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Meet Me in the Morning with Zak Kaveney – Dylan Live

March 5th, 2009 · Luke · 1 Comment

Here’s a list for you. A list that does not ask you to fill out how you’re doing today, how old you are, and what color your distended colon might be on a Saturday night after drinking ten shots of tequila with that woman who strangely reminds you of a man.

No, this is a list about a man who can take hours away from you at a time by just listening to him. A man who is known and unknown by many. Bob Dylan has a catalogue of music that will take you days to sift through, weeks to find the gems that others glance over, and months to appreciate that one verse, that one smidge of pure glee that you might have otherwise missed the first twenty times you listened to it.

For you, the reader and listener, I have taken years going over these songs over and over. Listening to them at work, listening to them on walks, and listening to them when I’m playing games. I’ve combined both the original recorded track and all the live tracks I could. This clocks in at over six hours of music. I’m going to distill as much as I can for you, while still not gloating about how much I love Bob Dylan. (Go ahead, get your sneers in about his raspy-taspy voice now. I’ll wait.)

Ok, ready? These six are those that benefit from being played live, and are better than the original recording.

I’ll start with It Ain’t Me Babe from “Another Side of Bob Dylan.” It’s a simple song, and simply put it doesn’t stand out that much from the rest of the album. In it’s entirety you may wonder why Dylan chose this song to include in his live set lists. I couldn’t tell you exactly, since I wasn’t around in those days, but I can tell you I’m glad he did. There are four live versions of this song. My favorite of them all is from the “Rolling Thunder Revue” which is a deliciously fantastic album. There’s energy, power, and force behind Dylan on this song. He brings it all here, and he’s really performing superbly. Check this one out for some great licks.

My next pick is one of Dylan’s more silly songs. Yes, I’m talking about Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 from “Blonde on Blonde.” The original album recording is already choke full of fun sounds, and then you get into the lyrics and you can tell he’s having a good time. Now, you get into the Live versions of the song and everything just comes off the hinges. From the “MTV Unplugged” album he knocks it out of the park a little further and does a fantastic job of juicing this up with some great sounds. Give it a listen, you’ll be happy you did. (Side note: This was the one Dylan song my boss at Target knew of, and he had little talent for singing. I smiled and nodded, and continued to think of him as an idiot.)

This is not the exact song I’m talking about here, but it is Dylan playing with Elvis Costello, so it’s just as good.

This one you might roll your eyes at because it’s Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door from the “Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid” film. I’ve actually watched the film, and can say it’s not all that great. However, this song is one of the few good things to come from that. Now, you might be saying that Guns N’ Roses cover is a good one, and that I shouldn’t bother. Ok, but consider this: Axl Rose is an asshole. I understand I don’t know the man, but c’mon. Who just throws “hey’s” and “whoa’s” around? That dick, that’s who. However, Dylan does a live version of this song on his “MTV Unplugged” album that’s heart-felt and powerful in execution. The added three minutes from the original stand out, but do take a minute to build up and draw you into the song. Also, if you want to hear this song with a flute solo you should check out the “Live At Budokan” recording.

From the “Blood on the Tracks” album comes Shelter From the Storm. This already well written song is bolstered even further up along the reasons of why I love Dylan so much. On the “Hard Rain” album his performance of this song truly goes to create a gorgeous melody and a lilting playfulness you might not expect from him. An album that’s been said to be a ghost train with little steam from the “Rolling Thunder Revue” tour, there’s still plenty of gems here and this song is just one of them.

Tombstone Blues has always been one of those high concept songs to me. With lyrics that, at first glance, blow your mind, and slowly turns toward something more compelling and frightening to find out what Dylan is talking about. From the “MTV Unplugged” album he’s turned the song into a quasi-country jamband tune. It deviates the tune just enough to recast it in a light that any fan of Dylan can appreciate

The song Maggie’s Farm was one I had originally heard from the Bootleg Series Volume 7 in which it was performed live during that infamous period where Dylan started playing electric guitar. I then heard the original recording from the “Bringing It All Back Home” album. I was stunned to hear such a difference between the two and that’s when I started digging further into his live albums. My favorite live track though comes from the “Hard Rain” album. The guitars all roll along the same twangy pattern that’s just fun to listen to, but the great part is the way Dylan executes his vocals for this song. It just pulls you in and makes you want to sing along.

And those are my picks for Dylan’s live tracks. I hope you enjoyed it, and if you’ve got some favorites of your own let me know! Tune in next time when I point out the tracks that should have been left off the set list from his live albums.

- Zak Kaveney

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