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 30th Anniversary Concert (Deluxe Edition) by Bob Dylan

April 12, 2014

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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.

 


I Am The Blues by Michael Packer

November 24, 2013

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Michael Packer has been playing his brand of music for close to a half century. His newest album is one of the more unique releases of the year.

I Am The Blues is part spoken word autobiography and part music. He provides a number of very personal recollections of his life’s journey interspersed with musical tracks from different parts of his career. His stories of addiction, various bands, incarceration, love, meeting Bob Dylan, and alcoholism are raw and powerful.

His introduction is a song about his “Uncle Al,” who was a criminal, murderer, and probably a cannibal. Tracks from his early west coast band Papa Nebo are included. He was also a member of Free Beer, which was a band that almost made it. They released albums for the RCA and Buddah labels as well as opening for such acts as Quicksilver Messenger Service, Johnny Rivers, 10cc, and the Atlanta Rhythm Section among others.

The most effective tracks are the album closers “This Train” and “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean.” They are a bluesy celebration of the fact that he has survived his life’s journey but also the resignation of what lies ahead as the years pass.

The only problem is also the album’s greatest strength. It is really a book in album form. While it is mesmerizing the first time you encounter his stories; the question remains as to how often you want to hear them.

Michael Packer has issued one of the most personal albums of the year. He has bared his soul and it is a release worth exploring at least a couple of times.


Mr. Tambourine Man 45 by The Byrds

January 2, 2013

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It has not happened very often that someone has taken a Bob Dylan song and made it their own but such was the case with “Mr. Tambourine Man” by The Byrds.

Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, David Crosby, Chris Hillman, and Michael Clarke took Dylan’s sparse version, which was a part of his BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME album, added electric guitars and tight harmonies to the mix, to create one of the better singles of the era. It was all powered by McGuinn’s 12-string guitar.

Released during the spring of 1965, it reached the number one position on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.

More importantly it helped to establish the folk/rock movement and was the the Byrds first step on their journey to The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.


If Not For You 45 Newton-John

August 19, 2012

Olivia Newton-John was in her early 20s when her cover of the Bob Dylan composition, “If Not For You,” reached number 25 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart during the summer of 1971. Who knew at the time that it would signal the beginning of a career that would be among the most successful of the 1970s and 1980s.

It was a very gentle version of the Dylan tune that bordered on a country sound.

Today she is best remembered by the younger generation for her portrayal of Sandy in the film GREASE, which contines to be a television staple. During her heyday, however, her singles and albums sold tens of millions of copies worldwide.


We Shall Overcome 45 by Joan Baez

June 15, 2012

Joan Baez was one of the seminal figures in the 1960s folk revival movement and for a half century has remained true to her craft. She has remained a social conscience for three generations and counting.

“We Shall Overcome” was originally an African workers protest song from the early 1900s. It has become a standard and traditonal folk song in the United States.

It was also Joan Baez’s first chart single. It appeared on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart on November 9, 1963 at number 90. It then fell off the chart never to return, making it a one week wonder. It didn’t matter as a lot of great Joan Baez music would follow.


Love Is A Four Letter Word 45 by Joan Baez

May 29, 2012

Joan Baez was a key figure in the American folk revival movement of the 1960s. She has also been in the forefront of social causes for the last half-century. While her popularity peak was during the 1960s through the mid-1970s, she continues to record and perform live down to the present day.

“Love Is A Four Letter World” is a Bob Dylan composition that I don’t think has ever been recorded by him.

It is a song that has always been associated with Baez, who first issued it as a single during early 1969. It spent four weeks on the BILBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart and peaked at number 86.

The song has since become an iconic Joan Baez tune. It has appeared on a number of her albums and is still a part of her stage act.


Deeper In The Well by Eric Bibb

April 24, 2012

Eric Bibb comes from an outstanding pedigree. His father, Leon, was a part of the early 1960s folk revival movement in the United States, Paul Robeson was his godfather, and John Lewis of Modern Jazz Quartet fame was his uncle.

He was exposed to music as a child and received his first guitar at the age of seven. He is a traditional folk/blues artist who relies on an acoustic sound. During the course of his long and prolific career, he has released close to three dozen albums and received a number of blues awards.

During the past 40 years, he has recorded for a number of labels but has now signed with the Stony Plain label out of Canada, which specializes in folk, blues, and roots music. If his debut album for the label is any indication, it will be a good match.

Deeper In The Well finds Bibb continuing to explore the folk and blues heritage. As with many traditional blues artists, he is a virtuoso on the guitar, be it a six, seven, or nine-string, plus can also play a mean banjo when required. He is supported by harmonica player Grant Dermody, who plays a prominent part in his sound, upright bass/accordion player Dirk Powell, fiddler Cedric Watson, drummer Danny DeVillier, and Cajun triangle player Christine Balfa.

