Monday, April 1, 2019

DIY Playlist - Adios Mi Corazon: More Blood More Tracks

Adios Mi Corazon
Selections from More Blood More Tracks

Tangled Up In Blue - Take 2, Remake
Simple Twist of Fate - Take 2
Up To Me - Take 2, Remake 2
You're A Big Girl Now - Take 1
Idiot Wind - Minnesota Version
Meet Me In The Morning - Take 2, Remake
Call Letter Blues - Rehearsal
You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go - Take 5
Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts - Minnesota Version
Spanish Is The Loving Tongue - Take 1
Shelter From The Storm - Take 1
Buckets Of Rain - Take 2

Welcome back, friends.

It's springtime in the Northern Hemisphere and that means that it's time to look forward to what the rest of the year will bring. At the moment, in the Dylan sphere at least, that means a Rolling Thunder Revue documentary and an accompanying archival live recording release. Before we get along to finding out what gems Columbia has locked in its vaults, I thought it would be nice to reflect on the era immediately preceding that ramshackle 1975 tour. What better way to do so than by building a playlist of the best recordings found on 2018's Bootleg Series Volume 14: More Blood More Tracks (Deluxe Edition) but absent from the standard edition of that collection?

Tangled Up In Blue - Take 2, Remake

This painting-inspired song came to the studio largely intact, though its lyrics would undergo a revision between the 1974's September New York recording sessions (from which much of More Blood More Tracks is drawn) and the December Minnesota sessions which informed about half of 1975's Blood on the Tracks LP. This September 17 performance is interesting largely for its instrumentation. While most versions feature Dylan accompanied only by Tony Brown on bass, Paul Griffin appear on this rendition playing organ. Organ would end up absent from all non-Minnesota recordings on the final album but this offers a window into what might have been.

Simple Twist Of Fate - Take 2

Bob Dylan first played "Simple Twist Of Fate" solo in the studio. The song would then undergo one of the most varied evolutions of the recording sessions in a short period, being attempted unsuccessfully with a full band arrangement - which resembles the arrangement from 1978's live At Budokan album - and then another stripped-down approach with Tony Brown on bass. The performance of the latter arrangement would end up on Blood on the Tracks, but the two early solo takes were the most interesting to me. Of these, the second stands out as most fully realized. It includes an interesting guitar riff between verses that is more prominent on Take 1 but more successful on Take 2; this oddly compelling element would be stripped from the song in later recordings.

Up To Me - Take 2, Remake 2

"Up To Me" is among the most beguiling compositions of the Blood on the Tracks sessions. The song was rightly omitted from the final album, as its most effective performance (found on 1985's Biograph retrospective) heavily resembles "Shelter From The Storm." Its lyrics are often fascinating, containing many of the era's finest couplets, but it has just as many unfortunate filler lines; consider the juxtaposition of "It was like a revelation / When you betrayed me with your touch / I'd just about convinced myself nothin' had changed that much" with the remainder of the fourth verse: "The old rounder in the iron mask he slipped me the master key / Somebody had to unlock your heart, he said it was up to me." The surrealist lines work as an exercise in obsuscation but little else. The remainder of the song, on the other hand, feels like the brutal, beating heart of Dylan's starkest record. This performance is more uptempo than the one that made it onto Biograph and features a vocal performance that takes some time to find its footing; the singer never quite finds the right timing for each verse's final line, but this awkwardness is compensated by an excellent circular guitar line between each verse and an mind-bogglingly warm delivery on the last few verses. Dylan's delivery of the line "baby remember me" in the final verse alone might be among the most beautiful moments captured in these sessions.

Idiot Wind - Minnesota Version

I don't know if it's a controversial opinion, but I don't care for the New York recordings of "Idiot Wind." The most caustic composition of Blood on the Tracks deserves a fierce reading rather than a self-reflective one. Happily, the song would find its identity in Minnesota and then evolve still further on the road in 1976. More Blood More Tracks finally reveals the song in its true glory with a remix reproduced at the correct speed rather than the comparatively tinny, sped-up version on the original 1975 LP.

