Monday, 23 January 2017

"New Morning" by BOB DYLAN (2009 Columbia CD Reissue - Greg Calbi Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Sign On The Window..."

Following on from June 1970's self-indulgent and often derided "Self Portrait" double album (funnily enough hindsight has many loving it to pieces) - critics and the public alike went nuts for the supposed 'return to form' of October's "New Morning". The British pummelled it into the No. 1 slot when it was issued slightly later in November of 1970 - and no self-respecting Bob Dylan "Greatest Hits" or "Anthology" is complete without "If Not For You".

Some have even said that "New Morning" is as good as 1975's meisterwork "Blood On The Tracks" - which in my mind is stretching credulity and the obvious audio truth way past its limit. "New Morning" is a solid Dylan album only with some moments of greatness. And re-listening to it in 2017 on this fabulous Remaster hasn't changed my opinion on that. Here are the Winterludes...

UK released May 2009 - "New Morning" by BOB DYLAN on Columbia 88697347002 (Barcode 886973470022) is a straightforward CD Remaster of the 12-track 1970 album and plays out as follows (35:50 minutes):

1. If Not For You
2. Day Of The Locusts
3. Time Passes Slowly
4. Went To See The Gypsy
5. Winterlude
6. If The Dogs Run Free
7. New Morning [Side 2]
8. Sign On The Window
9. One More Weekend
10. The Man In Me
11. Three Angels
12. Father Of Night
Tracks 1 to 12 are the album "New Morning" - released 21 October 1970 in the USA on Columbia KC 30290 and November 1970 in the UK on CBS Records S 69001. Produced by BOB JOHNSTON - it peaked at No. 7 in the USA and No. 1 in the UK.

Given that the original single-sleeve LP was so staggeringly boring to look at - the new 8-page inlay comes as a blessed relief. It's made up mostly of in-studio photos - Bob at the microphones - reading lyric sheets - the boys in the band discussing what to do next with Producer Bob Johnston. There's no new liner notes per say.

Al Kooper plays Keyboards, Guitar and French Horn - David Bromberg plays Electric Guitar and Dobro - Buzzy Feiten plays Electric Guitar - Russ Kunkel is on Drums with Maeretha Stewart guesting on "If Dogs Run Free" on Background Vocals. 

But at least we get that stunning GREG CALBI Remaster - a man whose had his mitts on McCartney's "Band On The Run", Paul Simon's "Graceland", Supertramp's "Crime Of The Century" and "Breakfast In America" and even John Mayer's Remastered catalogue. Calbi has turned in another winner - these Dylan remasters are all jobs well done it has to be said.

The photograph on the rear cover is a youthful Bob in early 1962 with one of his Blues heroes – the barnstorming big-lunged Victoria Spivey – famous for misery raunchy tunes like "Furniture Man Blues" and troublesome fools like "Dope Head Blues" (see my review for the 20CD Box Set "Roots & Blues"). Though in hindsight – it's an odd photo to feature here with precious little on the album resembling Blues Music except maybe some of "One More Weekend". Word has it that the "New Morning" project was going to be another double set – a sort of Part 2 to "Self Portrait" combining covers that moved him in his youth with new material (some of those outtakes have turned up on the "Bootleg Series" of CD reissues) - but perhaps because of the backlash to "Self Portrait" that idea was paired down to the single LP we now have made up entirely of BD originals.

The album opens with "If Not For You" – a hooky-as-Hell love song Beatle George Harrison had debuted to the world only weeks earlier on his 3LP Box Set "All Things Must Pass" on Apple Records (the opening song). People love this song to Dylan's wife of the time - perhaps because that weird organ sound Al Kooper gets harks back to his 60ts sound on "Highway 61 Revisited" and that thinny Harmonica back even further to "Freewheelin' Bob Dylan". And despite it’s rather slight feel BD sings - "...without your love I'd be nowhere at all..." and you can't help but think he actually means it this time (Olivia Newton John would lodge her first chart hit in February 1971 with "If Not For You" on Uni Records – No. 25 USA). "Day Of The Locust" feels like a great Bob Dylan song - while "Time Passes Slowly" was reputedly amongst the first three tunes recorded for an abandoned musical version of "The Devil And Daniel Webster" called "Scratch" (the other two were "New Morning" and "Father Of Night"). I have a very sweet cover of "Winterlude" by England's Steve Gibbons which he did for his 1998 CD "Bob Dylan Project" – Gibbons doesn't change its strangely casual nature and "...this dude thinks you're grand..." lyrics. We go early-morning smoky barroom Jazz for the spoken "If Dogs Run Free" that features scat vocals from Maeretha Stewart. As he'd veered away from 'Bob Dylan' – fans naturally went nuts and slagged off the song as derisory and all things unholy – but I've always thought it kind of brill. One man's heaven is...

Side 2 opens with the very Van Morrison sound of "New Morning" – acoustic guitars and lingering organ – marital bliss clearly keeping him happy (skies of blue – so happy just to see you smile). The album’s other biggie for me is "Sign On The Window" – a ballad with lyrics that I still can’t figure out – three’s a crowd – down on Mean Street – a cabin in Utah – catch rainbow trout. Whatever you read into the forlorn sad words – I love his piano playing while the band plays catch up and that impassioned vocal is the strongest on the whole record. "One More Weekend" is a slippin' and slidin' Bluesy trollop of a song – the band finally sounding like a cohesive unit as they boogie in that Bob Dylan way (great Remaster). Some people enjoy "The Man In Me" but those girly vocals feel forced to me - I much prefer the simpler almost Gospel spoken song "Three Angels" with its 'concrete world full of souls'. The album finishes on the piano and voices rumble of "Father Of Night" - a sound Cat Stevens would tap on his "Foreigner" album in 1973. The one-and-half-minute song is also an indication of his emerging beliefs - gorgeous audio as he sings of "...father of air and father of trees...that grows in our hearts and our memories..." 

Good - great - ordinary - different - the same – I love it – I don’t love it - it's Bob Dylan. Even now his enigma eludes me...and would we have it any other way...

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