Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tell Tale Signs: the Bootleg Series goes from strength to strength

When I first learned the content of Bootleg Series vol 8 Tell Tale Signs, I was, I’ll admit it, slightly underwhelmed.

Having lived with the release for some weeks, my doubts have long since evaporated. This is a very strong Dylan album indeed. I’d rank it as third strongest of the Bootleg Series volumes – after vols 1-3 (a masterpiece) and vol 4 Live 1966 (another masterpiece).

Let’s hope Columbia/Sony will keep releasing treasures from the vaults for many years. The Bootleg Series just keeps underlining the depth and breadth of Dylan’s peerless art.

Gerry Smith

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hidden riches on your Dylan shelves – encore #1 & #2

>>I’ve … probably missed some gems - please let me know.<<

* Thanks to Martin Cowan:

“Further to your post, check out the notes to Tell Tale Signs by Peter Stone Brown on the Dylan website:

“They read like liner notes but, as we know, Ratso's ramblings adorn TTS. So, not sure what these are but they make interesting reading all the same.”

* And thanks to Simone Brill:

“Not sure many would describe it as ‘riches’, but the ‘deluxe photo book of Bob Dylan singles from around the world’ included in the Tell Tale Signs Exclusive Deluxe Edition probably qualifies for a mention.”

Monday, December 29, 2008

Hidden riches on your Dylan shelves

Becoming acquainted with Tell Tale Signs – the packaging as well as the CDs – reminded me that I routinely overlook hidden riches on the Dylan album shelves.

Quite apart from the high quality recordings, the various album and DVD box set products include well-executed, extensive booklets full of expert discussion of the music, plus beautiful photographs.

I have a high regard for this aspect of Columbia/Sony’s tending of the Dylan legacy.

In case you also tend to overlook these riches, here’s details of what’s under your nose, but largely invisible:

* CDs
Liner notes pp4-41 by Cameron Crowe; About The Songs pp42-62,
Cameron Crowe with Bob Dylan, 64pp, 1985

Bootleg Series vols 1-3
Liner notes by John Bauldie, 72pp, 1991

Bootleg Series vol 4 Live 1966
Liner notes by Tony Glover, 56pp, 1998

Bootleg Series vol 5 Live 1975
Liner notes by Larry ‘Ratso’ Sloman, 56pp, 2002

Bootleg Series vol 6 Live 1964,
Liner notes by Sean Wilentz, 56pp, 2004

Bootleg Series vol 7 No Direction Home: The Soundtrack
Liner notes by Andrew Loog Oldham, Eddie Gorodetsky and
Al Kooper, 60pp, 2005

Bootleg Series vol 8 Tell Tale Signs
Liner notes by Larry ‘Ratso’ Sloman, 64pp, 2008

The Essential Bob Dylan
Liner notes by Patrick Humphries, 12pp, 2001

DYLAN Limited Edition Box Set
Liner notes by Bill Flanagan, 40pp, 2007

* DVDs
Bob Dylan - Don’t Look Back (‘65 Tour De Luxe Edition)
Reprint of 1968 book, by D.A. Pennebaker, 159pp, 2007

The Other Side Of The Mirror:
Bob Dylan Live At The Newport Folk Festival 1963-1965
Liner notes by Tom Piazza, 20pp, 2007

Masked And Anonymous: music from the motion picture
Liner notes by Alan Light, 16pp, 2003

I’ve purposely excluded the Traveling Wilburys box, but probably missed some gems - please let me know.

Gerry Smith

Friday, December 26, 2008

Tell Tale Signs: the verdict – encore #3

Thanks to Jeremy Blackstone:

“Martin Cowan deserves warm thanks for his detailed examination of the three CDs of Tell Tale Signs. While I agree with many of his conclusions, here are some where my views differ:


* Duncan and Brady: “A superb way to kick off the most expensive disc Dylan has ever released!”

Doesn’t work for me at all.

* Most of the Time # 2: “Superfluous.”

One of the best tracks on the three discs!

* Things Have Changed: “the vocal is lacklustre - not a great performance, Dylan sounds on autopilot here.”

A wonderful version.

* Born In Time: “inferior in every way to the superb Under The Red Sky version.”

I prefer this to all other versions.

“So there you go – over the three discs of the Deluxe version of Tell Tale Signs, there are many points of agreement and many disagreements between Martin and me.

“Does this indicate Dylan has just delivered another richly layered masterpiece? I suspect the answer’s ‘yes’.”

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Seasonal greetings!

Seasonal greetings to you and yours, dear reader.

Whether you’re celebrating the birth of Christ, the winter solstice, or just a well-earned break from everyday toil, it’s time to slow down, be kind to yourself and reflect.

No blog here tomorrow, 25 Dec, but the site will be back to normal on Friday, 26 December. I hope you’ll be calling in!

Gerry Smith

Tell Tale Signs: the verdict – encore #2

Thanks to Jeremy Blackstone:

“Martin Cowan deserves warm thanks for his detailed examination of the three CDs of Tell Tale Signs. While I agree with many of his conclusions, here are some where my views differ:


* Series of Dreams – ‘in every way inferior to the previous Bootleg Series version’. Not to me; an interesting new take which underlines the song’s majesty.

* The Lonesome River – ‘A nice recording, with Dylan on fine form vocally’. I think Martin is slightly ungenerous here: musically this is the pick of the crop. The exquisite harmonies with Ralph Stanley contradict the Dylan-can’t-sing bores.

* Cross The Green Mountain – ‘late-period Dylan gem… - emotional, a cinematic tour de force. Superb.’ I like this one, but to me it falls short of epic status.

“More disagreements - about songs on CD3 - to follow.”

… to be continued…

Monday, December 22, 2008

Tell Tale Signs: the verdict - encore

Thanks to Jeremy Blackstone:

“Martin Cowan deserves warm thanks for his detailed examination of the three CDs of Tell Tale Signs. While I agree with many of his conclusions, here are some where my views are the exact opposite – I think Martin gets it wrong in each case:

* Dignity - slight, Dylan-by-numbers song.

* Everything is Broken - a slight song in Dylan's canon.

Both, especially Dignity, sound like important, high quality songs to me.

* Huck's Tune - One of the gems of this set, this song packs a huge emotional punch in the way the wistful lyrics, the folky tune and Dylan's heartfelt vocals all come together.

* 32-20 Blues - great outtake from World Gone Wrong.

Both sound overrated to me – under-written, slight.

“More disagreements about songs on CD2 and CD3 to follow.”

Friday, December 19, 2008

Tell Tale Signs: the verdict – CD3

Thanks to Martin Cowan:


1) Duncan and Brady
A stonking cover from the Bromberg sessions - has much of the gut-bucket flavour of Under The Red Sky. Loose as a goose vocal from Dylan, great smears of guitar, great fun, fantastic. A superb way to kick off the most expensive disc Dylan has ever released!

2) Cold Irons Bound
A great live version of this Time Out Of Mind classic - Dylan is fully focussed as he attacks the vocals, and the backing from his band swirls and soars like a great rattling stagecoach - fantastic.

3) Mississippi # 3
A dreadful reggae lilt adorns this, the weakest version of this song collected here. Lyrically all over the place, Dylan has yet to focus his late great narrative. One for completists only.

4) Most of the Time # 2
Rather like the version of Series of Dreams over on CD 2, this sounds to me like exactly the same vocal as the released Oh Mercy version. The phrasing and intonation is identical - the only difference is a couple of lyric changes, which were obviously "dropped in" prior to the release of Oh Mercy. In fact, listening again to this, it sounds like the new words are actually "dropped in" to this version. Superfluous.

5) Ring Them Bells # 2
A longer intro, less cluttered, naked vocal from Dylan - this kicks off starting like a superb alternate take. However, we've been had. While the first verse is clearly a different version, the rest of the song is the same vocal track as the officially released Oh Mercy version. Shame.

6) Things Have Changed
I've never been as much of a fan of this song as Dylan obviously is and this version is a case in point. The backing from the band is great, but the vocal is lacklustre - not a great performance, Dylan sounds on autopilot here.

7) Red River Shore # 2
Another version of this masterpiece, more muted than that which appears earlier on CD1. Dylan sounds like he's maybe sung it one time too many, and the arrangement is not as sympathetic as the earlier version.

8) Born In Time
Another Lanois stab at this tune, long available to collectors and inferior in every way to the superb Under The Red Sky version.

9) Trying To Get To Heaven
This is one to get my pulse racing as Dylan does that which he is often accused of - completely reworks a song's melody so it becomes another song. This is Dylan as Sinatra, a lounge version of the Time Out Of Mind masterpiece. Committed vocal, superbly realised alternate tune, he's done to this what he did to I Want You and Tangled Up In Blue during the 1978 tour - magical and heartbreaking.

10) Marchin’ to the City # 2
Kicks off with some Rainy Day Women drums, and bounces along to an organ-driven back beat; not as good as the version that graces CD 1 but intriguing none the less.

11) Can't Wait # 2
Spooky organ intro, spooky Dylan vocal. Mesmerising, this meanders along in mysterious and moving ways. Dylan as supreme blues singer, just great.

12) Mary and the Soldier
Another fantastic and touching performance from the sessions that spawned the superb World Gone Wrong album. Flawless.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tell Tale Signs: the verdict – CD2

Thanks to Martin Cowan:


1) Mississippi # 2
Again, lyrically intact, but the arrangement is all over the place here. Dylan seems to be singing in a key which doesn't suit his voice - way too low - this version of what is probably Dylan's last great masterpiece makes you realise why he didn't release it on Time Out Of Mind.

2) 32-20 Blues
A great outtake from World Gone Wrong. Nice to have this at last.

3) Series of Dreams
This is where the pickings start to get slightly slim. This is in every way inferior to the previous Bootleg Series version. In fact, the vocal take sounds to me exactly the same as the Bootleg version (I don't believe Dylan would be able to sing a song the same way twice even if he wanted to.) The only thing this includes is a second verse which was obviously excised from the previously released version.

4) God Knows
As with Born In Time, this is Lanois' version of what became a vastly superior song in the hands of the Was brothers on the criminally underrated Under The Red Sky LP. Forgettable.

5) Can't Escape From You
This kicks off like Can't Help Falling In Love - Dylan growls and croaks in his best Tom Waits fashion, and the lilting melody recalls the folky nature of Huck's Tune. My only reservation about this is that is that he does sound in trouble vocally and there is perhaps one too many verses. But overall, an interesting selection.

6) Dignity
Dreadful rockabilly version of this Dylan-by-numbers song. Horrible rubbery sounding bass, with Dylan sounding like he couldn't care less - a clunker.

