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.