Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bob Dylan - The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964

Bob Dylan - The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964

This entry in the Bootleg Series is number 9; I don't know why it took Columbia 19 years and that many volumes to release 47 tracks from Dylan's gestational period as an artist while they saw fit to release a rarities collection spanning 1998-2006 two years ago. Apparently only 15 of the 47 tracks haven't shown up in other versions either on official releases or earlier bootlegs, but as I haven't heard any of the other entries in the bootleg series (barring the relatively recent live albums), this isn't an issue for me.

It seems Dylan started churning out original material at a rapid rate following his covers heavy debut in early 1962; although some of the non-LP tracks borrow melodies from traditional sources, only "Baby Let Me Follow You Down" is a cover. Not only is more than half of 1963's The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan here in demo form, but also four from 1964's The Times They Are a-Changin' (including the title track) and even a piano version of "Mr. Tambourine Man", which eventually showed up on the acoustic half of 1965's Bringing It All Back Home. These demos are lyrically and compositionally identical to their well known counterparts; the main differences, besides fidelity, are in the nuances of Dylan's performances. Befitting a protest song, Dylan's staccato strumming on "Blowin' in the Wind" is more pronounced on the Freewheelin' version than the version presented here.

The non-LP tracks find Dylan at various stages of his transition from folk juke box to protest singer with an original voice and showcase an array of influences, such as Mississippi John Hurt in the fingerpicking on "Seven Curses" and Big Bill Broonzy or any number of post Robert Johnson, pre T-Bone Walker delta blues artists on "Ballad for a Friend". "Talkin' Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues" and "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues" are early versions of what would become "I Shall Be Free #10". "I Shall Be Free" (included here) is an early version of "Bob Dylan's Blues", which doesn't share I Shall Be Free #10/Bear Mountain/John Birch's chord progression, but features similar off-the-cuff lyrics. This explains the title and number of the Another Side track, and the #10 doesn't seem quite as hyperbolic anymore - perhaps Dylan really did write five other variations. "John Birch" is as good a satire as Dylan ever wrote. It sees him joining the then new John Birch society and conducting an increasingly narrowing search for communists within his own house.

The Whitmark Demos comes with a long booklet of photographs preceded by an essay, and if you're lucky, as I was, you'll also get a short live disc, which unfortunately contains nothing exclusive. Even without these bells and whistles, it's valuable both as a historical document and a listening experience.

Friday, November 11, 2011

100th post

I've traditionally posted youtube clips when I know this blog needs an update, but I can't think of one. So in honour of that, I'm celebrating my 100th post with 100 youtube clips!