7) Ring Them Bells
Dylan's 1992 Supper Club shows have gone down in folklore, especially as the shows were billed as Dylan unplugged (before he recorded his contribution to that franchise) and were allegedly filmed. It was widely hoped that an audio/visual release for these shows would make up a future Bootleg Series release. The fact that this heartfelt version of this song appears here would seem to suggest that this is all we are going to get. Dylan is vocally committed and this performance highlights Bucky Baxter's sympathetic steel guitar. Lovely.

8) Cocaine Blues
A similar version to this has been previously released on the Love Sick CD singles, and this version adds nothing.

9) Ain't Talkin’
Very similar in pace to the Modern Times version, though this has a rockier edge - in fact, the backing track sounds very similar to What Was It You Wanted. Not sure that this adds much to the previously released version.

10) The Girl On the Green Briar Shore
A nice live version. Remember when Dylan would play acoustic guitar on his own? This is a reminder of those days.

11) Lonesome Day Blues
This sounds like a field recording - somewhat tinny - and collectors have already got this version as it used to be available as part of the now sadly defunct performances section of the official Dylan website. That said this is a smoking version of the “Love And Theft” song, with Dylan attacking the vocals and the soaring guitars kicking up a right old racket behind him.

12) Miss the Mississippi
More sessions that have gone down in folklore, those recorded by Dylan with Dave Bromberg in 1992 - before he released Good As I Been To You. This has been available to collectors for some years but is a very good song - nice production and superb singing from Dylan. Not sure where this leaves us for the rest of the Bromberg sessions ever being officially released.

13) The Lonesome River
A nice recording, with Dylan on fine form vocally. However, this has been previously released on a Ralph Stanley album.

14) Cross The Green Mountain
Another late-period Dylan gem. Stirring lyrics, sympathetic arrangement, and a superb vocal performance from Dylan. This song exudes the American Civil War from its every pore - emotional, a cinematic tour de force. Superb.

… to be continued…

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tell Tale Signs: the verdict – CD1

Thanks to Martin Cowan:

I thought now the dust had settled it would be a good time to take a look in detail at the latest volume of Dylan's Bootleg Series.

Having had the opportunity to live with this CD set for the last few months, it seems to me that Sony have wanted their cake and to eat it too. I believe that pickings are too thin to spread across three discs and while there are some gems on Disc 3, it is disgraceful that Sony saw fit to charge such an inflated sum for the 3 disc version.

My view is that there is a cracking 2 disc set here and one can only speculate on what further gems still remain in the archives. If anything, what this set suffers from is uncertainty about what it is.

Is it a collection of unreleased songs? Is it a set of "never ending tour" live versions? Is it a set of "never released before on a Dylan album" songs? Well, some of all these, and that could be the problem.

Funny also that the cover photo recycles an image previously in the deluxe version of Modern Times!


1) Mississippi #1

The pick of the versions of this song. The lyrics are in place (as heard on the later Love and Theft) but the simplicity of the twin guitar arrangement suits the song perfectly. An intimate vocal which shows how poorly served Dylan was by Lanois' production of his voice on Oh Mercy and Time Out Of Mind. Superb.

2) Most of the Time # 1

Possibly the most radical thing here, Dylan sounds fresh out of the 70s, with heartbreaking harmonica to match. Again, the intimate vocal is superb and it is remarkable to hear this song in an acoustic setting.

3) Dignity

Again, the best version of this admittedly slight, Dylan-by-numbers song. This version gains immensely from the intimate vocal (he sounds like he's in the room with you!) and the solo piano accompaniment.

4) Someday Baby

Hypnotic, with Dylan's older than God vocals. The melody line is flattened to the point of being one note throughout, but as this has a more up to date backing, it hides its origins as Muddy Waters' Trouble No More - the Modern Times version was too much of a straight lift for my liking.

5) Red River Shore # 1

One of the gems of this collection, this is classic Dylan. Again, the vocal is intimate and demonstrates that rumours of the demise of his voice are greatly exaggerated. The arrangement of the songs builds as it progresses and it is hard to find any fault with this at all. It reminds me of Angelina, and again you have to wonder how this didn't find its way onto Time Out Of Mind.

6) Tell Ol Bill

Marvellously out of kilter piano, and a fine, understated vocal. Again, this is an improvement on the previously released version of this song. Lyrically, this is one of the more interesting songs on this collection as it eschews Dylan's recent habit of recycling old blues lyrics.

7) Born In Time

Here is the Under The Red Sky gem dressed up in its Lanois shimmer. Not as good as the previously released version as it has none of that performance's light and shade.

8) Can't Wait

Another of this set's gems, we hear Dylan suggesting they "do it in B flat" before a Dirge-like piano signals the opening of the song. Again, a superb vocal performance from Dylan, naked without Lanois' studio trickery, and a song that makes more sense lyrically than the released version.

9) Everything is Broken

There's not much to recommend the inclusion of this - a slight song in Dylan's canon in any case. The lyrics are not as polished as the Oh Mercy version and much of the backing track sounds the same as the previously released version. Very much a work in progress.

10) Dreamin of You

This kicks off with a snap of snare and a hypnotic piano figure, before Dylan's upfront vocal launches into what clearly sounds like a dry run for the (inferior) Standing In The Doorway which saw the light of day on Time Out Of Mind. This version is head and shoulders above that - Dylan in total control vocally, some fantastic lyrics, and a great production. Superb.

11) Huck's Tune

This sounds like an old folk song - a beautiful melody, a sensitive arrangement, and Dylan's superbly cracked vocals. One of the gems of this set, this song packs a huge emotional punch in the way the wistful lyrics, the folky tune and Dylan's heartfelt vocals all come together.

12) Marchin to the City

Another highlight, this is an early version of Til I Fell In Love With You but is greatly superior to the TOOM version. Shorn of Lanois' production, the vocal is vintage Dylan - up close and in your face - and kicks off like a song from Saved. The lyrics are mysterious and magical and vastly superior to the rather ordinary cliche-ridden Til I Fell In Love With You. Another of Dylan's "why on earth didn't he release this?" moments.

13) High Water

A smoking live version of this “Love And Theft” tune. It takes Dylan a few lines to get going, but once he is warmed up he attacks the lyrics with gusto. A showcase for his live band, 2003 vintage, Dylan leans into the vocals and whoops and hollers in the finest way possible.

… to be continued…

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hollywood Foto-Rhetoric: a nice addition to the Christmas stocking

Thanks to Tricia J:

“I chanced on Hollywood Foto-Rhetoric: The Lost Manuscript, by Dylan and Barry Feinstein recently at my local bookstore and was very
pleased with it, especially since it was a spur-of-the-moment purchase.

“The photographs are excellent and the accompanying words by Dylan work in sometimes unexpected ways. A quirky, poetic treat for anyone with a taste for black and white photography and the grungy underbelly of LaLaLand.

“Would be a nice addition to the Christmas stocking!”

Monday, December 15, 2008

Drawn Blank: delightful new set of collectable postcards now available from Woking gallery

If you couldn’t afford the £50-100,000 for an original painting from Dylan’s Drawn Blank series, you could have settled for a signed, limited edition print, at a mere £1,000-2,000.

If that’s also too expensive, there’s always the pair of catalogues from the London and Chemnitz shows, and the smaller UK booklet. But if the superb £30-40 coffee table catalogues and the £10 booklet are still too pricey for your pocket, then how about £4.50 (plus postage) for a set of 12 collectable postcards - now available from the The Lightbox gallery in Woking, Surrey?

Packaged in a card wallet, the new postcard set (published by London’s Halcyon Gallery) has faithful reproductions of 12 of the images in the Drawn Blank show, notably Train Tracks, Woman In Red Lion Pub and Man On A Bridge.

They’re beautiful, delightful little artefacts: you will simply not want to send them in the mail as postcards.

The postcard set is available from The Lightbox shop, at £4.50 per set, plus £1.50 post and packaging (UK). They’re taking telephone orders - tel: +44 (0)1483 737800.

If you haven’t yet seen Drawn Blank, and can get to Woking - it's near London - I’d recommend you pick up a set at the gallery - The Lightbox has extended Bob Dylan: The Drawn Blank Series exhibition until January 11 – not 6 Jan as originally advertised. Entry is £1.50 and a fully illustrated guide accompanies the exhibition of paintings.

Gerry Smith

Friday, December 12, 2008

Big screens at Bob Dylan’s London O2 show next April: “slim chance”

Thanks to Matthew Zuckerman:

"But if the big screens aren¹t used the Dylan show could be embarrassingly poor."

The chances of Dylan allowing screens to be used at the London O2 gig are slim. How slim? Well, he has insisted that the screens be turned off at just about every festival he has played over the years, so it would be a big turnaround. (Mind you, he did allow cameras at Woodstock 2, and how many of us would have bet their mortgages -- even in the present economic climate -- against the possibility of Bob writing his memoirs, hosting a radio show or advertising ladies underwear . . . right up until the moment when he did it?)

This may be annoying for those in distant seats, particularly if Bob stays behind his keyboard all evening, as he has done most of the time in recent years, but that's the way he works.

That's what he's doing on stage, working, and like every successful worker, he takes the opportunity to arrange his working conditions the way he likes them. And the way he likes them is to have everything conducive to his being able to put maximum concentration into his performance.

This means:

1) No cameras flashing in his eyes [There are countless mobile phones
pointed at him, to be sure, but they don't flash -- at least, not with the strength of a professional photographer's camera -- and they are far enough away to be ignored]

2) No cameramen dressed in black creeping around his stage on the periphery of his vision, cameras Quasimodo-like on their shoulders [I hear that he likes as few people as possible around the stage, and even insisted that the likes of Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard cleared the backstage area when he was touring with them a few years ago]

3) No distracting chatter with the audience [Just one 'thank you' and the names of the band members, plus a smattering of words every dozen or so concerts if there's something he really wants to say -- eg on election night]

4) No eye contact with the audience [This is, I would guess, one of the reasons he likes to stay behind the keyboard, on the side of the stage and angled away from the audience. A few times a concert he might come to centre stage or look out at us, but he can choose the times and curtail them whenever he wants]

Now if you are stuck at the back of Earl's Court, the NEC or the O2 arena, the gig will be a whole lot less affecting than if you were lucky enough to get a seat up front, but that's the way the man works.

Would it be better if he played smaller venues and left the arenas to the Rolling Stones, U2 and -- since he is at ease with the cameras and with reaching out to large crowds -- Leonard Cohen? As long as you can get a ticket it would be, but if Dylan stopped playing arenas, ticket demand would be fierce and many would be left with nothing at all. (He can hardly double the number of shows to compensate!)

I have seen Dylan at Portsmouth Guildhall and the Urawa Bunka Centre just outside Tokyo, both small halls, as well as his residency at the Brixton Academy, and the performances have been wonderful. But no more wonderful than his 2005 performance at the cavernous NEC in Birmingham, possibly the finest of the 50 or so shows I have witnessed.

