Saturday, November 25, 2017

DIY Playlist: Shot of Love - Expanded Edition

Hello folks,

With the release of Trouble No More: The Bootleg Series Volume 13, 1979-1981, I've been working steadily to replace the Thousand Highways compilations that cover this time period. While you await those collections, I thought it might be nice to use the new Bootleg Series release to explore an album that could have been produced from the Shot of Love sessions.

These sessions ranged from Fall 1980 to Spring 1981, and resulted in the album that was eventually published: 1981's Shot of Love. Dozens of songs were recorded, though, and takes of individual songs differed radically depending on the personnel and whims of the artist. Recording the album over such a long period, and in so many different studios, permitted the development of songs lyrically and musically in a way that was unique for Bob Dylan albums, at least up until 1981.

By integrating unreleased songs and outtakes with some of the songs that made the final cut for the record, I think I've worked up a much more satisfying album than the one that was actually published on August 10, 1981. As an additional bonus, thanks to the incredible breadth of Trouble No More, I've created a second CD comprised of live songs written and performed during the same time period. These are at least as good as the studio takes, so I'm sure you'll enjoy them as well.

As ever, there is no download link here - you will need to purchase the songs individually (some are not included on Trouble No More, but can be bought elsewhere) and assemble yourself. If you would like to maintain a sense of cohesion, I encourage you to download Audacity audio editor to edit the songs, fading in and out on live tracks and normalizing the volume levels. That said, I listened to it without doing any editing and it still works as a great playlist!

Here you go:

Shot of Love: Expanded Edition

Disc One - Studio Recordings
Shot of Love (Shot of Love)
Heart of Mine (Shot of Love)
Property of Jesus (Shot of Love)
Making a Liar Out of Me (The Bootleg Series Volume 13: Trouble No More)
Yonder Comes Sin (The Bootleg Series Volume 13: Trouble No More)
Lenny Bruce (Shot of Love)
You Changed My Life (The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3)
Watered-Down Love (Shot of Love)
Angelina (The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3)
The Groom's Still Waiting at the Altar (Shot of Love)
Caribbean Wind (The Bootleg Series Volume 13: Trouble No More)
Dead Man, Dead Man (The Bootleg Series Volume 13: Trouble No More)
In The Summertime (Shot of Love)
Trouble (Shot of Love)
Every Grain of Sand (Shot of Love)

Disc Two - Live Recordings
Shot of Love (July 25, 1981 - Trouble No More)
Heart of Mine (November 10, 1981 - Side Tracks)
Thief on the Cross (November 10, 1981 - Trouble No More)
Lenny Bruce (June 27, 1981 - Trouble No More)
Watered Down Love (June 12, 1981 - Trouble No More)
The Groom's Still Waiting at the Altar (November 13, 1980 - Trouble No More)
Ain't Gonna Go To Hell For Anybody (December 2, 1980 - Trouble No More)
Dead Man, Dead Man (June 21, 1981 - Trouble No More)
In The Summertime (October 21, 1981 - Trouble No More)
Caribbean Wind (November 12, 1980 - Trouble No More)
Every Grain of Sand (November 21, 1981 - Trouble No More)
City of Gold (November 22, 1980 - Trouble No More)


Disc One

Shot of Love (Shot of Love)
The lead track on Bob Dylan's 1981 LP remains one of the songwriter's strongest opening tracks, so I didn't want to alter that for this playlist. Dylan described the song later in the '80s as his "most perfect song," describing where he was at "spiritually, musically, romantically, and whatever else." While other takes were recorded for the album, and are circulating either on bootlegs or the recent Trouble No More, the album cut remains the most perfect rendition as that lightning in a bottle was captured on tape by legendary producer Bumps Blackwell. It's something of a shame that he didn't get to produce the rest of the album, but one wonders how different it would have turned out.

Heart of Mine (Shot of Love)
"Heart of Mine" is described by Clinton Heylin in his recent book Trouble In Mind as filler, and I'm not sure I entirely disagree. It's a charming song, but has little lyrical content and struggles to work in any setting aside from Bob Dylan's Fall 1981 tour. Happily, the version published on "Shot of Love" is a pretty good song that works as a lighter second track after the heavy, dense opener. It also happens to feature Ringo Starr on percussion! Surprisingly, an even better version circulates on bootlegs but no outtakes were featured on Trouble No More; I suspect its largely secular preoccupations were not in keeping with the collection's theme.