Meet Me In The Morning - Take 2, Remake

The Blood on the Tracks version of "Meet Me In The Morning" was recorded with a band called Deliverance during the September 1974 sessions which - outside of abandoned takes on "Simple Twist Of Fate" and "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go" - produced few other recordings of note; this process is extensively documented in Andy Gill's excellent book Simple Twist of Fate. Before it would be played with the band, though, Dylan played "Meet Me In The Morning" twice in a striking solo arrangement. The first of these performances appears on More Blood More Tracks' standard edition, but I thought the second was even better. Both takes are highly reminiscent of songs recorded in the 1930s by American blues singer Robert Johnson.

Call Letter Blues - Rehearsal

"Call Letter Blues" is, like a handful of unrecorded compositions featured in Dylan's legendary 1974 notebook in which much of Blood on the Tracks was originally composed, another fairly straightforward blues song. It shares its underlying structure with "Meet Me In The Morning," though its lyrics are perhaps a bit more (allegedly) autobiographical. In any case, a complete rendition featuring overdubbed distorted guitar would eventually appear on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3: 1961-1991 after failing to appear on the singer's 1975 album. The recording featured on this DIY Playlist, on the other hand, is a very funky early rehearsal with Paul Griffin's piano emphasized in the mix. It's incomplete, but I think I like it even more than the final version.

You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go - Take 5

This song was among the sessions' most challenging to record, occupying a full twelve tracks on The Bootleg Series Volume 14: More Blood, More Tracks (Deluxe Edition). It was played solo and in several arrangement with a full band in New York. One of the former would be released on Blood On The Tracks, but I'm partial to this very strange slow version which sounds more like the singer's 1970 New Morning LP than anything he had recorded since then. It's not fully developed, but is a very warm recording of a very warm song. The arrangement is actually surprisingly similar to one briefly attempted at rehearsals for Bob Dylan's 1978 World Tour.

Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts - Minnesota Version

No other recordings remain extant from the December 1974 Blood on the Tracks sessions than those which would appear on the final album. This is a shame, though rumor has it that only one take ever existed of "Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts." This is astounding, given the song's length, but session musicians claimed that the singer had simply told them to keep playing and they'd followed his orders. Whatever the case, the song's uptempo full-band arrangement is miles ahead of its two comparatively lugubrious outings in New York.

Spanish Is The Loving Tongue - Take 1

By 1974, Bob Dylan had played this quasi-cover song several times (at 1968's Basement Tapes and 1970's Self-Portrait sessions). The latter had even produced an unfortunately over-produced take published on 1973's Dylan LP. Most of the song's outings, whether in the recording studio or live, are similar to this version: a genuinely mournful reflection on lost love. I don't think the slightly truncated performance from the Blood on the Tracks sessions is as successful as it had been in 1968, 1970, or 1976, but it is engaging in its own right. One wonders if it had inspired Dylan's own new composition "If You See Her, Say Hello." That song is absent on this DIY Playlist, since the best version of the song already appears on More Blood More Tracks standard edition, but I think its content is represented well by "Spanish Is The Loving Tongue."

Shelter From The Storm - Take 1

"Shelter From The Storm," alongside "Tangled Up In Blue" and "Simple Twist Of Fate," would go on to become one of the singer's most regularly-performed compositions from this era. It would be rearranged again and again, though the performances from September 1974 are strikingly uniform. One exception exists, however: the first take of the song includes a prominent Paul Griffin piano fill between each verse. An additional verse is included, too, though this is not unique to Take 1. Some listeners have expressed happiness that the piano was omitted from the version which graced the final album, but I'm always excited to hear a little more Paul Griffin.

