Trouble No More: The Bootleg Series Volume 13 1979-1981 (4-LP Set) By Bob Dylan

October 2, 2018

Bob Dylan’s Volume 13 of his Bootleg Series has been released in a number of formats including a four LP set.

Trouble No More: The Bootleg Series Volume 13/1979-1981 covers one of the more controversial periods of Bob Dylan’s career. Slow Train Coming (1979), Saved (1980), and Shot Of Love (1981) found Dylan exploring his developing religious beliefs. The re-action to these gospel flavored releases was mixed but they have settled into an accepted stop in his career journey.

His new four LP set has gathered 30 unreleased live tracks from his 1979-1981 tours. They include three previously unreleased songs. Tracks such as “Slow Train,” “Gotta Serve Somebody,” “Precious Angel.” “Solid Rock.” and “Saved” have more power and conviction when performed live, which make the studio versions pale in comparison.

The three songs making their debut, “Ain’t Gonna Go To Hell For Anybody,” “Ain’t No Man Righteous, No Not One,” and “Blessed Is The Name” explore the fundamentalist side of his theology. These songs are quite a departure from his protest songs of the 1960’s.

The sound is crystal clear, especially for liver performances that have been in the vaults for almost four decades. The tracks are not presented in any chronological order but given the cohesive nature of the material, this is not a big issue. One can’t help but wonder what other material was presented in the concerts other than the religious material.

Bob Dylan seems to have an endless supply of material in the vaults and if the quality of the live material is similar to this release; there are some good times ahead for his fan base.

Trouble No More: The Bootleg Series 1979/1981 is one of the better releases in Dylan’s Bootleg Series. It bring to life a very specific phase of his career that is often overlooked. The vinyl component is a nostalgic bonus.

The Traveling Wilburys (2 CD + DVD) By The Traveling Wilburys

December 27, 2016


The sons of Charles Truscott Wilbury were a true super group. Lucky (Bob Dylan), Nelson (George Harrison, Otis (Jeff Lynne), Lefty (Roy Orbison), and Charlie Wilbury Jr. (Tom Petty) came together as an accident, released two albums; one after Orbison’s death in December of 1988, and disbanded.

Harrison, producer Lynne, along with Orbison and Petty gathered in the studio to record a B side to Harrison’s single “This Is Love.” The resultant song “Handle With Care” was so good that it was decided to release it on its own under the Traveling Wilburys moniker complete with fictitious names. Dylan later joined to make the group a quintet. Jim Keltner as Buster Sidebury was the drummer.

The result of all the tongue-in-cheek shenanigans was some of the best pure rock/pop of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Their entire catalogue has now been released as a two CD + 1 DVD Box Set titled The Traveling Wilburys Collection.

From pieces of pop heaven such as “Handle With Care,” “End Of The Line,” and “She’s My Baby” to the quirky “Wilbury Twist” and “Tweeter And The Monkey Man;” it is a journey through the best pop music has to offer. Their first album with Orbison’s soaring voice finds them at their best but everything is above the norm.

Jeff Lynne is a master producer and their sound was always clear and crisp and remains so on this release. The accompanying booklet is extensive. The DVD presents a history of the band and takes one back a quarter of a century to where everyone looks a lot younger and in the case of Orbison and Harrison are still alive.

The Traveling Wilburys were a short term project by five superstars. In some ways I can’t help but think the other four wanted to play with Orbison as the band only carried on for one more album following his death. They left behind a stunning collection of well-crafted music that represented a unique and creative career stop for the musicians involved. High recommended for any fan of American rock and roll.

The 30th Anniversary Concert (Deluxe Edition) by Bob Dylan

April 12, 2014


Bob Dylan’s career has now passed the half-century mark but back on October 16, 1992, he and a number of his friends gathered at Madison Square garden to celebrate his 30th anniversary. That concert has now been reissued as a two-CD, two-DVD, one Blu-ray set complete with bonus performances and new footage, which includes 40 minutes of previously unreleased rehearsals and interviews.

Looking at the artists involved in the concert, one quickly realizes that many have left the building for good. Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, Richie Havens, the three Clancy Brothers, Tommy Makem, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Lou Reed, and George Harrison have all passed away but at this concert they are alive and well.

When it comes to Dylan, it is the songs that are important. He has produced one of the best, if not the best, catalogues of material in music history. As with all albums of this type, it revolves around the artist’s ability to interpret the material.

The cream of the rock world gathered at Madison Square Garden to honor Dylan’s 30 years in music. Many of his most famous songs combine with some deeper cuts to provide a good overview of his legacy.  Very important are Booker T & The MG’s, supplemented by drummer Jim Keltner, who act as the house band for many of the performances.

