Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Review Recordings

Rolling thunderIn 1974, Bob Dylan returned to touring after a long absence. It had been eight years since he had semi-retired after his 1966 motorcycle accident, and he went out in 1974 with The Band, the group that had backed him on his extensive 1966 tour, and performed 40 concerts.

But he wanted to do something different, and came up with the idea of the Rolling Thunder Review. He wanted to play in small venues in smaller towns, and assembled a ragtag group of musicians to join him. This wasn’t a Dylan tour; the concerts each lasted about four hours, with Dylan on stage only for the last 90 minutes or so. The group included Joan Baez, Roger McGuinn, Joni Mitchell, Ronee Blakely, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Bob Neuwirth, and violinist Scarlet Rivera whose sound defined the album Desire, that had yet to be released.

On the first leg of the tour, which included thirty performances, some of the concerts were professionally filmed and recorded, and, while some of the best takes were released previously on The Bootleg Series, Volume 5: Bob Dylan Live, 1975 (Amazon.com, Amazon UK), we’ve only just gotten a release of five complete Dylan concerts, along with three discs of rehearsals and a bonus disc with some disparate recordings from the period.

The Rolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Live Recordings (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) is one of the more fascinating “bootleg” releases by Bob Dylan. There’s an energy that isn’t in all of the other live recordings, in part because of the interesting concept of the traveling minstrel show. Playing in small venues made everything different, and these performances show Dylan at a pivotal period: just after the major release of Blood on the Tracks, which brought Dylan back as the pre-eminent singer-songwriter, and with the new material from Desire, including classics like Sara, Hurricane, One More Cup of Coffee, and Romance in Durango, all now classics.

If you’re a Dylan fan, it’s clear that you want this set. While the five concerts are pretty similar, there are some different songs in each one, and the recording quality, and the energy, is ideal. You can’t listen to this on the streaming services – at least not yet – there’s just a one-disc sampler available.

So get The Rolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Live Recordings (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) and enjoy this great period. And check out the Martin Scorcese-directed documentary that is available on Netflix from today.

The Next Track, Episode #131 – Jeff Slate on Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxMusician and journalist Jeff Slate wrote the liner notes for the latest Bob Dylan Bootleg Series release, More Blood, More Tracks, covering the Blood on the Tracks sessions.

Listen to The Next Track: Episode 131 – Jeff Slate on Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at The Next Track website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast, to keep up to date with new episodes, and new articles from the website.

Theater Review: Girl from the North Country, by Conor McPherson, at the Old Vic

North countryThose who know me will not be surprised that when I heard a play was being produced in London based on songs by Bob Dylan, I would rush to get tickets. My partner bought a pair of tickets as a Christmas present last year, and we were in the front row, dead center.

This is the first time Dylan has authorized the use of his music on stage since an ill-fated dance-based show by Twyla Tharp in 2006, that lasted a mere three weeks on Broadway. Dylan’s record company, Sony, approached playwright and director Conor McPherson asking if he would be interested in writing something around Dylan’s songs, and while he was reluctant, he came up with an idea and submitted it to Dylan’s management. They approved, and he went ahead with the project. The theater describes it as follows:

Duluth, Minnesota. 1934.

A community living on a knife-edge huddle together in the local guesthouse.

The owner, Nick, owes more money than he can ever repay, his wife Elizabeth is losing her mind and their daughter Marianne is carrying a child no-one will account for.

And, when a preacher selling bibles and a boxer looking for a comeback show up in the middle of the night, things start to spiral beyond the point of no returnÂ…

Read more

Bob Dylan: Conor McPherson on writing the musical – BBC News

Imagine you are approached by one of the world’s most famous musicians and asked to create a show using their songs.

But there is a problem. You’ve never written a musical before.

That was the challenge facing the Irish playwright Conor McPherson, when he was contacted by none other than Bob Dylan’s management company.

The writer, who is best known for his critically acclaimed play The Weir, says he was “puzzled” and has no idea why he was approached.

“And I don’t really want to know,” he adds.

I look forward to this. I have tickets for September.

Source: Bob Dylan: Conor McPherson on writing the musical – BBC News

The Next Track, Episode #53 – Bob Dylan’s Never Ending Tour

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxWe welcome author and Dylanologist Andrew Muir to talk about Bob Dylan’s Never Ending Tour, and his recent concerts in the UK.