Buckets Of Rain - Take 2

Along with "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go," "Buckets Of Rain" took a surprisingly long time to record in New York. The song is deceptively simple - it is short by the album's standards, and has none of the acidic wordplay which characterizes Blood on the Tracks most memorable tracks. Its guitar line seems to have bedeviled Dylan, however, and more than a few takes feature missed notes or lyrics. Take 2 is one of the most successful, however, perhaps offering an even more textured palette than the version chosen for the standard edition of More Blood More Tracks. Whatever your preference, I think you'll enjoy this disarmingly charming performance.

I hope that you, like me, enjoyed this dive into Columbia's archives. More Blood More Tracks was less thrilling than 2017's Trouble No More, but it still offered quite a bit of fascinating material to explore. It's always an engaging process to listen to a supremely skilled musician developing a masterpiece in the studio. The final album is unparalleled, but these outtakes are pretty great too.

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


Friday, February 1, 2019

Scarlet Town: Unreleased Live Recordings, 2018

Scarlet Town: Live 2018
Volume One

Things Have Changed - Live - Roanoke - November 10, 2018
It Ain’t Me, Babe - Live - Newcastle - August 22, 2018
Highway 61 Revisited - Live - Rome - April 3, 2018
Tryin’ To Get To Heaven - Live - Lisbon - March 22, 2018
Cry A While - Live - Roanoke - November 10, 2018
When I Paint My Masterpiece - Live - Roanoke - November 10, 2018
Honest With Me - Live - Brno - April 15, 2018
Scarlet Town - Live - New York - November 29, 2018
Early Roman Kings - Live - Rome - April 3, 2018
Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright - Live - Roanoke - November 10, 2018
Thunder On The Mountain - Live - Lisbon - March 22, 2018
Soon After Midnight - Live - Rochester - November 15, 2018
Gotta Serve Somebody - Live - Roanoke - November 10, 2018
It Takes A Lot To Laugh (Train To Cry) - Live - Phoenix - October 4, 2018
Long & Wasted Years - Live - Bliefield - April 21, 2018

Scarlet Town: Live 2018
Volume Two

Things Have Changed - Live - Rome - April 3, 2018
Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright - Live - Brno - April 15, 2018
Duquesne Whistle - Live - Brno - April 15, 2018
Simple Twist Of Fate - Live - Bielefeld - April 21, 2018
All Along The Watchtower - Live - New York - November 29, 2018
Visions Of Johanna - Live - Sydney - August 19, 2018
High Water - Live - Tucson - October 5, 2018
Tangled Up In Blue - Live - Brno - April 15, 2018
Pay In Blood - Live - Thackerville - October 13, 2018
Love Sick - Live - Macon - November 27, 2018
Summer Days - Live - Lisbon - March 22, 2018
Moon River - Live - Savannah - November 6, 2018
Like A Rolling Stone - Live - Chattanooga - October 27, 2018
Gotta Serve Somebody - Live - Melbourne - August 13, 2018
It’s A Man’s World - Live - Roanoke - November 10, 2018

In 2018, Bob Dylan made a few major changes to his live performances. A repertoire of ballads popularized by Frank Sinatra gave way to more original compositions by mid-year. This came as a relief to some fans who had tired of the moody style Dylan had employed since 2015, though others lamented the replacement of these covers with songs largely pulled from the singer’s 2012 to 2014 setlists. By the end of the late summer Pacific Tour, however, Dylan and his band had begun to offer more surprising fare: “Gotta Serve Somebody” and “When I Paint My Masterpiece” would become setlist standards for the first time since 2001 and 1991 respectively.

