this Spring tour was noted for its renewed attention to nuance.

For example, not even a chatting audience can damper the intensity of the opening "Things Have Changed." This song had been a highlight since 2011, but it really comes alive here.

"Workingman's Blues #2" appears for its only performance in 2013. The arrangement, while similar to the version on Modern Times, it unique to this tour. It's exceedingly stripped down, and is almost solo. Guitar, bass and drums occasionally make their presence known, but it is carried by the piano and vocal; if you listen closely, you can catch some interesting new lyrics.

I almost opted for the banjo-less "High Water" from Lewiston, but it lacked the drive found in those with Donnie Herron's imprint. Plus, though the electric guitar is less prominent here than on other nights, Dylan's vocals more than make up for it.

The performance of "Soon After Midnight" from the 19th stands above those from the rest of this tour, as Dylan finds new ways of singing this song. And Duke Robillard really gets the opportunity to open up on this one.

"Visions Of Johanna" is perhaps the most expressive performance since 2005. This song is always a treat, but it's surprising to hear it carried out so delicately.

The jazz vibe continues through the remainder of the evening. "What Good Am I" was described by one listener as defining the tour, and I agree wholeheartedly. The plaintive cry takes on new meaning in this rendition. When I saw the band in California, Pennsylvania, I was on the edge of my seat. It was just devastating, and that confessional quality is foregrounded here.

"Scarlet Town" is intriguing, and is not a song that worked every night of the tour. In Ithaca, however, it shone like a diamond. There is a delicate tone here that is typically reserved for "Visions of Johanna," and part of its power comes from the threat that it could slide off the edge at any moment. The piano is more prominent here than elsewhere, to the song's benefit.

And don't tune out before the end - this must be the best "Thunder On The Mountain" I've heard committed to tape since the studio release. Robillard casts a long shadow.

As always, some songs had to be cut. Neither "Ballad Of A Thin Man" nor "Tangled Up In Blue" were as strong on this tour as they have been in recent memory, and "All Along The Watchtower" did not stand out as particularly notable. "Tangled Up In Blue" would improve throughout the year, however, becoming one of the most consistent nightly songs by the Autumn Tour.

I hope you enjoy the collection - the shows were especially well-recorded this Spring, and we should all be deeply grateful to JF, emptyhandedpainter, Spot, Tom Moore, nic1333, jefft3881, and Dan Schram. They put posterity ahead of their own enjoyment, and we would not have these songs without their efforts. Their songs remain lossless here, and the only edits were to standardize volume and add fade-ins/fade-outs. If you like the sound of a track, I encourage you to check out that night's tape. Odds are the rest of it retains a similar level of quality. One technical note - the recording of Champaign (04-25-13) is rumored to be lossy-sourced. Whether this is true or not, the compilation benefits from its presence.

If you like these songs, be sure to purchase the original recordings, available on the following releases at

Blonde On Blonde
Oh Mercy
"Love & Theft"
Modern Times
Together Through Life
The Essential Bob Dylan
The Bootleg Series, Volumes 1 - 3

Next week we will be looking back at the piano tours of 2012 to 2013 in an overview of the finest performances from that time, including a remarkable and unique rendition of Gordon Lightfoot's "Shadows." Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Living By The Golden Rule: Unreleased Live Recordings, Spring 2011

Living By The Golden Rule: Spring Tour of Asia, 2011

Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking - April 13, 2011
My Wife's Home Town - April 10, 2011
Don't Think Twice, It's Alright - April 8, 2011
Tangled Up In Blue - April 8, 2011
Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum - April 8, 2011
Sugar Baby - April 3, 2011
Gotta Serve Somebody - April 3, 2011
Blind Willie McTell - April 12, 2011
Honest With Me - April 8, 2011
Simple Twist Of Fate - April 13, 2011
High Water - April 13, 2011
Desolation Row - April 8, 2011
Forever Young - April 6, 2011

Thanks to tapers Hide, Bach, Ghodlin, and Soomlos for gathering these rare and precious songs.

2011 was a good showing for Dylan's "Never-Ending Tour," and the Spring of that year was notable for representing his first concerts in China. This caused a bit of a media stir, including a direct response from the man himself; more on this later.

The shows, of course, were great. They favored newer material, and new arrangements of old songs. "Tangled Up In Blue," "Simple Twist Of Fate," "Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum," and "Honest With Me" were all given updated, marvelous treatments. All remained consistently in the set for the rest of the year, delighting fans around the world.

Of the songs here, "My Wife's Hometown" and "Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking" are probably the rarest, though both had been being played since 2009. "Gotta Serve Somebody," while not revelatory, is interesting primarily for the organ and band interaction. "Blind Willie McTell" is excellent, though it had not yet hit the peak it would from 2012 to 2013. "Desolation Row" is a fascinating exploration, in which several vocal techniques are used to great effect on various verses. It's an essential time capsule of Dylan's singing styles around this time.

