Thursday, December 24, 2015

Melancholy Mood: Unreleased Live Recordings, Fall 2015

Melancholy Mood
Fall Tour of Europe - 2015

Melancholy Mood - Live - Basel - November 13, 2015
Where Are You - Live - Copenhagen - October 8, 2015
The Night We Called It A Day - Live - Hamburg - November 9, 2015
Why Try To Change Me Now - Live - Hamburg - November 9, 2015
Full Moon & Empty Arms - Live - London - October 22, 2015
All Or Nothing At All - Live - Saarbrucken - October 17, 2015
Come Rain Or Come Shine - Live - Basel - November 14, 2015
I'm A Fool To Want You - Live - Bregenz - November 16, 2015
What'll I Do - Live - Copenhagen - October 8, 2015
Autumn Leaves - Live - Oslo - October 1, 2015

Welcome to a special installment of the Thousand Highways Collection. By special request, I turned my attention to Bob Dylan's covers on his 2015 Fall Tour of Europe. There was quite a bit to pick through, since he and the band performed about seven of these each night, and most nights were recorded.

Choosing the best recordings was the greatest challenge. As can sometimes be taken for granted, the excellent tapers were out with their recording gear throughout the tour. Bach, Spot, RCM, JOY, hhtfp, and Hide presented the songs in lovely sound quality, though the specific sonic landscape changed from night to night. I sought to capture the best tracks in terms of performance, which required significant effort from the singer, and the warmest audio presence. While supremely clean, digital recording does not always present a warm landscape naturally, so some tweaking was necessary at times. I hope I have not caused any harm to the recordings, but for the purest form, as ever, listeners should seek out the source tapes.

One of the greatest obstacles for this set was a cold that Dylan seems to have developed in mid-October. In person, and on the harder-rocking songs, the effect would likely be fairly unnoticeable. On the crystal-clear recordings of these ballads, however, the illness could detract from the singer's central role. Most of the tapes from the middle of the tour, then, were taken out of consideration. This eliminated an otherwise excellent rendition of the title track, "Melancholy Mood," from the Paris show on October 19th, among others. By early November, happily, Dylan's voice had again cleared.

The most intriguing songs are those that had not yet been released on Bob Dylan's wonderful 2015 LP, Shadows In The Night. Three such songs were played: "Melancholy Mood," "Come Rain Or Come Shine," and "All Or Nothing At All." Each was rumored to have been recorded for that record, and studio renditions may yet surface in the coming years. Until then, these great live performances will need to tide us over. Unfortunately, three songs recorded for the aforementioned record were not played: "Stay With Me," "Some Enchanted Evening," and "Lucky Old Sun." You can find live renditions of the first and last of these on Things Have Changed - 2014 and Shadows & Rust - Summer 2015, respectively. "Some Enchanted Evening" has not yet been played live as of December, 2015. Though I endeavor not to tip my personal preferences too much, my favorite tracks are likely the last two. This recording of "What'll I Do" epitomizes the warm sound I was seeking, and the final track, "Autumn Leaves," may be Bob Dylan's finest and most committed vocals on the set.

While I hope everyone enjoys this new, abbreviated collection, I especially hope that I have lived up to the expectations of the listeners who requested the album. I've dedicated quite a bit of time to this project, and would like to submit it to you all as something of a Christmas gift. Thanks for visiting A Thousand Highways in 2015, and I look forward to presenting more content to you in the coming year.

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


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Thundering Sky: Unreleased Live Recordings, 1995

The Thundering Sky: Live 1995

Volume One

Down In The Flood - Live - Bethlehem - December 13, 1995
When I Paint My Masterpiece - Live - Bloomington - October 26, 1995
Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues - Live - New York City - December 13, 1995
Under The Red Sky - Live - Philadelphia - December 15, 1995
West LA Fadeaway - Live - Philadelphia - December 17, 1995
Jokerman - Live - London - March 30, 1995
Joey - Live - London - March 31, 1995
Dignity - Live - Brussels - March 23, 1995
What Good Am I? - Live - Philadelphia - June 22, 1995
Highway 61 Revisited - Live - London - March 31, 1995

Volume Two

Visions Of Johanna - Live - Philadelphia - June 21, 1995
Mama, You Been On My Mind - Live - Philadelphia - December 15, 1995
A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall - Live - Philadelphia - December 16, 1995
One Too Many Mornings - Live - Philadelphia - June 22, 1995
Tangled Up In Blue - Live - Philadelphia - June 21, 1995
Mr Tambourine Man - Live - Manchester - April 3, 1995
Dark Eyes - Live - Philadelphia - December 15, 1995
Desolation Row - Live - Bethlehem - December 13, 1995

I hope listeners are ready for some powerful electric performances and some deeply meditative acoustic renditions, because this collection has those in spades.

The Never-Ending Tour rolled steadily through the 1990s, but after shifting from a garage rock sound to a jazz-like aesthetic by 1992, it evolved once again into a heavy rock sound by the middle of the decade. It would change again before 2000, but the only documentation of this ‘heavy’ period in the Thousand Highways Collection so far has been a compilation of the Prague residency in March, 1995. While that residency was a high point of the year, so many more were still to come.

