Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Excellent New Anthology of Dylan Original Mono Recordings Just Out

Studies have shown that a majority of listeners actually prefer the sound of an mp3 to higher-quality recording technology. Which on one level shouldn’t come as a surprise. Stereo never became popular on a mass scale until about 1970, and people listened on tinny transistor radios for a good ten years after that. Mp3s also mask the ineptitude of indie rock musicianship as well as the robotic cheesiness of the last decade’s worth of corporate pop. But for the dedicated minority who prefer the richness and warmth of vinyl, is there a market for an audiophile mp3? That’s what Sony is offering, in essence, on their new Bob Dylan compilation, The Best of the Original Mono Recordings. A listen through the album confirms the quality of the mixes. Many of the songs here are also available on Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 1, a platinum album with pretty much zero collector value available for five bucks or less at just about any used vinyl store, and for serious audiophiles, that’s the way to go. But for those without a turntable, this is a remarkably successful facsimile. To sweeten the deal, there are some alternate takes here with revealing little touches that Dylan fanatics won’t be able to resist. Song to Woody showcases some surprisingly adept fingerpicking: hearing a 1963 Dylan sing about a world that “looks like it’s a-dying and it’s hardly been born” is a real eye-opener.

A solo acoustic take of Blowin’ in the Wind has some strikingly flinty vocals – he probably never sang it better than he does here; a solo version of Chimes of Freedom, with extra verses and a lot of alternate lyrics, is absolutely fascinating. Bruce Langhorne’s masterfully fingerpicked electric lead guitar highlights a beautiful alternate arrangement of Mr. Tambourine Man, and while nothing beats the warmth of the vinyl recording of the opening guitar chord of Like a Rolling Stone, this one’s awfully close.

These reissues also offer a vivid reminder of how brilliantly Tom Wilson and Bob Johnston mixed the electric Dylan. The balance of the instruments on the full-band cuts here stays impressively true to the fidelity of the originals; the few obvious sonic modifications, such as goosing the bass a bit on Tombstone Blues and I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight, are welcome to the point where anyone hearing this for the first time might even prefer these versions.

Beyond the sonics, it goes without saying that so many of these tracks – album takes of The Times They Are A-Changing, Subterranean Homesick Blues, Positively 4th St. and I Want You – are genuine classics, songs that deserve every bit of their iconic status. And the rest of the cuts – Rainy Day Women, Just Like a Woman, and All Along the Watchtower – are solid choices to round out the album. Along with the previously unreleased Witmark Sessions collection – which we haven’t gotten around to here yet – this is a smart blend of archival research and sonic excellence. It’s up at itunes and all the usual places.

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November 1, 2010 - Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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