Finally, "Forever Young" is just incredible. The last verse, in particular, is so moving you may just have to wipe a tear from your eye. This is not a song that I tend to seek out, but this version is truly significant.

As noted above, the media furor prompted a response from Bob Dylan. On his website, he published the following defense of the tour:

To my fans and followers

Allow me to clarify a couple of things about this so-called China controversy which has been going on for over a year. First of all, we were never denied permission to play in China. This was all drummed up by a Chinese promoter who was trying to get me to come there after playing Japan and Korea. My guess is that the guy printed up tickets and made promises to certain groups without any agreements being made. We had no intention of playing China at that time, and when it didn't happen most likely the promoter had to save face by issuing statements that the Chinese Ministry had refused permission for me to play there to get himself off the hook. If anybody had bothered to check with the Chinese authorities, it would have been clear that the Chinese authorities were unaware of the whole thing.

We did go there this year under a different promoter. According to Mojo magazine the concerts were attended mostly by ex-pats and there were a lot of empty seats. Not true. If anybody wants to check with any of the concert-goers they will see that it was mostly Chinese young people that came. Very few ex-pats if any. The ex-pats were mostly in Hong Kong not Beijing. Out of 13,000 seats we sold about 12,000 of them, and the rest of the tickets were given away to orphanages. The Chinese press did tout me as a sixties icon, however, and posted my picture all over the place with Joan Baez, Che Guevara, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. The concert attendees probably wouldn't have known about any of those people. Regardless, they responded enthusiastically to the songs on my last 4 or 5 records. Ask anyone who was there. They were young and my feeling was that they wouldn't have known my early songs anyway.

As far as censorship goes, the Chinese government had asked for the names of the songs that I would be playing. There's no logical answer to that, so we sent them the set lists from the previous 3 months. If there were any songs, verses or lines censored, nobody ever told me about it and we played all the songs that we intended to play.

Everybody knows by now that there's a gazillion books on me either out or coming out in the near future. So I'm encouraging anybody who's ever met me, heard me or even seen me, to get in on the action and scribble their own book. You never know, somebody might have a great book in them.

-Bob Dylan

It made for excellent reading, especially for his fans who knew what the critics did not: Bob Dylan is no nostalgia act, playing for an imagined 1960s folk audience. And that, I suppose, says it all.

If you enjoy these songs, you will undoubtedly enjoy the original studio recordings, available for purchase on the following albums:

Highway 61 Revisited
Planet Waves
Blood On The Tracks
Slow Train Coming
"Love & Theft"
Together Through Life
The Bootleg Series, Volumes 1-3

Next week, we will jump ahead to 2013 for Bob Dylan's spring tour with Duke Robillard on lead guitar. If you were at one of those shows, you know how special they were; if not, get ready to find out. Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Center Stage: Unreleased Live Recordings, 2008 - 2012

Center Stage
Unreleased Live Recordings, 2008 - 2012

Gotta Serve Somebody - November 21, 2008
Shooting Star - October 13, 2009
Things Have Changed - July 30, 2011
Every Grain Of Sand - March 19, 2010
John Brown - October 9, 2012
This Dream Of You - October 15, 2009
Can't Wait - June 15, 2010
The Man In Me - June 12, 2010
Beyond Here Lies Nothing - October 13, 2009
Forgetful Heart - June 20, 2011
Cold Irons Bound - November 11, 2009
I Dreamed I Saw Saint Augustine - June 16, 2011
This Wheel's On Fire - March 16, 2010
Not Dark Yet - June 12, 2010
Ballad Of A Thin Man - July 6, 2012


This release consist of center stage performances by Bob Dylan from Autumn 2008 to Autumn 2012. Though this style of performing would continue past that point, it was especially novel and unique during these years. You won't catch the onstage visual idiosyncrasies that increased the concert-goer's delight, but I think the sound of these tracks provide enough of a picture.

I don't think it unfair to note that the singer is especially in control during these performances when he is able to focus entirely on his primary instrument - the voice. Though Dylan's quite growly at this point, nowhere more than the opening song, he communicates both power and vulnerability through the phrasing. From the smoking condemnation of "John Brown" to the reverie of "This Dream Of You," this release runs the spectrum of themes and poetry. Those of us who enjoy Bob Dylan's gospel side will appreciate "Gotta Serve Somebody," "Every Grain of Sand," and a particularly moving "I Dreamed I Saw Saint Augustine," its only airing since 2005. Those who enjoy his bluesier, raunchier side will enjoy the dark heat of "Things Have Changed," "Can't Wait," "Beyond Here Lies Nothing," (with trumpet!) "Cold Irons Bound" and "This Wheel's On Fire." Those who enjoy his introspective pieces will no doubt be moved by "This Dream of You," Forgetful Heart" and "Not Dark Yet." Those who are just looking for a good time will get a kick out of this delightful, airy performance of "The Man In Me."

