Monday, September 24, 2018

More Blood, More Tracks -- The Bootleg Series Thunders On

In January I had the privilege of being a guest on Highway 61 Revisited, the Dylan-themed radio program hosted by the late John Bushey which aired on KUMD for more than 26 years. Every once in a while he would ask listeners for theme ideas for future programs and as a regular listener I always enjoyed making lists of ideas that might capture his imagination. His part would be to look at my list and then pull an unusual take from a concert in Paris or a rare outtake from a bootleg.

I don't recall what the theme of that specific evening was, but the experience we shared that evening was unforgettable. The song was "Idiot Wind" from Blood on the Tracks. The selected take was straight from the album. We were each wearing a pair of super-sensitive KUMD studio headphones so that every breath, every note, every subtle aspect of the song was radiantly sharp and crisp, with Dylan's vocals impossibly anguished, as if his whole inner self had been unshuttered. When the song finished playing John and I just stared at each other, in awe of what Dylan had created. Kevin Odegard, in the book Simple Twist of Fate (about the Minneapolis sessions for Blood on the Tracks) called it "an agonizing poetic tantrum."

This memory emerged foremost when I got the news that the BOTT Bootleg had finally been released, or would be available soon. There had been buzz circulating in the Northland since spring, if not sooner, that the next bootleg series from the vault would be Blood on the Tracks.

I pulled my copy of the book A Simple Twist of Fate off the shelf to brush up on details surrounding the making of this album that many rank as one of Dylan's finest. The story, by Andy Gill and Kevin Odegard, gives an insider's view of how Dylan re-recorded several of the tracks at the Sound 80 studio in Minneapolis three months after doing the initial recording in New York with producer Phil Ramone and musicians there. Dylan's brother David assembled the local talent in Minnesota, one of them being the guitarist Odegard. To say it must have been a rush is, as you can imagine, an understatement.

Unfortunately, after the new tracks were laid and approved for the finished vinyl, the Minneapolis musicians learned that 100,000 album covers had already been printed so that they would not get credit for the work they'd done, at least not initially. Purportedly when the first 100K sold there would be an edited revised version produced, an agreement that got lost in the shuffle of other more pressing things.

Such a revision may not have had much importance in New York, but for the guys in Minnesota it would have been a form of validation. To just "say" they were the musicians for classics like "Tangled Up In Blue" and "Idiot Wind" but not have it documented felt hollow.

Ironically, some of the New York musicians were even more upset. Their attitudes varied in degree, but ultimately could be summed up like this: "Why didn't Bob just tell us he didn't like the sound on some of those songs. We're pros. We would have been happy to give him what he wanted."

So with the release of More Blood, More Tracks, Bootleg Series #14, there's a sigh of relief that the hometown team is being acknowledged. Even so, there's still a bit of controversy. The single CD version which I already placed an order for features only New York sessions. To own the Minneapolis sessions you'll need to acquire the "strictly limited Deluxe 6 CD Set."

The late Paul Williams, a music journalist who befriended the author Philip K. Dick the last 14 years of the sci-fi writer's life, weighed in on the two versions of the album saying without reservation he liked both the New York sessions and the Minneapolis versions of the songs. Nevertheless, his take, as stated in his book Performing Artist, was that Dylan made the right choices for the album.

Even so, when it came to "Idiot Wind" Williams noticed two significant differences. First, and of less importance, was that there had been revisions in the lyrics. The second observation was that the New York version conveyed less rage and a more ominous or threatening tone.

Despite being removed from the official release, the New York studio sessions were soon on the street as an underground bootleg album called Joaquin Antique.

It won't be long before we all get the chance to compare the sessions. And whatever the outcome of that comparison, there will be nothing (for me) that quite compares to that moment last winter in the John Bushey Studio at KUMD...

Related Links
The Story Behind the Music: The Recording of Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks
A Simple Twist of Fate: Bob Dylan and the Making of Blood on the Tracks
A Simple Twist of Fate Revisited
The Principle of Cognitive Dissonance as Illustrated by Dylan's Simple Twist

5 comments:

French Family Blog said...

Very nice Ed - thanks for doing this one.

Marc Percansky said...

Nice story, Ed! For all your daily readers from the great state of Minnesota who are fans of the Minneapolis musicians who played on the album, they will be happy to know that they can order the digital downloads of each single song on the 6 Disc version and spend around $6.00 for all 5 Minneapolis tracks in newly remixed and remastered sound! They are Tracks #4-8 on the very last Disc, which is the 6th one. Same goes for iTunes as well.

Complete track listing here: https://www.bobdylan.com/news/more-blood-more-tracks-the-bootleg-series-vol-14-to-be-released-on-november-2/

But if you want a physical Compact Disc copy, then you will have to buy the whole Deluxe version. Here is a link to the Amazon Download: https://www.amazon.com/More-Blood-Tracks-Bootleg-Deluxe/dp/B07HB9Q5JX/ref=sr_1_1

Anonymous said...

Another way to get the Minneapolis tracks is to buy the original Blood on the Tracks album.

Frank Cipriano said...

Looking forward to this release, Ed. Already pre-ordered the deluxe version. Never read the book, so I guess I'll have to find it and add it to my order as a companion piece--like your article. Thanks!

Ed Newman said...

Thanks for all the notes and comments. FWIW, (Anon) I do have the original album and have been listening to it every day this past week.... I will look forward to doing some comparisons....