Bob Dylan – Nashville Sessions 1969 And More… (Rattle Snake RS 250)

Nashville Sessions 1969 And More… (Rattle Snake RS 250)

(73:01):  Lay Lady Lay, One More Night (Nashville Skyline sessions, Columbia Studio A, Nashville, Tennessee, February 13th, 1969), Blue Moon 1, Blue Moon 2, Ring Of Fire, Take A Message To Mary (Self Portrait sessions, Columbia Studio A, Nashville, Tennessee, May 3rd, 1969), Living The Blues, Take Me As I Am, Let It Be Me, I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know, Take A Message To Mary, Blue Moon, Folsom Prison Blues, Ring Of Fire (Acetate source recorded at Columbia Studio A, Nashville, Tennessee during the Self Portrait recording sessions between April 24th and May 3rd, 1969), eBay Sample, CNN News Report, Went To See The Gypsy, If Not For You 1 (Columbia Recording Studios, New York City, NY, dates unknown), Sign On The Window, If Not For You 2, I Threw It All Away, Honey Just Allow Me One More Chance, Working On A Guru (Columbia Studio B, New York City, NY, May 1st, 1970 New Morning Sessions with George Harrison), Tomorrow Is A Long Time (Studio E, Columbia Recording Studios, New York City, NY, June 4th, 1970)

The origins of the the new Bob Dylan Nashville Sessions 1969 And More… on Rattle Snake go back seventeen years when the “Lost Sony Warehouse Tapes” were discovered in 1995.  According to press releases at the time, such as Reel Interest In ‘Lost’ Tapes, “The stash includes about 4,000 tapes, between 20,000 and 40,000 songs recorded from the late ’40s to the early ’70s by about 500 artists. Enslin says there are Elvis Presley Sun sessions here, Bob Dylan Nashville Skyline sessions, unreleased Roy Orbison tunes, Frank Sinatra, Hank Williams Sr., Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and more.  Everything was either recorded or produced at a Columbia studio in Nashville. Most were not released, and the tapes were sold by Columbia to an employee, for use as blank tape. Only they weren’t erased, surviving to form an intriguing piece of history.”

And the liner notes state that “the reason these tapes have only appeared now stands as testament to tardiness –  reportedly producer Bob Johnston left the studio tapes behind an a Nashville storage facility for a number of years. Once the storage time had elapsed the company contacted Columbia records to inquire as to whether they wished to extend the lease on their stay. Apparently uninterested in putting up the cash towards keeping these tapes in storage or, indeed, even buying them back, Columbia / Sony waived their rights to owning the tapes. The company, realizing just what they had in their hands, put the tapes up for auction. The tape, with a 27:05 minute recording time featured several takes of ‘Lay Lady Lay’ & also a hitherto unreleased track ‘Going To Chicago.'”

Rattle Snake have assembled a collection with several brand new, never-before-heard tracks from the tape along with other outtake material from the same sessions to offer a complete anthology of relevant material.  The sound quality is uniformly excellent.  Most are in crystal clear stereo, but the acetates are in mono.  As for the performances, this is the period when Dylan was fascinated with current country & western music and amended his singing style as the liner notes point out where it says, “the rich, thick, syrupy croon was the latest twist in the measure that Dylan was implementing. This was apparently down to his stopping cigarettes but several witnesses will attest to him singing in the same style back in his small club dates of the very early 60’s before he decided to amend his style & ape the direct style of his hero Woody Guthrie.”

Running in chronological order, the first two tracks date from the first Nashville Skyline session in Nashville on February 13th, 1969.  The opening track is “Lay, Lady, Lay.”  It was first released as an iTunes exclusive with pre-order of Together Through Life in April, 2009 (and is no longer available).

This take has a different, more “soulful,” vocal take than the version found on Nashville Skyline.  It also lacks the slide guitar so prominent in the mix and the organ sounds is given a much more prominent place.