There are a number of superior performances. Eric Clapton changes “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” into a blues classic. Roger McGuinn, backed by Tom Petty and band resurrected the Byrds classic interpretation of “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Chrissie Hyde gives an emotional performance of “I Shall Be Released.” Neil Young is engaged on “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” and “All Along The Watchtower.” The line-up of Dylan, McGuinn, Petty, Young, Clapton, and George Harrison on “My Back Pages” shall not pass this way again.

The surprises are a sincere interpretation of “Emotionally Yours” by The O’Jays and Willie Nelson just nails “What Was It You Wanted.” Tracy Chapman, “The Times They Are A-Changin.’” Richie Havens, “Just Like A Woman,” and Mr. Dylan himself, “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” prove that simple is sometimes best as they bring just their voices and guitar to their performances.

I don’t know if there were any real misses but some performances just don’t resonate as well as others.  John Mellencamp rolls through “Like A Rolling Stone” although Al Kooper brings some nostalgia to the track by re-creating his original organ sounds. Johnny Winter is technically adept on “Highway 61 Revisited” but there is a lack of passion. “Seven Days” by Ron Wood just sort of disappears.

The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration Deluxe Edition twenty years later is a look back in time. It was an evening dedicated to celebrating the music of an American music icon and in many ways that music out-shines the performers. It is a must buy for any fan of Bob Dylan and his music.

It’s only eight years until Dylan’s 60th, so stay tuned.


Bob Dylan In Concert: Brandeis University 1963 by Bob Dylan

April 17, 2011

How would you like to attend a Bob Dylan concert for the price of $4.40? If you had that sum in your possession, and were at Brandeis University on the night of May 10, 1963, you would have been in luck. The college sponsored a folk festival that evening and invited a very young Bob Dylan to perform.

A tape of the concert was discovered in the archives of music writer Ralph Gleason, where it had sat for nearly 40 years. The performance was recorded just prior to the release of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, which would make the artist a star.

Until recently the music was only available as a bonus disc on the release of The Whitmark Demos, 1962-1964 (The Bootleg Series Vol. 9), included exclusively in the bonus version and not the standard one.

Bob Dylan In Concert: Brandeis University 1963 has now been issued as a stand-alone album. The sound is remarkably good for a recording of this type as it finds the 21 year old Dylan performing a seven-song set that clocks in at just under 40 minutes. The liner notes are provided by Michael Gray, author of The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia.

Dylan’s setlist is representative of his early performing period. It includes “Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance,” which is incomplete, “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues,” “Ballad Of Hollis Brown,” “Masters Of War,” “Talkin’ World War III Blues,” “Bob Dylan’s Dream,” and “Talking Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues.”

Dylan is loose and at ease, playing songs that were probably second nature to him by this time. All the talkin’ blues tunes are at times funny and droll while, at others, critical and insightful. His musings about life as well as the society and world around him were always quite entertaining and thoughtful.

“Ballad Of Hollis Brown” would appear on his third album, The Times They Are A-Changin’ in 1964; it’s nice to hear this early version of this underrated song. “Masters Of War” is the most sophisticated song in the set and shows that even at such a young age he could already create powerful lyrics. My favorite performance is “Bob Dylan’s Dream,” which used an old folk melody to create a song of love and loss. It’s interesting to reflect upon his dream nearly 40 years later.

It’s not often that a piece of music history like this surfaces. Bob Dylan In Concert: Brandeis University 1963 is from the pre-Beatles era, when President Kennedy was still alive. Dylan would soon change along with American history. This concert catches him at the beginning of his personal and musical journey

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The Times They Are A Changin’ 45 by Bob Dylan

January 16, 2011

“The Times They Are A Changin'” may not have charted but it was an important song as it called for the recognition of change. Dylan’s message renews itself in every generation.

The song was released about two months after John F. Kennedy was assassinated and the impact was immediate. It was embraced by the growing ant-war movement and became one of their theme songs.

ROLLING ATONE MAGAZINE ranked it as the 59th greatest song of all time. If the word greatest were changed to important, it would have ranked alot higher. An essential listen for anyone who wants to understand the music of the sixties.

Blowin’ In The Wind 45 by Bob Dylan

December 1, 2010

“Blowin’ In The Wind” was recorded on July 9th, 1962 for his second album, THE FREEWHEELIN’ BOB DYLAN. It remains one of the signature songs of the era and of his career. It also remains one of his most covered songs.

Dylan once said he wrote the lyrics in about 10 minutes. It has the style of an old sporitual with new words.

