Dylan Released and Unreleased part 12: the one-offs

By Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood

An index to this full series of Dylan Released and Unreleased is given at the end of the piece.  As always with these articles by Aaron and Tony, Aaron in the USA chooses the tracks and writes a few words by way of introduction, and then Tony in the UK tries to write some sort of commentary while the music is playing.

Aaron: Let’s take a listen to some more rare and one-off Dylan performances released on other artists’ albums.

First from the album “Earl Scruggs Performing with His Family & Friends” it’s Nashville Skyline Rag with Bob on guitar.

Tony: Seeing the piece had a lead banjo I wondered what Bob was going to do… and the answer was to play a very appropriate rhythm guitar with some nice touches.  It seems a little bit like having Martin Luther King Jnr reading a nursery rhyme, in that one is not actually going to get the full flavour of what the great man can actually do, but even so it’s a nice little jog-along piece.

Aaron: Now from the Grateful Dead compilation of Dylan live covers “Postcards Of The Hanging” we have this version of Man Of Peace recorded during a backstage rehearsal with Bob on lead vocals and guitar.

Tony: Listening to it, not able to grasp the words clearly, this sounds to me more like “From a Buick 6” than “Man of Peace” – and I do think Bob has taken some of the melody from the Buick and used it here.  Although sitting here in my study looking across the English countryside and sneezing occasionally (just a cold, not covid) I might be meandering a bit in terms of my thought processes this morning.  Of course these 12 bar blues can all take on an air of similarity – especially where the whole piece is improvised.

Aaron: The Ballad Of Hollis Brown from Mike Seeger’s Third Annual Farewell Reunion album featuring Bob on vocals and guitar.

Tony: The use of the minor third drop at the end of each line (the two notes sung for the last word on each line) gets to me a bit, it means that each line is, in essence, the same – which I guess is part of the point of the song; the ultimate repetitiveness of the life that Hollis Brown had, but I am not sure about this from a musical and performance point of view.

I am reminded of the complaint that Mike Johnson has quite reasonably made on occasion through the Never Ending Tour series about Bob’s repeated use of “upsinging” and “downsinging” – it does seem to be a thing with him; find a vocal idea and re-use it.  He doesn’t do it with lyrics, nor with the melodies that we normally get on the albums.  It just seems to occur on other occasions.

Aaron: It Takes A Lot To Laugh from Wynton Marsalis United We Stand. We covered this before but it is brilliant and meets the criteria of the series so let’s take another listen.

Tony: Unfortunately my memory is now so bad that I had no idea what was about to turn up when I just saw the cover and the note that we had covered this song before – but then when it started, oh yes I did remember it.  And how!

This is a truly remarkable rendition and I know I was knocked out by it before, as I am hearing it again – in particular, what happens in the last verse with “I want to be your lover baby, I don’t want to be your boss”.

Dylan does sometimes put in small variations to the songs, sometimes he takes them on a different journey, and just occasionally he puts the song on a different planet, and that is what happens here.

I won’t repeat myself from last time (if you are the slightest bit interested in the technicality of what is actually happening in the music, I bored everyone senseless with that in the earlier review and you can read it here) but I would urge you, if at all possible, please do listen to this without anything interrupting your focus (by which I mean please don’t do the washing up at the same time or read my ramblings – just close your eyes and listen).

We know the song, we know where it is going, but this time it is travelling at a different speed through a different countryside.   And as I mentioned before, just take in the “I want to be your lover” line and compare it with the recording we all know from the album.  On the album it is a statement of intent and desire, here it is a statement from a relaxed world where everything sort of jogs along and somehow gets there, and let’s not worry about it all, because it will turn out ok at the end of the day.

And then, maybe if you have time, play it again, just to enjoy it.

Dylan released and unreleased: the series

One comment

  1. Now of course musicians, unlike non-musicians, won’t know what is happening here….

    Dylan likes to play with words …. mail/ male train /”could not get across” (rather than “could not get it across”) – ie, “could not get a cross”…

    The flippant and egotistical narrator in the song is still discontent because he’d prefer to be her Christ-like boss as well as her swinging lover so he can save her from getting lost.

    Or so it might be interpreted.

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