Bob Dylan – New York Sessions 1974-1975 (no label)

New York Sessions 1974-1975 (no label)

(79:28):  Idiot Wind, Lily Rosemary & The Jack Of Hearts, You’re A Big Girl Now, If You See Her Say Hello, Tangled Up In Blue, Rita Mae, Hurricane, Bette Midler recording session for Buckets Of Rain, Buckets Of Rain

Bob Dylan’s sessions in the mid seventies are interesting because, with Blood On The Tracks and Desire, they form one of his artistic peaks.  New York Sessions 1974-1975 presents songs from the sessions for those two LPs, all of which have been available before.  What is brand new on this disc is the recording from the session Dylan held with Bette Midler in October of 1975 to arrange and record a cover of “Buckets Of Rain” for her third LP Songs for the New Depression.  

The session was held at Secret Sound Studios in New York at the end of October 1975 several days before the start of the Rolling Thunder Revue.  The supporting musicians for this session were Mark “Moogy” Klingman (Todd Rundgren’s Utopia) on harmonica and piano, Dave Webster on slide guitar, Ralph Schuckett on organ, John Siegler on bass, and John Wilcox on drums. 

The twenty-seven minute long recording is in pristine sound quality and offers a candid glimpse into the creative process for the track.  It is obvious, and even a bit uncomfortable, hearing a nervous Midler working with Dylan.  Her comments are peppered with insecure little jokes trying to elicit a response out of Dylan.  At one point she talks about her feud with Paul Simon and compares Dylan’s looks to Art Garfunkel. 

Dylan on the other hand is not un-responsive.  He also is very chatty and jocular, but his focus is upon altering the lyrics and encouraging Midler in this new arrangement.  At the very beginning of the tape they sing a piece, stop, and Dylan says, “everything about you is giving me misery.  We should change that word to “ecstasy.”  They tinker a bit more with the words, “I like the heavenly way you look at me” changed from “I like the cool way” from the Blood On The Tracks recording.

At one point Midler says, “I can’t sing ‘I ain’t no monkey'” but Dylan gets her to do it.  At one point in the session they get into a great version of “I Don’t Believe You” lead by Klingman on the piano.  Some may question the value, but tapes like this, which reveal Dylan and his creative process, are extremely rare and valuable.  This also give insight into him working with an up and coming star Bette Midler. 

The balance of the disc has previously released material in upgraded quality.  The first five tracks are the New York versions of Blood On The Tracks songs, all of which would be re-recorded just after Christmas in 1974 in Minneapolis and be used for the album.  Four of the New York recorded songs have been released officially:  “Idiot Wind,” “Tangled Up In Blue” and “If You See Her Say Hello” on The Bootleg Series Vols 1-3 and “You’re A Big Girl Now” on Biograph.

The tracks on this disc come from the same New York sessions as those found on the official release but are not identical.  They share the similar acoustic-introspective arrangement as the others, but there are subtle differences in intonation and delivery.   The unreleased “Lily, Rosemary & The Jack Of Hearts” has a similar arrangement as the others, a soft acoustic guitar and moody organ in the background.  Oftentimes Dylan’s artistic judgement is called into question, with these songs the Minneapolis records are much better.

Two tracks from Desire follow.  “Rita Mae” was recorded at the very first session for the album but, except for a single live performance in New Orleans the following year, has been completely forgotten.  It is a song that stands out from the tenor of the rest of the tracks which is probably why it was omitted from the album. 

Following is the initial pressing of “Hurricane.”  This is taken at a slightly slower tempo with Emmylou Harris on backing vocals.  It was re-recorded in October with some differences in the lyrics to prevent possible litigation.  In the first verse Patty Valentine cries out, “My God, they killed my love!” instead of “My God, they killed them all” and, the more important one, Alfred Bello says “I was only robbing the bodies” instead of the register.

The other two differences are:

Now Arthur Dexter Bradley laid this rap on the cops
‘I just came in this place to see what I can steal.
I saw two men running out they look like middleweights
They jumped into a white car with out-of-state plates.’

instead of:

Alfred Bello had a partner and he had a rap for the cops.
Him and Arthur Dexter Bradley were just out prowlin’ around
He said, “I saw two men runnin’ out, they looked like middleweights
They jumped into a white car with out-of-state plates.

And “Remember that murder you saw in a bar?” instead of “Remember that murder that happened in a bar?”

New York Sessions 1974-1975 is packaged in a glossy paper cardboard sleeve with a single pocket to fit the CD.  There are several photographs from the session with Bette Midler on the front and inside.  There are also photographs of Dylan hanging out with George Harrison and Allan Ginsberg.  Overall this is another significant Dylan discovery and sheds some light on an otherwise poorly documented and obscure project in Dylan’s career.   

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  1. The Bette Midler session is like gold dust indeed. Dylan is as guarded as ever & while Midler puts her claws in to other stars of the time then Dylan still tries to portray a man of the world if very mysterious facade. wonderful stuff.

  2. I like how this material flows. I’m curious if anyone knows WHO Dylan is singing about? The Midler comments are very comical and love how she tries to get Dylan to sing Drift Away, the Dobie Gray hit. When she asks if he’s familiar with the song and he says yes, I’m not so convinced he knows this song. Great material on this release!!!


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