P.S. I know I am a bit of a Luddite (I prefer vinyl to digital and shellac to vinyl, for example), but when I saw the Rolling Stones at Tokyo Stadium in 1994 I had an excellent seat about 10 rows from the front, and yet still found myself drawn to watch the giant close-ups of the screens. The result? It might have been a great cinematic show, but it was not the kind of 'live' performance that I would expect from a Dylan concert. In order to achieve a standardized attractive appearance, supermarket produce often sacrifices the true flavour of the fruit and we are frequently in danger of doing the same with music. If you're looking at a screen, something in your mind tells you that this is cinema or a TV programme, and you become less present in the moment. Enjoy being in the same room as Bob, even if you are at the back of the room.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

London O2 gig: spectacular or potential embarrassment

The 25 April 2009 London O2 gig could be a spectacular - if the sound quality and big screens are as good as they were for the recent Leonard Cohen shows.

But if the big screens aren’t used the Dylan show could be embarrassingly poor. My seats at the back of the top deck of the 20,000-seater hall were perfect for Lenny. But if the Dylan show fails to use big screens, the musicians on stage will be virtually invisible. I’ll be very disappointed.

Several Dylan Daily readers share my worries:

* Martin Cowan: “It will be interesting to see how Dylan compares to Cohen at the O2 and I for one will be very surprised if Dylan agrees to the big screens - knowing his phobia for cameras etc.

“Can't help but feel his music would be better served by the smaller more intimate venues. Brixton Academy in 1995 springs to my mind.”

* Gordon Macniven: “Having ended up with what seem to be crap seats for the O2 I'd be very interested in relieving anyone of better or unwanted seats!

“Do you, or any of your readers know:

How many concerts Bob has performed over the years?

In how many countries he has performed?

In how many cities? and

In how many different venues?

* Cornelia Grolsch: “I wish you a pleasant evening in London O2 Arena. Isn't that the ancient Millenium Dome? (Yes it is – Gerry Smith.) I saw Leonard Cohen too, in October in Berlin O2 World, huge new arena with 15.000 visitors. I was a bit afraid of this arena, but it was really the best concert I ever visited.

“Very good sound (at least in front of the stage) and the huge screens let us forget all around :-).

“Unfortunately, Bob Dylan plays in another arena in Berlin, Max-Schmelinghalle, same place as 2007, with not such a good sound. But because the hall is nearly sold out, maybe they can change to O2 World? And maybe Bobby learnt something from Lenny? Lenny was so nice to the audience...”

Gerry Smith

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bob Dylan - The Songs He Didn't Write: strongly recommended

Thanks to Johanna Moore:

”Regarding the Dylan books that you mention, I can strongly recommend Bob Dylan - The Songs He Didn't Write.

“Yes, it's a kind of encyclopaedia that you could dip into for facts, but still it is very readable for those who, like me, want to read it straight through.

“Sure, I was sceptical at first, thought maybe I'd better read another book about Dylan than one about a bunch of other people's songs, but of course those songs are the basis of Dylan's work and he has been inspired by them from his youth and throughout his career.

“Oftentimes when played in concert, the cover songs were treated with more care and respect than his own songs and most of the time turned out beautifully.

“Anyone with any interest in Dylan's musical background and also anyone interested in more information about many of the songs played on Theme Time Radio Hour should certainly read this book.

“There are a couple of (mostly very minor) errors, but to be fair to the author, with a book so full of facts, this is bound to happen. Generally, it's very well written and researched.”

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

New Dylan books – your impressions?

The printing presses keep rolling and the Dylan bookshelves groan ever more loudly.

Recent/forthcoming titles I’m keen to get my hands on include:

* I Was So Much Older Then

* The Songs He Didn’t Write, from ISIS/Chrome Dreams

* Series Of Dreams, by John Burns

* Hollywood Foto-Rhetoric - Dylan writing, Feinstein photographs

* Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan, due Jan 09

* The Political Art of Bob Dylan, due in pbk Feb 09

Has any Dylan Daily reader bought/seen any of these? Your impressions will be gratefully received/published.

Gerry Smith

Dylan’s weakest song #11: Huck’s Tune

Much as I’m into Tell Tale Signs, and learning to regard some of the tracks – most notably Red River Shore - as Bob epics, it does have the odd weak song.

Huck’s Tune, in particular, is destined for my list of weak Dylan compositions. It has one of the hallmarks of uninspired lyric writing – the first time you hear the song, you can finish some lines after hearing the first few words. And some lyrics seem to be used merely because they rhyme, not because they add meaning.

Such shortcomings are untypical of Dylan’s lyrics; they’re certainly absent from masterpieces like Red River Shore.

Gerry Smith

Friday, December 05, 2008

London O2 arena could be a top Bob show: UK tour dates

Dates have just been announced for Dylan’s spring 2009 UK tour:

Fri 24 Apr Sheffield Arena

Sat 25 Apr O2 Arena, London

Tue 28 Apr Cardiff International Arena

Wed 29 Apr National Indoor Arena, Birmingham

Fri 1 May Liverpool Echo Arena

Sat 2 May SECC & Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow

When I first saw the venues, I groaned out loud. Arenas? Anyone who loves music just loathes arenas, don’t they? Sheffield Arena is my idea of Gig Hell.

Then I remembered seeing Leonard Cohen at the O2 Arena this summer – one of the best gigs of my life (article for, below). So I’ve booked cheap seats at the back of the arena, in the gods. They were great seats for the Leonard show.

Dylan’s management/the venue will need to replicate the sound quality and the big screens which turned the Cohen gig into such an intimate show, despite the other 20,000 people in the room. Or it will seem like an awfully big space; even strong binoculars will be rather pointless.

But if they get it right, London O2 Arena in April 2009 could be a top Bob show.

Gerry Smith



London’s O2: a grown-up music venue

Don’t get me started about arena gigs. I f**king hate ‘em.

Rubbish sound. Nasty buildings. Crap sightlines. Muck served as food and drink, poor access, overpriced parking… . They make me feel like a conforming ant, a ripped-off consumer who’s lost all self-respect, just by being there.

Arenas are appalling places: you couldn’t design a worse environment for enjoying music for grown-ups if you tried.

So, after being repeatedly alienated by the worst concert-going experiences on offer in England – Wembley Arena, Newcastle Arena, London Arena (now closed), NEC, Sheffield Hallam Arena et al – I decided some years ago that enough was enough, regardless of who was playing.

Even if it was the Second Coming, they’d have to manage without me.

Then Leonard Cohen announced his tour, but bizarrely decided to waste four nights in far-flung Manchester, limiting his performances in English England to the O2 Arena (aka the Millennium Dome/New Labour’s Folly).

Simple choice: keep avoiding arenas or get to see the great Leonard Cohen for the first, maybe the last, time.

So I booked the O2 - very reluctantly, baulking at the inflated ticket price. And I had very mixed feelings as the gig got nearer, even on the Tube approaching the venue.

My mood lightened immediately on alighting at North Greenwich station. Impressive, I conceded: looks great, works… . The mood was maintained on the short walk to the venue – a quality environment, vision, design, investment… .

And inside the O2 perimeter it was just as good – an exciting, well-specified building, housing a wide range of high quality food outlets, relaxed atmosphere, loads of helpful staff.

Agreeably surprised, but still harbouring doubts, I entered the arena and found my seat. Very, very high, but not vertigo-inducing, as I’d feared.

Hmmm! Amphitheatre beautifully designed: there were 20,000 people in, but in didn’t feel like it. Access clear and easy, seating comfortable, sight lines perfect, though the stage was miles away.

Then the acid test: the gig itself.

The show was outstanding – a great setlist and Cohen performance helped, but it was outstanding technically, too: crystal clear sound, probably the best I’ve heard outside a village hall; three enormous video screens, filled all night with broadcast-quality pictures; and beautiful lighting.

A mighty gig – in an arena: I was mightily surprised. The show was obviously a Leonard organisation production. But the point is – the O2 Arena accommodated it, comfortably.

London’s O2 is a wonderful grown-up music venue. If you ever see a bum gig there, blame the artist’s management, not the venue.

I’ll be going again.

Gerry Smith

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Dylan: seventh greatest singer of all time - Rolling Stone says so

The new issue (1066, 27 Nov) of the redesigned Rolling Stone has a mid-‘60s Dylan photo on its cover (he’s one of four different collectors’ covers) announcing its Special Issue – The 100 Greatest Singers Of All Time.

Dylan manages seventh place in the top 100, which was compiled by polling a couple of hundred celebs/music bizzers. I didn’t bother reading any of the short articles on the “great singers” (Dylan’s praises are sung by Bono), but the issue is a lovely addition to the collection of Dylan cover issues.

Surprisingly, there’s no place in the top 100 for tenors like Pavarotti, sopranos like Callas or lounge greats like Sinatra and Ella. Rolling Stone must have run out of space to insert the qualifying adjectives “Baby Boomer-plus rockpop” between “Greatest” and “Singers Of All Time”. Without them, the title of the otherwise admirable 40-page feature is laughable.

Gerry Smith

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Johnny Moynihan, the Troubador and The Life and Music of Bob Dylan

Thanks to John Egan:

“I was looking at blogs on Johnny Moynihan, one of which mentioned Johnny meeting Dylan at the Troubadour and this was linked to The Daily Dylan.

“I just wanted to say that Johnny spends some of his time visiting friends who live next door to me in Ennistymon in west Clare.

“In a previous lifetime, in 1983, I think, I represented RTE in BBC TV's "International Mastermind" where I took as my specialist subject "The Life and Music of Bob Dylan"!

“I'm listening now to Radio 2's Dylan's freezing winter programme.”

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Red River Shore – best song on Tell Tale Signs?

Of the dozen or so songs on Tell Tale Signs which were new to me, Red River Shore has had the biggest impact so far. Some of the new stuff, notably Huck’s Tune, is slight, but Red River Shore’s Dylan-ish gravitas demands microscopic scrutiny.

Dylan poetry blogger Larry Epstein agrees:

“Your readers might be interested in the latest post on The Dylan Watch. It's an interpretation of "Red River Shore.”

Gerry Smith

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Basement Tapes - Bootleg Series vol 9 #2

Thanks to Andrew Kelly:

"Any chance of a complete, well-annotated set of the Basement Tapes (the recordings from the period from the "bike crash" to the JWH sessions in Nashville) as Bootleg Series vol 9?

“The 1975 release under this title was inadequate, and what has since appeared officially has been tantalisingly piecemeal and scattered across several anthologies.”

Friday, November 28, 2008

Dylan in London, 1962/63

If you missed Bob’s Big Freeze, Tuesday’s one-hour Radio 2 documentary on Dylan in London in 1962/63, you can still catch it online - until next Tuesday, 2 Dec (2230 GMT).

