Friday, June 7, 2013

Bob Dylan - Infidels (original mix)




Bob Dylan – Infidels

(original mix by soniclovenoize)


Side A:
1.  Jokerman
2.  Someone’s Got A Hold Of My Heart
3.  Neighborhood Bully
4.  License To Kill
5.  Blind Willie McTell

Side B:
6.  Man of Peace
7.  Foot of Pride
8.  I and I
9.  Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight


Bob Dylan, what the hell were you thinking?  This is what we asked him all through the 1980s.  Coming off a trilogy of non-secular music that is frankly off-putting and of little inventive substance, Bob Dylan returned to the studio in 1983 with Dire Straits mastermind Mark Knopfler as producer to mark Dylan’s comeback album to secular music.   Infidels was intended  as a return to his idiosyncratic poetic acrobatics and interesting song structures with a lean, meat-and-potatoes rock band production (in contrast to his overproduced slew of post-Desire albums)…  Or so we thought. 

What we got instead was stereotype mainstream early 80s mixing and some of Dylan’s best songs of the decade left on the cutting room floor, mostly due to Knopfler’s early exit from the album, leaving Dylan to finish it himself and make rather disastrous creative choices.  Infidels could have been the best album of his post-Desire era and, while admittedly not a masterpiece, could have been on par with his much stronger albums John Wesley Harding, Nashville Skyline or Desire (or at least certainly superior to New Morning, Planet Waves or Street Legal anyways).   But after all these years, can Infidels be saved?   I believe it can.  This is a reconstruction of the album that Infidels could have been, utilizing alternate “drier” rough mixes and the early tracklist of the album.  And yes, it includes the unreleased full-band version of “Bind Willie McTell” which is a 50% improvement in itself. 

Dylan recorded a bulk of material for his supposed comeback album throughout April and May of 1983, new originals, random covers and aimless jams alike.  At the conclusion of the sessions, Dylan and Knopfler had compiled a rough mix of an album that contained nine songs: “Blind Willie McTell”, “Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight”, “Foot of Pride”, “I and I”, “Jokerman”, “Neighborhood Bully”, “License To Kill”, “Man of Peace” and “Sweetheart Like You.”  Knopfler’s story was that he was forced to leave the sessions early because of touring obligations and offered to create a final mix of the album upon his return.  Dylan declined, insisting that his label needed the final mix immediately and he choose to create the final mix himself with the studio’s house engineer.  It was at this point in time that “Foot of Pride” and “Blind Willie McTell”, the later unanimously hailed as one of the best songs of Dylan’s career let alone the decade, was dropped from the album and replaced by inane “Union Sundown”.  Dylan also helped himself to additional now-antiquated production giving the whole album the slick 1980s rock 'gleam' that makes Infidels sound incredibly dated.  He also rerecorded vocals for a number of tracks, specifically giving “Jokerman” a new vocal that sounds as if Dylan is falling asleep at the mic.  Why he did this, no one knows; some believe Dylan made artistic choices that were intentionally counter-intuitive and contrary to his inner circle’s recommendations.  Some believe he's mad.  Either way, that was the Infidels that was released, without Knopfler’s valuable final input. 

The first step in my reconstruction is to fix the dated 80s production and utilize alternate mixes for all of the songs.  We are lucky enough to have excellent quality rough mixes of almost all the serious contenders for the album, taken from the bootleg Outfidel Intakes, which apparently received a recent 24-bit remaster by a fan using CEDAR mastering software (kudos to their fantastic job).  These mixes all lack the overdubs Dylan and Knopfler made, as well as the annoying mixing techniques Dylan oversaw himself in June.  They are all straight-forward basic tracks with a rather drier, grittier and often more upfront vocal track.  While the typical 80s-rock sound is inescapable for Infidels no matter how you cut it (it was recorded with the Dire Straits guitar sound and a reggae rhythm section!), these mixes allow the songs to breathe and is closer to Knopfler’s alleged original intent for the sound of the album. 

Next we sequence the tracks utilizing the stronger songs that were cut from the released version, replacing the weaker ones.  While we don’t have the specific track order, we do know what songs were on the original tracklist.  If we make the assumption that the songs were in the same basic order as on the officially released album, then we are left with the seven Infidels tracks (minus “Union Sundown”) that require “Blind Willie McTell” and “Foot of Pride” to fill in the gaps to make two sides of an LP.  If the fantastic full-band electric version of “Blind Willie McTell” (as opposed to the longer, acoustic version found on The Bootleg Series 1-3) is placed on side A and “Foot of Pride” on side B, we are left with two 23-minute sides.  This must be more than a coincidence!  Thus “Foot of Pride” effectively replaced “Union Sundown” on side B, and the band-take of “Blind Willie McTell” is a powerful closer to side A.  I believe this was Knopfler’s original tracklist. 

