Bob Dylan – The Naked Empire (Godfather Records GR 218)


The Naked Empire (Godfather Records GR 218)

New Danville Girl, Tight Connection To My Heart, Clean Cut Kid, I’ll Remember You, Seeing The Real You At Last, Something’s Burning Baby, Trust Yourself, Emotionally Yours, When The Night Comes Falling, Never Gonna Be The Same Again, Waiting To Get Beat, Straight A’s In Love, The Very Thought Of You, Driftin’ Too Far From Shore, Who Loves You More, Go ‘Way Little Boy

The Naked Empire on the Godfather label is another release of the Empire Burlesque outtakes that have been released previously. The first title with these outtakes can be found on Clean Cuts (Sick Cat GRAB003) in 1992. While the sound quality on that release was good it ran too fast. Outside the Empire (Wanted Man WMM 60) followed two years later and the great Dylan label corrected the speed of the tape and produced an excellent edition. Wanted Man was copied on Tempest Storm (no label) in 1997 and this was followed in 1998 by Tempest Storm (Theremin / Golden Archive Vol. 14). Godfather present the same track listing with nothing new, but the correct speed has been preserved and the sound quality is an improvement over the Wanted Man issue.

The main complaint against Dylan’s 1985 album is the over production of the songs with an abundance of synthesizers, canned horns and that annoying mid-eighties loud pop drum sound. Those who do not like that style found it a shame because the actual songs were an improvement to those found on the 1983 release Infidels. The main virtue of this collection of alternate mixes, and why Godfather calls this The Naked Empire, is to hear the songs in their penultimate form before the final productions that went into the album tracks before Arthur Baker got his hands on them. The tape contains versions of each of the album tracks except for “Dark Eyes,” two songs that later appeared on 1986’s Knocked Out Loaded “New Danville Girl” (“Brownsville Girl”) and “Drifting Too Far From Shore,” four songs that haven’t been released “Waiting To Get Beat,” “Straight A’s In Love,” “The Very Thought Of You,” and “Who Loves You More.” The final song “Go ‘Way Little Boy” he wrote for Lone Justice.

The sessions for Empire Burlesque were held in New York and Hollywood from July 1984 to April 1985. The first song on this selection is “New Danville Girl” of which two takes were recorded on December 6th, 1984 at Cherokee Studio in Hollywood, California. The first take was overdubbed May 14th to 23rd, 1986 and released on Knocked Out Loaded as “Brownsville Girl.” “New Danville Girl” has slightly different lyrics and lacks the horns and backup singers. Around this time Dylan recorded “Tight Connection To My Heart.” This is a reworking of the Infidels outtake “Someone’s Got A Hold Of My Heart” and this take lacks the synthesized accordion in the final mix. “Clean Cut Kid” is another song begun for Infidels but was recorded on July 26th, 1984 at Delta Sound in New York. The “naked” version lacks the harmonica and synthesized trumpets. “I’ll Remember You” was recorded at Cherokee Studio in Hollywood on February 5th 1985 along with “Trust Yourself.”

This alternate mix is very close to the commercial version, which has heavier echo surrounding both lead and backup vocals and additional bass lines. “Seeing The Real You At Last” dates from Cherokee Studios on January 28th 1985. The version on this release lacks the horn section, the lead vocals lack echo and the guitars and Hammond organ are louder in the mix which makes the song sound much heavier. “Something’s Burning, Baby” is one of the best songs to emerge from these sessions and is a highlight on Empire Burlesque. It was recorded at Cherokee Studios on December 14th with Benmont Tench, Mike Campbell, and Howie Epstein and overdubbed on February 21th, 1985 at the Power Station in New York. This version lacks the heavy echo surrounding the vocals although the horn section is present.

“Trust Yourself” was recorded on February 5, 1985 at Cherokee and overdubbed at Shake Down Studios in New York City on February 15th. The main differences are the echo surrounding the vocal is increased and the slide guitar is buried deep in the mix. “Emotionally Yours” was recorded on February 14th 1985 and overdubbed before release at Shake Down. The naked version lacks the arena echo and backup singers. “When The Night Comes Falling” has been singled our for particular scorn for its blatant disco dance beat and pastel neon light arrangment. The initial sessions for this song were at the Power Station on February 19th, 1985. Stevie Van Zant plays guitar and Roy Bittan plays piano, both of the E Street Band, the song is a mid paced, gritty rocking tune much in the style (obviously) of Bruce Springsteen.

This take was rejected for Empire Burlesque in favor of the arrangment recorded on February 23rd. the pre-overdubbed version appearing on this release is actually very close to the final track. “Never Gonna Be The Same Again” is from February 20th 1985 at the Power Station. The ninth take was used for the commercial version, overdubbed on March 3r at Shake Down Studios, New York and the other eight takes are not circulating. Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, better known as reggae recording artists Sly & Robbie attended the sessions and contributed to the track. They had previously worked with Dylan on Infidels. Along with female vocalists Queen Ester Marrow, Debra Byrd, and Carolyn Dennis, the group recorded the song. This version lacks the chimes that are in the final mix.

The funky “Drifting Too Far From Shore” was recorded on July 26th, 1984 at Delta Sound and overdubbed before release at Skyline Recording in May 1986. “Straight A’s in Love” is a cover of the Johnny Cash tune and it is doubtful it was considered for the album. It was recorded on February 14th. The same sessions produced “Waiting To Get Beat” and “The Very Thought Of You.” These songs share the same reggae arrangement, but have vastly different lyrics. Finally, “Go Away Little Boy” is a song he wrote and gave to the band Lone Justice. This song was recorded in September, 1984 and was released by Lone Justice on the B-side of the 12″ “Sweet Sweet Baby (I’m Falling)” in Europe in 1985 and on Lone Justice: The World Is Not My Home in 1999.

There are many songs that were recorded that so far have not circulated including, “Queen Of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” “Look Yonder,” “Gravity Song,” “The Girl I Left Behind,” “Prince Of Plunder,” “I See Fire In Your Eyes,” “Waiting To Get Beat,” and a song called “When The Line Forms.” Not much is known about some of these songs or whether or not they are even Bob Dylan originals. With the recent surfacing of a Down In The Groove outtake, perhaps these songs also will become available. The Naked Empire claims to be remastered on the cover, and the sound quality is very good with very little hiss. There are good notes printed on the inside cover of the tri-fold gatefold sleeve giving accurate recording information for each track. The design is good too, with various publicity photographs from the era and an appropriate eighties color scheme. (GS)

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