It’s a richly detailed account of Dylan’s first trip outside North America. Martin Carthy claims the trip was vital in Dylan’s development as a writer, exposing him to sources which inspired some of the big early anthems like Spanish Boots, Girl From The North Country and Bob Dylan’s Dream. The first masterpiece LP, Freewheelin’, followed in mid-1963.

Strengths? Apart from the evocative music clips, it’s a well-researched feature - as you’d expect from a co-production by long-time Dylan scribe Patrick Humphries. The number and variety of eye witness accounts is impressive.

And don’t be put off by the extraneous noises in the first few minutes of the playback – Nigel Ogden on the organ, and a trail for another Radio 2 show.

Bob’s Big Freeze: recommended.

Gerry Smith

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Bootleg Series vol 9: your suggestions

Thanks to Gerald Bamford:

“Which unreleased songs or takes of Bob's should be part of a future Bootleg Series? I would certainly recommend an outtake from Under The Red Sky - 'TV Talking Song' - which fairly rocks along and should have been included somewhere on Tell Tale Signs

“I learn from Michael O'Shea (via John Baldwin) that the French edition of Rolling Stone has an 8-page Bob feature including an article on a fantasy Bootleg Series vol. 9 by Frédéric Lecomte, which picks out 25 unreleased items.”

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dylan’s weakest song #10

Thanks to Peter Mackie:

“For those who think Sad-Eyed Lady is one of his strongest and most evocative songs, there is a treat on YouTube in the form of what seems to be the hotel rehearsal.

“I am in the Martin Carthy camp - from ‘62 to ’83, the quality control for such a prolific writer was outstanding. There are slight songs (I shall be free, Pill Box Hat), there are songs of their time (With God on our Side was pretty powerful in 1963, how does it feel now?), there are songs which have improved with age (Boots of Spanish Leather, Where are You Tonight?) but precious few weak songs.

“I think side three of Blonde on Blonde, with the exception of Absolutely Sweet Marie, dips below the standards of the holy trilogy. But that just goes to show how stellar those standards are.”

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Jerry Schatzberg catalogue: a handsome must-have for collectors - Dylan Bookshelf #140

Proud Central hasn’t produced a new catalogue for its exhibition of Jerry Schatzberg’s Blonde On Blonde-era Dylan photographs now showing at its gallery near Charing Cross station.

But it is selling the next best thing: Bob Dylan par Jerry Schatzberg is a catalogue produced for very similar Paris shows at Galerie Dina Vierny and Galerie Luc Bellier in 2006.

Its 46 images, a pretty accurate record of the current London show, are prefaced by a four page introduction (in English and French) by the photographer – The Dylan I Knew.

Proud is retailing the handsome 79pp catalogue for £15. It’s a beautifully produced artefact and a must-have for Dylan collectors.

Bob Dylan par Jerry Schatzberg is the 140th book added to my groaning Dylan bookshelf.

Gerry Smith

Magnificent new London show of Blonde On Blonde-era photographs

Jerry Schatzberg’s Blonde On Blonde-era Dylan photographs are now showing in a new London exhibition at Proud Central gallery, near Charing Cross station.

If you’re in London in the next couple of months, make time for this magnificent exhibition. The gallery is showing about 50 pieces – the familiar Blonde On Blonde cover shoot, including THAT portrait, plus many pics you probably won’t have seen before – several were new to me, at least.

The signed limited editions silver gelatin prints are on sale at prices ranging from £900 to an eye-watering £16,350 (plus VAT).

The show is popular. When I called in on Saturday afternoon, the second day of the two-month run, there were about ten other Dylanistas circulating, in awe. The small gallery is playing Bob songs on shuffle so you can easily spend an hour there.

Thin Wild Mercury: Photographs Of Bob Dylan by Jerry Schatzberg, runs at Proud Central, John Adam Street London WC2 (just behind Charing Cross station) from 21 Nov to 25 January.

Gerry Smith

Friday, November 21, 2008

Tell Tale Signs CD 3 - now online - legally

Thanks to Martin Cowan:

“Just wanted to let readers know that visitors to the official Bob Dylan site can now listen to songs from the man's vast canon in full (with a nifty rotating record graphic) and - most exciting of all - listening pleasure extends to the elusive 3rd Disc of latest release Tell Tale Signs!”

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Joey: Dylan’s weakest song #9

Thanks to Liam Mogan:

“I think the issue of Dylan's worst song is a difficult one. So often the performance and production can make a good song seem bad and vice versa.

“Andrew Kelly's point about the lack of originality of thought and expression on Dylan's born-again songs is a moot one. But Slow Train Coming and many of the concerts from that era feature some of Dylan's most impassioned performances, which often transcend the actual ideas in the song. Paul Williams has a lot to say on this type of thing - ie you don't have to buy the ideas to be blown away by the performance.

“Similarly, the mid-eighties output, especially, suffer from some of the most unflattering production imaginable. (Empire Burlesque anyone?) There are still some fantastic songs from that time though.

“Personally, I have a real issue with 'Joey'. Not only does it glamorise a highly dubious individual, it prattles on for ages, with its dumb phrases. 'King of the streets?'. Do me a favour - you only have to type 'Joey Gallo' into Google to see that he wasn’t. I don't mind songs about criminals/gangsters per se, only rubbish syrupy/sentimental ones.”

Bob’s Big Freeze: Dylan’s first London trip

Thanks to Gerald Bamford:

“Check this out: (from John Baldwin) - Bob on UK Radio: ‘On 25 November at 10.30 p.m., BBC Radio 2 will be airing a one-hour programme about Dylan's first visit to Britain in December 1962 and January 1963. Entitled Bob's Big Freeze, it will cover his appearances in London folk clubs and the recording of the Dick Farina and Eric Von Schmidt album at Dobell's, as well as the Madhouse On Castle Street television play.’

“Worst songs indeed! - curmudgeonly lot of critics - not a soul replied to my call to list songs Bob has never sung live - now that would be more positive.”

And thanks to Nigel Boddy:

“Just to let you know that there is a programme on BBC Radio 2, next Tuesday 25th November 2008 at 10.30pm called Bob's Big Freeze. It's about Bob's first trip to London during the winter of 1962/63! There is a small 1/4 page article in next week's Radio Times (22-28 Nov. 2008) (by writer/presenter) Patrick Humphries."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ballad in Plain D: Dylan’s weakest song #8

Thanks to Matthew Zuckerman:

It's only an opinion, but when one's own choice of weakest Dylan song is shared by the man himself and Martin Carthy -- arguably the best judge of song in the country -- it is probably at least worth repeating.

“Here's an extract (quoted from memory since I'm redecorating my house and all the books are in storage -- it's reprinted in the first Isis collection) from an interview I did with Carthy a few years ago for Isis:


Carthy: He's only written one rotten song...

MZ: Let me guess... Ballad in Plain D.

MC: Right. It's a dreadful song.

MZ: He thinks so himself and singled it out in an interview with Bill

MC: So I gather. He wanted to get revenge. "I'm gonna get you?" he said to himself, and he missed by a fucking mile. But one dog out of 500 is pretty good.


Some have affection for this song, due I imagine to the delicate tune and sensitive performance, but just look at the callow writing, the kind usually associated with teenage angst and poems scrawled in school notebooks:

Myself, for what I did, I cannot be excused,
The changes I was going through can't even be used,
For the lies that I told her in hopes not to lose
The could-be dream-lover of my lifetime.

That's bad enough -- from the cod-mature "Myself for what I did" to the muddy excuse to jaw-clenchingly bad "could-be dream-lover of my lifetime" -- but it is nothing to the excruciating following two verses:

With unknown consciousness, I possessed in my grip
A magnificent mantelpiece, though its heart being chipped,
Noticing not that I'd already slipped
To a sin of love's false security.

From silhouetted anger to manufactured peace,
Answers of emptiness, voice vacancies,
Till the tombstones of damage read me no questions but, "Please,
What's wrong and what's exactly the matter?"

Around the same time, Dylan was kicking the English language into a
fantastically flexible instrument (wild cathedral evening, for example -- what an amazing leap to use cathedral as an adjective), but his own post-adolescent rage blinded him to its beauty in this case.

Even the penultimate verse, which reaches for the recognition of shared pain that he achieves at the end of Idiot Wind is scuppered by such wooden language as "fully aware" -- not to mention the risible "room it is wet". Close the window, you drip.

Having said all that, it is an enchanting tune, a fine performance, and a pretty good first line.

All lyrics quoted are used for the purpose of criticism or review.
Ballad In Plain D, by Bob Dylan, Copyright © 1964 by Warner Bros Inc; renewed 1992 by Special Rider Music.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Dylan’s weakest song #7

Thanks to Gordon Macniven:

“Sorry to be an anorak on the subject of Dylan's worst songs (which, despite his vast output, I would estimate are no more than about 10%) but surely those on the abysmal Down in the Groove would almost all count!?”

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dylan’s weakest song #6

Thanks to Andrew Kelly:

“I'm surprised nobody has mentioned them as yet, but surely the songs on Slow Train and Saved have to be up there somewhere?

“They are simply a bunch of received ideas. The salient feature of his nibs' work excluding these two albums is originality of thought and expression.

“Whatever his conversion's other effects, it plainly booted his critical faculties into touch.”

Friday, November 14, 2008

Dylan’s weakest song #5

Thanks to Martin Cowan:

“Just a thought to add to the debate - my own personal view is that "Sad Eyed Lady..." is one of the greatest songs in his canon. Great lyrics, a haunting melody, a late-night vibe - just fantastic.

“Mind you, I do think critics have poured unjust praise on some songs just because they are long - I have never been convinced of the merits of "Brownsville Girl" or "Highlands".

“Meanwhile, "Under The Red Sky" is in my top five Dylan albums, and I don't really see any difference between something like "Wiggle Wiggle" and something like "Yea Heavy and a Bottle of Bread".

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dylan’s weakest song #4

Thanks to Jeff Whitely:

“Dylan’s weakest song? Take your pick from most of “Love And Theft”. Top contenders: Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, Summer Days or Floater.

“Whenever any of them pops up in a gig, they kill the vibe Bob’s just created with a run of masterpieces. Dreadful.”

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Dylan on the mystery of creativity – on YouTube

Thanks to film director David McDonald:

“I was messing around with this a few weeks ago, and I posted it onto YouTube as a lark. However, people seem to really like it. I do too, for that matter... What Dylan has to say is quite beautiful...

“Bob Dylan on the mystery of creativity:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Dylan’s weakest song #3

Thanks to Peter Truin:

“I think Emmett Till is a good song, with its very powerful message about the racism that was prevalent in the US at the time. Musically, it may be a little like House of the Rising Sun, but it sounds good to me. I am sure there are many later songs (and a few early ones) much more worthy of the epithet "Dylan's weakest song".

“As for Skip Johns' choice, well I couldn't be further away from his views, as Sad Eyed Lady is in my opinion the best Dylan song, and Highlands is also one of my favourites.