One final adjustment made that admittedly was not on Knopfler’s theoretical rough mix is a result of my own creative license, and that is the replacing of the clichéd dullard “Sweetheart Like You” with the slightly more interesting fan favorite “Someone’s Got A Hold Of My Heart”, another Why-was-this-left-off-the-album!?-track.  It was not on Knopfler’s rough running order, presumably because Dylan never thought it was finished; the fact that the song was later rewritten several times and completely simplified into Empire Burlesque’s atrocious “Tight Connection To My Heart” seems to validate this assertion.  But I hear nothing wrong with this basic-rock alternate version used here (as opposed to the dismal radio-friendly version found on The Bootleg Series 1-3) but it keeps a better momentum for side A and is a great upgrade to the trite “Sweetheart Like You”, a song that truly deserved to be dropped from the album. 

Is Infidels truly a good Dylan album?  Honestly, we are unsure because its praise is grounded solely in its historical context rather than the quality of the actual material: it’s not a Christian Dylan album and it’s not complete shit.  But my presented original mix reconstruction will hopefully demonstrate that it could have been a highlight of his later career—if you don’t completely loathe 1980s mainstream rock that is, which Infidels certainly is and always be.  But now it can be a bit less of that, for what it’s worth, and we can hear the songs for what they are, rather than just hearing the time that they existed in. 


Lossless flac (part 1, part 2)


Sources used:
Bob Dylan – Outfidel Intakes (bootleg)


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

27 comments:

  1. Thank you for this. It sounds fantastic too! I really miss Sweetheart Like You. It was always one of my favourites. But thats a minor complaint. Thank you for your good work!


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  2. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love what this blog is (I've even bookmarked as "My favorite website ever.") But, I think your best work came when you were constructing lost albums.

    There are still some great ones to recreate too (although I'm not sure all the material is available,) like Household Objects by Pink Floyd; there's a ton by Neil Young; a few Beach Boy/Brian Wilson related, like Landlocked, Sweet Insanity; Jan & Dean's Carnival of Sound; some of Dennis Wilson's stuff; apparently there's a third Zombies LP..

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  3. Also, there's some Harry Nilsson stuff and you could try your hand on Big Star's Third/Sister Lovers. The Kinks have an unreleased album too..

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    1. Thanks for the suggestions Orwelle!

      The reason I did this Infidels was because I was, at the time, just super excited that I had found this rough mix of Infidels as well as how it would have gone together, so I kinda just did it, spur of the moment! Otherwise, I already have more typical Albums That Never Were fair in the can, such as Weezer's "Songs From The Black Hole", Van Morrison's "Contractual Obligations" and a requested Nirvana "Sheep". I'll try to get these up here this week.

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    2. Awesome! I'm definitely looking for to "Contractual Obligations." What a weird batch of songs that is.

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  4. Thank you very much!

    What about trying Genesis? The Abacab album was supposed to be a double-album. Every tracks has been officially released (and even remixed) on the box sets, and the original track-listing is available. There's even an (incomplete) version of the real thing available online.

    That could be great! :)

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  5. Any plans on putting up those albums soon?
    I'm very much looking forward to them.

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  6. Both flac and mp3 are to be re-uploaded if you can.
    Thanks for your awesome work man, it's unique!
    J.

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  7. Darn. I've been recently listening to the regular album, and was hoping for working links. If you're still reading this post, would you please re-up the flac files? Thank you.

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  8. Thanks so much for updating the links. Truly appreciated.

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  9. thanks, excellent work, look forward to listening

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  10. Wow.. Another amazing reconstruction. Bob has never been the best curator of his own stuff!

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  11. This is awesome. Have you considered having a look at Oh Mercy? Another sabotage job by Bob. How could he have left off Series of Dreams, Born in Time, God Knows, or Dignity, while leaving on guff like When Teardrops Fall?

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  12. Haven't heard "Infidels" since the early eighties, and have never heard the alternates. But I've heard a lot about how the album, as it was originally conceived would have been his best of the eighties, and that's always intrigued me. so thanks very much for this.