In the electric set, the most notable performances are likely “West LA Fadeaway,” “Dignity,” and “Joey.” The first was a Grateful Dead song that Bob Dylan had been playing at his concerts from the early 1990s, but it really came into its own in 1995. While it was also performed in a semi-acoustic arrangement at Dylan’s unique Fort Lauderdale covers show earlier in 1995, this rendition from the winter tour presents the song at its most elemental. The central riff is in place, and loops throughout the painted picture of Los Angeles’ seedy underbelly. “Dignity,” which was something of a minor hit due to its inclusion on Greatest Hits Volume Three and the MTV Unplugged show, was played intermittently on the 1995 tours. It took some time to find its footing, and would only achieve its full potential a decade later in 2004, but this performance from Brussels is a beautiful, smooth treatment of the song. It’s a little more lively than its studio arrangement, and benefits from the looser style. Finally, this version of “Joey” from London is one of the most stirring performances of the Desire centerpiece. Dylan really lays into the vocals, and though he’s not word-perfect, the passion of the singing and the crunch of the guitars carries you fully into this contentious mobster ballad.

The acoustic set is anchored by “Visions Of Johanna,” “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” “Dark Eyes,” and “Desolation Row.” The first is often spoken of as one of the song’s best outings during the 1990s. The singer’s fully committed, and presents the song with the precision he afforded it back in 1966; his unique way of singing the iconic lines “the ghost of electricity / howls in the bones of her face” is one highlight among many. “Hard Rain” is provided one of the more fascinating arrangement I’ve heard - while the song starts in a typical style, a baroque guitar riff becomes more present as the song continues, spurring Dylan into more curious vocal styles. It has to be heard to be believed, and gives the long song an evolving dynamic to pull the listener in. “Dark Eyes” had previously been played live only once, in a truncated fashion, on Bob Dylan’s 1986 tour. Patti Smith, for whom Dylan had arranged his rare December tour, requested the song specifically, and it was played as a duet throughout the brief stint. It was performed to varying degrees of success, but this rendition from Philadelphia stands out as the best of the recordings available. At last, “Desolation Row” acts as an apt conclusion to the compilation. I’ve heard that author Clinton Heylin has claimed this as the best performance of the song, and you’d be hard-pressed to better it. It really is something of a journey, and the listener will no doubt be compelled to stick with the narrator clear through to the end.

Normally, as the consistent visitor will know, I don’t like to present a tour’s acoustic and electric portions separately. In this case, though, I made an exception. I found that including three acoustic performances on the electric disc truncated the set conspicuously, and it seemed to diminish the power of both styles. In the end, I settled on a full-running electric disc and a briefer acoustic disc, which would be suitable for different occasions. The electric set rocks, ideal for a commute, a workout, or some other kind of activity; the acoustic set, soft and confessional, would be preferable for an evening’s drive in the country or relaxing with a glass of wine after a long day. However you choose to enjoy these songs, I have no doubt you’ll enjoy them quite a bit.

On a humorous, informal note, did anyone notice that the first four songs on Volume Two are from different dates in Philadelphia? Shows from that city make up a full 75% of the songs on the acoustic set! I wonder what was going on in Philadelphia that year that added up to excellent recordings married to excellent performances.

Next month will see the appearance of a long-overlooked year on this website. By popular demand, 1996 will finally be getting its due. It gave us Bob Dylan's spectacular reading of "Shake Sugaree," but it really gave so much more. Check in on January 1 for the full exploration of this content. Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

SC93: Live At The Supper Club

Live at the Supper Club

Ragged & Dirty - Live - New York City - November 17, 1993 (Early)
One Too Many Mornings - Live - New York City - November 16, 1993 (Late)
I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight - Live - New York City - November 16, 1993 (Late)
Jim Jones - Live - New York City - November 17, 1993 (Late)
Weeping Willow - Live - New York City - November 17, 1993 (Late)
Ring Them Bells - Live - New York City - November 17, 1993 (Early)
Has Anybody Seen My Love - Live - New York City - November 17, 1993 (Late)
Disease Of Conceit - Live - New York City - November 17, 1993 (Early)
Blood In My Eyes - Live - New York City - November 16, 1993 (Early)
Delia - Live - New York City - November 17, 1993 (Early)
I Want You - Live - New York City - November 16, 1993 (Early)
Queen Jane Approximately - Live - New York City - November 17, 1993 (Early)
Jack-a-Roe - Live - New York City - November 16, 1993 (Late)
Forever Young - Live - New York City - November 16, 1993 (Late)

Bob Dylan’s performance at New York City’s Supper Club in November 1993 has gone down in legend as one of his more notable series of concerts. This is due largely to the very unique setlists, acoustic arrangements, and the circulation of excellent soundboard recordings.

I’ve collected the best of these here, and applied a bit of reverb to sweeten the sound, giving it a less harsh aural environment. The vocals are still mixed to the front, and the rhythm section is still crisp. In particular, dig the bass on “Jim Jones.” Spectacular stuff.

A handful of tracks here have appeared on previous Thousand Highways compilations, but they still represent the finest performances from this four night residency. Including them in one place presents a very pleasant listening experience from beginning to end, and I’d encourage the wine-drinking listeners to pour themselves a glass to accompany this collection.

As a word of warning, this is not the best era for Dylan’s voice, and it can come across a bit shrill. There were also a variety of digital flaws present on the soundboard tapes, which I’ve done my best to eliminate with a minimum of intrusion. I think you’ll be happy with the results, as they are an improvement on my earlier efforts with this material.

Highlights of the set include any of the unique songs - audiences of these four shows were lucky to catch the only live performances of “Ragged & Dirty,” “Blood In My Eyes,” “Jack-a-Roe,” and “Weeping Willow.” The Good As I Been To You and World Gone Wrong songs are noteworthy for being played in acoustic band arrangements, even though they appear as solo performances on their original recordings. The singer’s look back into his older catalog is successful as well, with moving renditions of “Ring Them Bells,” “Has Anybody Seen My Love,” “Disease of Conceit,” “Queen Jane Approximately,” and “Forever Young.” “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” and “I Want You” receive light but spirited readings, and serve to quicken the tempo of the set. In one of the more interesting arrangements, “One Too Many Mornings” includes a banjo!