“Although we all like Dylan, as there are so many "sides of Bob Dylan" it's probably not surprising that we can have such differing views of what is good and what is not.

“However, surely there must be more chance of a concensus if we look at some of the songs on "Knocked out Loaded" or "Under the Red Sky". How about "Wiggle Wiggle" or "They Killed Him" as my nominations?

“There may well be others I like even less, but I really don't want to listen to the songs I know I don't like very much, just to decide which one I think is the worst ... there's no fun in that, is there?”



Dylan’s weakest song #2

Thanks to Skip Johns:

“Like you, I loathe The Death Of Emmett Till. It makes me cringe. But there are a few even bigger shaggy dog stories in Dylan’s songbook. Two in particular – Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands and Highlands.

“I must have tried a hundred times, but I’ve never yet managed to listen to either song to the end.

“Let’s put it in context, though – weak Dylan songs are a tiny proportion among hundreds of timeless compositions.”


Emmett Till: Dylan’s weakest song?

The Dylan Daily celebrates the art of its subject – and writing is the very core of Dylan’s art.

The deeper and longer I delve, the more I find to respect Dylan’s achievement as a wordsmith. I’m still hearing exciting new things in Dylan 45 years after first raving about that new American folkie.

So stumbling across a weak Dylan composition always comes as a surprise. But there are a few poor songs. I’ve long loathed John Brown – an interminable shaggy dog story. But I’d forgotten until I re-heard it a few days ago the awful The Death Of Emmett Till.

Dylan would eventually work the same theme into a masterpiece, Hattie Carroll. But Emmett Till shows what happens when an artist gets it wrong. It was a good call to leave it on the cutting room floor – it would have spoiled Freewheelin’, a near-perfect album.

Emmett Till - Dylan’s weakest song - surely?

Gerry Smith

Monday, November 10, 2008

Two important Dylan exhibitions about to open

Two important Dylan exhibitions about to open in/near London later this month:

* Thin Wild Mercury: Photographs Of Bob Dylan by Jerry Schatzberg, runs at Proud Central, John Adam Street London WC2 (just behind Charing Cross station) from 21 Nov to 28 January.

* Drawn Blank, the lovely exhibition of Dylan paintings which ran at London’s Halcyon gallery in the summer, moves to The Lightbox, Chobham Road, Woking, Surrey, from 25 November to 6 January.

I saw the Drawn Blank show in London and recommend it strongly. I’ll be reporting on the Schatzberg photographs show here on The Dylan Daily.

Gerry Smith

Friday, November 07, 2008

Dylan’s weakest song #2

Thanks to Skip Johns:

“Like you, I loathe The Death Of Emmett Till. It makes me cringe. But there are a few even bigger shaggy dog stories in Dylan’s songbook. Two in particular – Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands and Highlands.

“I must have tried a hundred times, but I’ve never yet managed to listen to either song to the end.

“Let’s put it in context, though – weak Dylan songs are a tiny proportion among hundreds of timeless compositions.”

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Emmett Till: Dylan’s weakest song?

The Dylan Daily celebrates the art of its subject – and writing is the very core of Dylan’s art.

The deeper and longer I delve, the more I find to respect Dylan’s achievement as a wordsmith. I’m still hearing exciting new things in Dylan 45 years after first raving about that new American folkie.

So stumbling across a weak Dylan composition always comes as a surprise. But there are a few poor songs. I’ve long loathed John Brown – an interminable shaggy dog story. But I’d forgotten until I re-heard it a few days ago the awful The Death Of Emmett Till.

Dylan would eventually work the same theme into a masterpiece, Hattie Carroll. But Emmett Till shows what happens when an artist gets it wrong. It was a good call to leave it on the cutting room floor – it would have spoiled Freewheelin’, a near-perfect album.

Emmett Till - Dylan’s weakest song - surely?

Gerry Smith

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Back Pages tribute gigs/New episode of podcast: BOBMANIA #35/36

Thanks to Gerald Bamford:

“Back Pages will pick and choose from the Bob Dylan songbook at The Ostrich in Castle Acre on Sat Nov 15 and at the Queen Vic, Snettisham on Wed Dec 3. And that will be it for this year.”

And thanks to Mel Prussack:

“My 26th podcast of Dyl-Time Theme Radio Hour is now online. The
theme this month is Television. I think it is a very good episode
and I hope everyone enjoys it!”

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Free issues of Judas! magazine

The Dylan Daily was a keen supporter of Judas! It was a stimulating, attractive Dylan quarterly magazine, expertly edited by Andrew Muir. It burned brightly for 20 issues, before closing in January 2007.

If you missed out, here’s your chance to acquire back issues; all contain high quality writing.

Publisher Keith Wootton is now offering free copies of the following issues:


All you pay is postage. Shipping costs vary depending on destination, but (for the) UK he charges a flat £12.00.

Judas! was a formidable achievement - a fine body of Dylan writing, and a source of pride for all concerned. It’s highly recommended. But act quickly - when they’re gone, they’re gone.


Gerry Smith

Monday, November 03, 2008

Key Dylan product at bargain prices

Thanks to Terry Kelly:

“I don't know if this applies throughout its stores in the UK, but I picked up a copy of the limited edition deluxe 3CD DYLAN set from last year at HMV Newcastle yesterday for the princely sum of £7 (normally £35).

“A bargain, or what?”

(And Fopp, HMV’s discount subsidiary, had the long box version of Biograph, the 3CD masterpiece which kicked off the box set trend, at £10 when I was in the Cambridge branch recently – Gerry Smith)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Iconic free Schatzberg photos of mid-60s Dylan

Friday’s Independent, the London-based liberal/left daily paper, has a marvellous collection of 13 iconic Jerry Schatzberg photos of mid-‘60s Dylan.

They illustrate an interview with the photographer who’s about to exhibit at Proud Central, a London photographic gallery: watch this space.

Gerry Smith

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Forever Young: delightful - Dylan Bookshelf #139

Forever Young is a new children’s book in which illustrator Paul Rogers visualises scenes from the lyrics of the classic song from Planet Waves, with other references from across the Dylan catalogue.

It’s a delight – children of all ages will love it.

In case you miss the Dylan references hidden in the pictures, Rogers kindly spells most of them out at the back, with the help of a couple of pages of thumbnails. If you spot more than half without cheating, count yourself a remarkably alert Dylan guru.

Forever Young by Bob Dylan, illustrated by Paul Rogers (Simon & Schuster Oct 2008, large format hardback, 36pp, £12.99 – discounted at

Forever Young is the 139th book added to my groaning Dylan bookshelf.

Gerry Smith

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tell Tale Signs… and Neil Young Night on TV

Thanks to Martin Cowan:

“Pitchfork has a cracking review of Dylan’s new release, Tell Tale Signs:

“And just a reminder that this Friday 31 October sees BBC4 indulging in Neil Young Night, with the following line up:

9.30pm - In Concert: Neil Young - a 1971 gig by the singer/songwriter, showcasing songs from Harvest

10.00pm - Neil Young - Don't Be Denied. Tracing the musical journey of the legendary sing/songwriter through interviews and unseen performance footage.

11.00pm - CSNY/Deja Vu. A record of the 2006 Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young "Freedom of Speech" tour that was built largely around Young's "Living with War" album.

“Also of interest on the same evening on the same channel at half past midnight is a repeat of Hotel California: from the Byrds to the Eagles.”

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tell Tale Signs - still doing it here

Well, several weeks down the line, Tell Tale Signs is still doing it here. I find myself listening to the ten or so tracks I didn’t previously know on repeat play for hours on end.

Magnificent - just like welcoming a new Dylan LP way back when…

I also enjoyed the copious sleeve notes. Except for the error about the Blood In My Eyes video: Ratso describes a “simple stroll from a pub through an English town”. The liner notes have three stills from that photo session.

The “town” is, in fact Camden Town - a district of London two miles north of the West End shopping/office district.

Sloman’s error is more forgiveable than that of native author Brian Hinton who, in his generally praiseworthy discography, names said London suburb as Crouch End, a very different sort of place a couple of miles from Camden. Tut, tut!

End of smartass whine-athon: Tell Tale Signs is a peach.

Gerry Smith

Monday, October 27, 2008

New Dylan cover for free magazine

Keen collectors will be searching out a new Dylan cover – albeit a back cover – on the latest (ie Sept/Oct) issue of HMV Choice, the retailer’s in-store magazine.

The Dylan cover uses a mid-‘60s (polka dot shirt) portrait by Dale Smith, with the overprinted extract from A Red, Red Rose, the Robert Burns poem used by HMV in their My Inspiration promo campaign.

The inside back cover has a portrait of, er, Joan Baez, from the same promo campaign.

Gerry Smith

Friday, October 24, 2008

Drawn Blank exhibition set for UK tour

Drawn Blank, the magical exhibition of Dylan paintings, is set to tour UK galleries, starting late November.

The tour starts with a show at The Lightbox gallery in Woking, Surrey, in the heart of the “stockbroker belt”, on 25 November.

Organisers Halcyon Gallery promise a roll-out of additional dates for 2009 - watch this space.

And if you missed the London and Chemnitz shows, try to get to Woking – you won’t be disappointed.

Gerry Smith


Dylan’s new art show: magnificent

Dylan’s new art show was unveiled to the world’s press (and the Editor of The Dylan Daily) yesterday morning.

I spent a couple of hours marvelling at the inspiring art on display. Four floors. Almost a hundred original canvases, many finished in several different versions. Twenty-nine Limited Edition signed prints. Lovely art. And so much of it – an entire building devoted to Dylan! And his signature on every piece.

I don’t know much about art, blah, blah … . But I adored this collection. Women, men, portraits, life studies, places - odd places, on the margins, everyday objects. Drawn, printed, then painted in vivid colours. Echoes of German Abstract Expressionism, I’m told. Dylan’s draughtsmanship might be stylistically naïve, but all the pieces evoke emotion. And his use of colour is remarkable.

As you’d expect, the collection displays a distinctive artistic vision. And yes, there are reminders of the Dylan worldview familiar from the songbook.

Would we be making so much of this show if the artist wasn’t Dylan? Who knows? Who cares? It’s Dylan’s art. And it’s inspiring.

Dylan Daily readers who can make it the Halcyon Gallery in London by 13 July owe it to themselves to see this magnificent show: it’s a big Dylan event, and it’s worth a long trip.

Drawn Blank opens Saturday and runs for a month. Be warned, though: they’ll probably be queueing round the block – so you’re strongly advised to book a timed visit, online (see below).

And if you were thinking of buying one of the originals, you’ll need big bucks – for the few original paintings not already sold.

TOMORROW ON THE DYLAN DAILY: Preview of the Drawn Blank Limited Edition exhibition and sale.

