Bob Dylan – Ways Of The Flesh (Thinman-048/49)

Ways Of The Flesh (Thinman-048/49)

Earls Court, London, England – June 28th, 1981
Disc 1: Gotta Serve Somebody, I Believe In You, Like A Rolling Stone, Till I Get It Right (Red Lane/Larry Henley), Man Gave Names To All The Animals, Maggie’s Farm, Simple Twist Of Fate, Dead Man Dead Man, Ballad Of A Thin Man, Girl From The North Country, Slow Train, Walk Around Heaven All Day, Mary From The Wild Moor (traditional)

Disc 2: All Along The Watchtower, In The Summertime, Mr. Tambourine Man, Solid Rock, Just Like A Woman, Watered-Down Love, Forever Young, When You Gonna Wake Up, In The Garden, Blowin’ In The Wind, It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) (acoustic), Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door

Ways Of The Flesh contains the complete Earls Court concert on June 28th, 1981. This is the third of five shows at the venue in London and fifth overall on the Shot Of Love summer European tour. Fragments of this tape were used on two vinyl releases in the early eighties. The first is Footsteps ‘81, a 1982 German single LP release limited to one hundred copies. The following year this was copied on Gospelrock And More, again limited to one hundred copies. Ways Of The Flesh is the first CD release of this show and the first time the entire tape has been made available on a commercial title. As with many from this tour, the tape is missing the four-song gospel opening and is cut between “Maggie’s Farm” and “Simple Twist Of Fate,” at 2:22 in “Walk Around Heaven All Day,” after “Mary From The Wild Moor” and “In The Garden.”

The sound quality of this recording is astounding: a three dimensional, dynamic stereo audience recording picking up the nuances of the show perfectly. The acoustics at Earls Court usually diminish clarity of recordings made there, but this one is an exception and is one of the best audience recordings made at this venue. There is a forty-minute audience shot video of this show, and there is also a professional recording that has never surfaced. Thinman replicate a common mistake in the set list on their artwork. “Dead Man, Dead Man” is listed as following “Girl Of The North Country,” but it really follows “Simple Twist Of Fate.” Several sources make this mistake, but the sequence of the tracks is correct on the actual disc, so it isn’t a major concern.

This tour is known as the one where Dylan began to add older songs to the set as he slipped into Shot Of Love, the third of the “gospel trinity.” The set list follows the general pattern of the tour with “Gotta Serve Somebody” serving as the opener, followed by the mellow “I Believe In You” and the first classic “Like A Rolling Stone.” Regina Havis sings “‘Till I Get It Right.” “Man Gave Names To The Animals” and “Maggie’s Farm” are played consecutively and serve as a lapsarian diptych. The former speaks about the blessed state in the Garden Of Eden in Genesis 2 and mankind’s communion with God, and the latter speaking about the consequences of original sin and to live by the “sweat of your brow” in Genesis 3.

“Simple Twist Of Fate” is given a flighty soft rock arrangement with a gorgeous piano melody underneath the vocals. Afterwards Dylan says, “This is a new song off a forthcoming record album. I hope it’s on the album anyway. It’s called ‘Dead Man, Dead Man When Will You Arise.’ I wrote quite a few new songs I thought I’d play them because I don’t know how much longer I’ll be playing new songs. People wanna hear the old songs. I was thinking of cutting out all the new songs. So I can play, I’m gonna play just older stuff. This time here in London I’m gonna play all the new songs so in case they never get heard again.”

“Ballad Of A Thin Man” has the same doom laden arrangement as in the past. Dylan switches to acoustic guitar for “Girl From The North Country” and sounds beautiful in this recording. Carolyn Dennis sings “Walk Around Heaven All Day” which she dedicates to “Bob and all the members in the band and especially Miss Clydie King.” The following song is normally the newly written “Lenny Bruce,” but for the only time it is dropped from the set list to be replaced by “Mary From The Wild Moor.” Dylan introduces the song by saying, “We’re gonna play a real old song here. A song I used to sing before I used to write any songs. I used to sing this in the Troubadour. I don’t know if that club is still called The Troubadour? Well it’s the same way we used to sing it then, hasn’t changed a bit.”

It is sung as a duet with Regina Havis and was regularly played in the autumn 1980 tour in the States, but receives its only airing of this tour in this show. “All Along The Watchtower” receives its European debut and “In The Summertime” from the new album has its world debut. “In The Garden,” with band introduction is the set closer and is followed by a three song encore set. “I’m Alright Ma” is played alone by Dylan with acoustic guitar and “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” is played in reggae style, although not the Arthur Brown arrangement played several years before by both him and Eric Clapton. Ways Of The Flesh is packaged in a double slimline jewel case with color glossy inserts. Thinman have released many shows from Dylan’s gospel period, but this is by far the best sounding of them all and a great release all around.

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