Monday, May 28, 2018

Dylan & The Dead (Jerry Garcia's original mix)

Bob Dylan & The Grateful Dead – Dylan & The Dead
(Jerry Garcia’s original mix – soniclovenoize reconstruction)

Disc 1:  Jerry Garcia’s Original Album Compilation
1.  John Brown (live in Foxborough, 7/4/87)
2.  The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest (live in Eugene, 7/19/87)
3.  Chimes of Freedom (live in Anaheim, 7/26/87)
4.  Slow Train (live in Foxborough, 7/4/87)
5.  Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 (live in Eugene, 7/19/87)
6.  Queen Jane Approximately (live in Eugene, 7/19/87)
7.  Joey (live in Foxborough, 7/4/87)
8.  The Wicked Messenger (live in East Rutherford, 7/12/87)
9.  It's All Over Now, Baby Blue (live in Eugene, 7/19/87)

Disc 2:  Soniclovenoize’s Bonus Disc of Tour Highlights
1.  The Times They Are a-Changing (live in East Rutherford, 7/12/87)
2.  I'll Be Your Baby Tonight (live in Oakland, 7/24/87)
3.  Heart of Mine (live in Eugene, 7/19/87)
4.  Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again (live in Philadelphia, 7/10/87)
5.  Ballad of a Thin Man (live in Philadelphia, 7/10/87)
6.  Shelter From The Storm (live in Oakland, 7/24/87)
7.  Simple Twist of Fate (live in Philadelphia, 7/10/87)
8.  All Along The Watchtower (live in Anaheim, 7/26/87)
9.  Knockin' On Heaven's Door (live in Oakland, 7/24/87)

In need of some Memorial Day Weekend Jams?  This is a reconstruction of the original version of the live album Dylan & The Dead.  While the brief, dismal 1987 tour of The Grateful Dead backing Bob Dylan birthed an even more dismal live album Dylan & The Dead in 1989, its original incarnation—personally compiled by Jerry Garcia—was a more consistent release that showed the idiosyncratic tour in its best light.  That mix—which was rejected by Bob Dylan—is reconstructed here using (mostly) bootleg soundboard tapes from the tour, remastered for coherency.  Also included is a bonus disc compilation of my remaining favorite performances of the tour that was not originally included on Jerry Garcia’s mix of the album. 

The 1980s certainly had its ups and downs for Bob Dylan.  Starting the decade with a trilogy of derided Born-Again albums, Dylan released what was touted as his comeback album Infidels in 1983 (also a subjectof reconstruction on my blog).  He followed it up with the increasingly mediocre mainstream MOR rock albums Empire Burlesque in 1985 and Knocked Out Loaded in 1986, with the worst of the batch Down in the Groove mostly in the can.  While his studio work failed expectations, his live material seemed to be consistent: the live shows for the Born-Again albums were, although preachy, intense and rejuvenating thanks to his massive band; a sample of the Infidels tour was captured on 1984’s Real Live, which gave the material its much needed grit thanks to Mick Taylor and Ian McLagan; and Dylan harnessed Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers' youthful edge for their joint 1986 tour. 

Continuing this precedent, the idea somehow came about that none other than The Grateful Dead could act as Dylan’s backing band in 1987!  The Dead themselves were no strangers to Dylan’s material, having covered a great number of his songs, from greatest hits to deepest album tracks.  But they too had their own ups and downs in the 80s—after a creative drought, Jerry Garcia had just succumbed to a diabetic coma in July of 1986 and had to relearn to play the guitar entirely.  On the other hand, the band was just gearing up to release their first and only Top 40 single, “Touch of Grey”.  Could the pair of aging musical icons of the 60s pull off a powerhouse tour? 

The answer was unfortunately ‘no’; the idea of The Dead backing Dylan was much better than the reality.  This tour ushered in Dylan’s “Cookie Monster” era in which much of his lyrics were indecipherably mumbled in a vague melody escalating upward, rather than the actual vocal melody of any given song.  He also seemed to lack the motivation to really rehearse well enough for the tour itself, being satisfied to run through about 100 different songs once or twice (the actual bootlegged rehearsal tapes prove this!)—not to mention Dylan’s fascination with spontaneously changing a song’s arrangement, on-stage, without giving advance warning to his band.  Also, Dylan always played best with a strong backbeat—from Jim Keltner to Stan Lynch—to guide his vocal and scrub-a-dub rhythm guitar, something that The Dead’s pair of busy percussionists Bill Kreutzmann and Micky Hart could not provide.  No fault should necessarily be given to The Grateful Dead for this, as their very nature of meandering stoner jazz simply could not work with the rolling thunder of Dylan.  The thin, wild mercury sound was replaced with a thick, schmellow haze of lysergic acid.  While sometimes interesting, it was most often a disaster. 

