Thursday, 25 September 2014

"The Original Mono Recordings" by BOB DYLAN (2010 Columbia/Legacy 9-Disc CD Box Set of Remasters In Repro Artwork) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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A hairs-breath away from perfection (where's those missing 7" single sides?) - nonetheless this exceptional Columbia Box Set along with EMI's stellar work on The Beatles In Mono has set standards for presentation and quality remastering. There's a lot to get through - so onwards to the tambourines and Memphis mobiles...

Released October 2010 in the USA on Columbia/Legacy MONO-88697761042 (Barcode is the same no) - "The Original Mono Recordings" by BOB DYLAN offers you 8 studio albums (one a double) onto 9CDs in their original MONO mixes and breaks down as follows...

1. "Bob Dylan" - debut LP released 19 March 1962 in the USA on Columbia CL 1779 (Mono) and July 1962 in the UK on CBS Records BPG 62022 (Mono) - 13 tracks, CD playing time 37:07 minutes
2. "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan" - 2nd album released 27 May 1963 in the USA on Columbia CL 1986 (Mono) and November 1963 in the UK on CBS Records BGP 62193 (Mono) - 13 tracks, CD playing time 50:18 minutes
3. The Times They Are A-Changin'" - 3rd album released 13 January 1964 in the USA on Columbia CL 2105 (Mono) and May 1964 in the UK on CBS BPG 62251 (Mono) - 10 tracks, CD playing time 45:48 minutes
4. "Another Side Of Bob Dylan" - 4th album released 10 August 1964 in the USA on Columbia CL 2193 (Mono) and November 1964 in the UK on CBS Records BPG 62429 (Mono) - 11 tracks, CD playing time 51:20 minutes
5. "Bringing It All Back Home" - 5th studio album released 27 March 1965 in the USA on Columbia CL 2328 (Mono) and May 1965 in the UK on CBS Records BPG 62515 (mono) - 11 tracks, CD playing time 47:25 minutes
6. "Highway 61 Revisited" - 6th studio album released 30 August 1965 in the USA on Columbia CL 2389 (Mono) and September 1965 in the UK on CBS Records BPG 62572 (Mono) - 9 tracks, CD playing time 49:19 minutes
7. "Blonde On Blonde" - 7th studio album (a double) released 16 May 1966 in the USA on Columbia C2L 41 (Mono) and August 1966 in the UK on CBS Records DDP 66012 (Mono) Disc 1 has 8 tracks, 40:07 minutes - Disc 2 has 6 tracks, 33:09 minutes
8. "John Wesley Harding" - 8th studio album released 17 December 1967 in the USA on Columbia CL 2804 and February 1968 in the UK on CBS Records BGP 63252 (Mono) - 12 tracks, CD playing time 38:24 minutes

Because all of his Sixties 45's were issued in MONO - this set will allow fans to sequence 'most' of his 7" singles for the entire decade as follows (1/2 = Track 1 on Disc 2 - 2/5 = Track 2 on Disc 5 etc):

1. Mixed Up Confusion b/w Corrina, Corrina
Released 14 December 1962 in the USA but then withdrawn
[Note: the mix on "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan" album is not the version on the 7" single]

2. Blowin' In The Wind [1/2] b/w Don't Think Twice, It's Alright [7/2]
Released 13 August 1963 in the USA on Columbia 4- 42856

3. Subterranean Homesick Blues [1/5] b/w She Belongs To Me [2/5]
Released 8 March 1965 in the USA on Columbia 4-43242

4. Like A Rolling Stone [1/6] b/w Gates Of Eden [9/5]
Released 28 June 1965 in the USA on Columbia 4-43346

5. Positively 4th Street b/w From A Buick 6 [4/6]
Released 7 September 1965 in the USA on Columbia 4-43389. The A-side was non-album at the time and isn't included on this box set.

6. Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window b/w Highway 61 Revisited [7/6]
Released 12 June 1965 in the USA on Columbia 4-43477
Note: the A-side was non-album at the time and unfortunately isn't included on this compilation

7. One Of Us Must Know [4/Disc 1 of 7] b/w Queen Jane Approximately [6/6]
Released 14 February 1966 in the USA on Columbia 4-43541

8. Rainy day Women No. 12 & 35 [1/Disc 1 of 7] b/w Pledging My Time [2/Disc 1 of 7]
Released 22 March 1966 in the USA on Columbia 4-43592

9. I Want You [5/Disc 1 of 7] b/w Just Like Tom Thumb Blues
Released 10 June 1966 in the USA on Columbia 4-43683
Note: the B-side is different to the album version on "Highway 61 Revisited" and is unfortunately not included on this box

10. Just Like A Woman [8/Disc 1 of 7] b/w Obviously 5 Believers [5/Disc 2 of 7]
Released 18 August 1966 in the USA on Columbia 4-43792

11. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat 7/Disc 1 of 7] b/w Most Likely You Go Your Way [1/Disc 2 of 7]
Released 27 March 1967 in the USA on Columbia 4-44069

The packaging is classily done. Each of the oversized card facsimiles of the album covers all have pasted-on back sleeves and MONO artwork aping the American originals. The debut "Bob Dylan" even has its 'Columbia Records' advert inner bag reproduced. The 'two women' photographs on the inner gatefold of original copies of the 1966 "Blonde On Blonde" double that was withdrawn is unfortunately AWOL probably due to licensing (Columbia have used the more commonly seen replacements). The 56-page booklet is visually and thoughtfully put together too - gorgeous black and white photos of Dylan in bookshops, in the studio, having a cigarette, at his typewriter, chatting to tea-ladies - there's full track-by-track info, an American Discography and extensive reissue credits. STEVE BERKOWITZ produced the reissue and MARK WILDER did the superlative remastering from original first generation master tapes.

As the GREIL MARCUS liner-notes exhaustively tell you - STEREO through the early to late Sixties was something of an afterthought. The MONO mixes were where it was at for the artists and the producers (and they claim the public too). But for those of us who have grown up from the Seventies onwards on the STEREO versions - hearing these `overplayed' recordings in such stark one-channel force is a revelation. You also forget how pretty and touching some of the songs were/are - the brilliance of his lone original on the cover-heavy debut album - "Song For Woody" - the sweet longing of "Girl From The North Country" (lyrics from it title this review). There's the gorgeous amble of "Corrina. Corrina" and "She Belongs To Me" - with the B-side cool of "From A Buick 6". The sheer aural kick that comes off "Pledging My Time" from 1966 still whacks me sideways - same goes for the electric and acidic wit of "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat". And the side long "Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands" has more genius lyrics in it than most people know what to do with. It's also cool to see that Columbia followed the SACD route by splitting the "Blonde On Blonde" album into its two CDs so you get the original album experience of flipping Sides. Having grown so used to the 2003 STEREO SACD of John Wesley Harding - the mono of "I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine" comes as a visceral shock to me - now so much starker and raw. And don't get me started on the sheer genius of "Subterranean Homesick Blues" - even now it's combo of rollicking rhythm and rhyming brilliance floors me. And in MONO - it's even punchier (watch those parking meters). Niggles: it's a shame the missing single sides weren't put onto a separate Disc 9 so that fans could have gotten the FULL Mono picture - but the brief was always the albums. Apart from that - an exemplary release - and one that reeks of pride.

Was Bob Dylan really that good? Did he deserve the Godlike status he was held in? Does he still warrant that crown of glory to this day? You bet your subterranean rainy day women he does! 
Good on ye Mister Zimmerman. 

Extraordinary stuff...

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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