Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Album Of The Day #113: HARD RAIN - Bob Dylan

Title: Hard Rain
Artist: Bob Dylan
Label: Columbia
Released: 1976
Songs: Maggie’s Farm/One Too Many Mornings/Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again/Oh, Sister*/Lay, Lady, Lay/Shelter From The Storm/You’re A Big Girl Now/I Threw It All Away/Idiot Wind
Written by: Bob Dylan, except *by Bob Dylan & Jacques Levy
Produced by: Don DeVito and Bob Dylan
Thoughts: Originally, this was the only legal document of The Rolling Thunder Revue, until 2002’s Live 1975. It was recorded as the soundtrack to the television special Hard Rain and ironically, doesn’t have “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” on it.
What the album offers is new versions of old Dylan songs, which is what practically all of his live albums offer. The album opens with a strange version of “Maggie’s Farm”, which bares practically no resemblance to the original recording. “One Too Many Mornings” is an electric rendition of one of the most beautiful tracks from his acoustic era. It’s pretty straightforward; he just acclimates electric guitars and drums to the melody. “Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again”, probably my favorite track from Blonde On Blonde, is kind of nice, but I think he sort of ‘dumbs’ it down to fit the tight band he has here. “Oh, Sister” is also pretty bland, since it is very similar to the Desire version. I would like to know why of all the Desire songs he performed at the concert, why did he choose this one. The version of “Lay, Lady, Lay” that follows features new lyrics, only retaining the first two verses of the original hit from Nashville Skyline. To tell you the truth, the original is so much better. What made the original so cool was his campy, hilarious ‘country’ voice, which is gone here.
Three out of the four songs on side two come from Blood On The Tracks. The first one is “Shelter From The Storm”, which is transformed into this rock romp and it’s really the only track here that sticks out. “You’re A Big Girl Now” is also pretty straightforward. Although the cover shows that it goes to seven minutes, it really doesn’t. That’s just all the crowd noise, because this version doesn’t really change the tempo and pace of the original. “I Threw It All Away”, from Nashville Skyline, is oddly stuck here, but this version is pretty cool. Unlike “Lay, Lady, Lay,” a song that is only successful if Dylan sings it the way he recorded it, “I Threw It All Away” actually benefits from the Dylan voice of 1976. There are little to no lyrical changes here, so it really feels like the original with just a new vocal. The album ends with a (barely) ten minute rendition of “Idiot Wind”, another Blood On The Tracks number. Dylan sings it with the same ferocity and rage that can be found on the studio take, so it doesn’t vary too much. What makes this version, though, is this great piano playing by Howard Wyeth.
Still, the problem with the album is that it sounds terrible. There are points in the opening “Maggie’s Farm” where you can’t even hear Dylan. Then, there’s parts of “Stuck Inside Of Mobile…” where the only thing you hear is Dylan. The second half is better, but you don’t by an LP for half the material. For the CD issue, Columbia really should have fixed it up. It just sounds awful and I’m sure that if they could make it sound as good as Live 1975, this album might get some deserved attention. Until then, skip it.

No comments: