Have you bought the 6 album box or are you waiting until Santa delivers it? Or….are you thinking,’ They’ve languished in the basement this long, they can stay there for a little longer.’ Last Tuesday evening I made the bold attempt at listening right through. I think I was about two and half albums in when I thought…’why does this feel like I’ve been standing at the coffee machine at Berkeley II Rehearsal studios for the last two hours?
There is, you see, a certain logic to the way we have received music and records in particular for the last 100 years ago. We let the song writers finish the song, we allow the artist time to pick it and (dare I say ) learn it, and we usually like a little production on top. It’s kinda worked up till now. I’ve often noted as I glumly pass on a record that’s been submitted to our show that there is a reason we have record companies…..sometimes having someone to sort the wheat from the dross can help. I’ll be honest – as you can probably guess – I don’t really think all of the above but I’m not really certain how much any of us gains from sifting through every take from ’68 of Dylan and The Band.
However we will play you a worthwhile moment on Friday and also play you something from a man who has listened to them all and written about the experience. Sid Griffin was lead singer of The Long Riders, has written Million Dollar Bash and its newly updated sequel and has released a new album called ‘The Trick is To Breathe. On it he has an interesting song about this enigmatic star of country music….
We’ll have new songs from Larkin Poe, The Lost Brothers, Mark Olson and some lovely old things from The Jayhawks, Punch Brothers and John Murray.
We’re live on Friday from five past eight on BBC Radio Scotland.
On Sunday Morning
I will be spending most of the first hour of the show talking to Karine Polwart.
Karine is a good friend as well as one of our great Songwriters and Folk singers. We’ll be talking about her life, influences and her many diverse social concerns as well as hearing her music. In fact we are getting that rarest thing on a Sunday Morning, a live song from our special guest. but you’d expect that…..
I’ll be talking to Eimar O’Callaghan about her teenage diary, Belfast Days. It’s an amazing diary she has just published from 1972 when she was in her final school years and Belfast was in the darkest days of the troubles. It’s a must read and I’ll be asking why she’s waited until now to let people share it.
We’ll find out what life is like on the ground in Sierra Leone through the eyes of Roman Catholic Bishop, Patrick Daniel Koroma and Tomi Ajay a Christian Aid worker recently returned from that part of the world. Elizabeth Quigley shares a story about Britain’s first female MP on the day that Scotland gets its first female First Minister. As always too we will play some great music. Join me from five past seven on Sunday morning on BBC Radio Scotland.
I’ll be talking to this woman earlier in the day too as I sit in for Bob Harris on BBC.
From Vermont, Anais Mitchell is one of the best collaborators around. Her current album XOA tries to tie up a few of the loose threads…and does it beautifully. All from 3 – 6 on Sunday morning on BBC Radio 2.
I had lots of unused Amazon vouchers from last Christmas and my birthday left unspent and so I did plump for the 6 CD box set, even though I had heard the 4 CD bootleg version which has been doing the rounds since the 1990s. I haven’t been able to make my way through as many as Ricky’s 2 and 1/2 CDs yet. Dylan buffs like myself might point out that Bob has famously hated the process of recording in a studio and being produced and worrying about standing close to microphones and letting engineers capture his performances professionally, and thus he reveled in the atmosphere of the basement sessions with The Band as they were just fooling around having fun making music with friends with no intention of “making a record”. Here and there there are glimpses into his working methods if you compare the two versions of “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” the first take has the chords, tempo, feel of the song all in place but a very barmy set of gibberish lyrics, and by take two Bob has reworked those into a final version of one of his most popular and commercial songs from this era. Its also nice to see the epic “Sign On The Cross” released at last… they oly did one take and there are a few mumbled lyrics where the song may be nearly but not quite finished, and had Bob been working on the follow up to Blonde on Blonde, Sign On The Cross or I’m Not There may have been worked into epics like Visions of Johanna but in the basement sessions we are left with the tantalising but unrealised potential of them as works in progress but not quite finished.
The 2 CD version may be a better place to start as you get to hear the songs which were tarted up / fixed for the 1975 LP without the overdubs and some of the best unreleased Dylan originals and big songs left off the 1975 LP (Quinn The Eskimo) and some of the best cover versions from the basement sessions too and it means you miss some of the worst sound quality tracks and more half-baked, crazy or weak songs they fooled around with before dropping the idea and moving on.