Gerry Smith


Here are the two Halcyon Gallery press releases:

Halcyon Gallery holds first gallery exhibition of Bob Dylan art

The Drawn Blank Series launches in London on 14 June 2008

Location: Halcyon Gallery, 24 Bruton Street, London, W1J 6QQ
Exhibition opens: 14th June 2008
Exhibition closes: 13th July 2008
Opening hours: Monday - Sunday: 10am - 6pm. Last admission: 5pm
Nearest tube: Bond Street or Green Park
Visitor information: 020 7659 7640
Booking information: For details on how to book free timed tickets to the exhibition, visit - booking fees will apply

Mayfair's Halcyon Gallery presents the first ever gallery exhibition of Bob Dylan's artwork, The Drawn Blank Series. This new exhibition of paintings is the most comprehensive and authoritative collection of Bob Dylan's art ever assembled. While Dylan has been a committed visual artist for more than four decades, The Drawn Blank Series casts a vibrant new light on the creativity of one of the world's most important and influential cultural figures.

The paintings in The Drawn Blank Series visually echo the stylistic hallmarks of Dylan's prose, poetry and music. Just as Dylan's songs are constantly reinvigorated and rediscovered through his live performances, so these paintings revisit images and scenes which were captured in all their immediacy by the artist.


Halcyon Gallery to hold first gallery exhibition of Bob Dylan art
The Drawn Blank Series launches in London on 14 June 2008

One of London's most prestigious galleries, Halcyon Gallery in Mayfair, will present the first ever gallery exhibition of Bob Dylan's artwork, beginning 14 June 2008. The Drawn Blank Series exhibition is the most comprehensive and authoritative collection of Bob Dylan's art ever assembled. While Dylan has been a committed visual artist for more than four decades, The Drawn Blank Series will cast a vibrant new light on the singular creativity of one of the world's most important and influential cultural figures.

Based on drawings and sketches made by Dylan while on the road during the period of 1989 through 1992, the paintings in The Drawn Blank Series visually echo the stylistic hallmarks of Dylan's prose, poetry and music. Just as Dylan's songs are constantly reinvigorated and rediscovered through his live performances, so these paintings revisit images and scenes which were captured in all their immediacy by the artist.

The Drawn Blank Series has resulted in a collection which is at once a significant independent achievement and a fascinating extrapolation of themes and images which haunt his music.

Accompanying the originals exhibition at Halcyon Gallery, a unique and impressive collection of limited edition graphics, signed by the artist, will be available through selected galleries throughout the UK from 14 June 2008.

Paul Green, President of the Halcyon Gallery, commented, "This is an incredible opportunity for viewing this powerful body of work which gives an insight into the artists' soul; and which have already been the subject of widespread critical acclaim. Halcyon Gallery is privileged to be hosting this unique exhibition."

Bob Dylan is one of the world's most popular and acclaimed songwriters, musicians and performers, having sold more than 110 million albums and performed literally thousands of shows around the world in a career spanning five decades. His most recent album, Modern Times - lauded by critics around the world and selling more than 2.5 million copies to date -- entered the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart at #1, as well as debuting within the Top Five in 21 other countries.

Bob Dylan was recently awarded a special Pulitzer Prize for "his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power." In 2001, he received a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for best song from a motion picture for "Things Have Changed" from the movie Wonder Boys. Dylan's Chronicles - Volume I, his recent memoirs released in October, 2004, was a world-wide best seller, spending 19 weeks on The New York Times Bestseller List. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 and the Songwriters Hall Of Fame in 1982.

Situated in the heart of Mayfair, London, Halcyon Gallery is one of Europe's leading art galleries, representing some of the finest contemporary painters and sculptors working today. Halcyon Gallery is committed to supporting and nurturing outstanding living artists, as well as specialising in fine art and masters original paintings, drawings and sculpture.

2008 marks the 25th anniversary of Halcyon Gallery and the opening of a magnificent new flagship gallery at 24 Bruton Street. This elegant Georgian building has been renovated to create a stunning exhibition space suitable for the finest art and joins Halcyon Gallery's existing space at 29 New Bond Street.

For further information about the exhibition of the original Dylan works at Halcyon Gallery please visit

Thursday, October 23, 2008

DylanTube & The Disgruntled Dylanologist: BOBMANIA #33/34

There’s no let-up in new websites devoted to Dylan. Here are another two new sites worth investigating:

* DylanTube

“DylanTube is a collection of hand-picked Bob Dylan videos run by hardcore fan Josh Lobley.

“DylanTube regularly posts Bob Dylan videos and for each one Josh's thoughts and opinions are there with it. Josh encourages visitors to share their thoughts also by posting comments to the videos.”

* The Disgruntled Dylanologist

"There are two things in this world that get (Los Angles) author Tom Grasty worked up. The first is what's going on in this country. The second is Bob Dylan. This blog brings the two together. Every week Tom uses a Bob Dylan lyric as a starting off point for his thoughts on what's going on in America.

“So who will Tom write about this week? It may be the devil, it may be the Lord... but it's gonna be somebody."

(Tom Grasty is author of the Dylan-inspired murder-mystery, BLOOD ON THE TRACKS.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dylan on Dylan and I'm Not There – heavily discounted

Thanks to Martin Cowan:

“I thought Dylan Daily readers would like to know that branches of HMV are currently offering Jonathan Cott's book, Dylan on Dylan, for £3 (RRP £8.99) and the DVD of I'm Not There as part of their 3 for £20 promotion.”

(And Fopp, HMV’s recently acquired subsidiary, is also discounting the single DVD version of I'm Not There – to £8 the last time I visited a Fopp store. Gerry Smith)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Jakob Dylan on TV tonight – a reminder

A reminder that Jakob Dylan’s on BBC TV tonight – at 2200 on Later… With Jools Holland – BBC2; a longer version is repeated at 2320. And again on Friday (24 Oct) at 0035.

Online access: archived BBC TV programmes are accessible online for a short period via:

Gerry Smith

Monday, October 20, 2008

Dylan-related Woodstock films now on YouTube

David McDonald, maker of the short film, Bob Dylan in Woodstock, has combined all his Woodstock-themed material onto one YouTube Channel.

It features not just the Dylan clip, but The Band in Woodstock and The Woodstock Soundouts:

Warmly recommended – McDonald’s footage has a lovely texture.

Gerry Smith

Friday, October 17, 2008

New Desolation Row tableau

Desolation Row, the peak period Dylan classic, is celebrated in a new tableau by Theo Cobb, and now on sale from Shane Balkowitsch. It includes “all elements of the lyrics and… some additional elements from some of his other songs”, according to the publisher:

Gerry Smith

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Dylan – celeb Burns fan

Did you see the recent PR by a music retailer inviting artists to reveal the lyric that has inspired them?

Dylan reportedly selected verse from Robert Burns' 'A Red, Red Rose':

"O my luve is like a red, red rose
That's newly sprung in June;
O my luve's like the melodie
That's sweetly play'd in tune.
As fair art thou, my bonny lass.
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry."

Puzzling. Very. You puzzled, too?

Gerry Smith

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bob and Jakob Dylan to dominate BBC TV and radio

Dylan and son Jakob are set to dominate BBC TV and radio in the next ten days:

Thurs 16 Oct
2300 Bob Dylan, Theme Time Radio Hour (rpt) – BBC Radio 2

Sun 19 Oct
2400 Bob Dylan, Theme Time Radio Hour (series 2) – BBC 6 Music

Tues 21 Oct
2320 Jakob Dylan, Later… With Jools Holland – BBC2

Thurs 23 Oct
2300 Bob Dylan, Theme Time Radio Hour (rpt) – BBC Radio 2

Fri 24 Oct
0035 Jakob Dylan, Later… With Jools Holland – BBC2 (rpt)

Online access: many BBC radio programmes are broadcast online, streamed. Please see the channels’ web sites for details. Archived BBC radio and TV programmes are accessible online for a short period via:

Gerry Smith

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Paperback edition of The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia

Updating his Bob Dylan Encyclopedia for the new paperback edition, Michael Gray took the opportunity to add new entries covering major recent events and product in the Dylan world.

Gray’s new edition reflects the widening array of Dylan-related activity, assessing product as varied as a CD - Modern Times, an art show - Drawn Blank, and two major DVD releases – I’m Not There and the Other Side Of The Mirror.

For the new material, Gray employs his well-established technique of mixing straight reporting with tough critical assessment. You might not always agree with him, but his combative tone consistently challenges you to think through your own opinions.

Apart from its intrinsic value, the new edition – which should be on any Dylan fan’s bookshelves - serves as a reminder of Gray’s pre-eminence as a Zim commentator.

Long before it became fashionable, Gray demonstrated, single-handedly, why Dylan is a great writer, to be considered alongside the giants of serious literature.

Song and Dance Man, Gray’s ground-breaking study from 1972, demonstrated to the first wave of Bobfans just why Dylan was special – why he was marching well in front of the trailing line of rock musos with whom he’d hitherto been associated.

Countless Dylan fans are indebted to Michael Gray.

Gerry Smith



NEW: paperback Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, with updates, out tomorrow

Continuum publishes the paperback edition of Michael Gray's Bob Dylan Encyclopedia tomorrow, in both London and New York. The text has been updated by new entries and amendments to many of the entries in the hardback. To keep the price down, the new edition doesn’t include a CD-ROM.

Here’s how The Dylan Daily greeted the hardback edition:

"The Encylopedia majors on its author's unparalleled expertise, his critical judgment and a ready intelligence and authorial finesse…in three quarters of a million words, he paints a massive canvas. Over 730 pages, its daunting breadth of coverage and sheer level of detail is deeply impressive… destined to be the most important Bob Dylan book, bar none."

