Thursday, October 25, 2018

Inside the Studio: Still More Blood and Tracks as Paul Metsa's Wall of Power Features MN Music Luminaries

Dateline: Tuesday, October 23
While half the country has its eyes looking forward to what will happen at next Tuesday's Mid-Term Elections, a small segment of the population is looking past the election to the release of yet another set in the Bootleg Series on November 2. More Blood, More Tracks is Bootleg 14 and this time around it's outtakes from an album which some have called Dylan's best, Blood on the Tracks.

The significance of this moment in time has not been lost on Minnesota Dylan and music fans. Five of the album's ten songs were recorded at Sound 80 Studios in Minneapolis, but the local musicians who performed with Dylan in two late December sessions were never, by a twist of fate, credited on the album for the roles they played.

For this reason, Bootleg #14 is a vindication of sorts.

Star Trib photographer Renee Jones Schneider took photos for the paper.
"Yes, a Dylan fan." Photo shoot first, then filming.
In response to next week's release, Paul Metsa untangled some strings in order to pull together the original team that recorded this epic album 44 years ago. Production took place in a studio at Metro Cable Network Channel 6, which will be re-assembled for several upcoming editions of his Wall of Power program, the first to be aired Saturday October 27 at 8:00 and 11:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Having had the privilege to be present, I took copious notes and photos which I also plan to share in the next days leading up to the BOTT release. Paul Metsa invited each of the players to tell their stories live, and everyone associated with the filming that took place, and everyone watching from the peanut gallery, seemed riveted in place as they listened. The four musicians present included Billy Peterson, Gregg Inhofer, Peter Ostroushko and Kevin Odegard. Bill Berg and Chris Weber were piped in via Skype and telephone.

Kevin O (left) signs a CD for Paul Metsa.
In addition to the players, Minneapolis Star Trib critic Jon Bream, who is also embedded in this story, was present for his take on the way things unfolded.

Listening to the stories and watching the interactions provided many new revelatory moments for everyone who was present. For example, I was unaware that Peter Ostrousho, who became a household name for his decades-long role on Prairie Home Companion, had never recorded in a studio until that evening in 1974 with what could be called a Minnesota version of the Wrecking Crew.

The five songs featuring the Minnesota crew were Tangled Up In Blue, A Simple Twist of Fate, Idiot Wind, Lily Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts, and If You See Her, Say Hello.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Bob Dylan had recorded this album three months previous in New York. For whatever reasons, Dylan must have had mixed feelings about the results because in December he decided to take another stab at recording a couple of the songs. By means of his brother David, a select group of Minnesota players got tapped for what amounted to two sessions. The album covers had already been printed (200,000 or 500,000 depending on what source you pull from) and the Minnesota players were not credited.

Wikipedia: The album reached  No. 1 on the Billboard 200 charts and  No.  4 on the UK Albums Chart. The single "Tangled Up in Blue" peaked at No. 31 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. The album remains one of Dylan's best-selling studio releases, with a double-platinum U.S. certification by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). In 2015, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

In some ways the project appears to be a replay of Bob's Blonde On Blonde re-take in which he didn't feel wholly satisfied with what he was hearing after the New York Sessions then either, choosing to give it another try in Nashville. On that occasion he was famously seeking that "wild mercury sound." On this occasion the acoustic album seems to have captured a "mild mercury sound" that was instantly recognized as a gem.

From what I hear CBS will also be airing a clip this Saturday at 10, a nod to the historic nature of this release which is also getting a lot of attention in the local media.

The studio was a beehive of activity from mid-morning till evening rush hour, not only with the "stars" but also a host of technicians, family, friends and folks like myself who were present to document the event. A big shout out to Marc Percansky for all the behind the scenes legwork, Rubin Latz for his help as "Backup Capture Man" and everyone else whose names are too numerous to list.

EdNote: I once read a story about Hunter Thompson when he was covering the Kentucky Derby as a journalist for Esquire. Thompson had passed deadline and the magazine was waiting to go to press. He had plenty of notes but there was nothing coherently assembled yet. The editor said, "Just send your notes, we'll use them as is." And that is what I am going to do here the next couple days. I have 3000 words of notes and lots of photos. The aim is to give you an idea of what a special moment this was. Like Mr. Metsa, I will break it into pieces for a couple episodes. 

(L to R) Billy Peterson, Gregg Inhofer, Kevin Odegard, Peter Ostroushko
Trivia: Odegard means “empty farm” in Norwegian.

“All the better guitar players in the room hate my guts because they didn’t get in the room.”—Kevin Odegard ... "Lonnie Knight was out of town. He should have gotten on that gig."

* * * *
Discussion with Gregg Inhofer
Gregg Inhofer on keyboards, with Billy P
The Rhythm Section
¾ German 1/8 French 1/8 Irish
“I was working for Kevin, Billy Peterson and Bill Berg (drummer)
They needed a studio keyboard player. First impression: “Cool”
He (Dylan) had my respect. I wasn’t a fan. I was studying jazz/rock fusion. Dylan’s tunes were technically simple. “I wasn’t a fan like the other guys.”

I ask about not being mentioned on liner notes
“I take my own 50% responsibility. I should’ve called David (Zimmerman). I was naïve about business and didn’t follow up.”

(about being on the album) “Serendipity. Right place at the right time.”

“All roads lead to now. It is what it is. I had to let it go a number of times.”

* * * *
Photo shoot was first, then filming.
Staging took a lot of time
“Paul will do intros…"

Mic check
Jon Bream imitates Dylan

The show begins
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Welcome…”

Lights, cameras, action. The show is underway.
(L to r) Metsa, Odegard, Inhofer, Ostroushko, Peterson, Bream

Related Links
A Brief Review of Jon Bream's Dylan: Disc By Disc 
Billy Peterson, Cookin' @ the O
Kevin Odegard's Artifacts Seasoned with Blood On The Tracks, Sweat and Tears
Minneapolis Sessions appear on DISC 6 Tracks #4-8


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