He is at his best on a couple of traditional folk tracks when he presents “Boll Weevil” and “Sinner Man” in all their raw starkness. He also gives a smooth and precise interpretation of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A Changin.’”

“Bayou Belle” is a modern folk/blues song right out of the southern Delta. It has an ominous style as it spins its tale of love’s longing. Oddly, the title track is the one that moves him farthest from his roots. “Dig A Little Deeper In The Well,” written by deceased Nashville songwriter Roger Bowling, comes close to being a conventional country song, complete with fiddles, banjos, and harmony vocals.

He is also a noted songwriter. Tracks such as “In My Time,” “Music,” “Movin’ Up,” “No Further,” and “Sittin’ In A Hotel Room” all find him fusing folk and blues traditions.

Deeper In The Well is a fine addition to Eric Bibb’s large catalog of releases, as it is a modern interpretation of some old traditions. Bibb remains one of the better practitioners of his chosen style of music.

Article first published as Music Review: Eric Bibb – Deeper In The Well on Blogcritics.


The Lost Notebooks Of Hank Williams by Various Artists

September 17, 2011

Hank Williams, with the possible exception of Jimmie Rodgers (1897-1933), was the most important artist in country music history. His classic songs and vocal phrasing were instrumental in exposing country music to a national audience. While the American country sound has now traveled a great distance since his death January 1, 1953, at the age of 29, the elements of his style and sound can still be found and his influences are very alive and well nearly 60 years later. He was inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame as an Early Influence during 1987.

When Hank Williams died in the backseat of his Cadillac in Oak Hill, West Virginia, while on his way to a concert in Canton, Ohio, it brought to a close one of the more successful and prolific careers of the era.

One of legendary and controversial aspects of his death was his notebooks, which contained ideas and lyrics to unfinished songs. The lost notebooks and their contents have lain dormant for the past 60 years – until now.

The Lost Notebooks Of Hank Williams will be released October 4, 2011. The concept is interesting as it takes these left-behind lyrics and sets them to music, courtesy of some of the leading artists of today. The music varies from average to excellent, as 13 different artists use their own ideas and talents to provide the music for his left behind lyrics.

The original idea was to have this as a Bob Dylan project, but it quickly evolved into a multi-artist affair. Still, one cannot help but wonder what gems would have appeared had Dylan provided all the music. We are left with one track by Dylan. He has gone in a country direction many times in the past and “The Love That Faded” catches him impersonating Williams’ country twang, with the music being fueled by a pedal steel guitar.

The tracks that work the best are those by classic country artists, which seems logical. Hank Williams was always a superb lyricist, and artists like Alan Jackson, Vince Gill, Patty Loveless, and Merle Haggard are able to create music that brings those lyrics to life.

Alan Jackson’s “You’ve Been Lonesome, Too” is one of the albums best tracks. The imagery tell a story of pain, plus the lonesome fiddle and the vocal are right out of the Williams songbook, all of which adds up to a classic country track. Merle Haggard provides the other outstanding highlight. His weary vocal to the religious “Sermon On The Mount” is the just right. The only problem is that the song has a somewhat unfinished feel, which may be due to what was available to Haggard.

Vince Gill and Rodney Crowell join together on “I Hope I Shed A Million Tears.” They make use of a steel guitar to move the song along but their use of singing and spoken word is different from all the other performances. “You’re Through Loving Me” by Patty Loveless was melodic and makes good use of her pure country voice.

Not everything works as well. Sheryl Crow’s “Angel Mine” is too subdued and “How Many Times Have You Broken My Heart” by Norah Jones is too simple. Jack White creates country music but does not deliver a country vocal. The likes of Lucinda Williams, Holly Williams, and Levon Helm cover the middle ground in terms of quality on this album.

As with any project of this nature, it was bound to be a scattered affair due the differences in the artists involved and the material they were given for interpretation and inspiration. In the final analysis, The Lost Notebooks Of Hank Williams gives a long-lost look into the mind of an American musical icon and for that the album is an interesting and, in places, a very good listen.


Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right 45 by Peter, Paul and Mary

June 25, 2011

Mary Travers, Paul Stookey, and Peter Yarrow helped to change the face of folk music during the 1960s. They sold tens of millions of albums and had 20 singles make the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE during the decade.

They were a folk group but were able to fuse a pop sound to their music which moved it into the mainstream and enabled them to to have outstanding commercial success.

“Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” was their second single in a row to cover a Bob Dylan composition. Their recording of his “Blowin’ In The Wind” during the summer of 1963 was a huge hit and brought Dylan fame as a songwriter.

They returned Septemeber 14, 1963 with “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” Their slick hamonies propelled the song to number nine on The American Singles Charts.

While they would continue to issue Bob Dylan tunes as singles, none would make the top 30.