Amazingly the song did not chart when released as a single, as it was not radio friendly back in the day as its anti-establishment nature and Dylan’s delivery made it a very different type of song than what were becoming hits in the pre-Beatles era.

ROLLING STONE Magazine ranked it as the 14th Greatest Song in history. Can’t Argue.

Like A Rolling Stone 45 by Bob Dylan

November 22, 2010

ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE selected “Like A Rolling Stone” as the number one song of all time and I can’t argue with the choice.

Bob Dylan was 24 when he recorded the song. It was an unusual single release because of its six minute length, but nevertheless, it would spend two weeks in the number two position on The United States singles chart.

In the studio All Kooper would provide the memorable gospel type organ part and Mike Bloomfield would play the legendary guitar parts. Dylan told Bloomfield not to play the blues but just do it the way he was told. Pianist Paul Griffin, bassist Russ Savakys, and drummer Bobby Gregg completed the studio band.

Dylan was mainly known as a folk artist at the time, but “Like A Rolling Stone” was rock ‘n’ roll at its best. It has stood the test of time and remains one of the best creations and definitive songs in music history.

Biograph by Bob Dylan

July 27, 2009

Biograph, released in 1985, was the first Bob Dylan box set and one of the first box sets to be released in the CD format.

Recently, The Bob Dylan Bootleg Series, now at seven volumes, has been releasing every live performance, alternate take, cough and clap that Bob Dylan ever recorded on tape. The producers of Biograph had the advantage of being the first to do so and have the entire Dylan catalogue at their disposal. The producers chose well. The 53 tracks contained on three CDs comprise most of Dylan’s well-known songs plus 22 previously unreleased performances. Biograph, released in 1985, covers what is now the first half of Dylan’s career, 1959-1985. The last album represented is Shot Of Love; thus, Dylan’s later material, a lot of which does not measure up to his earlier efforts, is not included.

One of the highlights of Biograph is the accompanying booklet. This large size booklet is filled with rare pictures, a Dylan biography and notes about each song.

The only real problem with this collection is that the tracks are not presented in chronological order. While there are several groupings of similar songs that make sense, it would have been nice to have been able to follow Dylan’s development as an artist, singer and songwriter rather than hopping around through the years.

The first disc contains many of Dylan’s better and most famous recordings, beginning with a series of love songs: “Lay Lady Lay” from
Nashville Skyline, “Baby Let Me Follow You Down,” recorded in 1961, “If Not For You” from New Morning and “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” from John Wesley Harding. These tracks all establish a mellow mood and good feeling for what is to follow. Next up is a lost gem, “I’ll Keep It With Mine,” which was originally recorded with Judy Collins in mind, featuring just Dylan singing at the piano.

Three of Dylan’s most famous protest songs are also grouped together. “The Times They Are A Changin,’” “Blowin’ In The Wind” and “Masters Of War” have all gone down in history as three of the most famous protest songs in American music. Simple melodies and casual lyrics show forty-five years later just how important Dylan’s music was to the anti-establishment.

Disc two travels in a different direction than the first, containing a number of previously unreleased songs. A live 1966 rendition of the concert staple “Visions Of Johanna” shows Dylan’s increasing sophistication as a songwriter and performer. Meanwhile, we also have Dylan’s first recorded interpretation of the now well-known track “Quinn the Eskimo,” a huge hit for Manfred Mann. “You’re A Big Girl Now” was left off of Blood On The Tracks and it is interesting to speculate why, as it is classic Dylan of the period.

Likewise, “Abandoned Love,” which was cut from Desire, shows Dylan’s mind during the recording process but never really has the feel of a finished song. A 1966 acoustic live version of “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” shows how a song can change and in many ways evolve when presented live with minimal backing.

The third disc centers on additional unreleased performances. The subtle, introspective “Up To Me,” also from the Blood On The Tracks allows the listener a rare glimpse into the inner workings of Dylan’s mind. “Baby, I’m In The Mood For You” from the Freewheelin’ sessions harks back to the long gone very early Dylan. The live version of “Romance In Durango” shows that Dylan knows how to improvise and work a song.

Biograph draws to a close with classic seventies Dylan: “I Shall Be Released,” “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” “All Along The Watchtower,” “Solid Rock” and “Forever Young” all re-establish the mood of the first songs.

The variety of material contained on Biograph meanders along with twists and turns that find delight at every stop. It is a wonderful look at the legacy and catalogue of an American musical legend.

The Bootleg Series Volume 7: No Direction Home by Bob Dylan

July 27, 2009

And the Bootleg Series goes on and on and on and on………………and on.