After six dates in the July of 1987—Foxboro, Philadelphia, East Rutherford, Eugene, Oakland and Anaheim—it was all over (baby blue) and the aging superstars went their separate ways, but not without talk of a live document of the tour on wax and the brand new compact disc.  Credit must be given to Jerry Garcia for plowing through the tapes and finding the gems amongst the dreck—for surprisingly, there were some great moments on the tour.  Enough for an album, at least! 

Garcia’s lineup for this album included a number of Dylan deep cuts, such as the long-lost 1962 Dylan original “John Brown” from Foxboro; played three times on the tour to varying success, this performance was driving and mysterious.  Next was the John Wesley Harding deep cut “The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest”; played only once, in Eugene, the band miraculously clicked and gave a performance that gains momentum to an explosive rollick.  The majestic “Chimes of Freedom” from Anaheim was chosen next; played dismally on three other dates, the band played it gracefully on their final show.  The basic blues vamp of “Slow Train” from Foxboro followed; not spectacular, but not terrible.  Eugene’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” was next; its sole performance had a raw energy captured only by a band who must have jammed to the classic on numerous occasions, this time behind its actual author.  An exquisite “Queen Jane Approximately” from Eugene also followed; although attempted four times on the tour, only Eugene’s had a such a sombre longing to it... as well as guitars in tune.  Garcia’s inclusion of Foxboro’s “Joey” was curious indeed; Garcia himself must have been the song’s only fan, as its performance was passable at best. Next was the biting “The Wicked Messenger” from East Rutherford, another fantastic performance of a deep cut from John Wesley Harding.  Garcia’s 50-minute tape concluded with Eugene’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”, another song that seemed to benefit from The Dead’s jazzy interplay. 

After previewing Garcia’s guitar-heavy mix on a $40 boombox in a large, empty den in Dylan’s mansion, Dylan rejected it, requesting a remix to reduce the vocals and add more bass!  The eventual album, mixed tamely for the MOR crowds, also cut all of the most staggering, energetic or beautiful performances from Garcia’s mix: “John Brown”, “The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest”, “The Wicked Messenger”, “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”, “Chimes of Freedom” and “Rainy Day Women” were left on the cutting room floor.  They were replaced with a mediocre run through of “I Want You” from Oakland and the most obvious, robotic takes of “Gotta Serve Somebody”, “All Along The Watch Tower” and “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” from Anaheim.  Mind-mindbogglingly the dirge of “Joey” remained, but at least the exquisite “Queen Jane Approximately” was also spared.  The resulting live album, released in February 1989, was so dismal, lifeless and uninspired, it was hailed has possibly the very worse album by both Bob Dylan and The Grateful Dead.

Luckily, a slightly crusty copy of Garcia’s original mix survives, forever preserving an album that could have been, or at least serving as a reminder that there was gold in them thar hills.  Even better, soundboard tapes exist of all six shows, although they are all of varying quality (with Eugene & Foxboro being release-quality and Anaheim & East Rutherford being muddy, poor-quality board taps).  While the bootleg of Garcia’s cassette is a bit beyond repair itself, we are certainly able to reassemble its track sequence, remastering the tracks (as much as possible, anyways) to match the albums's official release.  Additionally, I have compiled a second disc of further selections from the tour, personal favorites from a fascinating moment in history that could have been amazing, but… wasn’t quite there. 

My bonus disc begins with “The Times They Are a-Changing”; performed only three times in a similar arrangement to “Chimes of Freedom”, East Rutherford’s was the least sloppy and was quite an interesting listen.  “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” always had the best of intentions but its performance was generally a disaster; luckily Oakland’s performance was charming and made my cut.  Likewise, the sole performance of the Shot of Love track “Heart of Mine”, while not fantastic, warms this heart of mine.  “Stuck Inside of Mobile” was one that held the most promise, but proved difficult for Kreutzmann & Hart to find a footing on; all four performances have dropped beats in the first verse, as they struggle to keep up with Dylan and find the downbeat.  Once they do find their groove however, the song propels and becomes a highlight of the entire set, for all four shows. Here I’ve chosen Philadelphia’s “Stuck Inside”, as the mistake is the least-noticeable of the four.  A convincing take of “Ballad of a Thin Man” also from Philadelphia follows, the best of the five performances from the tour.  The sole performance of “Shelter From The Storm” from Oakland is presented; although featuring a similar arrangement as “The Ballad Frankie Lee and Judas Priest” it’s another case of when this band could be ‘on’, they were really on!  Philadelphia’s “Simple Twist of Fate” is the best of its three tour appearances, another that seems to fit The Dead’s style.  Nearing the end, I’ve chosen the official album mix of Anaheim’s “All Along The Watchtower” because, well, it's the best of the batch  Concluding my bonus disc is the very longest performance of “Knockin On Heaven’s Door” from Oakland, which dissolves into an appropriate a capella hymnal. 

