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).
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
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
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