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.