320kps mp3s (part 1, part 2)
Lossless FLAC (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4)

Sources Used:
Bob Dylan & The Grateful Dead - John F. Kennedy Stadium (Dolphinsmile remaster)
Bob Dylan & The Grateful Dead - Alameda County Coliseum (Dolphinsmile remaster)
Bob Dylan & The Grateful Dead - Autzen Stadium (Dolphinsmile remaster)
Bob Dylan & The Grateful Dead – Anaheim Stadium (unknown soundboard source)
Bob Dylan & The Grateful Dead – Giants Stadium (unknown soundboard source)
Bob Dylan & The Grateful Dead – Orbiting Uvula (1992 Turtle Records)
Dylan & The Dead (2013 remaster from The Complete Album Collection)

Flac/shn --> wav --> mixing & editing in SONAR & Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
*md5, artwork and tracknotes included


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Velvet Underground - IV (upgrade)

The Velvet Underground – IV

(soniclovenoize reconstruction)

December 2017 Upgrade

Side A:
1.  We’re Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together
2.  One of These Days
3.  Andy’s Chest
4.  Lisa Says
5.  Ferryboat Bill
6.  Foggy Notion

Side B:
7.  I Can’t Stand It
8.  Coney Island Steeplechase
9.  I’m Sticking With You
10.  She’s My Best Friend
11.  Ocean
12.  Ride Into The Sun

This is an upgrade to my reconstruction of the fabled “lost fourth album” by The Velvet Underground, recorded in-between 1969’s The Velvet Underground and 1970’s Loaded.  With the master tapes discovered in the 1980s and remixed, the material originally saw the light of day on compilation albums VU and Another View.  The original 1969 mixes, as well as newer 2014 remixes that emulated the sound of those original 1969 mixes, were finally released on the 45th anniversary The Velvet Underground super delux boxset.  Sundazed also released their own reconstruction of this “lost fourth album” as a limited edition vinyl entitled 1969, but various pressings used either the 1969, 1985 or 2014 mixes.  My reconstruction uses only the vintage 1969 or “dry” 2014 mixes to present a cohesive, completed album and attempts to be true to what an actual fourth Velvet Underground might have been like in 1969. 

Upgrades to this December 2017 edition are:

  • Original 1969 mixes of “Foggy Notion”, “I’m Sticking With You”, “Andy’s Chest” and “She’s My Best Friend” are used, replacing the 1985 mixes. 
  • New 2014 remixes of “One of These Days”, “Lisa Says”, “Coney Island Steeplechase”, “I Can’t Stand It” and “We’re Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together” are used, replacing the 1985 mixes.
  • “Ocean” is sourced from The Velvet Underground super delux, an upgrade from the What Goes On source.
  • The original 1969 mix of “Ferryboat Bill” is added to the reconstruction, after much protest from blog followers! 
  • “Ride Into The Sun” is speed-corrected and volume-adjusted to match the sound of the new sources.

After the proto-shoegaze of 1967’s The Velvet Underground & Nico and the groundbreaking noise-rock of 1968’s White Light/White Heat, we have a completely different Velvet Underground by 1969.  After recording an album intended to be the polar opposite of White Light/White Heat with John Cale’s more musically apt (albeit less experimental) replacement Doug Yule, the band enjoyed critical success with their The Velvet Underground album, even though commercial success still eluded them.  Although the band was tired of MGM Records—or perhaps reading the writing on the wall and anticipated a drop from the label due to a lack of commercial potential—The Velvets continued recording a follow-up to The Velvet Underground while touring throughout 1969, biding their time until their management found a better label. 

These recording sessions, based at the Record Plant in New York, began on May 6th with The Velvet Underground tracking the jaunty “Coney Island Steeplechase”, as well as a rocker heavily featured on their current tour and effectively becoming the most-well known originals of this batch, “Foggy Notion”.  The band returned to the studio on May 13th and tracked a song Lou Reed himself would re-record for his seminal 1972 Transformer album “Andy’s Chest”, as well as the charming Mo Tucker-sung “I’m Sticking With You” which would be tried again but ultimately scrapped for the Loaded sessions.  The next day the Doug Yule-sung “She’s My Best Friend” was recorded, a song Reed would himself rerecord for his 1976 Coney Island Baby album.  On May 20th the band recorded another live staple that would be revisited for Lou Reed’s 1972 solo album Lou Reed, “I Can’t Stand It”.  The Velvets returned to the studio on June 19th & 20th to track an additional three songs: the bizarre “Ferryboat Bill”; another road-tested epic “Ocean” again later rerecorded for both Loaded and Lou Reed; and a rough performance of “Rock and Roll”, a song later re-recorded as the centerpiece for Loaded.  At this two-day session they also made mixes of seven of the nine songs tracked thus far and compiled an acetate that contained, in order: “I’m Sticking With You”, “Foggy Notion”, “Ferryboat Bill”, “Andy’s Chest”, “Ocean”, “Rock and Roll” and “She’s My Best Friend”.