No Direction Home: The Soundtrack is the seventh volume of Bob Dylan’s Bootleg Series. Originally begun as a way of releasing rare and never-released archival material, it has reached the point of redundancy and is quickly becoming inconsequential.

The extended title, No Direction Home: The Soundtrack, is misleading as it is not really a soundtrack to the biographical Dylan film of the same name. Rather it provides a jumping off place to explore similar material that was recorded during the same time period.

No Direction Home is a 26 song two-CD set that is filled with live versions of mostly well-known songs (nine), alternate takes of again well-known songs (12), plus a few demos, home recordings and the like. The music is not bad. If you are a hardcore Dylan fan this set may amuse you for awhile. Oddly enough, if you aren’t familiar with Dylan’s material from this era, the live tracks can provide a good introduction.

The best of No Direction Home comes early. “When I Got Troubles” is a home recording made in 1959 by a high school friend. It is primitive and has poor sound quality but is historically important as one of the earliest Dylan recordings in existence. The 1961 live performance of “This Land Is Your Land” is probably the single most outstanding track on the album. Accompanying himself only with an acoustic guitar, Dylan slows the song down and provides a mellow talk-singing performance that is mesmerizing. Following this performance with “Song For Woody” is a worthy double homage to probably the greatest influence on Dylan’s musical life. The home recordings, “Dink’s Song” and “When I Was Young” show how far Dylan’s musical evolution had come in just a couple of years. He has taken traditional folk music and its lyrics as far as they can go and is now striking out on his own; a musical journey that continues today.

The live tracks are fine but there is nothing groundbreaking or even much different here. Do we actually need more performances of “Like A Rolling Stone,” “Blowin’ In The Wind” and “Maggie’s Farm?” These songs have been performed by Dylan thousands of times, and while I enjoy Dylan, I don’t need to hear these same songs yet again.

I have never been a fan of alternate takes. Many times the reason an alternate is unreleased is that it does not measure up to the version originally released. Small differences in such songs as “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Highway 61 Revisited” are just not interesting enough to be included on an album under the proclamation of truly unreleased. Are these takes number four or fourteen? It doesn’t matter. The only alternate take that comes across as essential is the old coffeehouse staple “Sally Gal.” Maybe it’s because I have not thought of or heard this song in a long time but it does hark back to a long-gone simpler time.

The accompanying booklet, which is top notch, is not enough to save this set. Unless you are trying to assemble every recording that Bob Dylan has ever issued, you money would probably be better spent elsewhere.

On and on and on and on………………….and on.

Modern Times by Bob Dylan

April 23, 2009

Bob Dylan released Modern Times on August 29, 2006 and it became his first number one album since 1976’s Desire. At the time, he was the oldest artist to reach the top position on the National charts. Neil Diamond has since surpassed that record.

Dylan borrows heavily from traditional blues tunes of the 1920s and 30s and adapts some interpretations of those songs to his unique style. While he does not credit some of these performances, the folk and blues traditions in the USA are filled with copying and interpretation of songs. Dylan received some criticism for this tactic but people have been copying him for years. The other often forgotten point is that all the songs were in the public domain. However he came to these songs, the updated versions would give the release a sound rooted in Americana by way of a modernization of pre-rock ‘n’ roll blues. The result was an accessible and brilliant release that was one of the best of his career.

“Thunder On The Mountain” is the first track and is a call to the faithful. Whether you interpret the song as revelation or a love song, it just rocks along. The precise phrasing of Dylan’s vocals would set the tone for the rest of the performances.

“Rollin’ and Tumblin’” has appeared under a number of titles throughout its history. Dylan’s version comes closest to that of Muddy Waters although Robert Johnson would provide a raw and sparse version. Other modern interpretations would include Johnny Winter, Cream, and Canned Heat. Dylan strips the lyrics back and adds two new original verses.

“Someday Baby” is based on the old Muddy Waters tune “Trouble No More.” It would win the Grammy Award as the best rock performance of the year and deservedly so.

Dylan takes the old Memphis Minnie blues tune, “When The Levee Breaks” and changes it to “The Levee’s Gonna Break.” He fills in the sound which pushes it toward rock ‘n’ roll and also adds new lyrics which moves it from a natural disaster theme to more apocalyptic in nature.

“Workingman Blues #2” is presented as an easy flowing blues tune. Political, spiritual, and love themes are all mixed together.

“Ain’t Talkin’” is a somber song that borders on depressing yet was a fitting conclusion to the album.

Bob Dylan is now 67 and it remains to be seen how many albums he has left in him.