Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Water Is Wide: Unreleased Live Recordings, 1989

The Water Is Wide - Live 1989
Volume One

Seeing The Real You At Last - Live - Poughkeepsie - October 20, 1989
I Want You - Live - Ottawa - July 30, 1989
One Irish Rover - Live - Peoria - July 1, 1989
Dead Man, Dead Man - Live - New York City - October 12, 1989
Shelter From The Storm - Live - Milano - June 19, 1989
Queen Jane Approximately - Live - New York City - October 12, 1989
Man Of Peace - Live - New York City - October 12, 1989
House Of Gold - Live - Athens - June 28, 1989
The Water Is Wide - Live - Dublin - June 3, 1989
When You Gonna Wake Up - Live - Poughkeepsie - October 20, 1989
Trouble - Live - Atlanta - August 16, 1989
Congratulations - Live - Glasgow - June 6, 1989
Trail Of The Buffalo - Live - Atlanta - August 16, 1989
Most Of The Time - Live - Ithaca - October 29, 1989
Like A Rolling Stone - Live - The Hague - June 10, 1989

The Water Is Wide - Live 1989
Volume Two

Absolutely Sweet Marie - Live - Poughkeepsie - October 20, 1989
Tears Of Rage - Live - Patras - June 26, 1989
What Good Am I - Live - New York City - October 13, 1989
Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I Go Mine) - Live - The Hague - June 10, 1989
It Takes A Lot To Laugh - Live - New York City - October 13, 1989
John Brown - Live - Birmingham - June 7, 1989
Early Morning Rain - Live - Stanhope - July 17, 1989
Silvio - Live - Glasgow - June 6, 1989
Tomorrow Is A Long Time - Live - Rochester - July 6, 1989
I Believe In You - Live - Boston - October 24, 1989
Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues - Live - Milwaukee - July 3, 1989
Ring Them Bells - Live - Poughkeepsie - October 20, 1989
Just Like A Woman - Live - Glasgow - June 6, 1989
Everything Is Broken - Live - South Kingston - October 22, 1989
Peace In The Valley - Live - Frejus - June 13, 1989

Hello friends,

Welcome to the hotly anticipated 1989 installment of the Thousand Highways Collection! Settle in, because this set is a whopping two discs long.

1989 is a very weird, intense year for Bob Dylan concerts when juxtaposed with its immediate predecessor, 1988. Not only was the scope of the tour broadened to include many more countries (1988 only hit the United States) - the musical palette was expanded considerably. This was coupled with a significant increase in the gruffness of Dylan's vocals to create a tour that looked a lot like the one before but with very little musical similarity. While 1988 represented a performer playing his music with the most energy he could muster, 1989 presents a much more edgy, experimental side of the singer and band.

Due to the large number of songs on this set (30 in total!), I will not be conducting a track-by-track review. Instead, let's focus on some of the broader trends at work.

One of the primary sounds in the palette, and my favorite aspect of the year, was an emphasis on darker, minor key songs. This was more evident in the Fall Tour, as songs from Oh Mercy made their tour debut, but was present too in the summer. "What Good Am I?", "Most Of The Time," "Tears Of Rage," and "One Irish Rover" represent the more melancholy presentation of this sound. There is a bitterness that is particularly well-served by the growly delivery associated with these ballads.

The more uptempo manifestation of this sound is perhaps even more interesting. "John Brown," "Trail Of The Buffalo," "When You Gonna Wake Up," and "Dead Man, Dead Man" are all interestingly off-kilter performances. The words are not all there, but the vibe is expertly achieved. Check out that strange klezmer-esque instrumental in "Trail Of The Buffalo" or the pulsing bass of "John Brown." Even the feedback near the end of "Dead Man, Dead Man" serves to produce this environment of dark heat.

Dylan's 1960s material is given rather impressionistic treatment here as well. "Tears Of Rage" was spectacularly debuted in Greece, and "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" is as inventively arranged as Paul Williams suggests in his Performing Artist series. The author Clinton Heylin singles out this performance of "Queen Jane Approximately," played at the Beacon Theater in New York, as especially praiseworthy, and it's impossible to disagree. Evident on that song, as well as a handful of others (including a blisteringly paced "I Want You"), is the second interesting trend of the year - bizarre, rambling song endings. This sounds like a negative, and indeed sometimes it was, by the effect could be entirely mesmerizing. The end of "Queen Jane Approximately," for example, plays out like a completely different beautiful song.

This presents a challenge for the compiler, since songs had a tendency to evolve directly into the next track. I avoided this by splicing in some audience applause and using careful fades. Hopefully you won't find this intrusive!

