Tears Of Rage, Songs For An Age (Godfather Records GR 511)
“Some of these Bootleggers, They Make Pretty Good Stuff” Bob Dylan said that. “This release is one of them” I said that. Taken from a tape version of these songs rather than from MP3s this compilation of late 90’s Dylan fare highlights is really good stuff & while there are a few compilations of Dylan live from around this same era [ “Les Bons Moments” – Wildwolf ww 98 / 99, “Across The Borderlines” – Wildwolf ww 4-99 1/2, “From The Vaults” Vol’s 1 & 2 – Dandelion ] then Dylan compilations are never one a penny. Knowing Dylan propensity to either be on form one night & then lose his way the next then a compilation is something that can be enjoyed for what it is rather than have people tell you “He wasn’t really ‘there’ that night”.
“Tears of Rage, Songs For An Age” showcases Bobby at some of his best. He had no agenda, no album to sell ( Time Out Of Mind having been released around a year before the first of these tracks ) but was just throwing himself in to another year of the Never Ending Tour. Some of the tracks have been released on boots previously but not in this kind of quality & some haven’t seen bootlegs before. Despite the songs all coming from different nights & different shows the consistency is perfect & each song sounds as good as the other – nice, clean & bright soundboards with neither instrument or vocal being too high or low in the mix.
1 : “Not Fade Away” RPI Fieldhouse, Troy, NY, February 22, 1999. As fin de siecle approaches Bobby is looking back. Looking back at his heros & the people that influenced him. Buddy Holly is a man who’s possibly influenced as many as Bobby has done since. So as a tribute Dylan has decided to pay tribute with one of Buddy’s most famous songs. The band are excellent tonight but there’s something about Dylan’s voice that doesn’t quite sit quite so well with the track. It’s just a little too nasal & raspish to fit with this joi de vrie of a love song. All is forgotten as there’s a solo thrown in towards the end that just blisters but as a tribute it’s well meaning but Bobby’s vocal is just a little too rough.
2 : “Man In The Long Back Coat” Ice Palace, Tampa, FL, January 30, 1999. Much better is a song thats written to suit Dylan’s voice. One where he knows that he can wrap his own meaning around the words & enunciate the lyrics as he’s most likely played out the scenario as he was writing the song. It’s one of Dylan’s best tunes. Bleak, heavy & vivid. Full with the imagery that this master of words can only conjure up.
3 : “To Be Alone With You” RPI Fieldhouse, Troy, NY, February 22, 1999. The scene changes now in to a rolling romp of passion – changed from it’s country hazed vision on “Nashville Skyline” to a joyous rock n’ roller complete with speedy thrash surf metal guitar & duo solos that bring the song to a climatic screech. It reminds you that even that this later stage Bobby can still be full of fun as apposed to doom, death & lost love & affix his heart back in the right pace again.
4 : “Never Gonna Be The Same Again” Ice Palace, Tampa, FL, January 30, 1999. Brought right up to date from it’s premier on the “Empire Burlesque” album where Arthur Baker overlaid the whole shebang with dating 80’s instrumentation
5 : “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” RPI Fieldhouse, Troy, NY, February 22, 1999. Given a brighter, slightly more country cajun feel than it’s earlier counterpart “Don’t Think Twice ..” is the same meal on a different plate. The words are still reflective, the music more so but this time rather than reflecting on what could have been it’s a story told between two lovers, affectionately after the years have passed
6 : “Visions Of Johanna” Cumberland Center, Portland, ME, February 25th, 1999. “Blond On Blond’s” Herculean epic rendered with a softer surrounding. The words still mean the same but the bedding has shifted – they’re less cold, less growled, more affectionate & foretold. Just the original was something to get lost in then the ’90’s version is something to dream upon & fall in to.
7 : “Friend Of The Devil” Rock Im Park Festival, Nuremberg, Germany, May 31, 1998. Another cover but from a different genre this time to Buddy Holly’s. “Friend of The Devil”, the Grateful Dead’s “Closest thing to a classic song” according to Robert Hunter is rendered in close proximity to it’s original version
8 : “Watching the River Flow” Leon Civic Center, Tallahassee, FL, February 1, 1999 – A non specific album track originally recorded with Happy Traum taking up the backing instrumentation is given an airing next. Given that it never appeared on an album proper it has since taken on cult status & it’s easy to see why – it’s a bouyant, 50’s styled rocker, pumped on life with a crazy, jump around beat that just entices you to dance. a definite highlight to this set.
9 : “Make You Feel My Love” UNO Arena, New Orleans, LA, February 3, 1999. The tempo slows again for this heartfelt & delicate song to a lover. A lighters aloft or slow dance moment in a concert thats completed by a heartstring tugging solo in the middle.
10 : “Tears Of Rage” RPI Fieldhouse, Troy, NY, February 22, 1999. Despite it’s title it’s a warm, well rounded & triumphal track. Given room to breath & envelope the crowd. Something to drink in & drink deeply from.
11 : “Love Sick” Municipal Auditorium, Nashville, TN, February 6, 1999. A live favorite from the TOOM album & a deathless scurl against romance & the loss of love.
12 : “Señor ( Tales Of Yankee Power)” Summer Festival, Piazza Napoleone, Lucca, Italy, July 6, 1998. One of Bob’s most urgent songs on this set. He really has to get this one out there & he’s found his power tonight
13 : “I & I” Le Forum, Dijon, France, July 1, 1998. “I & I” prowls like a cat on the tiles at night, a mean, stalking, dark eyed beast of a song which Bob howls with gusto. It’s a splendid finale to this compilation & it if doesn’t leave you breathless will have you gasping for more.
The cover to this Godfather release is again it’s usual trifold cardboard sleeve with the images of Bob rendered in a scratchy, antiqued looking photo style & Bob’s name & the title of the CD appear on a solid burgundy block. The photos inside are all stage shots of Dylan only from the same roundabout period rendered in in the same style giving an aged but classic appearance. Sadly there’s no write up this time but with songs like these who needs them? It’s an excellent title too fitting in closely to the classic styled look of it’s cover & benefiting the style of Bob’s songs.
Certainly a must have for all Dylan fans. Compilations like these are why we collect Dylan if we haven’t seen the shows or want something a little more fluid to listen to. Perfect for anytime listening.
A excellent release that I find contains some strong performances and flows very smoothly. I’m finding myself hitting the repeat button and with good reason.