    For what it's worth, in his book "Bob Dylan: The Recording Sessions 1960-1994," Clinton Heylin says there was indeed a finalized tracklist for the aborted lineup. According to him, it was compiled in May '83 and went like this:
    Side 1:
    1. Jokerman
    2. License To Kill
    3. Man Of Peace
    4. Neighborhood Bully
    Side 2:
    1. Don't Fall Apart On Me Tonight
    2. Blind Willie McTell
    3. Sweetheart Like You
    4. I And I
    5. Foot Of Pride

    He also thinks that if they'd ditched "Neighborhood Bully" and "License To Kill" in favor of "Someone's Got A Hold Of My Heart" and "Tell Me" it would've been even stronger. Like I said, I haven't heard this stuff, so looking forward to it, thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the heads up! I'll re-sequence my reconstruction like that and give it a listen.

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  13. Thanks, this is actually a great album, even better after your reconstruction. I agree Oh Mercy is a high priority, some of my outtakes sound pretty muddy, but there may be enough on the Bootleg Series to give it a shot, and we have a long description of the sessions in his book. Also, Time Out of Mind, Blood on the Tracks, Shot of Love...wait a minute, actually almost ALL of his albums are ripe for reconstruction. Bob, Bruce, and Neil, man, they have just as many unreleased albums as they do official releases, it seems.

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    1. I probably won't ever upload them here, but here's how I would re-do Bob's modern releases, imo making them all on-par with Desire and John Wesley Harding, quality-wise. All killer no filler...

      OH MERCY
      Side A: Series of Dreams (Side Tracks version) / Political World / Ring Them Bells / Everything Is Broken / Man In The Long Black Coat
      Side B: Most of the Time (Bootleg Series version) / Born In Time (Bootleg Series) / What Good Am I / Dignity (Side Tracks version) / Shooting Star

      TIME OUT OF MIND
      Side A: Love Sick / Dreamin of You (Bootleg Series) / Red River Shore (Bootleg Series version 1)
      Side B: Tryin to Get to Heaven / Million Miles / Not Dark Yet
      Side C: Cold Irons Bound / Mississippi (Bootleg Series version 1) / Can't Wait
      Side D: Highlands

      "LOVE AND THEFT"
      Side A: Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum / Bye and Bye / High Water / Floater / Moonlight
      Side B: Honest with Me / Po Boy / Cry A While / Sugar Baby

      MODERN TIMES
      Side A: Thunder on the Mountain / Spirit On The Water / When The Deal Goes Down/ Workingman's Blues #2
      Side B: Someday Baby / Nettie Moore / Beyond The Horizon / Ain't Talkin

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  14. The Basement Tapes: The Bootleg Vol. 11 just dropped and I am SO excited about it. I have been a Bob Dylan fan for quite some time and so excited for his recent work! Def check it out :) http://www.npr.org/2014/10/26/357630611/first-listen-bob-dylan-the-basement-tapes-complete-the-bootleg-series-vol-11

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  15. To answer your question "Is Infidels a good Dylan album?", the answer is "no". Infidels is a great Dylan album. Does it sound a little too '80s? Perhaps. But nowhere near as bad as other crimes committed in the name of MTV (that would be Empire Burlesque which, if you don't already know, is a truly awful Dylan album). Just because Sly and Robbie played with a lot of reggae artists doesn't for a moment refute the fact that they were a rock-solid rhythm section. Add in former Stone Mick Taylor's work on the album, and you've got one of the strongest Dylan releases you're going to hear for a long, looooong time. And I would gladly trade out the tedious "Hold of My Heart" for "Sweetheart Like You" any day of the week.
    Not that I didn't download this and thoroughly enjoy it! I'll admit to listening to Blind Willie McTell on that first Bootlegs release and wonder what the hell Dylan was thinking by not slapping it on one of his '80s albums. But Infidels didn't need it to save it. Maybe Burlesque or... what was that other crap album?... ah, Knocked Out Loaded! (Thanks AllMusic Guide!) That floating turd could have used a little Blind Wille McTell.

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  16. Any plans to do something similar with any other Dylan records? Better or alternate versions?

    Thanks!

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  17. Please send me this album by gmail or anything...mesquitacorreams@gmail.com

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  18. http://ruthlessworlddylan.tumblr.com/

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  19. What an amazing find (just discovered this site). Thank you for doing such a fantastic job.

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