Thursday, October 25, 2018

Paul Metsa's Wall of Power Featuring Dylan's BOTT Studio Musicians from Sound 80 (Part 2)

Dateline: Tuesday, October 23 (Part 2)
One of the images from the Deluxe set
of Bootleg 14: More Blood, More Tracks.
Tuesday was a fairly dramatic historical moment. The six Minnesota musicians who contributed to Bob Dylan's 1975 double Platinum Blood on the Tracks were gathered together to celebrate the release of Bootleg 14: More Blood, More Tracks. (Technically, four were present and two joined the filming of Paul Metsa's Wall of Power show by means of technology.)

Yesterday I wrote about getting set up, and a little background on the significance of this particular Bootleg Set for the Minnesota musicians. Mr. Metsa was producing several upcoming half hour shows, so there were numerous intros and outros along the way. What follows are my notes from what I believe was the second segment onward, though anything can happen in the editing booth. Anyone looking for sound bytes and new revelations would have loved being a fly on the wall Tuesday. For background, here is a link to yesterday's blog recap.

* * * *

The guests were seated in a line that arced forward on the right side of the set. Paul Metsa sat to the left facing a group that was spread in this order: Kevin Odegard, Gregg Inhofer, Peter Ostroushko, Billy Peterson and Jon Bream on the far end.

This segment opened with Metsa introducing the cast, beginning with Kevin O who kicked it off with, “It was a cold dark night. I was watching Kojak & the phone rang. It was David Zimmerman." And so it began.

Of the musicians, KO stated, "We came from different places… and were glued together.”

They acknowledged the role Steve Berkowitz and Jeff Slate in putting this bootleg together.

Continuing with introductions, of Gregg Inhofer, Metsa stated, “He’s the bees knees.” Peter O's achievements were noted. Of Billy P: “He’s the #1 bass player in the Twin Cities for 40 years. I saw him first with Leo Kottke.” Of Jon Bream: One of the most astute music critics.

Bream replied, “With this project, the musicians receive the validation and recognition they have long deserved for their contribution to this, Dylan’s greatest album.”

Metsa stated that the Bootleg, More Blood More Tracks is a cleaned up version of those original sessions but without the reverb. “It’s incredible. And we’ve been given the O.K. to play it as much as we want.”

Jeff Slate wrote the liner notes. Steve Addabbo did the mix.

The day before (Monday) the new version was played in the studio and I was told that Kevin O, Billy and the cameramen were in tears. This later came out on the show and the men made no pretension of macho-ness.

Chris Weber Skyping in on the monitor behind Paul M.
After some dialogue there was a brief break and then a segment with Chris Weber who was Skyped in from California.

In 1974 Chris had a guitar shop called The Podium. Kevin O called Chris because Dylan was looking for a Martin guitar of a specific vintage, a 1937 00-42. Chris cited the line “take what you can gather from coincidence.”… He happened to have one but the guitar was in his possession on consignment and he couldn’t sell it, so he said, “I go with it.” As a result Chris arrived, guitar in tow, because he couldn’t let the guitar go without him.

When he arrived there was a lot happening in the studio, but there was a small vocal booth the size of two phone booths. Dylan nudged him and said, “Let’s go in there.” It was this very small space with two chairs. Dylan then asked him to play something he himself had written so Bob could hear what the guitar sounded like. He played something he call “A” Rag. Then Chris was asked to sing something he’d written, and he sang, “Come Home With Me.”

Bob asked him to play something, which he did. He then asked if Chris wrote songs and when he played a second, Bob replied, “That’s a nice song. Maybe Linda Ronstadt should do that.”

Chris is thinking, “Go ahead, Bob. Make the call.”

Next, Bob taught Chris the chords for “Idiot Wind.”

As a result of these serendipitous events, Chris became the 12-string we hear on "Tangled Up In Blue" and ended up playing on all the songs except "Lily Rosemary & the Jack of Hearts."

Paul asked, “How does it feel to now see your name on the record?”

Chris replied, “That’s a thrill. We contributed a lot to an album that gave his career a boost, an acoustic album that went back to his roots."

Peter O’s story was similarly intriguing.
“I was sick that day. Pneumonia,” he said. He had been in bed the entire week. “I was tired of being and bed so I drove to The Podium. Someone said, “Have you seen Chris Weber?” Chris told Peter the story and then said, “They asked me to come back tonight.” Peter O said, “You tell Bob that if he needs a banjo or a mandolin player give me a call.”

Later he was playing pinball at this place he hung out at all the time, and he got a call there after they tried his home. This was the pre-cell phone era. “Get your instruments and get down here,” he was told. "The miracle was that Jim know where to call me."

For Peter O it was the first recording session. He had never been played in a recording studio in his life.

When he arrived Bob said, “What do you got?”

Jim said, “I’ve got a banjo.”

Peter said, “I’ve got a mandolin and a violin.”

Bob said, “Oh, let’s do this song with a mandolin.”

They kept playing it until they found a key that fit his voice.

After recording Peter O went home and went to bed. When he woke the next morning his fever had broken and he called Jim. “You wouldn’t believe the dream I had last night. I dreamt I was in a recording session with Bob Dylan and you were there, too. We did five takes."

Bill Berg, an experienced drummer, tapped in by telephone. His background including work with Cat Stevens & Leo Kottke. Billy P and Bill B performed all kinds of stuff, all over the map.