With half the album in the can, The Velvets took the summer off to continue touring and returned to The Record Plant on September 5th for more work on the project.  The exquisite “Ride Into The Sun” was tracked, a song too later rerecorded but scrapped for Loaded and finally appearing on Lou Reed.   While a multi-layered instrumental version exists, the multitracks containing the vocal overdubs seems to have been lost, and unfortunately only exists as an acetate.  The band returned to the studio on September 23rd to cut the bar-room rollick “One of These Days” and the aimless instrumental jam “I’m Gonna Move Right In” was tracked on September 27th.  Live staple “We’re Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together” was recorded three days later and finally the somber “Lisa Says” recorded on October 1st.  In the end, fourteen new songs were recorded between May and October—most of which were excellent, studio captures of this incarnation of The Velvet Underground who had become a live-performing machine throughout 1969.   But by the end of the year, MGM had dropped The Velvet Underground from their roster of artists and the mastertapes were filed away in a vault, forgotten and never to be heard again in that decade or the next. 

It should be noted that the actual band members seem to have differing opinions on what the intent of these recordings was.  In interviews and personal correspondence, bandleader Lou Reed expressed that the 1969 Record Plant recordings were meant for their fourth album—specifically noting that “We’re Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together” was meant to be the lead single, a tongue-in-cheek ode to mindless dance music.  Mo Tucker sides with Reed, stating she was under the impression they were recording a proper fourth album (although she confusingly claims that The Record Plant recordings were not it).  In contrast, Doug Yule claimed they were simply professionally-recorded demos for the album that would eventually be Loaded.  Sterling Morrison offers a completely different explanation: the recordings were simply “busy work”, a put-on so that MGM would not suspect the band was shopping for a new contract, and that these recordings were never meant to see the light of day.   Who are we to believe, if we believe any of this at all? 

Regardless, the multitracks of the 1969 Record Plant sessions (along with a few unreleased John Cale-era tracks from 1968) were accidentally found in the vaults in the mid 1980s, remixed and released as the compilation album VU in 1985.  Perfectly timed during a revival of interest in the band, the album was a hit; it was probably no coincidence that VU featured rather modern mixing techniques (such as gated reverb on the drums) wowing audiences that a band from the 60s could have such a modern sound!  With the remainder of the tracks released on 1986’s Another View, these mixes circulated on compilation albums for nearly thirty years.  With fans complaining of the anachronistic mixing of the Record Plant sessions, the vintage 1969 mixes were finally given an official release in 2014 on the 45th anniversary super delux boxset of The Velvet Underground.  Also included were freshly-made remixes of the remaining seven songs, created to match the sound of the vintage 1969 mixes.  By this point in time, Sterling and Yule’s view of these recordings were ignored and the sessions were touted as “the great lost fourth Velvet Underground album,” be it accurate or not. 

My reconstruction attempts to use the best of these 1969 Record Plant Sessions and present a finished, cohesive album, as could have been released by the end of 1969 as the fourth Velvet Underground album.  We will be using all original 1969 mixes or the new 2014 mixes found on The Velvet Underground super delux boxset.  All introductory studio chatter is edited out as well as some outros faded out, as per what the final tracks probably would have been released as.  My reconstruction drops “I’m Gonna Move Right In” for the sake of conciseness and drops “Rock and Roll” for the sake of redundancy.  We will also substitute the instrumental “Ride Into The Sun” with the vocal acetate version found on the What Goes On boxset, speed corrected and volume-adjusted to match the previous eleven songs.  The resultant album is a strong collection of twelve tracks that amount to just over 40 minutes, the perfect Velvet Underground album.  While succumbing to a more polished sound, we also essentially have a more energetic version of The Velvet Underground, bridging the gap between that and Loaded.  Also, we can fully appreciate the underrated powerhouse of Doug Yule, a forgotten hero who kept the band together without John Cale.  A document of a short-lived era of the band usually only heard on live recording like The Quine Tapes, IV are the waves to ride us into the sun.  Let's have a real good time together.  

Lossless FLAC (part 1, part 2)

Sources Used:
The Velvet Underground (2014 CD boxset)
What Goes On (1993 CD boxset)

flac --> wav --> editing in SONAR & Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
*md5, artwork and tracknotes included