Tuesday, September 06, 2005

One other note regarding Dylan's "No Direction Home":

The second disc has studio takes from the Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde that range from the
gorgeous to the interesting.

Dylan's rehearsal versions often show that he had a good ear for the way a song should, finally, sound, and the best alternate versions are the ones that sound most like the ones on the studio version. Of course, this isn't always the case; on the Vol. 1-3 box set from 1991, for example, the searing, rough and raw "Call Letter Blues" was a clear improvement on "Meet Me in the Morning," easily the weakest single cut on Blood on the Tracks. And, from the same set, I think I'd prefer Dylan's back-porch version of "Every Grain of Sand," with his dog on backing vocals, that I would the version on Shot of Love.

On No Direction Home, the jewels are much closer to the way everyone first heard them; the beauty is that they are just slightly different enough. "Tombstone Blues," for example, has a honking sax solo. The take of "It Takes a Lot to Laugh (It Takes a Train to Cry)" on Highway 61 has a loping, lazy feel to it; here it's much more of a cut-loose romp, very similar to the version on the Vol. 1-3 box set. (Both, I suspect, were cut within minutes of each other.)

Of particular note is "Stuck Inside of Mobile (With the Memphis Blues Again)" -- the lyrics are mostly in place, but the tune still hadn't found its form. The same goes for "Visions of Johanna," although I notice a lot of critics say it beats the studio version. Know what? They say that about every new take on that classic. Personally I don't think any alternate cut ever beat the studio version in mood and intensity.

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