As a confession of bias, I have to note that several recordings on here rank among my favorites: "Gotta Serve Somebody" is one of only a small number of performances of that song from 2002 to present, and it is actually my favorite rendition of that song in Dylan's career so far. It is at times incoherent, as much of the content is ad-libbed, but there's just some kind of late-night preacher vibe to it, and a truly unique sound to the vocals, that just makes it a home-run; Dylan does something to the end of many lines, like adding an extra half-silent syllable for emphasis ("out[t]," "in[n]"), that enhances it so well. "Can't Wait" is also extraordinary, and makes me grin ear to ear each time I hear it; the last verse, in particular, stands out for the deep notes - "I thought somehow" being the highlight of the track, or perhaps "I'm strolling through the lonely graveyard of my mind," with the final word being strung along powerfully. The following year (2011), Dylan would again perform a memorable version of this song, but the overall effect was less rewarding to me. Lastly, the recording of "This Wheel's On Fire" found herein is the finest performance of it that I've heard - in full disclosure, I don't find the original track very interesting. It's one that's improved in concert, and peaked (for me, of course) in 2010.

Perhaps most notable to me is the texture of the vocals and harmonica. I'm not a technician, but I suspect a new set of equipment was in use from 2008 to 2012, since their is an almost metallic tone to the vocals and harmonica in the opening song and a handful of others - listen to the way "alive with fiery breath" sounds in "Saint Augustine." There's a strange aura to the recordings that only serves to reinforce the notion that you've stepped through to another world.

Along those lines, I believe that this collection is one of the more coherent documents in the series. The songs share a sensibility, and a common aural environment, without sounding too similar. I hope you find the same to be true.

If you enjoy this, don't forget to purchase the original studio recordings of these tracks from the following albums, available on

The Bootleg Series Volume 9: The Witmark Demos
Highway 61 Revisited
The Basement Tapes
John Wesley Harding
New Morning
Slow Train Coming
Shot of Love
Oh Mercy
The Essential Bob Dylan
Time Out of Mind
Together Through Life

Next week we will move away from general retrospectives with a focus on one specific tour: the Spring 2011 Tour of Asia. Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.


Note: The date was originally incorrect on "Gotta Serve Somebody." Though it was listed as 11-12-08, it should have been listed as 11-21-08. An astute viewer on Expecting Rain pointed this out, and it's been altered. Re-edited notes, artwork, and link have replaced the original material

February 2, 2016 Update: Another date was incorrect on this one. "I Dreamed I Saw Saint Augustine" was from June 16, not June 11, 2010. The location was Cork. My editable version of the art is long gone, so you'll just have to make do with the inaccurate rear insert, haha.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Pool Of Tears: Unreleased Live Recordings, 2006 - 2009

Pool of Tears: Unreleased Live Recordings, 2006 - 2009

Cat's In The Well - November 2, 2006
Friend Of The Devil - July 19, 2007
The Levee's Gonna Break - November 18, 2006
Moonlight - June 22, 2007
Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again - November 18, 2009
Mr. Tambourine Man - April 8, 2006
Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking - November 15, 2009
Every Grain Of Sand - November 12, 2006
Love Minus Zero/No Limit - June 7, 2008
Billy - March 22, 2009
'Til I Fell In Love With You - November 12, 2006
It's All Good - October 31, 2009
Nettie Moore - November 18, 2006

Bonus Tracks
Senor - November 12, 2006
Handy Dandy - June 27, 2008
Million Miles - October 27, 2008
I Believe In You - November 16, 2008
Like A Rolling Stone - November 19, 2008
Tangled Up In Blue - July 5, 2009
Po' Boy - July 5, 2009


This set includes the absolute best of Bob Dylan's years playing the electric organ. Though this instrument extended out to 2012, it was the centerpiece from 2006 to 2009, and the most interesting organ arrangements were delivered during this time.

This period is not a favorite one among most fans. There was said to be a sameness to the arrangements that did not allow the sets to reach the same dynamism of 2004 or 2013. The organ's use came to an end with the introduction of the piano, and it was discontinued entirely after the final tour of 2012.

Before that time, however, there were gems to be found. In particular, this performance of "Friend Of The Devil" stands superior to the earlier renditions in the 1995-2002 era, at least to my ears. Similarly, check out this unique hard-driving arrangement of "The Levee's Gonna Break," reliant largely on the powerful train-like blare of the organ; despite this being the debut performance, the song would revert to an arrangement more reminiscent of the album version in subsequent years. "Mr. Tambourine Man" here, while not as inventive as the recordings from 1981 or 1995, succeeds in making the song truly uplifting. This performance of "Every Grain Of Sand" was the first time that I really enjoyed the song, and once that occurred I've found virtually all versions of it great; there's something of the preacher in this performance, however, and it still stands out as my favorite.