* New entries:

Blues [2006]
Bob Dylan: The Collection [2006]
Bob Dylan: The Drawn Blank Series [2007]
Carthy, Martin
Dennis-Dylan, Desiree [1986 - ]
Dylan [2007]
Dylan, last solo concert by [1965]
Haynes, Todd [1961 - ]
I'm Not There [film, 2007]
Lerner, Murray [192? - ]
Man Without Papers, The [TV drama, 1965]
Modern Times [2006]
Other Side Of The Mirror, The [film, 2007]
Paradise Cove [film, 1999]
Ronson, Mark
65 Revisited [film, 2006]
21st Century Dylan songs written for films
White, Jack

* Updated entries:

Alk, Howard
Alvin, Dave
'Am I Your Stepchild?'
American Civil War in World Gone Wrong, the
Animals, the
Aufray, Hugues
Ball, Gordon
Barker, Derek & Tracy
Berry, Chuck
Betts, Dickey
Blowin' In the Wind
blues, external signals of Dylan's interest in
Bob Dylan Greatest Hits
Bob Dylan Greatest Hits Vol. II
Bootleg Series Vol.5
Bridge, The
Bringing It All Back Home
Brown, Richard Rabbit
'Brownsville Girl'
Bruce, Jack
Bruton, Stephen
Campbell, Larry
Campbell, Mike
Carmichael, Hoagy
Charles, Larry
Chronicles Volume One
Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem
Clapton, Eric
Cohen, John
co-option of real music by advertising, the
Cross, Billy
Dennis, Carolyn
Diaz, Cesar
Domino, Fats
Don't Look Back
Drawn Blank [1994]
Dunn, Tim
Dylan [1973]
earliest extant recordings, Dylan's
Elliott, Ramblin' Jack
Epstein, Howie
Estes, Sleepy John
folk music, American, black
Freeman, Denny
Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, The: withdrawn early version
Fremerman, Elana
Fuller, Blind Boy
Garnier, Tony
Gleason, Ralph J.
Goldberg, Barry
Goldstein, Harvey
Grateful Dead, the
'The Groom's Still Waiting at the Altar'
guitars, Bob Dylan's acoustic
Guthrie, Woody
Haggard, Merle
Hammond, John
Hammond, John Jr.
Harrison, George
Helm, Levon
Hendrix, Jimi
Herdman, John
Herron, Donnie
Hibbing rock'n'rollers
Highway 61 Revisited
Hinton, Nigel
Horowitz, David
Howlin' Wolf
Humphries, Patrick
Hunter, Robert
Ian & Sylvia
'In Search of Little Sadie'/'Little Sadie'
Jackson, John
James, Elana
Jean, Wyclef
Johnnie & Jack
Jones, Mickey
Jones, Norah
Kalb, Danny
Kegan, Larry
Kershaw, Doug
Kimball, Stuary
King, Clydie
Kooper, Al
Kramer, Daniel
Kweskin, Jim
LaFarge, Pete
Lesh, Phil
Levy, Dan
Lightfoot, Gordon
Lightnin' Hopkins
Like A Rolling Stone
Lomax, Alan
'Love Henry'
McTell, Blind Willie
Madhouse On Castle Street, the
Marcus, Greil
Marsalis, Wynton
Mayall, John
Maymudes, Victor [1935 - 2001]
Memphis Minnie
Meyers, Augie
Mitchell, Joni
Muddy Waters
Muir, Andrew
Muldaur, Maria
Murphy, Elliott
musical accompanists to Dylan, other
Nelson, Paul
Neville, Aaron
nursery rhyme on Under the Red Sky
Pagel, Bill
Pennebaker, D.A.
'People Get Ready'
Petty, Tom
Presley, Elvis
Poe, Edgar Allan
Quintana, Charlie
Raney, Wayne
Ray, Dave
Receli, George
Richards, Keith
Ricks, Christopher
Rimbaud, Arthur
Rinzler, Ralph
Rivera, Scarlet
Rosen, Jeff
Rotolo, Suze
Sahm, Doug
Savakus, Russ
Scaduto, Anthony
Schatzberg, Jerry
Scheff, Jerry
Sedgwick, Edie
Self Portrait
Sexton, Charlie
Sinatra, Frank
Smith, Warren
Spoelstra, Mark
Springs, Helena
Stanley Brothers, the
Stanley, Ralph
Stewart, Dave
'Tangled Up In Blue'
Taylor, Mick
Tedeschi, David
Tench, Benmont
Time Out Of Mind
Thompson, Toby

Monday, October 13, 2008

Tell Tale Signs Deluxe: another price, and a reaction

Fopp, the rump of the small failed UK music retail chain bought up by HMV, are selling the Tell Tale Signs Deluxe box for £84; the London branch had half a dozen well-secured copies on display on Friday evening. It looks (and feels) most impressive.

I’m not a great Dylan CD collector but if I was, I think I’d prefer the Deluxe box to be even more expensive – say £199 or £299. For that price, though, it would need to be supplied in a numbered, signed, limited edition (of 5-10,000 worldwide).

The present version seems to me to fall between two stools – too pricey for the mass market, but not pricey enough for a true collectable.

Meanwhile, el cheapo 2CD £12.99 version is giving immense pleasure in these parts – I’m not too sure about the sleeve notes, though.

Gerry Smith
Fopp, the rump of the small failed UK music retail chain bought up by HMV, are selling the Tell Tale Signs Deluxe box for £84; the London branch had half a dozen well-secured copies on display on Friday evening. It looks (and feels) most impressive.

I’m not a great Dylan CD collector but if I was, I think I’d prefer the Deluxe box to be even more expensive – say £199 or £299. For that price, though, it would need to be supplied in a numbered, signed, limited edition (of 5-10,000 worldwide).

The present version seems to me to fall between two stools – too pricey for the mass market, but not pricey enough for a true collectable.

Meanwhile, el cheapo 2CD £12.99 version is giving immense pleasure in these parts – I’m not too sure about the sleeve notes, though.

Gerry Smith

Friday, October 10, 2008

BOBMANIA #32: new Dyl-Time Theme Radio Hour

Thanks to Mel Prussack:

“Happy to let you know that Season 3 of Dyl-Time Theme Radio Hour premiered on Wednesday October 8. The theme for the show is Love. We will be running another contest with some great prizes.

“Check out my podcasts at:

and see my videos at:

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Tell Tale Signs: an important release/best prices/3CD rip-off?

#1: Tell Tale Signs: an important release

Thanks to Martin Cowan:

My 2 disc copy arrived from Amazon yesterday. It is barely out of its wrapper, but I wanted to quickly jot you some thoughts.

I have only had a brief dip into disc 1 but on the strength of what I have heard so far this is an important release and re-ignites my interest in Dylan, which has dipped since "Modern Times".

* "Mississippi" (track 1 disc 1): what a fantastic version. Gone is the intrusive backing from L And T, just Dylan's bluesy strum, Lanois's subtle fills and an upfront and committed vocal - just great.

* "Dignity"(piano demo): again, superbly committed vocal and the track benefits again from losing its chugging boogie woogie band backing - Dylan's vocal is so up front, he sounds like he's in the room. A really committed performance.

* "Someday Baby": why was this version not on "Modern Times"? More contemporary sounding, so sounds more original and less of a Muddy Waters steal - interesting to hear the same or similar words in a completely different musical setting.

* "High Water" (live): this starts unpromisingly, with Dylan seemingly groping round for the words but then we hit the second verse, he suddenly focuses, snarls out the lyrics and the band fall into step. Wow! Nice to hear a live performance properly recorded, too (rather than the official and unofficial "field recordings" we have had to make do with for the last few years.)

A few comments on the packaging: nice to see lots of recent pix of Dylan, and Ratso's liner notes are excellent. However, while there are detailed photo credits, there are no songwriter credits or publishing details anywhere in the package, surely an oversight.”

#2 Tell Tale Signs: best prices

Thanks to Renaud Depierreux in Brussels:

“Just to let you know, the best price I have seen for Tell Tale Signs 2CD is euro16 in Media Markt in Brussels!

“As far as I am concerned, I ordered my 3CD copy directly from at $ 99.99 ($ 107.47 with S&H) which, thanks to the advantageous EUR/USD exchange rate (but for how much longer?) is quite interesting, I think.”

#3 Tell Tale Signs: rip-off 3CD?

Thanks to Gordon Macniven:

“Ref Liam Mogan's piece - the 3CD set "a rip off"!? Surely not! For goodness sake, don't let Sony know he thinks they could have got a 5CD set out of this - they'll rush out just such a set at - well who knows - £399?

“I’m a very contented owner of £12's worth of the 2CD set.”

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Tell Tale Signs DeLuxe Edition – exclusive review of CD3

Thanks to Liam Mogan:

Just a few notes on the Exclusive Deluxe Edition:


I paid £84.99 for it, which is considerably cheaper than the price (although the package doesn't include the 7" single). The main question I suppose is it worth the money? The answer is no - £70.00 for an extra disc of material and a bit of packaging is daylight robbery. Sony must know they are only ripping off the diehards on this one. But, hey, I suppose was always going to buy it and I could have just bought the 2 disc edition and downloaded the extra disc. It still rankles though.


The packaging is ok - nothing spectacular. The cds come in a small book format and the cd single artwork come in a exact replica. They both fit into a stiff cardboard case (it seems pretty heavy duty). It's basically quite similar to the Bob Dylan Scrapbook that was released a couple of years ago (but not as imaginative). The cd book has a few pictures and Rats Sloman's liner notes (expanded for this edition, obviously). It also has an attempt at listing the musicians who play on each track, but for some (especially the TOM sessions) it seems to just list every musician who played on those sessions as a whole! The cd single artwork is something of missed opportunity. I've looked through it once and probably never will again. Surely Sony could have come up with something more interesting? Maybe an overview of Bob's career during the period Tell Tale Signs covers, interviews with producers, players etc, more essays, historic reviews for the original albums etc.


Obviously it's what is on the third cd that really matters and suffice to say there are some awe-inspiring tracks on here. What amazes me about the alternate takes, especially, is the legitimacy of each version. There is virtually no re-treading of musical ideas anywhere. I'm sure that there could have been twice as many alternative versions included and this expanded edition could have run to 5 discs easily, (even more with live tracks). These are my feelings on them

Duncan & Brady - This is not a good start. A traditional track ruined by a completely incongruous backing track. All manner of instruments clutter up the tune which whizzes along without purpose or direction. Bob sounds disinterested and slightly embarrassed. At worst it sounds like something from Knocked Out Loaded, at best an out take from Under the Red Sky. No wonder Good As I Been To You/World Gone Wrong followed.

Cold Irons Bound (live) - Bob and his band fire up the stage with a truly incendiary, power-charged version of a track which always sounds better live. The guitar interplay is dynamic and Bob's voice is focussed and elemental. Truly jaw-dropping.

Mississippi - The third(!) version on the set of this song has a slight reggae feel and whilst it has a certain charm seems a bit too calculated - as if Lanois (possibly) has instigated an attempt at a different style to shake things up.

Most of The Time - A more subtle version of the OM track. Less-obviously produced with a more rootsy feel (the acoustic guitars are more pronounced). I like this track a lot, Dylan leans into each word as if he means it. A gem.

Ring Them Bells - A great solo version. Piano and voice sound in perfect harmony. Its clearly the basis for later versions and rightly so. Without the shimmering guitars and intrusive echo it sounds just like it should.

Things Have Changed (live) - The band are in a tight groove and the overall feel is more relaxed that the studio version. Bob obviously likes this track and takes care over his delivery. A superb version.

Red River Shore - This take is slightly different from the one on Cd1 in that the band come in at the beginning as opposed to dropping in with each verse. After only a handful of listens its hard to say which one I favour. Safe to say both are beautiful works of art which only add to Bob Dylan's status as THE musical genius of the 20th century. (I can see why it was left off of TOM though - it just wouldn't have fitted in)

Born In Time - Similar to the version on Cd1. I prefer this version as, once again, it sounds less over-produced with Bob's voice in the foreground.

