Saturday, December 12, 2015

Bob Dylan The Cutting Edge & Show # 590

In the span fourteen of months from January 1965 to roughly February 1966, Bob Dylan made a transition from the folk music scene that he was a part of starting in Greenwich Village into the wild spontaneous world of rock music. Already able to fill Carnegie Hall, Dylan looked for something new and did not want to be labeled as a protest songwriter. It is also fitting that his first album where he would experiment with what he would eventually call his “wild mercury sound” was produced by Tom Wilson. Wilson produced the three acoustic Dylan albums that preceded Bringing It All Back Home (The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1963), The Times They Are A Changin’ (1964) and Another Side Of Bob Dylan (1964)) and Wilson would assist in bringing Dylan’s electric sound to a new audience.

The Cutting Edge begins with Dylan armed with an acoustic as we hear a quick run through of “Love Minus Zero/No Limit”, one of the many songs that would be found on the 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home. This song, like many Dylan songs are open to interpretation. This early track on The Cutting Edge could be seen as an introduction to the limitless possibilities of a world that Dylan was about to explore. Lyrically, Bringing It All Back Home brought together elements of Dylan’s acoustic beginnings with experimentations into electric rock music. The lyrics too took on more prowess and imagination than ever before. Songs during this period often brought together real life experiences with characters from literature and history while at the same time adding a surreal slant. The result was an effective, new mixture of music and lyrics unlike any other. The songs on The Cutting Edge progress from sketches, outtakes, fragments to full out alternate versions of songs that would wind up on Bringing It All Back Home in 1965, Highway 61 Revisited in 1965 and Blonde On Blonde in 1966.

In the middle of all of the sketches of songs, outtakes and raved up versions of songs such as “It Takes A Lot To Laugh It Takes A Train To Cry”, a version of “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Desolation Row” with a full band, alternate takes of singles such as “Positively 4th Street”, there is the evolution of the song “Like A Rolling Stone”. This song is pivotal when discussing Bob Dylan and music in general. Songs were at most three minutes back in the 60s. “Like A Rolling Stone” took that format and broke the time barrier, expanding it to over six minutes with lyrics telling a story like a great novel. The lyrics are sung with a certain cynicism and were captured in the fourth take that the band attempted during these sessions. You can hear the song change time signatures on The Cutting Edge and despite being attempted approximately 20 times, only two complete takes were ever finished of this song. This song helped to define Bob Dylan’s new sound and his style of writing. Often written about and discussed at length, The Cutting Edge sheds light on how it was created. This was also the last recording to be produced with Tom Wilson. After the recording of “Like A Rolling Stone”, which is the only recording that Wilson produced that would make Highway 61 Revisited, he was mysteriously replaced by Bob Johnston who took over producing Dylan records until New Morning in 1970.

For the sessions that would make up the double album Blonde On Blonde, it began with Dylan recording with his new backing band The Hawks, an early version of The Band. Several songs on The Cutting Edge feature an early incarnation of The Band with and without drummer Levon Helm. While Helm did play with The Hawks, he left the band during Dylan’s 1965 “electric” tour and is only featured on some recordings in this set. He was replaced by Bobby Gregg, who had played with Dylan and Co. on Bringing It All Back Home and who also played with Sun Ra in the 60s. You can hear early versions of songs such as “Visions Of Johanna” in a more erratic fashion, outtakes and alternate versions of songs “I Wanna Be Your Lover”, “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window”, “Lunatic Princess”, “Leopard Skin Pill-Box Hat” and many others. The sessions for Blonde On Blonde took place in both New York and in Nashville and with these recordings the band line up shuffles frequently. The Blonde On Blonde sessions were augmented with session musicians from Nashville. When it was released in May of 1966, Blonde On Blonde was the first of its kind. It was the first double album of rock music ever to be released.

As “Like A Rolling Stone” did with single time barriers for radio singles, Blonde On Blonde pushed beyond the typical LP format. The Cutting Edge ends (on the shorter and 18 disc versions of it) with another lengthy composition. Rumoured to be about his then wife Sara, “Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands” is a song noted for a few things. It was the last song recorded for the sessions. It was written during an eight-hour span in the studio while many of the musicians played cards and smoked cigarettes waiting for its completion and finally, it took up an entire side of the album when released on vinyl. It clocked in at eleven minutes and twenty two seconds. Recorded around 4 AM on February 16th 1966, the song takes on a nocturnal, haunting quality while the song structure goes beyond the norm while the lyrics ask questions without providing answers, tying in once again into the literary comparisons of Dylan’s songs.

In 2014, The Basement Tapes Complete were released as part of Bob Dylan’s bootleg series. This set took us through Dylan’s next phase of music following his “Dylan goes electric” era. Those songs reached out to Dylan’s roots exploring folk music, roots rock and country, which led to the sounds that would produce both Music From Big Pink by The Band and 1967’s stripped down John Wesley Harding. The Cutting Edge rewinds the tape, going back to the time before any of that occurred. We see Dylan searching for a sound through rock music, which would put him in the public eye. The Cutting Edge shows the listener what it would be like to be a fly on the studio wall as Bob Dylan and a series of musicians create three very different highly influential albums that brought in a rock & roll sound with a new kind of lyric.

Saturday Night Playlist:

1. The Evaporators - Waaa!
2. The Moderns - The Year of Today
3. Soupcans - Psychosomatic Rash
4. Runs With Kittens - Cut Of Your Jib
5. Mexican Knives - Beach Song
6. Mexican Knives - Nightmare
7. The Pyramids - Penetration
8. The Catamounts - Ride The Surf
9. The Famines - Fast Times
10. Ty Segall - The Slider
11. Tall Dwarfs - Mr. Broccoli
12. Bob Dylan - Subterranean Homesick Blues (Take 1, Alternate Take)
13. Bob Dylan - On The Road Again (Take 1 Remake, Complete)
14. Bob Dylan - Mr. Tambourine Man (Take 3 with Band, Incomplete)
15. Bob Dylan - Like A Rolling Stone (Takes 1-3 Rehearsal)
16. Bob Dylan - Like A Rolling Stone (Take 11)
17. Cass Mccombs - Catacombs Cow Cow Boogie
18. Ray Condo & The Hardrock Goners - I Don't Matter To Me
19. Father John Misty - The Ideal Husband
20. Ought - Meant For Miles
21. Sports - Saturday All Of Something
22. Teenage Head - Picture My Face (Live 1978)
23. The Red Squares - Transmitter
24. BB Gun - Curious
25. The Outcasts - Justa Nother Teenage Rebel

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for December 12. Or subscribe to Revolution Rock as a Podcast.

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