Metsa: "How did Bill get roped in to play drums on Blood on the Tracks?"

Bill, who hails from Hibbing, had played with Dylan's brother David Zimmerman in a jazz trio. He stated that at one time he saw Buddy Rich at Hibbing High School and “it almost made me quit.”

Growing up he never ran in the same circles as Bob, he explained. There was a music store in Hibbing that he went to, Jeff Crippen Music Store, and he had this old cymbal from the basement with a crack in it that was used on "Idiot Wind."

Bill Berg said he was in a rock band in the 60s, no jazz stuff yet. Used to play in Battles of the Bands at the Duluth Armory. (EdNote: Paul Metsa’s band won in 1974.) Berg was initially a drummer with Billy Peterson as they got into progressive fusion music. They played at the Poodle Club on Hennepin Avenue together in 1973 before it burned. When he got the call he was in the middle of moving to California. His car was already packed. Everything was in his car, all his equipment and possessions.

When he arrived at Sound 80, he walked into the studio ready to go. "It was surreal. Bob was standing in the door wearing a leather jacket. I was told it would be one song," but tit went so well it ended up being five songs.

Gregg on keyboards, Billy with his stand up bass.
"We were sidemen," he said. While sharing he mentioned that Leo Kottke played loud, whereupon Jon Bream noted that Kottke was deaf in one ear, having been a Navy man. His hearing in one ear had been damaged by loud guns.

Billy P noted that it was end of December and very cold that night. Warming up before starting meant literally giving the instruments time to get warm inside.

Another observation he made was that Bob doesn’t ever small talk. The whole session, though, was a fabulous group effort.

The first song Billy B played was "Idiot Wind." He locked in on the tempo pretty early. "When you first put your headphones on and hear Dylan’s lyrics coming through…" He never finished but everyone could complete the thought. It was breathtaking.

Billy P: I was always comfortable with Bill (Berg). In those days nearly every bar was live music. We played every kind of music at night, recording commercials by day. All genres, that was our job.

Bill B. was capable of playing all kinds of music at the highest level. We knew how to showcase an artist. Bill & Bill were a Twin Cities version of the Wrecking Crew.

Metsa welcomes us back to interview Jon Bream.
Bream is a Minneapolis Star Tribune critic who is clearly a Dylan fan, having authored Dylan: Disc By Disc, an overview of his first 36 studio albums. Bream knew Kevin Odegard from way back then, calling KO “a great self-promoter.” After the session with Dylan, Odegard called Bream the next morning. Bream called KO “the singing brakeman” because like many musicians they maintained a day job, his being a brakeman for the railroad.

Like many writers, critics and journalists, Bream received a pre-release copy of the album and went straight over to Kevin’s to listen to it. To KO’s surprise Dylan had used five of the songs they recorded in the two Sound 80 sessions.

Kevin said his mom thought “it was the greatest thing David Zimmerman had done for me.

* * * *
One of two performers who participated on all five songs recorded was Gregg Inhofer. (Bill Berg was the other.) Inhofer played with Billy Peterson in a band called Natural Life. When Kevin called Inhofer the deal went down like this: “Can you come Friday to the studio. I can’t tell you who it is.” It was all “hush, hush.”

Billy described the one rather famous moment like this: After Bob played “Tangled Up In Blue” the first time, he asked KO’s opinion. Kevin, trying not to offend, gave a soft response. “It’s passable. Let’s try moving it up to A.”

Bob’s response was a long pause. Kevin said, “I sweat right through my clothes.” He was on pins and needles. But Dylan took the suggestion. They did that first take and when finished there was a very strong silence as everyone recognized they had done something incredible.

This segment ended with Paul Metsa noting that Jon Bream had been writing about his own work since 1984, a gesture of gratitude.

* * * *
Courtesy Marc Percansky.
There were a number of others present who will get more digital ink tomorrow but worth noting here before closing. Marc Percansky's cheerful managing of many smaller details so that Paul could focus on the bigger objectives was no doubt appreciated. Marc brought a partially consumed bottle from Bob Dylan's new Heaven's Door whiskey line, which was generously passed around to the principles later in the session. Nelson French took care to make sure there was a little left in the bottle for a toast at the end. (Nelson has about eight bottles of Heaven's Door up near Silver Bay. In the event that you are unable to find a bottle in your own home town, the North Shore of Lake Superior is a beautiful part of the world. Stop in and tell him you're lost... and then ask, "Oh, do you know where I can find Heaven's Door.)

It didn't take long for documentarian Rubin Latz to create an album on Facebook. Andy Watson of ANDVD Media held the reigns on the TV production, and Mark Odegard--whose website is worth checking out, and who is no relation to Kevin--is the one who provided the insight about Kevin' last name meaning "empty farm" in Norwegian. Matt Steichen and Sonny Earl will be part of this story in Part 3.

(L to R) Billy P, Gregg, KO, Paul Metsa, and Peter O.

Related Links
NPR Shares 10 Selections and an Overview of More Blood More Tracks 
Rubin Latz Pulls Back the Curtain at MCN6
The much loved Peter Ostroushko suffered a stroke followed by a heart attack this past year. He has been in rehab ever since. A Go Fund Me campaign has been set up for Peter and his wife Marge which can be found here at 
Here is Peter O & Better Angels in his last live performance
Schedule for Wall of Power on Metro Cable Network 6.


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