Property of Jesus (Shot of Love)
This song is notable for being the only one from Shot of Love never performed at a concert (though it would take until 1989 for "Trouble" to be debuted). It's the most openly religious on the final album, and would likely have been something of a shock to listeners who thought that Dylan might have moved past the concerns which guided his previous two records. It's also a fierce, propulsive song and a great way to get amped up following the lighter "Heart of Mine." Interestingly, "Property of Jesus" was originally logged in the studio as "Heart of Stone," so if its title had remain unchanged, the album sequence would have proceeded from one "Heart" to another.

Making a Liar Out of Me (The Bootleg Series Volume 13: Trouble No More)
"Making a Liar Out of Me" was never bootlegged prior to its appearance on Trouble No More, and I doubt it ever would have made it onto the album sequence. In fact, it was part of a batch of songs written and recorded in 1980, long before the bulk of Shot of Love was recorded in Spring 1981. Still, its lyrical content bridges the gap between Saved and Shot of Love, and is quite reminiscent of the issues addressed in contemporary Dylan songs like "Caribbean Wind" and "The Groom's Still Waiting at the Altar." One wonders who the song might have been addressed to, as its takedown of the target reminds this listener of 'Positively 4th Street" and "Idiot Wind."

Yonder Comes Sin (The Bootleg Series Volume 13: Trouble No More)
Another song from 1980, recorded only once at a rehearsal session ahead of Bob Dylan's Fall 1980 Musical Retrospective Tour, "Yonder Comes Sin" is another aggressive attack on some unknown individual. There were said to be more verses in the written song draft, but no tape of these remains extant; similarly, the choruses original had some alternative lyrics, but those are not preserved in the sole circulating recording. Note the backing track's similarity to the Rolling Stones' "Jumping Jack Flash!"

Lenny Bruce (Shot of Love)
This song is the least popular from the released album, but I didn't have the heart to remove it for the playlist. It's clearly an affectionate portrait, though I've always wondered where exactly it came from - Dylan hadn't previously expressed any public interest in comedians more generally or this comedian in particular; perhaps it was simply a sense of shared persecution by critics. The melody is also quite pretty, though the singer claimed to have written the song in just a few minutes.

You Changed My Life (The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3)
The cascading drums of this song make it one of my favorites from the Shot of Love sessions, even if it perhaps doesn't measure up to the album's best tracks. The chorus is also very strong, though I wish that Errol Flynn hadn't made an appearance at the song's end! A new outtake appeared on Trouble No More, and it lacked both the propulsion of the version from Dylan's earlier Bootleg Series and the conciseness of the other version's chorus; on this alternative take, the title line was sung twice with a slightly unpleasant melodic diversion in the penultimate recitation. Heylin's Still On The Road suggests that many lyrical variants exist, but that none aside from the final published lyric was ever recorded.

Watered-Down Love (Shot of Love)
"Watered-Down Love" is a pleasant R&B track, quite different from the style of music that Bob Dylan had been recording for much of the 1970s. Its final verse was pruned in the course of managing Shot of Love's run time, and the song is slightly less compelling for its absence, but the only officially published outtake doesn't quite measure up to the song's performance on its album version. When played live, the song consistently retained this additional verse, so it must have been an unhappy decision to cut it for the final record.

Angelina (The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3)
This is a heartbreakingly beautiful song, and one of the two great tragedies of the record - it was cut, along with "Caribbean Wind," just prior to the final sequencing. Unlike "Caribbean Wind," though, "Angelina" was effectively captured on tape. It was evidently recorded in several arrangements, both a quiet version and more bombastic rendition, but only the gentler arrangement has so far been published. One wonders how it might have matured on-stage, but Bob Dylan evidently wrote it, recorded it, and never looked back.

The Groom's Still Waiting at the Altar (Shot of Love)
"The Groom's Still Waiting at the Altar" has been a part of the official album sequence since 1985, but it did not originally appear on the record's sequence. It's hard to imagine a version of Shot of Love that lacks this song, as it really holds together the album along with heavy-hitters "Shot of Love" and "Every Grain of Sand," but it has quite a bit more in common with cut tracks "Angelina" and "Caribbean Wind" than with the final album's opener and closer. Like the two songs surrounding it on this playlist, it depicts a world gone wrong both in the broad strokes - "killing nuns and soldiers" like "pieces of men marching, trying to take heaven by force - and in the narrator's personal relationships. The album ends up a significantly more spiritually preoccupied, apocalyptic document when these tracks are included. An outtake of "The Groom's Still Waiting at the Altar" was included on Trouble No More, but it's not quite as tight and electric as the one selected for publication as the B-side of "Heart of Mine" in 1981; unfortunately, the single version lacks the odd shift to an alternative time signature and repetition of the phrase "West of the Jordan," but one wonders if it might still exist past the fadeout.