1. Throwing Muses - Dizzy

2. The Sex Pistols - No Fun (Stooges cover, live at Winterland)

3. Robert Pollard - Window of My World (in-studio acoustic demo)

4. Laura Cantrell - Love Vigilantes (New Order cover, live)

5. Faith No More - Evidence (live on Hey Hey It's Saturday 1995)

6. Bad Brains - We Will Not (live)

7. Brak - Friendship is Like An Ointment

8. Dappled Cities - Answer is Zero (live)

9. Wilson Pickett - Mustang Sally (live)

10. Radiohead - How to Disappear Completely (live)

11. A Gun Called Tension - Gold Fronts

12. Etta James - I'd Rather Go Blind (live)

13. Eels - Novocaine for the Soul

14. Cat Stevens - Morning Has Broken (live)

15. Beck - Black Angel's Death Song (Velvet Underground cover for Record Club)

16. Michael Jackson - Beat It

18. Weird Al Yankovic - Eat It

19. Neko Case - People Got a Lotta Nerve

20. Duran Duran - A View to a Kill

21. Magic Dirt - Ice

22. Throwing Muses - Hook in Her Head (live)

23. Mansun - The Chad Who Loved Me (live)

24. Custard - (Feels Like) Ringo (live)

25. Fleetwood Mac - Go Your Own Way (live)

26. The Cranberries - Zombie

27. Devo - Freedom of Choice (live)

28. Boris - Missing Pieces (live)

29. Britney Spears - Toxic

30. Midnight Oil - Sometimes (live)

31. Fugazi - Margin Walker (live)

32. Iron and Wine - Sodom, South Georgia (live)

33. Soundgarden - Jesus Christ Pose (live)

34. Marvin Gaye - What's Going On/What's Happening Brother (live)

35. Warpaint - Undertow (live, acoustic)

36. Beck - Master Song (Leonard Cohen cover for Record Club)

37. Devo - Through Being Cool

38. The Clean - Tally Ho

39. Paula Abdul & MC Skat Cat - Opposites Attract

40. Boards of Canada - Dayvan Cowboy

41. Radiohead - Talk Show Host (live)

42. Sonic Youth - The Diamond Sea (live)

43. Gang of Four - What We All Want (live)

44. The Triffids - Wide Open Road

45. King Missle - Detachable Penis

46. Jeff Buckley - Eternal Life (live)

47. Gotye - Somebody That I Used to Know

48. Laura Veirs - Through December (live)

49. Boris - Korosu

50. Neko Case - I Wish I Was the Moon (live)

51. Owen Pallett - Fantasy (Mariah Carey cover)

52. Johnny Cash - Cocaine Blues (live)

53. Garbage - Vow

54. Aphex Twin - Windowlicker

55. Alice in Chains - Would? (live)

56. St. Vincent - Cruel

57. Mogwai - Travel is Dangerous (live)

58. Paul Simon - You Can Call Me Al

59. ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead - Relative Ways (live)

60. Cream - Sunshine of Your Love

61. Mercury Rev - Young Mans' Stride

62. Dean Stockwell - Alphabet Song Rap from Quantum Leap (soundtrack version) - audio only

63. Hunters & Collectors - Talking to a Stranger

65. Madonna - Into the Groove

66. Regurgitator - Miffy's Simplicity

67. Guided By Voices - My Kind of Soldier

68. The Roots - Here I Come (live)

69. Led Zeppelin - Kashmir (live)

70. The Magnetic Fields - I Don't Want to Get Over You (live)

71. Mission of Burma - That's When I Reach for My Revolver (live)

72. Belly - Super-connected

73. Depeche Mode - Everything Counts

74. Rebecca Black - Friday

75. Slint - Good Morning, Captain (live)

76. The Clean - Anything Could Happen

77. Mazzy Star - Fade Into You (live)

78. ESG - UFO (live)

79. OFF! - Jefferey Lee Pierce/I Don't Belong (live)

80. The Breeders - Cannonball

81. Tom Waits - The Piano Has Been Drinking (live)

82. Neneh Cherry - Buffalo Stance (Top of the Pops)

83. Wild Flag - Black Tiles (live)

84. Mercury Rev - Chasing a Bee

85. B.B. King - Why I Sing the Blues (live)

86. Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc. (live)

87. The Church - Reptile (live)

88. Funkadelic - Maggot Brain (live)

89. Not From There - Sich Offnen (live)

90. Sonic Youth - Kool Thing

91. Echo & The Bunnymen - The Killing Moon

92. Brak - The Metalhead Song

93. The Happy Mondays - Kinky Afro

94. Deerhunter - Nothing Ever Happened (live)

95. Iron & Wine - Naked As We Came (live)

96. Nirvana - Radio Friendly Unit Shifter (live)

97. The Clash - Charlie Don't Surf (live)

98. R.E.M. - West of the Fields (live)

99. Gillian Welch - Revelator (live)

100. Super Furry Animals - Sex, War and Robots (Wauvenfold mix)

Extempore #10: Got 99 posts

But a bitch ain't one.

Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign (live in Sweden)

Extempore #9: Believe Me

I came to warn you.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Tom Waits - Bad As Me

Tom Waits - Bad As Me
When you're as bad as Tom Waits, you don't need to release an album every two years; the fans will wait. But how do you keep doing it when you're up to album number 17?

The answer, according to his wife, is don't fuck around. Get in the studio, record your songs and fuck off. 2004's Real Gone, Waits' last album of all new material, didn't exactly suffer from a paucity of ideas, but a glance at the album's running time of 72 minutes confirmed that not all of those ideas were any good. Not only were there too many songs, but the songs themselves were too long, something the skip button can't help with.

Bad As Me neither totally falls back on the tried and true nor labouriously tries to re-invent the sound Waits has been known for since his Island days, but rather varies the approach in subtle yet rewarding ways, particularly in its use of the studio as an instrument. Some past collaborators also liven things up with their welcome return; Les Claypool makes a few guest appearances, as do Marc Ribot and Keith Richards (sometimes on the same track!). Waits' son Casey also appears as part of his fathers percussive onslaught, and Flea makes his debut appearance for Waits.

To say that most artists' 17th albums don't sound as fresh as Bad As Me, or as brutal as it occasionally does ("Hell Broke Luce" - holy shit) is an understatement. Most artists' 4th albums can't manage that. Not only that, but it repositions Waits above almost any other musician out there, suggests that Waits hasn't finished dropping albums that will be part of any era's essential listening and reminds us that his fanbase is bigger than ever. It doesn't matter how long it is until his next album; they'll wait.

Tom Waits 40th Anniversary
The Cookie Monster Has Been Drinking: Brilliant Tom Waits/Cookie Monster Mashup
Tom Waits Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Sex, War & Robots