Tryin' to Get To Heaven (live) - Dylan as Sinatra! This is astonishing and as good an example of Bob's skill as a shape-shifter as anything he's ever done. From the simple guitar figure to the beautiful phrasing this lifts the doom-laden TOM version onto a different level altogether. The song is changed into a life-affirming tribute to a life well lived. Somebody shouts 'F**kin' Beautiful' at the end, which while apposite, completely breaks the spell Dylan and the band have just created! Someone should have Pro-Tooled it out.

Marchin' To The City - A definite 'filler'. It adds very little to the previous version and sounds slightly generic. The organ is very annoying indeed. One to skip.

Can't Wait - This is the best version of this song bar none. It starts spookily and mysterious and the slow pace adds depth to the lyrics and the performance. As the band comes in, their accompaniment is totally sympathetic. Great Vocals too. I could listen to this over and over.

Mary & The Soldier - I couldn't think of a better place to end than this spot-on cover. As good as anything on the 90s acoustic albums. Dylan sounds completely at home with just voice and lone guitar. The disparity between this and the first track on this disc, Duncan & Brady, is staggering.

I can only agree with most reviewers (the general reaction appears to be one of mass-adulation) that this collection re-affirms the sheer immensity and ever-changing nature of the genius that is Bob Dylan. Personally I can't wait until the next one....

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Tell Tale Signs – 3CD version

Thanks to Liam Mogan in West Yorkshire, England:

“My deluxe copy of Tell Tale Signs was delivered this morning thanks to the miracle of shopping via online record store Badlands.

“Priced at £84.99 (considerably cheaper than most online retailers), their service can't be beaten. Listened to Disc 1 and can only agree with your NPR review from last week.

“I hope to submit a more detailed review soon.”

Friday, October 03, 2008

Key Dylan product at bargain prices

UK readers who intend to buy Tell Tale Signs next week from a Fopp store should check out their Dylan bargains.

When I was in the Cambridge branch a couple of weeks ago, Fopp had some tempting prices:

* DYLAN 3CD - £10

* Biograph (long box version) - £10

* Bootleg Series v1-3 - £14

* Greatest Hits (UK version) - £5

* Suze’s new book - £10

Bargains every one!

Gerry Smith

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Tell Tale Signs – where the tracks come from

The 2CD version of Tell Tale Signs has 27 tracks. I should have better things to do with my time, but I couldn’t resist working out where in the 1989-2006 time frame each song came from.

To save you wasting your time too, here’s the breakdown:

Oh Mercy 8 tracks
“L&T” 4
OSTs 3
Mod T 2

New (to me) 5

(I’m counting Mississippi as from “Love And Theft”, even though it was left over from the TOOM sessions.)

A rich mix, I’d say.

Gerry Smith

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Tell Tale Signs – reaction and best price

A couple of hours in the company of Tell Tale Signs last night, courtesy of NPR Music’s streaming of the 2CD version, served as a reminder – as if it were needed! – that its author is an immense, unmatched talent.

The 27-track compilation is eloquent testimony to Dylan’s abundant creativity over the last 20 years. It underlines the continuity in his art and enriches your appreciation of the work, particularly the two strongest albums of the period, Oh Mercy and TOOM, as well as introducing many of us to almost a dozen new recordings demanding careful scrutiny.

Yes, it could have been done very differently, but I, for one, consider that Sony’s Bootleg Series programme is – still - a wonder to behold.

As for the main purchase options – one, two or three compact discs: I just don’t understand why anyone would buy the single CD version; the 2CD is the standard version, which 90% of Dylan Daily readers are likely to buy; and the 3CD version is clearly aimed at collectors (the extra disc is destined to be massively bootlegged, but the packaging extras and artwork can’t be).

The target (UK) price for the 2CD version is £12.99 delivered –,, cd-wow and hmv are all discounting to that price, from the list £16.99. I contemplated asking my son to get me one in Paris next week, to get the French packaging, but with the FNAC online price at euro27, I plumped for instead.

Roll on Monday: rapture in store! Thanks, Bob… Columbia – just keep ‘em coming!

Gerry Smith

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tell Tale Signs – streaming on NPR Music – NOW!

Thanks to Peter Brookes:

“Tell Tale Signs, streaming on NPR Music, is available in UK – I’m listening to it now! I have cut and pasted the link. I think that’s how it works:

“Love this informative site. Keep up good work.”

So, some of my Eurocentric whining of yesterday was overdone – copy has been corrected: thank you NPR, thank you Sony.

Tell Tale Signs sounds magical.

Gerry Smith

Monday, September 29, 2008

Tell Tale Signs - streamed on NPR Music from tomorrow

Sony’s Dylan site has announced that “NPR Music will exclusively stream Tell Tale Signs, the highly-anticipated forthcoming album from Bob Dylan, beginning Tuesday, September 30 at midnight, one week ahead of the album's release on October 7.

“The entire 2-CD, 27-song set will be available to hear on-demand at NPR Music for the week leading up to its official release.”

Which is great news. But come on, Sony - please ditch the America-centric worldview:

* NPR? Wot dat? National Public Radio?

* Oct 7 release? I have it down for Oct 6 – new albums, even from Sony, are always released on Monday here.

Gerry Smith

Friday, September 26, 2008

Greatest Hits/Back Pages tribute/Hot Club of Cowtown

Thanks to Gerry Bamford:

“A very minor comment, in passing, on your postings regarding Greatest Hits collections. I came across a CBS official cassette tape some years ago of the first Greatest Hits album and was surprised to find that the original version of LARS had been replaced with the live version from the IOW.

“Now why would they do that, I wonder?”

“And there are two imminent Back Pages gigs: this Saturday Sept 27 at 'Tracks' at The Railway in North Elmham and on Wednesday Oct 1 at The Queen Victoria in Snettisham, both in the county of Norfolk

“I went to Norwich Arts Centre last week to catch The Hot Club of Cowtown (who as you know have an association with Bob): I would recommend anyone to go check them out - a thrilling set indeed. I was told that they expect to do more with Bob in the future.”

Thursday, September 25, 2008

FREE DYLAN CD, plus must-buy Dylan cover issue of Uncut

Oh Lordy! Batten down the hatches! Here comes a new Dylan album!

The promo started with the outriders - a trio of well-chosen free audio/video downloads, Dreamin’ Of You and the poignant, stripped-down version of Mississippi.

Now here comes the cavalry, led by the new (November… November?! It’s 25 September!) issue of Uncut, which has just hit the news-stands.

The cover is a 1980s Bob portrait. It announces a welcome 13-page Tell Tale Signs Special, featuring interviews with many who worked with Dylan in the years covered by the new album, 1989-2006, notably Daniel Lanois, Don Was and Jim Keltner.

And the “FREE DYLAN CD”? It’s Radio Bob Volume 2 – “another 17 brilliant tracks from Theme Time Radio Hour”, with tracks by artists such as Al Jolson and Mose Allison.

Uncut November 2008: a must-buy.

Gerry Smith

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Recommended “hits” compilations: #2 Masterpieces

Thanks to Martin Cowan:

“Yesterday I identified "Tomorrow Is A Long Time" as a highlight of “More Greatest Hits”.

“"Tomorrow Is A Long Time"'s other appearance on disc is on what very much looks like a precursor to 1985's Biograph box set, the Japan and Australia-only "Masterpieces" release from 1978.

“This 3CD set is also essential for Dylan fans, including as it does an intelligently selected collection of songs spanning Dylan's career from "Bob Dylan" to the most recent at the time official release, the live "Hard Rain" LP.

“Again, there are first time on an album outings for singles "Mixed Up Confusion" (proof that Dylan's rockabilly credentials go as far back as 1962), "Positively 4th Street" and "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window".

“This collection is essential for a clutch of rarities which to date have still not been made available on any other Dylan album - a 1966 live recording of "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues", which was the B side of the "I Want You" single, the superb piano/vocal version of "Spanish Is A Loving Tongue", which was the B side of the "Watching The River Flow" single, and the stomping "Rita May", recorded during the "Desire" sessions and released as a B side to the live version of "Stuck Inside Of Mobile", extracted from the "Hard Rain" LP.

“The one other unique recording on this set is the band version of "George Jackson", released in 1971 as a double sided single with the far superior acoustic version of the same song (which is sadly still awaiting its first album release).

“In fact, this album only puts a foot wrong in its inclusion of a live "Like A Rolling Stone", recorded by Dylan and the Band at the Isle Of Wight festival (previously made available on the "Self Portrait" album), in which Dylan (frankly) hilariously uses his "Nashville Skyline" voice to croon his way through one of his greatest songs, and repeatedly forgets the words in a way that has to be heard to be believed!”

Monday, September 22, 2008

Recommended “hits” compilations: #1 More Greatest Hits

Thanks to Martin Cowan:

“Further to your recent pieces on Greatest Hits, I thought it would be good to remind Dylan Daily readers of a couple of other compilation albums which contain hidden gems.

“More Greatest Hits (often erroneously referred to as Greatest Hits Volume 2), adorned by a classic Barry Feinstein photo of Dylan on stage at the George Harrison-curated Concert for Bangladesh, contains 20 tracks that were not actually hits for Dylan, and one that was, the smoothly saccharine "Lay Lady Lay".

“As a summary of his musical career up to its release in 1971, this is a more satisfying collection than Volume 1, with a smattering of songs from every album up to that point (except "Bob Dylan", which is not represented at all).

“If anything, the white hot trilogy of albums released in 1965 and 1966 are under-represented here, with only 5 of the 21 tracks coming from this fertile period. But this is only a minor quibble.

“What makes this album special is the inclusion of tracks which were unreleased at that time on any Dylan LP, and in all but one case are still only to be found on this collection.

“CD 2 of the album (which readers should note at 77 minutes in total running time means that it would actually fit onto one disc) closes with the trilogy of Basement Tapes songs that Dylan revisited with Happy Traum's accompaniment in 1971 - "I Shall Be Released", "You Ain't Going Nowhere" and "Down In The Flood."

“These are worth the price of entry alone, with very fine acoustic interplay between the two musicians, and Happy's tight vocal harmonies, recalling Rick Danko's singing on other Dylan recordings.

“In addition to these three songs are the single "Watching the River Flow", which kicks off the whole thing back on CD1, a hoarse sounding Dylan rocking up a head of steam with the assistance of Leon Russell on the ivories.

“Also included is "When I Paint My Masterpiece" recorded at the same sessions, a song which had a new lease of life in 1975 as the show-opener during the Rolling Thunder Revue tour.

“The final unreleased gem is an intimate live recording from 1963 of the beautiful "Tomorrow Is A Long Time", sung sweetly by Dylan, just him, his acoustic guitar and a silent, awestruck audience.”