I hope you enjoy the collection. It’s been requested often, and I think it will live up to expectations.

Next month, we'll move on to 1995! That was an excellent year for Dylan's acoustic and electric performances, as he played to the strengths of both styles. This website previously covered only the Prague Residency from March, 1995, so December will bring a welcome expansion. Until next time, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.


Note: The artwork incorrectly assigns "Ring Them Bells" to the late show on November 17. In fact, I believe it originates at the early show on the same day. Nothing on this compilation has been officially released. Kudos to commenter Yama for making me aware of this issue.

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.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

News Post: "Shades of Blue" To Be Discontinued Shortly

Good morning everyone,

Some good news and some bad news...

The good news is that Sony/Columbia are releasing the very exciting Bootleg Series Volume 12: The Cutting Edge on November 6, 2015. This will include three packages of outtakes from 1965 to 1966, including a 2 CD best-of, a 6 CD set of mostly complete takes, and an 18 CD collector's edition containing the entirety of the studio tape from this era. Pretty heady stuff. More details here.

The bad news, at least for you loyal readers/listeners, is that The Thousand Highways Collection will be one item shorter. My Shades of Blue compilation, found here, will be taken down from this website before November 6, 2015. I've been pretty clear in the past that I don't want any overlap between this website and material that can be purchased from Bob Dylan's record company, and am standing by that in this instance. I will maintain the tracklist for those of you who would like to purchase the 6 CDs and compile your own version of my set, but the links will be removed.

For the material not represented on The Bootleg Series Volume 11, I will probably publish a bonus CD in the month of November. This would be the live tracks and/or the hotel tapes. We'll see.

I hope all is well with you kind folks, and I'm looking forward to bringing you more unreleased music in the future.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Shadows & Rust: Unreleased Live Recordings, Summer 2015


Duquesne Whistle - Live - Ljubljana - June 25, 2015
Where Are You - Live - Tubingen - June 21, 2015
Visions Of Johanna - Live - Lorrach - July 16, 2015
Tangled Up In Blue - Live - Cordoba - July 9, 2015
Full Moon & Empty Arms - Live - Lorrach - July 16, 2015
I'll Be Your Baby Tonight - Live - Locarno - July 15, 2015
I'm A Fool To Want You - Live - Cordoba - July 9, 2015
Early Roman Kings - Live - Ljubljana - June 25, 2015
Sad Songs & Waltzes - Live - Mainz - June 20, 2015
'Til I Fell In Love With You - Live - Mainz - June 20, 2015
Lucky Old Sun - Live - San Sebastian - July 11, 2015
Soon After Midnight - Live - Bamberg - June 23, 2015
To Ramona - Live - Tubingen - June 21, 2015
Long & Wasted Years - Live - Ljubljana - June 25, 2015
Autumn Leaves - Live - Bamberg - June 23, 2015
Love Sick  - Live - Cordoba - July 9, 2015
Find yourselves a comfortable seat and get ready to listen to the definitive collection of Bob Dylan's unreleased recordings from his European Tour of Summer 2015. These were expertly taped by a variety of the great fans and generously published online for us all to enjoy.

More concerts than usual are represented in this set, since so many tapes were available in excellent quality. Even the most compromised of these, Cordoba and Tubingen, were marvelous articles. In particular, many have asserted that Cordoba affords the greatest performance of the tour; though the tape is marred by an enthusiastic crowd (all the better in person, to be fair), the performance overwhelms this concern. Tubingen, on the other hand, has an intriguing ambiance provided by heavy rain, which occasionally present a somewhat less distinct picture of the events onstage. Nonetheless, these are minor quibbles indeed once your ears hear the quality of the material presented at these shows.

Bob Dylan continued his strikingly excellent performance quality of the past couple years, marrying it to some new songs and the return of some older songs. Shadows In The Night is very well-represented, accounting for five of the sixteen songs here. Tempest is also prominent, providing four of the tracks. Of the remainder, one is a never-before-performed cover (Willie Nelsons' "Sad Songs & Waltzes") and the rest come from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1990s.

Noteworthy arrangements include a propulsive, jovial piano-driven rendition of "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight," a slick salsa-like performance of "To Ramona," and the jazzy "'Til I Fell In Love With You." I'm not sure the last constitutes a distinct arrangement, but the loose performance speaks of Dylan's recent Sinatra influences - dig the repeated final words.

Stalwarts from past tours include "Duquesne Whistle," with an extended instrumental opener reminiscent of its studio recording, "Tangled Up In Blue," "Early Roman Kings," now with one less guitar and four more maracas, "Soon After Midnight," a slightly re-written "Long & Wasted Years," and the outstanding "Love Sick," moved to a closing spot. 

It's worth noting that this compilation presents a vision of the songs that is not especially rooted in the order they were played in concert. "Duquesne Whistle" functions as an ideal opener, but it was consistently played midway through the first set. No concert featured nearly this many songs from Shadows In The Night, and most shows featured more uptempto songs. For this collection, I wanted to focus primarily on the more jazz-like elements of the show. This presents a more cohesive set, but the purist will undoubtedly want to seek out a few of the complete concerts. I recommend Mainz, Bamberg, Cordoba and Lorrach for the best representation. The set changed significantly over that period as well, moving from a set heavily dependent on Tempest to one that featured more old classics like "All Along The Watchtower," "Desolation Row" and "Blind Willie McTell."

