Not only is this a must for Dylan fans, but it will appeal to anyone who has ‘ears to hear’
Trouble No More - Deluxe Edition
The Bootleg Series Volume 13 1979 - 1981
Box set - 9 discs (8 audio CDs, 1 DVD)
Well, where do we start?
Trouble No More, the Deluxe Edition, The Bootleg Series Volume 13, 1979-1981: the title alone is substantial, and what’s contained in the boxed set lives up to its unwieldy moniker. Held in a sturdy, sumptuous slipcase, are what looks like two books: Bob Dylan - Pressing On is a 119 page hardcover book of photographs and reproductions of period posters and artifacts. The other is a wonderfully-detailed hardcover volume filled with color and black and white photos and detailed breakdowns of each of the recordings on the first four audio CDs (the remaining four CDs cover live concert sets). All nine discs are slipped into pockets on very sturdy individual pages that function in the place of the usual jewel-case.
Of course, the focus of this wonderful set is what has become known as Dylan’s ‘Gospel’ period - those years that resulted in some of the artist’s most controversial albums: Slow Train Coming, Saved and Shot of Love. Previously unreleased studio recordings, demos, rehearsal sessions, sound-checks, and concert rarities heard here for the first time, trace the evolution of familiar songs as well as gems that never made it to any official recording. “Slow Train,” for example, is the lead track on all four of the first CDs as well as being featured on the live sets - but is never performed the same way twice. The same is true of so many of the other songs that appear multiple times, often with new rhythmic ideas, different instrumentation, adjustments in lyrics and/or melody, and - of course - Dylan’s signature vocals, arguably more impassioned than ever before (or since), with phrasing designed to bare the soul, stretching and adapting like never before. As unpredictable as his phrasing is, Dylan is in control enough to join in harmonic chorus with his back-up singers several times.
There’s plenty to experience here. The ‘sub-titles’ of the eight music discs are:
Disc 1 : Live
Disc 2: Live
Disc 3: Rare and Unreleased
Disc 4: Rare and Unreleased
Disc 5 and Disc 6: “Best of” Live in Toronto 1980
Disc 7 and Disc 8: Live in London - June 27, 1981
The audio throughout ranges from very good to excellent. Aside from the expected material, Disc four includes an unusual radio spot featuring mostly disappointed concert-goers exiting a venue complaining about being tricked into attending a church service, when they were expecting a Bob Dylan concert - the ‘why not go and decide for yourself’ sales pitch is unusual, indeed. Maybe even stranger is hearing Dylan cover a genuine CCM radio hit, in a duet with Clydie King, performing Dallas Holm’s “Rise Again.” Live, sound-check, and rehearsal tracks feature some genuinely hard-rocking moments, powerfully-rendered ballads, and always-strong performances by Bob and the various players - the core band usually consisting of Fred Tackett on guitar, Tim Drummond on bass, Spooner Oldham and/or Terry Young on keyboards and the legendary Jim Keltner on drums. The backup singers, sometimes a trio, sometimes a quartet, usually contained Clydie King, Regina McCrary, and Mona Lisa Young as a solid foundation.
The massive audio-documentary is augmented by a DVD disc that features Dylan and band in concert, intimately captured on-stage. In a questionable decision, the project (called ‘Trouble No More - A Musical Film’) features 12 songs with vignettes in between them that feature a scripted preacher delivering mini-sermons that relate to the performances. Why director Jennifer LeBeaux decided to include an obviously staged sermon instead of, let’s say, off-stage interview footage featuring Dylan’s own words, is beyond me ...but, as someone once said - it is what it is. DVD extras include a half-dozen uninterrupted performances.
Not only is this material a must for Dylan fans, but it will appeal to anyone who has ‘ears to hear’ what was happening at this special time, both musically and culturally. There’s a freshness, passion, and honesty about these performances that makes them irresistible, and often just plain fun to listen to. The quality of the boxed set itself is top-notch and worthy of a special place in any music library.
To see concert photography by Bert Saraco go to www.facebook.com/express.image