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Bob Dylan – Cracked Bells In A Busted Barn (Thinman-056/57)

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Cracked Bells In A Busted Barn (Thinman-056/57)

Dallas Music Complex, Dallas, TX – November 7th, 1995

Disc 1:  Crash On The Levee (Down In The Flood), I Want You, All Along The Watchtower, Positively 4th Street, Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat, Silvio, Tangled Up In Blue, Boots Of Spanish Leather, Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right

Disc 2:  God Knows, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, Cat’s In The Well, Alabama Getaway, It Ain’t Me Babe, Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35

Bob Dylan’s 1995 Fall Classics tour commenced on September 23rd in Fort Lauderdale and took in thirty-two shows before ending on November 11th at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas.  Some also include his appearance at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles for Frank Sinatra’s eightieth birthday tribute on November 19th where he played “Restless Farewell.”  The November 7th show at the Dallas Music Complex is the twenty-ninth show for this tour and the seven hundredth and forty-third show on the Never Ending Tour.  H was accompanied by the ninth NET band with Bucky Baxter (pedal steel guitar & electric slide guitar), John Jackson (guitar), Tony Garnier (bass), and Winston Watson (drums & percussion).  For Cracked Bells In A Busted Barn Thinman utilize an excellent sounding stereo audience recording capturing the complete show, and this is the tape’s silver disc debut. 

The liner notes contain an insightful article about the event and Bob Dylan’s place in the mid-nineties.  Some of the observations include:  “These are quickly changing times for a music industry trying to redefine itself after 40 years of rock and roll mythology; that its most-exalted artist should expose the fable with such straightforward confidence was refreshing indeed. Basically, Dylan drilled it. Introduced as ‘Columbia recording artist Bob Dylan,’ as if he was merely Jeff Buckley or Eddie Money, the man who launched a million cheesy imitators (and about 29 good ones, including Bruce Springsteen), took the stage without much more fanfare than the sound of 2,700 fans with their hopes up.

“The oxymoronic Dallas Music Complex–so threadbare, ugly, and dank–seemed at first like such an insult to the greatest writer of the rock era. With songwriting royalties alone, Dylan’s gotta be worth $25 million, and yet here he was playing in a joint that looks like the box that the Longhorn Ballroom came in. What’s more, the acoustics were fairly murky and sightlines were a luxury enjoyed only by taller Dylanites.

“Ironic, isn’t it, that in the midst of the phony new Beatlemania with the Fab Four moving into the media overkill slot recently vacated by O.J., Dylan showed so much more vitality playing a glorified warehouse on Cadiz Street? Bob Dylan is still a troubadour, still doing what he left Minnesota 35 years ago to do. So what if he can’t fill arenas anymore? At least he’s not digging up old rejected tapes for some late-life validation.

“His calling card for the ages is as a poet visionary, but at his core Bob Dylan is a rock and roll star. Always has been. Look at pictures and album covers from his early days and tell me he wasn’t projecting black leather attitude to go with his blue satin snarl. Dylan has written some great lyrics, but it all starts with his voice, which rages under control and cuts back into meaning like a surfer squeezing every forward drop of a wave. Vanity and greed, the cuff-links of rock, are what set Dylan apart from his idol Woody Guthrie–that and a childhood ripped open like a feather pillow by the music of Elvis, Little Richard, and B.B. King.

“Two Tuesdays back, Bob Dylan reclaimed ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’ from the encores of countless thudding metalheads, delivering the tune with none of the phony bombast with which it is performed by the likes of Axl Rose. It was a crowd-pleaser, to be sure, but that’s probably not why Dylan did it. After all, the song wasn’t performed at the previous two concerts in Austin. Moved by the moment and embraced by the rusted rafters, Dylan just pulled the tune out and grasped it, he and his four bandmates curling together like fingers on a hand.”  (“Live and demystified,” Dallas Observer November 16th, 1995 written by Michael Corcoran).

The show opens with “Crash On The Levee (Down In The Flood).”  This was the opener for many of the shows (being replaced with “Drifter’s Escape” in the middle dates) followed by “I Want You” for the second and final time on this dates.  He favors a slow paced CW arrangement for this number.  “All Along The Watchtower” was played at most of the shows and always in the third position in the set list.  Although Dylan offers different arrangements for his songs throughout the years it seems he always plays the Hendrix arrangement for this track.  This version is faster paced with deft guitar solos between each of the verses.

“Positively 4th Street” is given its third and final outing in another slow paced country tinged arrangement.  “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” is played for the only time on the tour.  This is a rousing blues with Dylan trading licks with both Baxter on slide and Jackson on dual lead.  “Silvio” was played at almost every show and, since it was co-written by Robert Hunter, was one of the nightly tributes to the recently deceased Jerry Garcia.  This arrangement is expanded with a beautiful Grateful Dead sounding jam session in the middle.  “Tangled Up In Blue,” “Boots Of Spanish Leather” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” serve as an acoustic based intermission from the full band set.  “Boots” is played for the fourth and final time on this tour.  

“Cat’s In The Well” serves as the set closer.  “Alabama Getaway” is another Jerry Garcia tribute and was played as the first encore number for a majority of the stops.  “It Ain’t Me Babe” includes an enthusiastic harp solo by Bob in the middle, and the final songs of the night is “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.  This is packaged in a double slimline jewel case with color glossy inserts including the entire Corcoran article printed on the artwork.  The discs themselves are silk screened with the cover artwork and the overall aesthetics of the production are outstanding.  The entire show clocks in a just over two hours (long for a Dylan show) and Thinman eschew their usual practice of including bonus tracks on the second disc to fill it up.  Nevertheless this is a great sounding and looking title worth having.    

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If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)

Bob Dylan - Cracked Bells In A Busted Barn (Thinman-056/57), 2.5 out of 5 based on 1 rating

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