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #53 – Bob Dylan’s Never Ending Tour.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at The Next Track website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast, to keep up to date with new episodes, and new articles from the website.

Bob Dylan’s Triplicate – A Triple Dose of Standards

TriplicateWhat’s most impressive about Bob Dylan is that, for more than fifty years, he has been a shape-shifter, creating trends, abandoning them, then returning to the roots of popular music. With the 2015 Shadows in the Night, Dylan surprised us by releasing an album of standards, mostly songs that Frank Sinatra had sung. At the time, I wrote:

But, no, he’s created something of a masterpiece here. In ten songs, at just 35 minutes, Dylan recreates an ambience, a mood, a feeling. These stripped down arrangements — compared to the way the songs were performed back in the day — allow Dylan to do some of his finest singing in years. Even Bob said that he felt his voice was at its best during these recordings.

In 2016, he followed up with Fallen Angels, another selection of standards, which reproduces that some tone. (I didn’t get around to reviewing it, for some reason…)

Now, Triplicate is another collection of standards, this time thirty songs on three discs. Each disc is thematic: the first is entitled ‘Til the Sun Goes Down; the second is Devil Dolls; and the third is Comin’ Home Late. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

It’s interesting to look at the three album covers. The first had a photo of Dylan, the second a hand with cards, and Triplicate is just a single word on a maroon background, almost like an epitaph. It’s as if Dylan wanted to efface himself from the music and not appear on the disc at all. (I don’t have the CD, but on the limited edition vinyl version, there’s a black-and-white photo of Dylan inside the front cover, but not on the front of back of the album. Presumably that photo is in the CD booklet or notes.)

Dylan has given a long interview about Triplicate, which you can read on BobDylan.com. This is the longest interview he has given about his music in a long time, and it gives a lot of insight into his thoughts about this release.

There’s something magical about Dylan singing these songs. Sure, his voice cracks a bit, he’s off key at times – Stormy Weather is particularly imperfect – but if you close your eyes, you can hear a wind-up Victrola playing old songs in a smoky bar. Or you can imagine Bob on stage in a small club, as glasses clink, people chat, and the band plays its final set of the evening. Just as Dylan retreated to traditional songs with just an acoustic guitar and harmonica, in the 1992 Good As I Been to You and the 1993 World Gone Wrong, Triplicate, and its two predecessors, create a tone that is anchored in time. The time of the radio; of crooners; a pre-technological time when music meant something much than it does now.

These songs are some of the most heartbreaking stuff ever put on record and I wanted to do them justice. Now that I have lived them and lived through them I understand them better. They take you out of that mainstream grind where you’re trapped between differences which might seem different but are essentially the same. Modern music and songs are so institutionalized that you don’t realize it. These songs are cold and clear-sighted, there is a direct realism in them, faith in ordinary life just like in early rock and roll.

Whether it’s with a horn section, or just with Dylan’s band – which again shows how competent it is at playing just about any style of music – the recording is impeccable. Dylan didn’t overdub the horns; he said that doing it live was better, and with a competent producer and engineer, this is certainly the case. The sound is perfectly balanced, and Dylan fits his voice faultlessly with the backing musicians. (As far as I know, all the songs on all three of these releases were recording “live” in the studio; in other words, all the musicians playing at the same time.)

Something about Triplicate suggests that it might be the last Dylan album. There is a sense of finality in the music. Nearly 76 years old, Bob is still touring, a hundred or so concerts a year, so perhaps he’s going to continue for a while. But he’s done everything now, from records to performances, to the Nobel Prize for Literature (which he is said to be picking up today). Perhaps the second song on Triplicate is a hint:

One day you turn around and it’s summer
Next day you turn around and it’s fall
And all the winters and the springs of a lifetime
Whatever happened to them all?

As a man who has always had the wandering ways
I keep looking back to yesterdays
‘Til a long-forgotten love appears
And I find that I’m sighing softly as I near
September, the warm September of my years

No matter what, put this album on, not too loud, turn down the lights, and close your eyes. Dylan and his band will transport you to a different time.

I’m seeing Dylan perform in May. As much as I want to hear some of the great classics, like Desolation Row and Visions of Johanna, I would be happy to hear him and has band perform all the songs on this album. The tone Bob gets with these songs when performed live – he played five or six of them in every concert in his last tour – is special. No one plays music like this authentically any more. Except Bob Dylan.