I hope you enjoy the compilation!

This release should get you European listeners ready for Bob Dylan's upcoming 2015 Fall Tour; for all the rest of us, it'll have to tide us over until the man and his band return to our own concert halls.

Next month will feature 1992's live recordings. These will be an interesting comparison to the 2015 performances, since the Fall Tour of 1992 also presented a remarkably jazz-like aesthetic. Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Undesirables: Unreleased Live Recordings, Fall 1991

Fall Tour - 1991

Maggie's Farm - Live - Indianapolis - November 10, 1991
You Don't Know Me - Live - Madison - November 5, 1991
The Man In Me - Live - Ames - November 2, 1991
Across The Borderline - Live - Ames - November 2, 1991
Shelter From The Storm - Live - Indianapolis - November 10, 1991
Trail Of The Buffalo - Live - Madison - November 5, 1991
Roving Gambler - Live - South Bend - November 6, 1991
Mr. Tambourine Man - Live - Dayton - November 9, 1991
One Too Many Mornings - Live - Dayton - November 9, 1991
20/20 Vision - Live - Austin - October 25, 1991
Folsom Prison Blues - Live - Evanston - November 4, 1991
Answer Me, My Love - Live - Evanston - November 4, 1991
New Morning - Live - Madison - November 5, 1991
Friend Of The Devil - Live - Dayton - November 9, 1991
Gotta Serve Somebody - Live - Evanston - November 4, 1991


Bob Dylan's 1991 tours were not well-received at the time, and have not received a critical reappraisal in the years since. Coming on the heels of his outstanding performances of 1989 and 1990, it is understandable that 1991 would suffer by comparison. While the early part of the year's live output was less than ideal, however, the Fall Tour of the United States ended up being one of Dylan's more successful efforts of the early Never-Ending Tour.

The name of this set comes from the unofficial name bestowed upon Bob Dylan's 1991 band by the members themselves after negative audience perception in Europe. Perhaps setting out to alter this opinion, both the singer and the band were firing on all cylinders in October and November.

"Maggie's Farm" received a looser, looping arrangement with a prominent slide-sounding guitar. Covers like "You Don't Know Me," "Across The Borderline," "Answer Me, My Love," "Folsom Prison Blues," "20/20 Vision," and "Friend Of The Devil" lit up the setlist with surprise. More traditional songs, including "Trail Of The Buffalo" and "Roving Gambler," were performed to great success in the acoustic slots.

One significant improvement to the nightly shows were the acoustic combo songs. These were played at the end of the acoustic set, and were foreshadowing for the arrangements Dylan would go on to use throughout the 1990s and 2000s. While the singer had performed with a single guitarist as acoustic accompaniment during the tours from 1988 to 1990, he would increasingly rely on an entire acoustic backing band as the decade would progress. Some would lament losing the experience of seeing Bob Dylan, nearly alone on stage, but the expanded band would open up intriguing possibilities for arranging acoustic songs, as you can hear on this compilation with "Mr. Tambourine Man," "One Too Many Mornings" and "20/20 Vision."

The electric performances were no less interesting, though they generally received less nuanced delivery. Exceptions include "Across The Borderline," in what is perhaps Bob Dylan's most sincere rendering of the song, and "Answer Me, My Love." While the other electric songs are delivered with slightly less care to the phrasing, the overall effect is undiminished. Listen to the exuberance of this rendition of "The Man In Me," the cool menace of "Gotta Serve Somebody," or the jaunty cascading arrangement of "New Morning," which is finally delivered excellently here after less successful outings earlier in the year.

I hope you enjoy the set. This tour featured remarkably good recordings, so the sound should be up to standards. The tapers were, as ever, heroic in their efforts.

Next month will bring us up to 1992, which will include the addition of pedal steel guitar to the touring mix. I am trying to publish a bonus disc this month, so check back in a few weeks to see if I was successful!

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


Note: This month's compilation is broken down into the typical download pieces (Complete, AIFF, MP3, Art/Notes), but I was running behind and it was more expedient to package them all as a single link to the Mediafire folder. You can download them individually once you have clicked the link above. Let me know in the comments if this presents any challenges.

Update 2015/09/02: I forgot to mention above that "20/20 Vision" is slightly edited with a splice near the beginning. An especially boisterous audience member shouted a vulgarity very close to the taper, and I cut this through some careful modification of the tape. I can't imagine anyone would miss it, but if you do, you can seek out an unedited version.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Beneath A Diamond Sky: Unreleased Acoustic Recordings, 1989

Beneath A Diamond Sky
Acoustic 1989

She Belongs To Me - Live - Rochester Hills - July 6, 1989
Girl From The North Country - Live - Chicago - July 2, 1989
Baby Let Me Follow You Down - Live - Berkeley - September 3, 1989
Mr. Tambourine Man - Live - Boston - October 24, 1989
Lakes Of Pontchartrain - Live - Frejus - June 13, 1989
Every Grain Of Sand - Live - Athens - June 28, 1989
Love Minus Zero/No Limit - Live - Chicago - October 31, 1989
In The Pines - Live - Milwaukee - July 3, 1989
It Ain't Me Babe - Live - Glasgow - June 6, 1989
Forever Young - Live - Barcelona - June 16, 1989


Art + Notes


This collection is not quite the revelatory set that the two other Thousand Highways Collection 1989 compilations are, but it is interesting nonetheless.

The songs consist entirely of acoustic performances from 1989. This is right in the heart of one of Dylan's most fertile periods for performing acoustic songs, alongside 1961-1966, 1975, 1995, and 1999-2002. The songs aren't as strong as those played the preceding year, but offer more intriguing renditions of the singer's own catalog; while 1988's acoustic sets were strongest when representing traditional songs, 1989's are at their best in the presentation of original material.

