The Ghost Of Electricity: TV Shows Part 3 (Hollow Horn Recording Artist Vol. 5)
Disc 1 (68:16), Sony Studios, New York, NY – November 17th, 1994: Tombstone Blues, I Want You, Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright, Desolation Row, Hazel, Everything Is Broken, The Times They Are A-Changin’, Love Minus Zero / No Limit, Dignity, With God On Our Side. Sony Studios, New York, NY – November 18th, 1994: Absolutely Sweet Marie, Shooting Star
Disc 2 (72:22): My Back Pages, Rainy Day Women #12 & 35, John Brown, The Times They Are A-Changin’, Dignity, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, Like A Rolling Stone (false start), Like A Rolling Stone, Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You, Desolation Row, I Want You
Although many critics hailed Bob Dylan’s appearance on MTV’s Unplugged program as an artistic and commercial triumph, it represented a compromise. His initial plans for an intimate program, taped the previous year at The Supper Club, were scrapped most likely because the set list leaned heavily upon covers and an adventurous revisiting of his back catalogue instead of relying upon the well known hits. Dylan himself observed regarding the “Unplugged” sessions: “I would have liked to do old folk songs with acoustic instruments, but there was a lot of input from other sources as to what would be right for the audience. At one time, I would have argued, but there’s no point. I felt I had to deliver, and I delivered something that was preconceived for me. It wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to do.”
Regardless of his feelings on the matter, the actual set did much to expose Dylan to a new generation and the setlist, even though it featured many of the classics, is delivered with sincerity and is generally excellent. Taping for the program occurred over two nights, November 17th and November 18th, in Sony Studios in front of a young and enthusiastic audience. Hollow Horn presents the two sets in their entirety in excellent quality. A year after the program several titles surfaced with these shows including Completely Unplugged (Monotones 06/007) and Uncut Unplugged (C-Nine CIX 7/8), and a one disc compilation of the unaired songs appear on Unplugs It Once More (Tuff Bites TB 95.023). The sound quality of Hollow Horn is perfect and well balanced stereo, worthy of official release.
The November 17th set is the shorter of the two with ten songs played clocking in about sixty-five minutes. From this taping “Tombstone Blues,” “Desolation Row,” “Love Minus Zero / No Limit” and “With God On Our Side” were used on the program and were released officially on CD on MTV Unplugged (Columbia 478 374 2) on April 11th, 1995 and on video on May 5th, 1995.
The first set begins with the less-known song “Tombstone Blues” which seems to be his minor protest against having to concede to corporate demands. This is the first performance of the piece since its appearance in the set in Slane, Ireland on July 8th, 1984. Regardless it is a gorgeous version as is the following “I Want You,” twisted beyond recognition. “Desolation Row” is an interesting choice for network television with its arcane and twisted imagery. Dylan and the band offer an upbeat arrangement of the piece that seems to fly by without any reflection on its meaning.
“Hazel” from Planet Waves is played live for the first time since The Last Waltz concert with The Band in November, 1976. “Everything Is Broken” is the only song from his eighties work to appear in the first taping. “Dignity” is the newest song played in the set. It was an outtake from the Oh Mercy sessions but was finally issued on Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. 3released several days before. The final song of the set is “With God On Our Side” in which he omits two verses about the Germans and the holocaust and Russians. Whether this is a bit of self-censorship is unclear, but it is a rather strange choice in closing the set.
The set on November 18th is slightly longer than the first, being fifteen songs and eighty-five minutes long. “Shooting Star,” “All Along The Watchtower,” “Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35” to “Like A Rolling Stone” MTV Unplugged (Columbia 478 374 2) were included in the video and the CD and video releases. It begins with a breezy version of “Absolutely Sweet Marie,” a song which also began some of the Supper Club sets, followed by a pretty version of “Shooting Star.” The rarity “John Brown” is played extremely fast in contrast to other arrangements which tend to stretch our the heartbreaking narrative.
“Dignity” makes another appearance and is one of the few songs that are played both nights (“I Want You,” “Desolation Row” and “The Times They Are A-Changin'” are the others). They start “Like A Rolling Stone” but breaks down after the first verse. “We’re gonna start this again. The band was way ahead of me.” Jackson laughs, “It wasn’t the band! It wasn’t!!” “And we have to tune these instruments too” Dylan says before starting “Like A Rolling Stone” again. “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You,” a song that didn’t make the cut for official release, is the first encore followed by “Desolation Row” and “I Want You.” Both of which are played probably to capture better performances for the telecast. The Ghost Of Electricity is contained in the four fold gatefold sleeve and is another excellent sounding and packaged title from Hollow Horn.