Bob Dylan to Accept Nobel Prize in Literature on His Own Terms

In a few days Bob Dylan will visit Stockholm and give two concerts. The Swedish Academy is very much looking forward to the weekend and will show up at one of the performances. Please note that no Nobel Lecture will be held. The Academy has reason to believe that a taped version will be sent at a later point. (Taped Nobel lectures are presented now and then, the latest of which was that of Nobel Laureate Alice Munro in 2013.) At this point no further details are known.

The good news is that the Swedish Academy and Bob Dylan have decided to meet this weekend. The Academy will then hand over Dylan’s Nobel diploma and the Nobel medal, and congratulate him on the Nobel Prize in Literature. The setting will be small and intimate, and no media will be present; only Bob Dylan and members of the Academy will attend, all according to Dylan’s wishes.

Source: Ur Akademiens liv | Sara Danius bloggar som ständig sekreterare

Long Bob Dylan Interview about His Forthcoming Album Triplicate

Bob Dylan has given a long interview to Bill Flanagan on BobDylan.com. In it, he discusses his forthcoming Triplicate in detail.

But one thing he says early in the interview is worth noting:

Each disc is 32 minutes long — you could have put it all on 2 CDs. Is there something about the 10 song, 32 minute length that appeals to you?

Sure, it’s the number of completion. It’s a lucky number, and it’s symbolic of light. As far as the 32 minutes, that’s about the limit to the number of minutes on a long playing record where the sound is most powerful, 15 minutes to a side. My records were always overloaded on both sides. Too many minutes to be recorded or mastered properly. My songs were too long and didn’t fit the audio format of an LP. The sound was thin and you would have to turn your record player up to nine or ten to hear it well. So these CDs to me represent the LPs that I should have been making.

Most people don’t realize – especially those who think vinyl sounds so great – that the way LPs work, the sound degrades as the grooves get closer to the center. Because of this, a 15-minute side sounds fine, but when you try to go to 20 or 25 minutes, it sounds thinner. It’s interesting that Dylan still considers this to be the ideal length for a recording.

One other notable comment:

An awful lot of greats have died in the last year, Muhammad Ali, Merle Haggard, Leonard Cohen, Leon Russell. Any of them hit you especially hard?

Sure, they all did — we were like brothers, we lived on the same street and they all left empty spaces where they used to stand. It’s lonesome without them.

Triplicate is to be released on March 31. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

You can listen to about one third of the album here.

Source: Q&A with Bill Flanagan | The Official Bob Dylan Site

Coming Soon: New Bob Dylan Album, Triplicate

Dylan triplicateBob Dylan has been doing what he wants, lately, releasing two albums of standards, mostly songs that Frank Sinatra covered: Shadows in the Night (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) and Fallen Angels (Amazon.com, Amazon UK).

But word on the street was that Dylan had recorded a lot more than the 22 songs on those two records. Now, on March 31, he is going to release Triplicate (Amazon.com, Amazon UK), a triple album with lots more of his recordings of the great American songbook. It will be available on CD, and in a limited vinyl edition (Amazon.com, Amazon UK), as well as the usual download and streaming formats.

Each of the three discs presents a thematic 10-song sequence.

Here’s the contents of the album:

DISC ONE
01. I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plans
02. September of My Years
03. I Could Have Told You
04. Once Upon a Time
05. Stormy Weather
06. This Nearly Was Mine
07. That Old Feeling
08. It Gets Lonely Early
09. My One and Only Love
10. Trade Winds

DISC TWO
01. Braggin’
02. As Time Goes By
03. Imagination
04. How Deep is the Ocean
05. P.S. I Love You
06. The Best is Yet to Come
07. But Beautiful
08. Here’s That Rainy Day
09. Where is the One
10. There’s a Flaw in my Flue

DISC THREE
01. Day In, Day Out
02. I Couldn’t Sleep a Wink Last Night
03. Sentimental Journey
04. Somewhere Along the Way
05. When the World Was Young
06. These Foolish Things
07. You Go to My Head
08. Stardust
09. It’s Funny to Everyone but Me
10. Why Was I Born

More info on BobDylan.com.

Here’s Bob singing I Could Have Told You.