The third trend in Dylan's sound on these tours was an increased reliance on inventive cover performances. This presents a continuity with the 1986 tour, but represents a striking break with 1987 and 1988. While the acoustic set had included covers in 1988, the electric set consisted primarily of Dylan originals. As suggested by the circulating rehearsals for 1989's touring, though, there was a distinct emphasis on performing a wide, wide ranger of covers in this year.

On The Water Is Wide, you will find "Peace In The Valley," "House Of Gold," "Early Morning Rain," and an electrified rendition of "The Water Is Wide." Of these, one is a gospel song popularized by Elvis Presley, one is a moralizing Hank Williams country tune, one is a mournful lament by Dylan's contemporary, Gordon Lightfoot, and one is a traditional English song of seventeenth century origin. He had "Early Morning Rain" and "The Water Is Wide" before, on Self-Portrait and the Rolling Thunder Revue respectively, but never performed them so effectively. "The Water Is Wide," in particular, remains one of Bob Dylan's most powerful live performances, at least to this listener.

Other intriguing bits include an uptempo country arrangement of "Tomorrow Is A Long Time," apocalyptic electric blues as represented by "Man Of Peace" and "Everything Is Broken," one of the only two airings of the Traveling Wilburys' "Congratulations," and one of the most rollicking performances of "Like A Rolling Stone" this side of 1981.

These trends would continue into 1990, and is represented by the winter London / Paris residency on the Thousand Highways Collection with a CD called Town Without Pity. I'm not sure any of the following years accomplished quite the scope of 1989, however. 

The one thing you are missing on this release is representation of the singer's acoustic sets. I will be rectifying that with an all-acoustic bonus disc later this month, so keep your eyes on the blog. The sound quality of 1989's tapes is wildly inconsistent, and favored the electric tracks, so in general the acoustic songs do not have the same impact as those in the preceding year. Still, there are some truly remarkable performances, and I'd hate for them to pass you by.

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


Update - August 3, 2015: Volume One was several seconds too long for a single disc, so all relevant links were re-uploaded tonight with altered versions of "Congratulations" and "Most Of The Time." Let me know if the problem persists.


  1. Looks like another fine comp! Thanks so much for these. I've been counting the days for this one. Love the '89 shows and can't wait to give it a listen. A lot of stuff here I haven't heard yet, especially the songs from the fall shows. Thanks for what you do. TH compilations are the best of the best of the best. The notes, art, and sound -- always top notch.

  2. Thanks for this nice comp.
    It is always great to listen to your compilations of different years.

  3. Thanks for another very generous share! Like always, looking forward again to listening to your choice of Dylan music.

  4. thank you very much, for these great series.

  5. Thanks once more belleseb. I always look forward to your collections.


  6. Thanks once more belleseb. I always look forward to your collections.


  7. Looks great. Cant wait to hear this one. Weird year for Bob!
    And a bonus disk to come ! Thank you !

  8. Thanks and many thanks. Always lovingly thought out and chosen compilations.

  9. Can't wait to hear this. Lovely covers too. I'm going to raise a gentle eyebrow at 1989 getting three discs and 1999 getting one, though!

    1. Yeah, there's something to that. I probably prefer 1999, but the multiple disc rarities are generally the result not of careful planning, but of how the songs get arranged in the narrowing process. For one reason or another, my 1999 selections probably ended up being just over one disc but not enough for two - hence their appearance on the One More Night compilations. 1989 seemed to be headed that way, but I had juuuust enough to make it 2 discs.

    2. As an amusing aside, though: as with many of these CDs, I had vastly more edited tracks than ended up on the release. I think this one ran to 130 songs or something before it got pared down to 30. Bear in mind of course that many of those are alternative edits, splices, or EQ/noise reduced versions.

  10. Thanks for this - but I tried burning CD 1 and it seems to be a little too long to fit on one disc!

  11. The Oct. 89' show I attended at The Beacon was my most thrilling Dylan show ever for me. Total cutting edge performance giving a feeling like staring over the edge of a cliff and your footing is not quite set.

    Bob started and within 20 minutes a third of the crowd had fled and those of us that stayed were on the edge of our seats enthralled by the best Dylan show most of us would ever see & hear.

    Capt. Al

  12. Looking forward to #3. That's great news. The first ones have been getting some major play this month, and I've been spreading it around, trying to make some new converts to '89 Bob. Thanks again belleseb!

  13. One more thing: I'm pretty sure you got the date wrong for "Congratulations" as it is the same recording as the one available on One More Night: Unreleased Live Recordings, 1961 - 2014 (Volume Five). Which date is correct the 6th or the 7th?

    Cheers :)

    1. Found out myself :p Both performances are the same recording from Glasgow (the 6th).

    2. Thank you so much!! I will change the date on the other page. Funny enough, I had intended to represent the other performance so that both appeared on my website, but it seems I struck out, haha.