Sunday, April 5, 2015

Testament - Unreleased Live Recordings, 1979 - 1981

 Testament: Live Recordings, 1979 - 1981

Gotta Serve Somebody - Live - Houston - November 12, 1981
I Believe In You - Live - Santa Monica - November 18, 1979
When You Gonna Wake Up - Live - Santa Monica - November 18, 1979
When He Returns - Live - Toronto - April 20, 1980
Man Gave Names To All The Animals - Live - Santa Monica - November 18, 1979
Precious Angel - Live - Santa Monica - November 18, 1979
Dead Man, Dead Man - Live - London - June 28, 1981
Saved - Live - Avignon - July 25, 1981
Covenant Woman - Live - Seattle - January 15, 1980
Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking - Live - Santa Monica - November 18, 1979
Do Right To Me Baby - Live - Santa Monica - November 18, 1979
Solid Rock - Live - London - June 28, 1981
What Can I Do For You - Live - Portland - January 16, 1980
Blessed Is The Name - Live - San Francisco - November 16, 1979
Pressing On - Live - Seattle - January 15, 1980
City Of Gold - Live - Birmingham - July 5, 1981

Note: Download links removed due to the release of Bob Dylan's Bootleg Series 13: Trouble No More. A revised set of unreleased gospel era content will be published in the future.

Surprise - Happy Easter! I have been feeling particularly inspired during the last few days of Lent, and wanted to share an Easter gift with you fine people. It was put together much quicker than my usual compilations, but I don't think it suffers unduly for this difference.

These tracks comprise a fairly broad overview of Bob Dylan’s exploration of gospel music between 1979 and 1981. After his conversion to Christianity in 1978, Dylan jumped fully into creating faith-oriented music, and his devotion is present in every one of these songs, from the whimsical (“Man Gave Names To All The Animals”) to the intense (“When You Gonna Wake Up”) to the uplifting (“Pressing On”).

Hopefully I'm not getting too personal, but as a Catholic, I’ve often found a lot of inspiration in Dylan’s spiritual music. Be aware that, if you dislike the themes of Slow Train Coming and Saved, this compilation is not going to convert you into enjoying this era. If you enjoyed those, though, you will find these live performances to be very moving. The man is as dedicated to his craft here as he was in 1966, 1975, or 2014.

Many of the recordings are from the recently surfaced Mike Millard tapes. He was a live recording genius, and his recordings of the shows on November 18, 1979 and January 15, 1980, have become some of the finest records we have of Dylan’s “gospel” period. Other tapes include the ever-excellent 1981 shows, an improved version of the “Contract With The Lord” bootleg from ‘79, and the esteemed “Born Again Music” Toronto 1980 set. Some of the recordings are fairly surprising - a full band “City of Gold” from 1981 is the most notable. All songs here are positively magnetic.

Though this ground has been covered in the Thousand Highways Collection with Serve Somebody, 1979-1980 and Still The Same Man, Volumes 1 & 2, 1980-1981, Easter inspired me to craft a new mix. I’m very pleased with the results, and I hope that you will be too.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Rites Of Spring - Unreleased Live Recordings, 1966

Rites of Spring - World Tour - 1966
Disc One

She Belongs To Me - Live - Sheffield - May 16, 1966
Fourth Time Around - Live - London - May 27, 1966
Monologue On ‘Drug Songs’ - Live - London - May 27, 1966
Visions Of Johanna - Live - Melbourne - April 20, 1966
It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue - Live - Melbourne - April 20, 1966
Desolation Row - Live - London - May 27, 1966
Just Like A Woman - Live - Sheffield - May 16, 1966
Mr. Tambourine Man - Live - Sheffield - May 16, 1966

Rites of Spring - World Tour - 1966
Disc Two

Tell Me Mama - Live - Liverpool - May 14, 1966
I Don’t Believe You - Live - Liverpool - May 14, 1966
Baby, Let Me Follow You Down - Live - Liverpool - May 14, 1966
Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat - Live - Sheffield - May 16, 1966
Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues - Live - Melbourne - April 20, 1966
One Too Many Mornings - Live - Sheffield - May 16, 1966
Ballad Of A Thin Man - Live - Birmingham - May 12, 1966
Like A Rolling Stone - Live - London - May 26, 1966

Links Removed - See Below For Details

Bob Dylan’s 1966 concerts are considered by many critics to be among the finest achievements of twentieth century rock music. With these recordings, you have the opportunity to judge for yourself.

Though the most notable concert, performed in Manchester, was released to great acclaim in the 1990s, and a few other incredible performances were released over the years, like “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” from Liverpool on Masterpieces and “I Don’t Believe You” from Belfast on Biograph, many other recordings have circulated among collectors over the past half-century. The acoustic sets are, overall, better represented. Many of the electric sets suffer from extreme distortion or truncated run-times. Still, one is able to piece together a ‘full show’ from circulating unreleased recordings. Concerning lineage, the recordings that make up this compilation are drawn entirely from the unparallelled “Genuine Live 1966” box set.

The concert setlists remained static from the start of the tour to its conclusion, excepting some early performances of “To Ramona” and “Love Minus Zero/No Limit” in the United States and “Positively 4th Street” in Sydney (found on The Thousand Highways Collection - Shades of Blue). No good recordings of the American shows are extant as of early 2015.

One of the most interesting aspects of the songs above are the between-song commentary. “Visions of Johanna” is introduced as ‘not a drug song,’ and its author asserts his disdain for British music journalism. “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” is explained as a tale of Tom Thumb, a 125-year-old Mexican painter. Dylan reminds his audience ahead of “One Too Many Mornings” that he, too, was just a baby once. Finally, he gives his only band introductions of the tour before the final, caustic “Like A Rolling Stone,” assuring the audience sarcastically that he and The Hawks have enjoyed every minute of playing for them.

This is a deeply confrontational series of songs. Though the acoustic songs manage to express a kind of delicate beauty rarely found outside of classical music, the electric songs hurl every ounce of raw sound at the audience. At times, the quality suffers, as “I Don’t Believe You” gets a bit distorted and “Like A Rolling Stone” threatens to fall apart throughout its ten minutes, but you just can’t turn away. It’s really fascinating, and sounds no less alive and moving than the day it was recorded. In particular, “Just Like A Woman” is utterly heartbreaking, “Mr. Tambourine Man” is spellbinding, and “Ballad Of A Thin Man” is a truly definitive performance.

I hope you enjoy the songs. If you haven’t purchased it yet, do yourself a favor and obtain the official Bootleg Series release documenting this tour - its sound quality is quite remarkable, and puts this compilation to shame. If you really find yourself wanting more, look into the recently released Side Tracks album for a few more top-notch performances.

Thanks for listening! In May, we will move on to the wild, unknown country of Bob Dylan's 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue tour. Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.

Update, November 14, 2016: Note that the links have been removed from this collection, since Columbia just released the entire year of concert recordings in extraordinarily great sound quality. You can buy that here. I haven't picked up a copy yet, but I'm looking forward to taking the dive at some point!