The summer tours make up the bulk of this set, due largely to Dylan's more limited vocal range in the Fall, and clearer tapes. The electric songs from the Fall Tour are loud enough to make it across the hiss of tape, but the acoustic songs fared less well. Even so, missing "Mr. Tambourine Man" from the Fall Tour would be a shame, so a performance from Boston graces this collection.

Notable inclusions are a very rare outing for "Baby Let Me Follow You Down," the only live acoustic performance of "Every Grain of Sand," one of only three live performances of "In The Pines," and a very beautiful "Forever Young." Note that "Every Grain of Sand" had appeared on another Thousand Highways compilation, but I thought it too good not to include here. It is, perhaps, the defining acoustic performance of the year.

"In The Pines" is intriguing, as it is said to be based on a version of the old song made popular by Bill Monroe, rather than the more familiar variant popularized by Leadbelly. I've not heard the Bill Monroe version, so I can't comment on whether this is true or not.

"It Ain't Me Babe" is the performance mentioned in Andrew Muir's One More Night, in which the singer messes around with the audience's capacity to sing along. "Lakes of Pontchartrain" is, as ever, utterly beautiful, and should be in everyone's collection. This is the performance that originally brought the song to my attention some years ago. I wish Dylan had recorded a studio cut of this at some point, but there is no evidence to suggest that he did.

The guitar work is pretty great throughout, owing to the combined efforts of the singer and the guitarist G. E. Smith, who played lead guitar in the year's electric sets. It really comes across in "Girl From The North Country," "Lakes of Pontchartrain," and "It Ain't Me Babe," but is quite pleasant throughout. Smith is one of the best accompanists that has played with Bob Dylan so far, and his talents are well-represented here.

As always, I hope you enjoy this pleasant collection. Next month will bring the Fall 1991 tour to this website. It's not one of Bob Dylan's more popular touring years, but I think a listen to this compilation might just push you into the fan camp. It's sure to be an interesting listen!

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


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.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Non-Music Resource Post

Hello everyone!

Since there is no bonus disc for the month of July, I thought you might enjoy some kind of update. In this case, it will be a brief explanation of pleasant online resources available to the diehard Dylan fans of the world. This is in the spirit of my recommended reading, which you can find here. Be aware that the following resources are in no particular order:

(1) Oloj Bjorner

This website has virtually everything you might want to know. The Yearly Chronicles section is a thoughtful analysis of Bob Dylan's artistic output (music, movies, books) divided into pages centered on specific years. It offers a remarkably detailed breakdown of live songs played on a tour, recommended shows, and even an outline of unreleased content becoming available. The Still On The Road page is my favorite part of the site, though, and functions as the primary resource from which I pull my information. It is a text list of every show played by the artist, along with songs played, band information, notable firsts or last, transcribed banter, and more. You really couldn't ask for a more helpful resource than this, and I wish more musicians had such inspired fan projects!

(2) Lossless Bob

This one is comparatively new to me, though I have been aware of it for years. It is a catalog of Bob Dylan unreleased recordings, which is each assigned a number. An analysis of the recording is presented, along with resources like relevant text files and checksum data (for my fellow archival nerds out there). This person has essentially generated a cataloging standard for unreleased recordings, and it is very helpful when you hear a concert and wonder if an alternative tape exists.

(3) Electric Ladyland

Electric Ladyland is a top-notch website for finding unreleased music. Their search feature is significantly better than Dimeadozen, and the community is very responsive to requests for reseeding concerts. Much of the second round of the Thousand Highways collection was downloaded from fellow fans on this site.

(4) Bob Dylan Official Website

This official website may have seen its best days in the 1990s and 2000s, when its staff was publishing unreleased and rare content via downloadable files, but it's still one of the better artist pages out there. You will find a list of every Bob Dylan song, and a little exploring will take you to lyrics and a list of times the song was played live. It's updated pretty frequently, and features some cool multimedia content (music videos, articles, etc.).

(5) Searching For A Gem

Searching For A Gem is, like Lossless Bob, a wonderful resource for tracking official releases. In the case of my blog, this has sadly led to a handful of intended tracks not making it onto compilations, since they have been officially released in very obscure ways. The orchestral "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," for example, was released on a European version of the MTV Unplugged Dignity single. Happily, being aware of these releases keeps the material on this website from stepping on anyone's toes and making it fall into more problematic content. I am always impressed at the capacity for comprehensiveness of the contributors to Searching For A Gem.

I hope you enjoy these links. Let me know if I missed anything!


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Voice Without Restraint: Unreleased Live Recordings, 1986

A Voice Without Restraint
Live Recordings - 1986

Let The Good Times Roll - Live - Reno - June 11, 1986
All Along The Watchtower - Live - Philadelphia - July 19, 1986
Clean Cut Kid - Live - Chicago - June 29, 1986
I'll Remember You - Live - New York City - July 15, 1986
Shot Of Love - Live - New York City - July 17, 1986
Lenny Bruce - Live - Nagoya - March 8, 1986
Union Sundown - Live - Saratoga Springs - July 13, 1986
I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know - Live - Sydney - February 24, 1986
Band Of The Hand - Live - Chicago - June 29, 1986
When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky - Live - New York City - July 15, 1986
I Dreamed I Saw Saint Augustine - Live - Philadelphia - July 19, 1986
Red Cadillac & A Black Mustache - Live - Chicago - June 29, 1986
Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues - Live - Nagoya - March 8, 1986
I & I - Live - New York City - July 17, 1986
In The Garden - Live - Los Angeles - August 3, 1986
One Too Many Mornings - Live - Chicago - June 29, 1986
Rock 'Em Dead - Live - Los Angeles - August 3, 1986
House Of The Rising Sun - Live - New York City - July 17, 1986


Good morning/afternoon/evening, folks!

