Thursday, October 15, 2015

In Minneapolis: Unreleased Live Recordings, 1992

In Minneapolis
Orpheum Residency - 1992

To Be Alone With You - Live - Minneapolis - August 30, 1992
If Not For You - Live - Minneapolis - August 31, 1992
Man In The Long Black Coat - Live - Minneapolis - August 31, 1992
I Believe In You - Live - Minneapolis - September 3, 1992
Under The Red Sky - Live - Minneapolis - September 2, 1992
Little Moses - Live - Minneapolis - August 31, 1992
Gates Of Eden - Live - Minneapolis - August 31, 1992
Visions Of Johanna - Live - Minneapolis - September 3, 1992
Idiot Wind - Live - Minneapolis - August 30, 1992
Every Grain Of Sand - Live - Minneapolis - September 3, 1992
Maggie's Farm - Live - Minneapolis - August 30, 1992
Blowin' In The Wind - Live - Minneapolis - August 30, 1992

Bob Dylan's 1992 tours were numerous and varied in tone and content. While the year started out with more variety in song choice, Dylan honed in on the best songs to perform during the late Summer and Autumn. With this in mind, while songs varied from night to night during his residency at Minneapolis' Orpheum Theater, the overall effect was similar. Choosing tracks for this compilation came down to picking not only the most interesting songs, but the best performances of those songs.

Even so, a fair number of these are indeed one-offs. "If Not For You" was performed for the first time in 1992, and the freshness is evident on this performance. "Man In The Long Black Coat" has evolved significantly since 1989, and you can compare this more richly textured rendition with the version found on the Thousand Highway Collection's 1990 iteration, Town Without Pity. The earlier one is no less interesting, but the arrangement has clearly changed with the expansion of the band.

"Little Moses" was performed frequently throughout the year, and this version is representative of its consistent status as a highlight. The two songs performed with a small acoustic combo, "Gates Of Eden" and "Visions Of Johanna," are true standouts of the collection. I'm not quite as sold on this version of "Visions" as most are, but it's quite pretty nonetheless. It's too bad this arrangement and band configuration was not used more often.

In the second electric set, "Idiot Wind" and "Every Grain Of Sand" constitute a fascinating pairing. From the tempest of the former song, being played this year for the first time since 1976, Dylan and the band segue into the peaceful latter song. Between the two, they represent a vast range of the human experience, and being juxtaposed emphasizes the artist's skill at depicting their complex, conflicted themes without losing a sense of identity. 

"Maggie's Farm" is an interesting variation on its arrangement for the prior couple of years, and presents something of an evolution from its appearance on the 1991 compilation Undesirables. "Blowin' In The Wind" concludes the set with something of a calming denouement. The harmonica here is especially beautiful.

As some fun trivia, Bob Dylan and his brother were, for a long time, co-owners of this venue! Additionally, his brother and mother were evidently in attendance at the final night of the residency, September 3. I'm sure they were quite proud of his outstanding performance. Please enjoy the compilation, and I hope it represents these nights well.

Next month, we will finally step into the notable Supper Club shows of 1993. More than a couple of people have requested that I cover these legendary four shows, so I hope my compilation meets their expectations. Until next time, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Storyteller: Unreleased Live Recordings - Autumn 1992

Live Recordings - Autumn 1992

Can't Be Satisfied - Live - Cincinnati - November 3, 1992
Pretty Peggy-O - Live - Sarasota - November 9, 1992
All Along The Watchtower - Live - Cincinnati - November 3, 1992
Willing - Live - Sunrise - November 13, 1992
Silvio - Live - Sarasota - November 9, 1992
Boots of Spanish Leather - Live - Cincinnati - November 3, 1992
Mama, You Been On My Mind - Live - Wilkes-Barre - November 1, 1992
It's All Over Now, Baby Blue - Live - Cincinnati - November 3, 1992
Dear Landlord - Live - Providence - October 25, 1992
Unbelievable - Live - Youngstown - November 2, 1992
Simple Twist Of Fate - Live - Sarasota - November 9, 1992
Cat's In The Well - Live - Sarasota - November 9, 1992
Shooting Star - Live - Cincinnati - November 3, 1992

Welcome to the first post of Autumn, friends. And with that we'll delve back into Autumn of 1992.