“One More Night” is similar to the commercial version in tempo, melody and instrumentation.  There are minor variations in the lyrics, lacks the short guitar solo, and the first verse is repeated as the final.  There is some studio chatter before they start and at the end.

The next four tracks come from the same studio three months later featuring several tunes that would appear on Self Portrait, released in June 1970.  “Blue Moon,” the pop standard from the 1930’s is given several takes spread over two tracks.  Both have false starts, but stay relatively close to the commercial version found on the LP except that the female backing singers and fiddle are not as prominent in the mix. 

“Ring Of Fire” is an unreleased cover of the Johnny Cash classic.  Dylan would of course re-record the song twenty-five years later for the film Leaving Minnesota.  “Take A Message To Mary,” another song that was released on Self Portrait, has the same arrangement except is lacking the opening female backing singers and is slightly slower in tempo. 

The next eight tracks, “Living The Blues” “Take Me As I Am,” “Let It Be Me,” “I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know,” “Take A Message To Mary,” “Blue Moon,” “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Ring Of Fire” come from a very good mono acetate source.  The first six were included on Self Portrait and these versions are the same except for minor variations in the edit, such as count-ins.  The last two tracks, two Cash covers, weren’t used on the album.  “Ring Of Fire” is the same take found earlier in the disc but is edited by about ten seconds.

Two non-music tracks follow.  The first, titled “eBay” sample, is a five and a half minute introduction to the 27 minute outtake tape sold at auction in September 2008.  It is narrated by Bob Harris, a record producer for Ampersand Records USA.”  Under his voice the “Lay, Lady, Lay” outtake on track one can be heard with Harris saying, “What we are listening to here is one of the actual tapes used to record Bob Dylan’s famous album Nashville Skyline Rag.”  While quite fragmented, it is interesting for the prolonged inclusion of “Going To Chicago” which is otherwise unavailable.  The actual track is a long and exciting blues jam.

It is followed by a CNN telecast broadcast about the legal battle between SONY and Clark Enslin about the tapes.  Each party claims ownership and state that they are worth more than $100 million.   

The balance of the disc focus upon tracks recorded for New Morning, released in October 1970.  The sessions occurred in New York in May and June, 1970.  “Went To See The Gypsy” is a sparse runthrough of the New Morning track.  Taken at a slower tempo, it also lacks all instrumentation except for an electric piano.  “If Not For You 1” has the same lyrics as the commercial version of the song.  However, it is played in a slower arrangement closer to country & western with emphasis upon fiddle and steel guitar.  It is far from the take on New Morning, but curiously sounds close to how he would perform the song today.  

The next five tracks, “Sign On The Window,” “If Not For You 2,” “I Threw It All Away,” “Honey Just Allow Me One More Chance” and “Working On A Guru” come from the May 1st session in New York with George Harrison, a few weeks after the Beatles broke up, in attendance. 

“If Not For You,” already recorded in at least two different arrangements for New Morning, is given another workout.  Dylan calls out to Harrison before the song starts, and Harrison can be heard speaking in the right channel in the middle of the song.  The arrangement is very close to the one utilized by Harrison on All Things Must Past, recorded later that summer. 

They follow with jams on two older tunes, “Throwing It All Away” from Nashville Skyline and “Honey, Just Give Me One More Chance” from The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.  The latter is particularly funny since Bob can’t seem to remember all the words and stumbles his way through the piece.

“Working On A Guru” is a three and a half minute blues with Dylan on vocals and Harrison on guitar.  It’s an excellent quality outtake, even if the song itself is interesting solely for historical reasons.  The disc closes with the infamous studio take “Tomorrow Is A Long Time,” a song he first sang at his session for the Witmark publishing demos and released on The Bootleg Series, Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964

This is another attempt at recording the song, but, for whatever reason, was never released. 

Overall Nashville Sessions 1969 And More… is a nice mixture between new and previously available material.  It serves and an excellent document of Dylan’s recording in the late sixties and early seventies, one of his many important transitions.  Rattle Snake’s mastering of the tapes, packaging, liner notes and artwork are all superior and make this a tremendous release.

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