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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

POLLY VAUGHAN RISING AGAIN?

There are appetite-whetting rumours abroad about Dylan's forthcoming Bootleg Series Vol. 8 release. This is pasted from John Baldwin's e-mail newsletter The Desolation Row Information Service, which itself incorporates material taken from the discussion section of Karl Erik Andersen's Expecting Rain website. I have made no attempt to police the use of apostrophes:

Sources tell me that the new Bootleg Series album (No. 8) will be released in Europe on September 8th, to be followed on the 19th by the re-release of 15 old albums in papersleeve form; ten of these will be newly re-mastered. More “horse’s mouth” information to follow soon.

But here’s what little we know so far. The following have been mooted as being part of this 2 CD set since the beginning of the month and there are more treats to be revealed -

Dignity (piano demo) God Knows (piano demo) Various other Oh Mercy out-takes - TV Talking Song (original version) Polly Vaughn (Bromberg sessions) Rise Again (Bromberg sessions) 32-20 Blues (World Gone Wrong/Good As I Have Been To You) Girl From The Red River Shore Shake Sugaree (out-take from TOOM)Mississippi (out-take from TOOM) 'Cross The Green Mountain (complete version)Various Modern Times demos.


Later this month there was an article in a Dutch newspaper by someone who had supposedly heard the album and had this to say – translation taken from an Expecting Rain discussion board –

Jeff Rosen gave Sony permission to choose material for a chronological double album out of no less than fifty unreleased songs. The result is baffling: more than fifteen tracks are brand new, four sound better in their alternate takes than in the original, and some obscure covers tell a lot about Dylan the transmitter of folk roots.


The Bootleg Series 8 starts with five outtakes from the Oh mercy sessions. ... What we didn’t hear on the album as it was released are the solo piano versions of unreleased songs like ‘Dignity’ and ‘God knows’. Dylan sounds particularly concentrated and relaxed. The follow up Under the red sky was marred by a cold Dan Was production, but it was Dylan who convinced Was not to release some much better takes on known material. For instance the original version of ‘TV Talking Song’ now sounds like a caustic protest song. More fascinating still is an entirely unreleased studio album from 1992. ... Bromberg ... project blown off ... Yet gospel tinged tracks like ‘Polly Vaughn’ and ‘Rise Again’ show an utterly enthusiastic performer ...
... Good as I been to you... World gone wrong. Some of the (incomprehensibly) left off songs from these two albums are on the new Bootleg Series, among which a heart-rending interpretation of Robert Johnson’s ‘32.20 Blues’.

... Second CD of BS8, the highlight ... starts of with legendary Time out of mind sessions. ... ‘Girl from the red river shore’ is probably the most impressive Dylan has written in recent years. The ghost ballad is an epical track in which Jim Dickinson and Duke Robillard harshly try to counter Dylans hallucinating ghost voice. During repetitions Dylan also unearthed a modest version of Elisabeth Cottons ’Shake Sugaree’. And this Bootleg Series also brings for the first time the original and much better take of the epical ‘Mississippi’.
... The complete version of ‘Cross the green mountain’. Lastly two demo’s of ‘Modern times’ that prove how driven and precise Dylan is in the studio these days.


I'm particularly pleased, if it's true, that we'll be getting the two tracks from the Bromberg sessions. The circulated bootleg of 'Polly Vaughan' is exquisite and makes this "lost album" seem about the most tantalising absence we know about in Dylan's canon.

I believe the entry on Bromberg in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia offered the fullest and most reliable tracklist for these sessions that had been published - one of the book's quieter virtues, perhaps. Here again is the relevant part of that entry. It will of course be included in the paperback edition being published on July 17:

After New Morning and David Bromberg, Bromberg and Dylan next appeared together on the album DOUG SAHM & Band, recorded in New York in 1972 (which is where Bromberg picked up Dylan’s ‘Wallflower’, of course); but after this they seem to have stayed out of professional contact for almost 20 years.

After moving to California in 1977, Bromberg moved again in 1980, this time to Chicago, and he was still there in 1992 when, after Dylan had recorded his first solo album in three decades, Good As I Been To You, he asked Bromberg to produce what would have been an intriguing follow-up album: a follow-up in being another set of traditional folk songs and old blues, but this time backed by a number of musicians (and on one track, ‘Rise Again’, by a children’s choir). He may have been encouraged to turn to Bromberg after seeing him play, back in the Village that February. Dylan had been to NEIL YOUNG’s concerts at the Beacon Theater (February 13-15, 1992) and one night he and Neil went on to the Bottom Line (not the Bitter End, as often stated) to catch a Bromberg performance there.

Dylan and Bromberg went into the studios in Chicago from June 4 to June 21, and reportedly recorded 12-26 songs in that time. The few that have circulated - and they didn’t emerge at all for more than a decade after their recording - were the JIMMIE RODGERS song ‘Miss The Mississippi and You’, the traditional ‘Polly Vaughan’ (which Shirley Collins sang a good deal), the oddly-spelt ‘Kaatskill Serenade’, which Bromberg had composed and which is on his 1977 double-album How Late’ll Ya Play ’Til?, and a blues called ‘Sloppy Drunk’, which bears no resemblance to the Jimmy Rogers song but was also on the Bromberg double-album. The last of these Dylan tracks was a bit phlegm-driven 1990s Bob-on-automatic but the others were wonderful, especially ‘Polly Vaughan’. Unfortunately, they have circulated only in poor quality.

The rest of the recorded tracks, which all remain unheard, are logged as including ‘Hey Joe’ (Dylan had performed Hendrix’s ‘Dolly Dagger’ in concert in Australia earlier the same year, and would open his Juan-les-Pins concert with ‘Hey Joe’ that July); Tim Hardin’s ponderous song ‘The Lady Came From Baltimore’ (which Dylan went on to perform live in 1994, twice in the US in April and once in France in July); the old blues ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’ (which MARIA MULDAUR had sung at a 1981 Dylan concert and which Bromberg had himself recorded on his 1978 album Reckless Abandon); the Dallas Holm gospel number ‘Rise Again’, which Dylan had sung 11 times in concert in 1980 and once in 1981; ‘Casey Jones’; ‘Duncan and Brady’; a Bromberg song called ‘World Of Fools’; and the rambunctious ‘Northeast Texas Women’ (not ‘Woman’, as often listed by Dylan discographers), a song from yet another Bromberg album, 1979’s Bandit In A Bathing Suit.

Perhaps Dylan felt that this was all turning into a David Bromberg album, but for whatever reason, he abandoned the entire album and reportedly ordered the tapes destroyed.

Clearly, they were not destroyed. Let's hope they may all rise again.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi

Have been meaning to congratulate you for ages on your shortlisting for the James Tait Black prize - have only managed to get round to it just now - I shall keep my eyes peeled for the result in August.

By the way, did you add the blog link to your wikipedia entry - or did someone else do it?

Cheers, Tristan

1:29 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Hi Tristan
Thank you. (It's Hand Me My Travelin' Shoes that has been shortlisted for the James Tait Black, of course, not a book about Dylan.)

No, not me - I've never even registered with Wikipedia. But maybe I should, so that I can make the entry on me more accurate. So much to do!

1:03 pm  
Anonymous McHenry Boatride said...

Michael

No need to register with Wikipedia to edit your entry. Anyone can edit anything!

True democracy in action, and studies have shown that the results are just as accurate as the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Your friend, McHenry

7:56 pm  

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