Two Riders Approaching

Our Top Ten

by The Two Riders

Well, it’s that time of year again. Before we go any further may we wish all of you a Happy New Year – let’s hope it’s a good one. This year’s top ten follows a similar pattern to that which we have done for years now and some of the stuff we talk about may well cross over from last year. Not quite sure about when new came across some of these things we describe but we are saying in 2003.  Hell it’s 2004 already – so does it matter???? 

How it all got done in the good old days
Yes folks it’s the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company show “Folk Songs and Other Folk Songs” from 1963. This is a pretty interesting show even if it is very dated and terribly smugly presented. Unlike most of the world (it would seem) we’ve never bought into this American-fuelled myth that it is the Land of the Free (if you believe them the only free land). This show is presented in that way, though it is acknowledged that it is not a country free of faults. Still, Carolyn Hester’s performances are very good and Dylan’s are light years beyond the others. The setting, being studio-based, is very formalised and Dylan does not look that animated but certainly more so than some of his contemporary TV performances. He performs three songs, Blowin’ In The Wind, Man of Constant Sorrow and  Ballad of Hollis Brown. The first and last of these certainly have an unseen banjo and bass accompaniment, probably from two of the Brothers Four (whose performances are truly cringe-worthy). 

Dylan then joins the entire cast for a Brothers Four-led version of This Land Is Your Land for which he stands right at the back and is almost obscured as he strums away.  Certainly worthy of a good Dylan collection. 

He had a face like a mask
Masked & Anonymous
 is probably the most contentious item of the year! You will either love or hate this film. There are without doubt weaknesses with the performance but overall it is far more enjoyable experience than watching Hearts Of Fire! Musically there are some excellent performances included in the film and strangely (or maybe not knowing Dylan!) the best, I'll Remember You, is left off the sound track album! The other songs of note are, Down In The Flood, Amazing Grace, Diamond Joe, Dixie, I'll Remember You, Drifter's Escape, Dirt Road Blues, Cold Irons Bound all recorded for the film and Blowin' In The Wind recorded live at Santa Cruz, CA, 16 March 2000. As this is due out on DVD early next year possibly with additional material so it could return in the next Top Ten!!! 

Moon, Moon, Turn The Tides Slowly, Slowly
Another  PA segment emerges from Dylan’s Fox Warfield show of 16th November 1980 only 23 years on. There is still more to come but we are getting there. Apart from the introductory gospel song section by the backing singers we also get four more Dylan songs, When You Gonna Wake Up?, Blowin’ In the Wind, City of
Gold and Baby Blue.  Now there are only four songs missing so check in again in 2026! 

New Songs, Old Songs
Ineffably beautiful, haunting, sorrowful and uplifting is the new Dylan song ‘Cross The
Green Mountain, the song he wrote for the Civil War film Gods and Generals. The songs hangs suspended on virtually a single chord as Dylan unfolds his very lengthy tale with some killer couplets. At the end of each verse, the music effortlessly shifts a scale for a second producing such a yearning sound that you could drift away into the universe on it’s wake. 

“Pride will vanish
and glory will rot
but virtue lives
and cannot be forgot”. 

Less essential is the re-working of Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking done with Mavis Staples. It starts off with the conventional first verse then cuts out as Dylan engages in a cod conversation with Staples about how he’s got the blues reading Snoozeweek etc etc etc. Dylan and Staples then launch into a heavy version of the song with completely re-written lyrics. 

It used to go like that and now it goes like this
Not sure how qualified we are to write about the newly re-mastered Dylan albums since we only have two of them at the moment. Both of these (Bringing and Blonde) are surround sound and it’s a listening experience to which one needs to acclimatise. Hearing all of these different instruments coming from different directions sort of peels away that old familiar sound of the albums which has been burned into the brain for 40 years. But these do present much clearer sound and it is much easier to hear the different instruments. Does not do a lot for Gates of Eden or It’s Alright, Ma but one wouldn’t expect that unless it was a very artificial sound. Nice sleeves too. The big argument will be/is about whether bonus cuts/alternates should have been included. Our view is that they should have been but on a second disc as there is a worthy school of thought which believes that classic albums can be ruined by tampering with them. Yes, we know that there is a Program function, a skip switch and so on but you get the idea.  Worth getting these two certainly. 

Only three things continue.  Life, death and the1984 Soundboard collection
This gathering of 1984 soundboards features eighteen tracks, all in excellent quality. The details of these have been known since 1991 but the actual recordings have not been widely circulated before now. The only disappointment is to have so much repetition given that there are three versions each of Blowin' In The Wind and Love Minus Zero/No Limit, plus another two songs which are duplicated. However, it still make excellent listening. 

Somedays you eat the bear, somedays the bear eats you
Dylan’s touring year in 2003 was pretty remarkable. But it ended with some of those magic moments that make the previous highs and lows merely land ripples on an infinite plateau. Dylan reeled off three consecutive shows in three different London venues, completely re-writing the set-list from the rest of the tour and from night to night. There was very little repetition, a lot of rarer songs and great energy. But the outstanding surprise must be the first performance in 27 years of Romance In Durango.  Now where did that come from? 

Oh No! another bloody soundboard - San José, CA, 12 Oct 2001
Yet another addition to the collection of soundboards but it qualifies as a must-have because of the fact that there are four tracks from "Love And Theft". These are Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum, Summer Days, Sugar Baby and Honest With Me. Alongside these Wait For The Light To Shine and Searching For A Soldier’s Grave are welcome inclusions. 

There ain’t no neutral ground
Occasionally something becomes available which leaves us wanting more and the video of this track is one of those. I Will Love Him, from the 19 April 1980 concert in Toronto, hasn’t been available before, except as an audience tape. This is an amazing performance featuring some stunning close ups of Dylan from one of his most committed periods. Oh to have the whole show like this! 

There were three kings (well two, anyway)
Dave Bromberg session, June 1992

We have had to wait quite a while for any ‘new’ studio material to emerge. Even though these are not new ‘Dylan’ songs the performances on the four tracks available from the 1992 Dave Bromberg session are excellent. The tracks circulating are Miss The
Mississippi And You, Kaatskill Serenade, Sloppy Drunk and Polly Vaughn with the rendition of the last song a particular favourite. As with the Toronto video discussed above, the only disappointment is that this isn’t the complete session as there are another eight songs which don’t do the rounds! However, apart from that little complaint this is still a major highlight for the year. 

Restless Farewell for now.

Mike and John