More importantly, the spirit of experimentation which characterized song arrangements the Fall 2017 Tour persisted through 2018. “Honest With Me,” “Summer Days,” “Tangled Up In Blue,” “Thunder On The Mountain,” and “Tryin’ To Get To Heaven” retained their distinctive 2017 arrangements while entirely new styles were applied to “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” “Pay In Blood,” and “Gotta Serve Somebody” mid-tour. The first “Gotta Serve Somebody” arrangement, which was played only briefly on the Pacific Tour and appears on Scarlet Town Volume Two, is heavily influenced by Henry Mancini’s “Theme From Peter Gunn.” The later arrangement, which was played for the remainder of the Pacific Tour and throughout the following United States Tour, owes more to the American boogie woogie musical style. The arrangement of “Cry A While” is very similar to Link Wray’s instrumental “Rumble,” which Dylan played several times at a London residency in 2005.

“Like A Rolling Stone” is a fascinating fusion of old and new, with a scaled back chorus reminiscent of the 1976 Rolling Thunder Revue’s start-stop arrangements. “Things Have Changed” was updated slightly at the start of the Fall Tour, as the portion of the verse immediately preceding its chorus now has cascading drums in the style of “Beyond Here Lies Nothin’.” Dylan seemed to have grown more comfortable with being highlighted in the mix, especially on the Fall 2018 Tour, as lengthy portions of “When I Paint My Masterpiece” and “Don’t Think Twice” feature him playing piano and singing with little band accompaniment.

The Fall Tour also brought with it a few new covers. For the first time since 1990, Bob Dylan sang the famous ballad written Harry Mancini and Johnny Mercer and popularized by Andy Williams. It debuted at Savannah’s Johnny Mercer theater, likely as a nod to the theater’s namesake; I prefer to think that it was inspired by The Simpsons’ episode “Bart on the Road,” as it was indeed played as a second encore. “It’s A Man’s World” was also played by Bob Dylan for the first time in his career at Augusta on November 7 before appearing three more times. This intense James Brown and Betty Jean Newsome song closed out the concert each time it was played.

A few neat oddities popped up throughout the year, as they tend to. “Visions of Johanna” was played once in Sydney. The arrangement is lovely, and a rumor circulating at the time suggested that the song was a tribute to the cast of Rigoletto; Dylan had recently visited the Sydney Opera House to take in that performance and chatted with the cast backstage. “High Water” was played six times throughout the year in two different arrangements. One rendition of the latter one, uncharacteristically performed in a major key, is included on Scarlet Town.

The highlight of the Fall Tour, as indicated by many in attendance, was a rearranged version of 2012’s “Scarlet Town.” The structure remains similar to the song’s studio recording, but the final line of each verse is lengthened for dramatic effect. By the mid-point of the track, a distinctive guitar riff begins to amp up the menace. George Receli’s complex rhythm accompaniment enhances the song still further, and I found that this was represented best on a New York recording late in the year.

It was an excellent year for shows, and perhaps better still for incredible recordings. The tapers really outdid themselves with 2018. I referred to recordings created by spot, FL, hhtfp, Manie, philandjenny, SFY, Falconidave, Bach, and soomlos; all were a treat, and I feel truly blessed to live in an era when these individuals are laboring to bring Bob Dylan’s music to those who might not have the opportunity to see a show in person. I would encourage listeners who enjoy the selections on Scarlet Town to seek out the following full concerts for more:

- Lisbon: March 22, 2018 (spot)
- Rome: April 3, 2018 (FL)
- Brno: April 15, 2018 (hhtfp)
- Macon: October 27, 2018 (soomlos)
- Chattanooga: October 28, 2018 (soomlos)
- Roanoke: November 10, 2018 (Bach)

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


Saturday, January 12, 2019

News Update: Coming Soon

Hi everybody,

As you can imagine, I enjoyed Bob Dylan's increasingly experimental 2018 tour. A 2-CD compilation of the best 2018 live recordings will be coming to Thousand Highways on February 1, 2019.

I'll also be putting out a handful of DIY Collections at a bimonthly interval afterwards. Check in on the 1st of each even-numbered month in 2019 for a new one.

I'm looking forward to sharing some great music with y'all this year. Until next time, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.

- CS