Welcome to the 1986 Bob Dylan show. This is one of the more intense years of touring, in terms both of shows performed and style of performance; it bears a striking resemblance to 1978 in its nearly unprecedented (until that point) number of concerts, and is quite similar to 1974 and 1988 in the forceful vocal delivery. Don't let that put you off, though! There's plenty of gold in these shows, in spite of the singer's own admission of feeling adrift in 1986 in his autobiography.

Of particular thematic interest is the year's emphasis on 1950s rockabilly songs. These are represented on this compilation by "Let The Good Times Roll," "Red Cadillac & A Black Mustache," and "Rock 'Em Dead." The first is a very well-known early rock tune, but the second and third have more peculiar histories.

"Red Cadillac" was written and recorded by Warren Smith in 1957, but went unreleased until 1973. Others recorded the song between those two years, and Dylan recorded and played live a version of the song in 1986. He would also go on to record a very different version for a Sun Records tribute in 2001, but that is off-limits for the blog since it has been officially released.

"Rock 'Em Dead" is also rather bizarre. Though the song is often referred to as "Uranium Rock," it bears little resemblance to that Warren Smith recording. Notably, it makes no reference to uranium! Instead, it is fairly representative of a writing technique employed by Dylan in the mid-1980s. Much like his re-write of Roy Head's "Treat Her Right" into "Shake," and his re-write of his own song "Someone's Got A Hold Of My Heart" into "Has Anybody Seen My Love," this was largely a revision of a pre-existing song into something different. Arguably, this is the root of the writing technique that the singer would go on to use to excellent effect on "Love & Theft" and "Modern Times."

Prior to the beginning of the Never-Ending Tour in 1988, Dylan played his 1980s songs with regularity, so those are emphasized on this set. "I'll Remember You" and "Lenny Bruce" are offered here in definitive performances. The latter features a lengthy introduction comparing the song's titular figure to Tennessee Williams in their influence and lack of recognition in their own lifetimes.

"Union Sundown" is sadly a bit incoherent, aside from the chorus, but the emphatic nature of the rendition makes up for its lyrical confusion. "Clean Cut Kid" and "Band Of The Hand" are quite spirited too, and in the same vein as Dylan's other 'rant' songs from the '80s like "Foot Of Pride" and "The Groom's Still Waiting At The Altar." Perhaps unfortunately, this is a style he wouldn't generally return to after this decade (excepting perhaps "TV Talkin' Song" from 1990).

"When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky" is more suggestive of the direction Dylan would be headed with the early Never-Ending Tour in 1989, with its dark sound and darker themes. It is a bit more atmospheric than the interesting version played in 1987, but no less rocking. "In The Garden," too, is a bit atmospheric, and represents my favorite arrangement of this intense gospel song. Along with "I & I," this song is heavily dependent on the background vocals.

I believe that Dylan's vocal relationship with his backup singers came to its peak in 1986. Though he had a trio singing behind him since 1978, he seems to have improved in complementing them as the years went by. In this year of touring, particularly, he weaves around their well-structured harmonizing in a very intriguing fashion. Listen to how he simply leaves aside vocalizing certain lines in "I & I" and "In The Garden," favoring instead the emphasizing of a final word or phrase. It's pretty interesting stuff, no doubt. One technical note - I have spliced out the lengthy repetition of the chorus phrase at the conclusion of “I & I.” According to Olof Bjorner’s website, a few days earlier “sees my face and lives” was repeated 56 times! You can’t hear the splice, but in case someone would prefer a purer version, and un-shortened version is included as bonus material alongside the art and notes.

Though the 1980s material is emphasized, Bob Dylan's 1960s songs are present here as well. "All Along The Watchtower" is featured in a fairly unique slow arrangement that sounds a bit similar to "When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky." "I Dreamed I Saw Saint Augustine" is an absolutely beautiful rendition, as is the acoustic "One Too Many Mornings." Paul Williams described the singer as having seemingly dedicated himself fully to performances of "One Too Many Mornings" on this summer tour, and it's hard to argue with that assessment. Interestingly, this would essentially mark the end of Bob Dylan's solo acoustic performances, since from 1988 his acoustic sets featured, at minimum, one additional guitarist. Finally, "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" is a notable one-off from the 1986 tour. If you listen closely, you can actually hear Dylan calling out the chords during the song's opening. Unsurprisingly, it comes off a bit under-rehearsed, but is a beguiling performance nonetheless. It's one of my favorite songs, so I was glad to hear that it was played at least once with the Heartbreakers.

A few more covers round out the set. "I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know," which was recorded for and published on Self Portrait in 1970, appeared with regularity on this tour. It works largely due to Tom Petty's subtle harmony on the title line. "House Of The Rising Sun" is also presented here in a rare outing. It would go on to be played less successfully in 1987, but here it is simply sublime. Though it is not present on this edit, after playing the song Bob Dylan explained to the extremely receptive New York City crowd that the band was into overtime and could not keep playing! They certainly earned a break, having played a full 23 songs that night.

Please note that a handful of absolutely wonderful songs are not present on this set, but are available elsewhere in the Thousand Highways Collection. In particular, "Lucky Old Sun" is on the One More Night compilation, and "Emotionally Yours," "Across The Borderline," "We Had It All," and "Lonesome Town" can be found on Ashes & Dust: 1985 - 1986.