Though many of Dylan's blues songs were played to great effect in this era, the best can be found here: "Cat's In The Well," an end-times jump blues with delightful interplay between the violin and guitar, the fiery "Change My Way Of Thinking," the best "'Til I Fell In Love With You" put to tape, and an absolutely gleeful "It's All Good," with Dylan displaying the love of language that we all enjoy in his finest singing.

And finally, the set closes with a jaw-dropping, definitive recording of "Nettie Moore." The heart breaks with each line, especially with the violin pushed to the fore. You don't want to miss this song.

The bonus tracks have some highlights as well, in particular the only live performance to date of "Handy Dandy" and a truly unique arrangement of "Tangled Up In Blue."

In short, this will not be likely to change your mind if you hated the organ years, but feel free to give it a try. You might find something great that you missed back in the midst of it. Many, like myself, started listening to Bob Dylan during this time - these recordings will always hold a special place as the ones that got me into this music.

Original studio recordings of the songs on this compilation can be found on the following releases, and purchased from

Bringing It All Back Home
Blonde On Blonde
Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid
Slow Train Coming
Shot Of Love
Under The Red Sky
Time Out Of Mind
"Love & Theft"
Modern Times
Together Through Life

Next week we will give a listen to a similar compilation of performances during Dylan's years of "center stage" singing, 2008 to 2013. That one is a real gem, and I'm sure you'll enjoy it. Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Thousand Hearts & Eyes: Unreleased Live Recordings, 2005 Brixton Residency

A Thousand Hearts & Eyes: Brixton Residency, 2005

Maggie's Farm - November 23
Sugar Baby - November 24
Million Dollar Bash - November 21
High Water - November 23
She Belongs To Me - November 23
Shelter From The Storm - November 23
It's Alright Ma - November 24
Waiting For You - November 21
Blue Monday - November 23
Boots Of Spanish Leather - November 21
'Til I Fell In Love With You - November 20
Positively 4th Street - November 22
London Calling - November 21
Visions Of Johanna - November 21

Hello friends,

Of course, we all know about Brixton 2005. Arguably one of the high points of Bob Dylan's late career. Five nights of songs, old and new, pulled from the fiery furnace and refined in the chilly London air. Like his brilliant Fall 2003 tour, the Fall 2005 tour culminated in amazing performances on the British Isles. All of these songs are sourced from Crystal Cat's “Brixton Box” Set, and the CD is arranged to present the best of the 5 nights. The tracks are a bit hot, tending towards clipped high and low ends, but the quality rarely suffers.

Our evening opens with a rollicking "Maggie's Farm" before a tender "Sugar Baby" pulls back on the energy, and then a joyful performance of "Million Dollar Bash" brings the audience and Dylan to laughter by the end. "High Water" turns up the heat, pedal steel melodies propel "She Belongs To Me," and "Shelter from the Storm" is played for all its drama. Possibly the strongest rendition of the march-like arrangement of "It's Alright Ma" is up next. Then one of the only airings of "Waiting For You" before 2013 – each word is drawn out to perfection. We are surprised again with Bob Dylan's only performance to date of Blue Monday.  The violin brings out every ounce of sorrow present in "Boots of Spanish Leather," and the long-burning "'Til I Fell in Love With You" brings us around to a sad, longing "Positively 4th Street." After a brief, delightful cover of The Clash's "London Calling," the serene "Visions of Johanna" concludes this set. It's not quite as strong as its nigh-definitive reading in Dublin mere nights later, but this "Visions of Johanna" plays to the qualities of Bob Dylan's tight 2005 band.

This is one of the last appearances of such a jazzy sound in Dylan's repertoire until 2012, and 2006 would bring both the organ and an increasingly hard, bluesy sound to the forefront. The songs here are light, airy, somehow managing to sound simultaneously loose yet well-rehearsed. This is a band at one of its peaks, creating beautiful music for an adoring crowd. Perhaps some personal favorites are missing, but the 14 tracks give a representative look into the Bob Dylan of 2005. If 2003 was the beginning of this sound, then 2005 is the conclusion. If you find this set to your liking, and want more, consider seeking out the complete Brixton Box. As always, enjoy!

Also, if you don't already own them, original studio versions of these songs can be found on the following records, available for purchase from

The Times They Are A-Changin'
Bringing It All Back Home
Highway 61 Revisited
Blonde On Blonde
The Basement Tapes
Blood On The Tracks
Time Out Of Mind
"Love & Theft"

Next week I will be posting the best recordings from Bob Dylan's time playing on the organ, 2006 - 2009. Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.