Caribbean Wind (The Bootleg Series Volume 13: Trouble No More)
After "Every Grain of Sand," "Caribbean Wind" is my favorite track from the Shot of Love sessions. It has so much content in each of its lyrical variations, but all come down to a combination of the breakdown in established social order dovetailing with the narrator's ambivalence towards a potential romantic affair. It builds on the complexity of interpersonal relationships from earlier compositions like "Tangled Up In Blue" and "Simple Twist of Fate," while also intertwining this subject with larger-scale social and spiritual concerns. Unfortunately, Dylan never quite seems to have succeeded in capturing the breadth of the song in the studio; two radically different takes have been published - a 1981 rendition on Biograph and a 1980 rendition on Trouble No More - but neither manages to approach the majesty of the circulating live performance or, indeed, what the singer must have had in mind. His comments on the song in the liner notes of Biograph suggest that the song came to him in a dream while sailing in the Caribbean, but that once he was done recording it, he no longer remembered what it was supposed to be about. This ambiguity likely accounts for the dramatic variations in lyrics, both in the verses and chorus, but that mystery only seems to contribute to the song's stature as one of Bob Dylan's greatest compositions.

Dead Man, Dead Man (The Bootleg Series Volume 13: Trouble No More)
As released on Shot of Love, "Dead Man, Dead Man" feels like something of a trifling thing. It's too short and lacks the reggae punch that the song would receive in concerts. The version published on Trouble No More in 2017, however, is a towering song. The additional lyrics, which take on even more menace when one remembers that the singer claims to have composed the song while looking in a mirror, serve to underline the apparent moral bankruptcy of the song's subject. It also features one of Dylan's most haunting harmonica solos as the instrument seems to have been recorded through some kind of thick distortion. The song is much longer in this guise, but worth every moment.

In The Summertime (Shot of Love)
"In The Summertime" is a brief song, but no less significant for its brevity. It depicts a lost love with one of the best phrases the singer had written to describe this common state of affairs - "I was in your presence for an hour or so/or was it a day? I truly don't know." He went on to play around with meter throughout the track, and accentuated it with a middling harmonica performance. Still, the hasty fade and apparent unrehearsed quality of the harmonica solo can't dim what is, at its core, a deeply affectionate ballad.

Trouble (Shot of Love)
Like "in The Summertime," "Trouble" feels like a song that fades just a bit too quickly - unlike "In The Summertime," though, one does not get the impression that the song had enough thematic heft to carry it any further. What remains is a compelling, bluesy riff played under images that expound upon the more harrowing depictions of world affairs offered in "Shot of Love," "Angelina," "Caribbean Wind," and "The Groom's Still Waiting at the Altar." This song lacks their preoccupation with more personal concerns, so its inherently less effective, but it does serve to sum up one of the album's key themes ahead of the final track. It was extensively rehearsed for the 1981 tour, and later a 1986 tour, but would not actually appear in concert until 1989.

Every Grain of Sand (Shot of Love)
This is Bob Dylan's best song from the Shot of Love period, and indeed one of the strongest compositions in his 50+ year career. While many of his spiritual writings emphasize the debauchery of human society, or the narrator's appreciation for having been lifted from a morally flawed state, "Every Grain of Sand" confronts the daily lived experience of being aware of the immorality in which one can partake, recalling earlier experiences of one's own human weakness, but bearing that all with dignity and moving towards a more fulfilling existence. The song was written in 1980 and two studio recordings from Fall 1980 have been published - the guitar-oriented rehearsal on Trouble No More and the piano-based duet on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3 - but neither succeed in achieving the careful balancing act of tension and elegance that are presented on the album recording. Shockingly, the song was almost not recorded for Shot of Love in 1981, and only appeared because of a band member's reminder to Dylan of the song's existence; without this lucky coincidence, "Every Grain of Sand" may well have disappeared along with other 1980 compositions like "Making a Liar Out of Me" and "Yonder Comes Sin."