I hope you enjoy the set. Having not enjoyed the 1986 shows for a long time, I was converted by the Wasteland Of Your Mind compilation, created by Expecting Rain member Nellie. While a fair number of recordings from this year suffer from being performed in the early days of digital recording and feature a rather harsh, metallic sound, it is possible to find some rather outstanding tapes; I like to think that A Voice Without Restraint presents the best of this material.

Next month, we will jump forward to a rather extensive compilation concerning Bob Dylan's ambitious 1989 tours. There is some very cool, very intense music there, so don't forget to check back in on August 1! Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Looking For Heaven: Unreleased Live Recordings, Fall 1978

Looking For Heaven
Fall 1978

My Back Pages - Live - Jackson - November 28, 1978
I’m Ready - Live - New York City - September 30, 1978
Shelter From The Storm - Live - Charlotte - December 10, 1978
Tangled Up In Blue - Live - Seattle - November 10, 1978
Ballad Of A Thin Man - Live - Charlotte - December 10, 1978
Maggie’s Farm - Live - Charlotte - December 10, 1978
Going, Going, Gone - Live - New York City - September 30, 1978
One More Cup Of Coffee - Live - Carbondale - October 28, 1978
Where Are You Tonight - Live - Columbia - December 9, 1978
I Want You - Live - New York City - September 30, 1978
Masters Of War - Live - Seattle - November 10, 1978
To Ramona - Live - Columbia - December 9, 1978
All Along The Watchtower - Live - Carbondale - October 28, 1978
All I Really Want To Do - Live - Jackson - November 28, 1978
Band Introduction - Live - Seattle - November 10, 1978
It’s Alright Ma - Live - Seattle - November 10, 1978
Forever Young - Live - Columbia - December 9, 1978


Alright, friends: I got too excited about this tour and just had to publish this as a bonus release.

Welcome to the bizarre road trip that is Bob Dylan’s 1978 Fall Tour. While portions of the tour have appeared on the earlier 1978 Thousand Highways compilation, The Road Is Long, it struck me that the tour is notable enough to have a full disc dedicated to it. The earlier compilation focused on songs that were unrepresented on the official At Budokan album; for this new set, any song was fair game. Let’s walk through them, one-by-one.

The instrumental “My Back Pages” was too excellent an opener to omit from the CD. While the final chorus proclamation was either inaudible or not present on other recordings, this version from Jackson presents it clearly.

“I’m Ready” is a swinging Willie Dixon cover. Prior to finding this clean tape from New York, I had not heard a high quality recording and it does not disappoint. It sounds surprisingly like Dylan’s later original composition, “Beyond Here Lies Nothin’.” It's also hard not to hear significance in the lines "I been looking for heaven / Ain't found it in this world at all" in light of later recordings from 1979 to 1981.

By the time that Bob Dylan’s 1978 “big band” tour had moved from Japan to the United States by way of Europe, the arrangements had developed significantly. “Shelter From The Storm” was the most changed - it has lost the operatic chorus overture and has instead been given a vocal chorus by the back-up singers.

“Tangled Up In Blue” is yet another beautiful performance of this classic song, introduced as a ballad about three people in love with each other all at the same time. This vocal is the sound of a man telling the truth.

The fifth song, “Ballad Of A Thin Man,” sounds like it was written for this tour. The horns and back-up singers raise the bombastic qualities of this menacing narrative. Plus Dylan’s bizarre introduction about the circus geek is just delightful.

“Maggie’s Farm,” the third and final song from December’s noteworthy Charlotte concert, is a truly rollicking version. The drum interlude seems unique to this night’s performance.

“Going, Going, Gone” is another track that had changed significantly since its appearance on the Spring Japanese tour. The tempo changes and altered lyrics have gotten much more precise.

Track eight, “One More Cup Of Coffee,” is sadly not one that includes this tour’s peculiar introduction. I recommend seeking it out, but the performance on this version was worth the loss. In particular, the rambling conga and piano duet during the song is clearer and stronger here than when it was played at later dates.

“Where Are You Tonight” is played following a self-deprecating remark concerning the sales of Street Legal. Though the track was not consistently performed throughout the year, it is on fire on this recording. The blaring organ is reminiscent of Dylan’s finest 1960s material.

On the other hand, “I Want You” is both a song that was consistently performed in 1978, and one that doesn’t sound a bit like Bob Dylan’s 1960s recordings. The song is performed here as a vocally centered ballad. The singer’s brief improvisation on the final chorus is reminiscent of his beautiful renditions of “Nobody ‘Cept You” from 1974.

“Masters Of War” is the prototype for how the song would be played until 1994’s acoustic revision, and is a scathing performance. The guitar work is so powerful that the band picks the song back up for a brief encore.

This iteration of “To Ramona” sounds like what the song could have been like on Dylan’s 1966 tour. The lyrics are spat out with gusto and swelling instruments fill in between verses.

“All Along The Watchtower,” which is often performed with driving guitar, is instead propelled here by a fiery violin. David Mansfield, as ever, is ready to rise to the occasion.

The rarely played “All I Really Want To Do,” is one of the greatest successes of Bob Dylan’s 1978 World Tour. Played from the beginning of the year to the end, it is pushed along by a buoyant saxophone and largely improvised lyrics. From night to night, they vary, but are generally along a pretty whimsical central line of being… ‘friends’ and nothing more.

I don’t tend to include band introductions, but this is an exception. Among the other wacky intros, Dylan introduces his back-up singers as his ex-girlfriend, current girlfriend, and fiancee. David Mansfield is described as knowing nothing about smoking dope, drinking whiskey, or chasing women. The singer sums up the more decadent aspects of the tour by following up this comment with the off-hand remark, “he’s learning, though.”