Since 1991, Bob Dylan had made a significant alteration to his touring band - he added drummer Winston Watson and pedal steel player Bucky Baxter. This changed the sound rather significantly, though the change was not limited to these two instruments.

Along with the change in band members came a change in the group dynamic. For the most part, the ramshackle sound of 1991 was replaced with a more professional approach to making music. While this evolved over the course of 1992, and indeed would continue over the next few years, by 1992 the band had adopted a uniquely jazzy aesthetic. This consisted primarily of a loose approach to song arrangements with time for solos and the pursuit of ensemble riffs. While this stretched running times, they remained reasonably restrained; these would grow to be a bit outsized the following year, but Autumn of 1992 probably hit the ideal mixture of focus and room for improvisation.

The song selection did not change as significantly as the band, but some changes were still evident. On this tour, the opening track was generally a cover of Muddy Waters' "Can't Be Satisfied." This was performed excellently each night, and the version here from Cincinnati is a typically spirited rendition.

The opening electric set is well-represented on this compilation, as even the standard "All Along The Watchtower" and "Silvio" are exceptional performances. Dylan's harmonica on the former song really needs to be heard to be believed. Covers round out the opening gambit, with a rearranged "Pretty Peggy-O" and a cover of Lowell George's lovely "Willing." The latter is sung with the love of words that typifies Dylan's approach to singing.

The acoustic sets of this tour were remarkably beautiful as well, and are noteworthy for being some of the last times an audience could expect to see Bob Dylan almost alone on stage with an acoustic guitar. While he was backed by his guitarist for all songs, and a small combo for one or two songs each night, the audience could count on seeing him play a few tracks in a stripped down arrangement. Whether intentionally due to their impending removal, or unintentionally inspired by whatever it is that inspires him, Dylan provided some of the best acoustic renditions of his career. They were consistently excellent, and the three songs selected here are really quite beautiful. "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" is particularly moving.

The second electric set begins with "Dear Landlord," though this song was only performed in the first electric set during the actual shows. It's hard to deny its rambling intro being ideal for the transition from acoustic to electric, however. From there, the set heats up dramatically with a pounding Unbelievable," rhythmically dense "Simple Twist Of Fate," and fiery "Cat's In The Well." The last song features Dickie Betts on guitar, and he seems to inspire Dylan to offer a particularly strong performance of this occasionally rote song. Finally, the set closes with the marvelous "Shooting Star." It's really quite a pleasant end to the 'evening,' so to speak.

Concerning production stuff, I had to do a bit of tweaking. A digital flaw in "Can't Be Satisfied" had to be corrected, though I couldn't fully remove it. "Mama You Been On My Mind" featured an enthusiastic audience member asking if the taper was finished - unfortunately, the person asked while the music was still being played. This was covered over by duplicating the left channel, and it's not especially disruptive.

Some popular songs were not included. In particular, Youngstown's "Farewell To The Gold" seems to be a fan favorite. It didn't quite match the overall sound of the set, unfortunately, and was cut. I will try to find another place for it in the Thousand Highways Collection. Also, "I Dreamed I Saw Saint Augustine" was played quite well, but similarly didn't quite match the surrounding recordings.

As always, the most important thing is to listen with an open mind and enjoy!

I'm planning to publish a bonus record this month that focuses on the Minneapolis Orpheum residency from August and September. Look for it in the middle of October. This residency features an especially beloved performance of "Visions of Johanna," though an equally remarkable "Gates of Eden" was played. Will they both appear on the compilation? Check back to find out! Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.