Bob Dylan – The Ballad Of Paddock Wood (Godfather GR 791/792)

The Ballad Of Paddock Wood (Godfather GR 791/792)

Hop Farm Festival, Paddock Wood, England – June 30th, 2012

Disc 1 (68:55):  Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat, It’s All Over Now Baby Blue, Things Have Changed, Tangled Up In Blue, Cry A While, Love Sick, Ballad of Hollis Brown, Spirit on the Water, High Water (For Charley Patton), A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, Highway 61 Revisited, Can’t Wait

Disc 2 (78:01):  Thunder On The Mountain, Ballad Of A Thin Man, Like A Rolling Stone, All Along The Watchtower.  Bonus tracks, Freileichtbühne Junge Garde, Dresden, Germany – July 3rd, 2012:  Watching The River Flow, Under The Red Sky, Sugar Baby, John Brown, Visions Of Johanna, Blind Willie McTell, Simple Twist Of Fate, Ballad Of A Thin Man, Blowin’ In The Wind

Bob Dylan began 2012 recording the new album Tempest in Groove Masters Studios in Santa Monica, California.  After a short tour of South America and receiving the Medal Of Freedom from President Barak Obama on May 29th, he began touring Europe with his only UK appearance at the Hop Farm Festival in Paddock Wood.  

The Ballad Of Paddock Wood on Godfather presents his entire set sourced from an excellent stereo audience recording.  There is absolutely no audience interference whatsoever so all of the music is captured in pristine quality.  

A short review in The Independent states that:  “When Bob Dylan meets the masses at a rock festival, news he’s gone electric hasn’t always arrived, let alone his music’s ongoing 21st century renovation.  

“Legitimate complaints that some nights his lyrics are inaudible are at least rebuffed in his only 2012 UK show, sung in his gutted growl with committed art. He plays odd, dominant keyboard riffs at his superb band’s heart, and dances across the stage during 2001’s ‘High Water’, an apocalyptic hoedown for hard times he follows with ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’, in which conservative country music reframes his 1962 vision of nuclear nightmare.”

“Others start dancing during ‘Spirit On the Water’s lovely, Tin Pan Alley-style tune. On a ‘Ballad Of A Thin Man’ sung with mind-melting echoes and ‘Like A Rolling Stone’, his old acid spite has become compassionate. This is beautiful, surprising, spacious music, composed in this form tonight.”

Hop Farm is a fascinating release to have.  It’s interesting not because of the debut of new songs from Tempest.  He draws the same numbers from the same shallow well for the past two years.  Nor are the arrangements drastically different than before – “Things Have Changed” is played in the same fast country / western tune as the past couple of tours.  

This show is unique because Dylan, for the first time, incorporates a grand piano into the instrumentation to augment the electric piano he’s been playing for the past seven years.  The grand piano has a much more real, solid, and an old-time-rock-and-roll-Jerry-Lee-Lewis tone, lending an interesting new spin on the classics.  

It makes its first appearance in the sixth song “Love Sick.”  Dylan further uses the instrument in “Spirit On The Water,” “”A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” “Highway 61 Revisited,” “Can’t Wait,” “Thunder On The Mountain” and “All Along The Watchtower.”  It is used more for accompaniment to the given melody rather than taking the lead as a dominant instrument.  But Dylan does try to incorporate new elements such as a new introduction to “Can’t Wait” or to have the piano play in counterpoint to the guitar in “Thunder On The Mountain.”  

Overall Dylan is in great mood, singing the songs with gusto.  An interesting moment comes in the middle of “Spirit On The Water.”  Ever since the Modern Times song has been played live, the lines “You think, I’m over the hill / Think, I’m past my prime / Let me see what you got / We can have a whoppin’ good time” normally elicit a rousing chorus of “NOOOOOO” from the audience.  But the crowd at Paddock Farm don’t say anything prompting Dylan to joke off mic to his band “maybe I am??”  

Godather include more than half of the Dresden show two nights later as a bonus on disc two.  Eight different songs were played compared to the Hop Festival and Godfather thankfully includes them all.  “Ballad Of A Thinman” is the only overlap between Dresden and Paddock Farm.

Dresden started with “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” but Dylan forgets the words after the first verse.  Instead of trying to figure out where he lost his way he instead starts singing “Watching The River Flow.”  He repeats the name of the song several times to the band, but they continue playing the hard blues of “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” to the end.  

The grand piano plays an expanded role in these songs and is particularly effective in “Under The Red Sky” and “Sugar Baby.”  Dylan unfortunately doesn’t utilize the grand in “Blind Willie McTell.”  The instrument’s confident tone could have added much to the majestic melody of Dylan’s masterpiece.  

The Ballad Of Paddock Wood is another excellent Bob Dylan release on Godfather with excellent sound and very interesting performances.  

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