“It’s Alright Ma” is fascinating, in that it bears a striking resemblance to the arrangement played in 2007. Besides that, the song is quite a firecracker in its own right, sounding shockingly like you could be hearing a lost tape from 1976.

Finally, the set wraps up with a beautiful performance of “Forever Young.” As Paul Williams wrote, this song can sometimes sound a bit too anthemic, but comes straight from the heart on this night.

A note about the concerts: 1978 offers one of the more varied and eccentric sets of recordings, as far as sound profile is concerned. The setlist changed little from night-to-night, but the recordings sound radically different. My preference is for December 9’s Columbia show, as the sound is compressed into utter immediacy. The Carbondale show from October 28 is probably the clearest tape. November 28 would be better represented here, but is a bit quieter than the other nights and did not fit well between the other songs on this compilation.

For the avid collector, I strongly recommend seeking out complete tapes from the concerts represented in this compilation. It was a tight run between nightly performances, so the track was generally chosen from two to three worthy alternatives. It’s a pretty entertaining tour overall, descending into some pretty outrageously over-the-edge nights, before Dylan converted that energy into his powerful gospel shows the following year.



Monday, June 1, 2015

Back In The Rain: Unreleased Live Recordings, 1976

Back In The Rain
The Rolling Thunder Revue - 1976

Stuck Inside Of Mobile - Live - New Orleans - May 3, 1976
Isis - Live - Oklahoma City - May 18, 1976
I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight - Live - Lakeland - April 18, 1976
One Too Many Mornings - Live - Fort Worth - May 16, 1976
You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome - Live - Oklahoma City - May 18, 1976
You’re A Big Girl Now - Live - New Orleans - May 3, 1976
Positively 4th Street - Live - Houston - January 25, 1976
Romance In Durango - Live - San Antonio - May 11, 1976
I Pity The Poor Immigrant - Live - New Orleans - May 3, 1976
Just Like A Woman - Live - Clearwater - April 22, 1976
I Want You - Live - Oklahoma City - May 18, 1976
Shelter From The Storm - Live - New Orleans - May 3, 1976
Going, Going, Gone - Live - Fort Worth - May 16, 1976
Idiot Wind - Live - Fort Worth - May 16, 1976

Bonus Tracks

Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I Go Mine) - Live - Clearwater - May 19, 1976
A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall - Live - Fort Collins - May 23, 1976
(Sooner Or Later) One Of Us Must Know - Live - Wichita - May 19, 1976


Welcome back to the Rolling Thunder Revue! This set covers the second of the two Rolling Thunder tours. The first was in 1975, and the second was in 1976. While the first tour was fairly loose, the second was a rawer, rougher-hewn affair.

The personnel were similar, but the sound had changed radically. Gone was the standard setlist, replaced by a rotating set of songs. The emphasis had been altered from Dylan’s recently released Desire record to include a wider variety of songs, particularly from Blonde On Blonde and Blood On The Tracks.

1975’s more imaginative arrangements featuring congas, mandolins, and violins were largely replaced by distorted guitar, sometimes featuring a slide. Dylan himself took over lead guitar duties on occasion, though the band included such late twentieth century notables as T-Bone Burnette and Mick Ronson. Piano remained a significant force in the arrangements, as found on this compilation on “I Pity The Poor Immigrant” and “You’re A Big Girl Now.” The violin was still present, and is particularly fierce here on a raucous one-off performance of “Positively 4th Street.” Dylan doesn’t recall all of the words, but the song has lost none of its punch in the ten years since it was last played in concert. “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” is also rather endearing, presented as an appropriately boozy rendition.

Several of the songs here are earlier performances of those that would appear on Columbia’s official document of the tour, Hard Rain. They tend to lack the harsh power of those later shows, but make up for that loss with more nuanced vocals. “One Too Many Mornings” has not yet picked up the extra verse that it would by the end of the tour, and “Shelter From The Storm” features one of Dylan’s strongest voice performances.

While at the beginning of the tour, as found in the original un-aired Clearwater TV special, “Isis” had lost much of the punch that it had the previous year, it had picked up a radical new arrangement by mid-May. The version from May 16 seems to have been transitional, as that recording suggests a slow song that shifts tempo after a verse or two. By May 18, when the version on this set was recorded in Oklahoma City, the song was a fully rollicking, uptempo tune.

The bonus cuts here were found to be wanting in one way or another. All were very rare performances, but the sound quality on “Most Likely You Go Your Way” and “One Of Us Must Know” is very poor. “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” is interesting, and more traditional in arrangement than the bluesy version from 1975, but suffers from its increased length.

Since the songs are longer, not as many could be featured from the tour. Not present are any of the fantastic acoustic performances that tended to open the sets. You can find many of the best ones on other Thousand Highways collections.

I hope you enjoy the compilation. It’s been fun, but was fairly tough to assemble. The wide variety of quality in tapes from the second Rolling Thunder tour was challenging to arrange without presenting jarring transitions between songs. Hopefully, I’ve been reasonably effective in doing so. Here’s my one recommendation: play it loud.

Next month, we will be skipping ahead ten years to Bob Dylan's 1986 tour with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. While their more experimental 1987 tour has been featured on this site before, 1986 has been documented only through a handful of cuts on Ashes & Dust and the One More Night releases. Get ready to receive a healthy dose of Dylan's rockabilly renaissance, with an emphasis on his covers and contemporary songs of the 1980s. Until next time, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.