Dylan Released and Unreleased: Rock of Ages

By Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood

Aaron: The Band’s Rock of Ages live album was released in 1972. It was compiled from a series of shows from December 28 through December 31 1971.

In 2001 it was remastered and expanded with 10 new tracks including four recorded with Dylan as a special guest. You see Bob join the guys on stage after midnight on the last night – so what you get here is almost like a Dylan & The Band live EP from New Year’s Day 1972. A splendid time was had by all!

Down In The Flood

Here’s what Wiki says of the event:

“Four nights from December 28 through 31 were recorded, and the balance of the recordings on the released album were derived from the final two nights. Their previous employer Bob Dylan made a surprise visit on the New Year’s Eve show, playing four songs with the group in the early morning hours of January 1, 1972.”

Tony: I do like this song, but somehow feel this is one of those moments when Bob said to the gang, “let’s play this” and off they go.  As a result, and of course as always this is just my personal view, this live version loses some of the utter magic of the song.  And just in case you might have forgotten how it went on the studio outtake, here it is…

I do love that recording.   Bob at his best!

When I Paint My Masterpiece

Tony: On the other hand “When I paint” works really well in this recording, maybe because there’s no thought of doing a re-arrangement, and Bob’s voice is in full, vibrant form.

Also, this is a song that really can take the fulsome bashing-out treatment, which gives a really fun expansion to the notion of actually painting a masterpiece.   There is also that great fun irony of not wanting to be there, but actually taking it all in…

The streets of Rome are filled with rubble
Ancient footprints are everywhere
You could almost think that you're seeing double
On a cold, dark night on the Spanish Stairs

but then instead wanting to be back in the land of Coca Cola.

And I think that is often the point for me.  Some songs work with a re-arranged live format for belting it out, and some don’t.   Here the vigour and energy is part of the irony, and I think it works beautifully.

Don’t Ya Tell Henry

On the other hand….

The ragged entry of the vocals at the start again suggests there really wasn’t too much rehearsal going on here.   And this is a bit of a bash, very much unrehearsed.  And the biggest problem is that Bob doesn’t bring any extra nuance or new idea into the arrangement.

Overall I’m not sure what there is here to rescue the piece; a bit of a mess to my ears.

But that’s probably just me getting old.

Like A Rolling Stone 

There have been so many thousands of versions of this song one always wonders what Bob can do with it next.   There is a slight playing with the rhythm which is fun and the pianist endeavours to attempt to give us a few slight variations.

But I am sorry to say it feels slightly leaden.  Does it give any new insight into the song?  Does it take us somewhere new?  Not really – it is a chance for the audience to shout “How does it feel” and be part of the party – which is great in itself – but not all parties benefit from being filmed or recorded.

I think that the reason that Dylan on tour has always been of such interest, and indeed why I’m delighted to be running the Never Ending Tour series on this site, is that among the touring events there are many, many glorious moments that it is fantastic to have recorded for posterity.  But (and this is a very personal view) it doesn’t mean that everything done on the tours, or the sudden one night stands, is great.  It would have been wonderful to be there, and that would be a memory to hold, but the performance is another performance.

So for me, “When I paint my masterpiece” is the stand out moment – and that recording I really do want to play again.   So if you’ll excuse me, that is exactly what I will do now…

Dylan released and unreleased: the series



Untold Dylan was created in 2008 and is currently published once or twice a day –  sometimes more, sometimes less.  Details of some of our series are given at the top of the page and in the Recent Posts list, which appears both on the right side of the page and at the very foot of the page (helpful if you are reading on a phone).  Some of our past articles which form part of a series are also included on the home page.

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One comment

  1. What is that talk about Like a rolling stone ?
    It was the 25th time or so he played it live and yes it added something way back then

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