Disc Two

Shot of Love (July 25, 1981 - Trouble No More)
Though it's very slightly marred by some recording issues, the Avignon performance of "Shot of Love" remains the song's definitive on-stage reading. Its delightful introduction is sadly a casualty of tightening up the run-time on Trouble No More. Still, nothing can detract from this fiery rendition that gets our live playlist off on the right foot. "Shot of Love" was one of the longest-played songs from this record in Bob Dylan's live setlists, making appearances on tours in 1981, 1986, 1987, and 1989.

Heart of Mine (November 10, 1981 - Side Tracks)
"Heart of Mine" was more effectively captured in the studio than it would tend to be played live - I suspect due to its rather unique time signature and piano/guitar interplay - but the versions from Fall 1981 were universally excellent. Sony/Columbia seems to have thought the same, as it was the first performance from Bob Dylan's 1981 tour released on an official recording (Biograph in 1985). No other version has been published so far, but a remastered version of that New Orleans recording was re-released on Side Tracks in the 2010s.

Thief on the Cross (November 10, 1981 - Trouble No More)
Since "Property of Jesus" has never been performed live, I have filled in the gap here with a song never recorded in the studio - "Thief of the Cross." This comes from the same show as the preceding "Heart of Mine," but sounds radically different. Dylan makes great use of the two drummers he had playing at concerts that Autumn, and spits out a spirited if not entirely clear vocal performance. It seems that the song is about either Jesus or one of the two criminals crucified alongside him, though there are oblique references to Iran and Mexico as well. It's a shame this track never made it into the recording studio, though I'm grateful that such an excellent live recording was captured for posterity.

Lenny Bruce (June 27, 1981 - Trouble No More)
Paul Williams did not care for this song's arrangement on the 1981 tours, but I think it works at least as well as its studio incarnation. The backing vocals add a charming, wistful vibe to the performance, and carry it to a satisfying conclusion.

Watered Down Love (June 12, 1981 - Trouble No More)
I'm not convinced that either of the recordings of this song included on Trouble No More are as effective as other circulating live versions - particularly the one recorded at New Orleans on November 10 - but both are themselves fairly interesting. The one on Disc Two of the collection captures the song at one of its earliest appearances, and the singer is still playing around with melodic variations. It also preserves the lost verse, which is absent from the truncated studio take released on Shot of Love.

The Groom's Still Waiting at the Altar (November 13, 1980 - Trouble No More)
While the excellent version of this song with Michael Bloomfield on guitar was released on From His Head to His Heart to His Hands a few years ago, I think the vocals and audio mix are actually a bit superior on the performance from November 13, 1980. If you disagree with that assessment, I'd encourage you to download the Bloomfield version and replace my choice on this playlist! Both are great, so it wouldn't be any serious loss. In any case, this is one of the more interesting variations from a studio incarnation, as about 50% of the lyrics - including the chorus - are entirely different from the song that Bob Dylan would record the following Spring. The tempo is also slower, which has an effect on the overall theme of the song; the studio version is more concerned with overarching social ills, reflected in the apocalyptic alteration to its chorus, and its urgent tempo complements that evolution.

Ain't Gonna Go To Hell For Anybody (December 2, 1980 - Trouble No More)
The original arrangement and lyrics for "Ain't Gonna Go To Hell For Anybody" predate other songs that made it onto Shot of Love, but it was rewritten and rearranged for the same sessions that resulted in "Caribbean Wind," "Every Grain of Sand" and "The Groom's Still Waiting at the Altar." Its new lyrics, inasmuch as they can be discerned, seem to be of a piece with those other songs as well - like them, it appears to blend spiritual concerns with the application of religious principles in the physical, temporal world, especially with regard to romantic relationships.

Dead Man, Dead Man (June 21, 1981 - Trouble No More)
Three live performances of "Dead Man, Dead Man" have been published by Sony/Columbia at this point, though only two are easily accessible on CD. The one recorded on November 10, 1981 was originally published as a B-side to "Everything is Broken" in 1989, and has since been re-released most notably on Live 1961-2000 - Thirty-nine years of great concert performances, an album published to promote Bob Dylan's 2001 Tour of Japan, and RARE TRACKS FROM THE VAULTS, an iTunes-only playlist from the 2000s. Happily, the more accessible versions on Trouble No More are both great, though I give the edge to the strange drum-heavy arrangement from Disc Two. If you prefer the New Orleans performance, and have managed to track down a copy, it wouldn't be a bad idea to throw it on this DIY Playlist rather than the one I've selected.

In The Summertime (October 21, 1981 - Trouble No More)
"In The Summertime" is a beautiful song, but it flourished more completely on-stage than on Shot of Love. It's great luck, then, that a performance from the Fall 1981 tour made it onto Trouble No More. A harmonica solo was abandoned when the song appeared on the road, but it was replaced with a lovely guitar interlude by Fred Tackett. The vocals on Trouble No More are powerful and rich, yet somehow still tender. The recording features some minor distortion, but nothing that can't be ignored in favor of appreciating this magical performance.

Caribbean Wind (November 12, 1980 - Trouble No More)
While it never quite came together in the studio, Bob Dylan's only live performance of "Caribbean Wind" managed to reveal the song at the height of its power. Some lyrics seem a touch garbled, but the band gamely plays an apparently unrehearsed song perfectly. The chorus is significantly more geographically ambitious than any of the published or bootlegged studio takes; the singer refers to "Tokyo," "the British Isles," "Mexico," and his own backyard, among others (not all are perfectly audible). Most importantly, the arrangement is sweeping and the singer matches it was a vocal intensity befitting the subject matter. Thank goodness it's finally been officially released in a beautifully recorded version on Trouble No More, though we'll sadly have to be content with a version missing the surprisingly moving spoken introduction. Dylan described a twelve string guitar, using that as a jumping-off point to discuss Leadbelly and that singer's own struggles with artistic evolution; - tellingly, he refers to some people telling Leadbelly to play his old songs and criticizing him for having changed, but Leadbelly was "still the same man." As one last striking detail about this song, we would never have had a live rendition at all if not for author Paul Williams, who greeted Dylan backstage at an earlier show in Fall 1980 and looked over his newly written compositions; Williams immediately noticed the quality of "Caribbean Wind" and requested that it be played at a future show. It's incredible how close we came to never even being aware of this musical masterpiece!

Every Grain of Sand (November 21, 1981 - Trouble No More)
Bob Dylan only played "Every Grain of Sand" once on stage before 1984, when it received a dramatic rearrangement as a heavy rock ballad, and that occurred on the final stop of his 1981 American Tour. The circulating recording was fairly muffled, and suggested that this rendition was somewhat uninspired. The newly released recording on Trouble No More, however, suggests that this assessment was premature - while the song is not quite as dramatic as it was on Shot of Love, this more subdued version is equally successful in its own right.

City of Gold (November 22, 1980 - Trouble No More)
Finally, we close the playlist with a third song that seems never to have been attempted in a studio setting. "City of Gold" is as perfect a closer as one could imagine, and it played that role at a number of shows in Fall 1980. Though it is more explicitly concerned with spiritual matters than some contemporary compositions, it fits in well as a reminder of what the singer believed his goal to be in 1980 and 1981 - revealing to his audiences the spiritual awakening that he had gone through in 1979, and trying to make that message relevant through its intersection with the physical world.

There are admittedly a few arguments that folks could make against my selections here - most notably, I skipped over the two circulating outtakes of "Every Grain of Sand" in favor of the final studio cut. I'm not convinced that Dylan had quite succeeded in finding the right key for the song in 1980, and I find the outtakes fairly shrill and distracting from the song's peaceful message. I also omitted "Need A Woman" and "Don't Ever Take Yourself Away," both published Shot of Love studio outtakes, because I don't think they are very good songs. With regard to the live disc, "Jesus Is The One" is absent from this collection, but that's primarily because I couldn't find a place for it on the live playlist and thought it fairly trifling anyway; it's a great performance piece to liven up a concert, but nothing with the heft of other songs written and recorded by the singer during this period. "Cover Down, Pray Through" is also absent, as I thought that it matched Saved in terms of its lyrical content and arrangement - it was also never played after the Spring 1980 shows, so it doesn't really match the chronological era documented by this playlist.

Here are the links to all relevant albums to buy on Amazon (of course you could also assemble it from CDs purchased at your preferred small business):

The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3
The Bootleg Series Volume 13: Trouble No More
Shot of Love (The Complete Album Collection - 1980s)
Side Tracks

I hope you like the playlist, and keep looking forward to the revised versions of my gospel-era Thousand Highways compilations, which should be published before the end of the year! Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.

- CS