Monthly Archives: May 2011

ON THIS DATE (May 27, 1963) Bob Dylan: The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan is released.

May 27, 1963 – Bob Dylan: The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan is released.
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# Allmusic 5/5 stars
# Rolling Stone 5/5 stars
# Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music 4/5 stars
The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan is the second studio album by Bob Dylan, released in May 1963 by Columbia Records. Whereas his debut album Bob Dylan had contained only two original songs, Freewheelin’ initiated the process of writing contemporary words to traditional melodies. Eleven of the thirteen songs on the album are original compositions by Dylan. The album kicks off with “Blowin’ in the Wind”, which would become one of the anthems of the 1960s, and an international hit for folk trio Peter, Paul & Mary soon after the release of Freewheelin’. The album featured several other songs which came to be regarded as amongst Dylan’s best compositions and classics of the 1960s folk scene: “Girl from the North Country”, “Masters of War”, “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”.
Dylan’s lyrics embraced stories ripped from the headlines about civil rights and he articulated anxieties about the fear of nuclear warfare. Balancing this political material were love songs, sometimes bitter and accusatory, and material that features surreal humor. Freewheelin’ showcased Dylan’s songwriting talent for the first time, propelling him to national and international fame. The success of the album and Dylan’s subsequent recognition led to his being named as “Spokesman of a Generation”, a label Dylan came to resent.
The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan reached number 22 in the US (eventually going platinum), and later became a number one hit in the UK in 1964. In 2003, the album was ranked number 97 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In 2002, Freewheelin’ was one of 50 recordings chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry.
Recording sessions
Both critics and the public took little notice of Dylan’s debut album, Bob Dylan, which sold only 5,000 copies in its first year, just enough to break even. In a pointed rebuke to John Hammond, who had signed Dylan to Columbia Records, some within the company referred to the singer as “Hammond’s Folly” and suggested dropping his contract. Hammond defended Dylan vigorously and was determined that Dylan’s second album should be a success. The recording of Freewheelin’ took place over the course of a year, from April 1962 to April 1963, and the album was assembled from eight recording sessions in the Columbia Records Studio A, 799 Seventh Avenue, in New York City.
Political and personal background
Dylan had become famous for his political songwriting—he’s seen here in 1963 playing at a civil rights march with Joan Baez
Many critics have noted the extraordinary development of Dylan’s songwriting immediately after completing his first album. Dylan biographer Clinton Heylin connects the sudden increase in lyrics written along topical and political lines to the fact that Dylan had moved into an apartment on West 4th Street with his girlfriend Suze Rotolo in January 1962. Rotolo’s family had strong left-wing political commitments; both of her parents were members of the American Communist Party. Dylan acknowledged her influence when he told an interviewer: “Suze was into this equality-freedom thing long before I was. I checked out the songs with her.”
Dylan’s relationship with Rotolo also provided an important emotional dynamic in the composition of the Freewheelin’ album. After six months of living with Dylan, Rotolo agreed to her mother’s proposal that she travel to Italy to study art. Dylan missed her and wrote long letters to her conveying his hope that she would return soon to New York. She postponed her return several times, finally coming back in January 1963. Critics have connected the intense love songs expressing longing and loss on Freewheelin’ to Dylan’s fraught relationship with Rotolo. In her autobiography, Rotolo explains that musicians’ girlfriends were routinely described as “chicks”, and she resented being regarded as “a possession of Bob, who was the centre of attention”.
The tremendous speed and facility with which Dylan wrote topical songs attracted the attention of other musicians in the New York folk scene. In a radio interview on WBAI in June 1962, Pete Seeger described Dylan as “the most prolific songwriter on the scene” and then asked Dylan how many songs he had written recently. Dylan replied, “I might go for two weeks without writing these songs. I write a lot of stuff. In fact, I wrote five songs last night but I gave all the papers away in some place called the Bitter End.” Dylan also expressed the impersonal idea that the songs were not his own creation. In an interview with Sing Out! magazine, Dylan said, “The songs are there. They exist all by themselves just waiting for someone to write them down. I just put them down on paper. If I didn’t do it, somebody else would.”
Recording in New York
Dylan began work on his second album at Columbia’s Studio A in New York on April 24, 1962. The album was provisionally entitled Bob Dylan’s Blues, and as late as July 1962, this would remain the working title. At this session, Dylan recorded four of his own compositions: “Sally Gal”, “The Death of Emmett Till”, “Rambling, Gambling Willie”, and “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues”. He also recorded two traditional folk songs, “Going To New Orleans” and “Corrina, Corrina”, and Hank Williams’ “(I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle”.
Returning to Studio A the following day, Dylan recorded his new song about fallout shelters, “Let Me Die In My Footsteps”. Other original compositions followed: “Rocks and Gravel”, “Talking Hava Negiliah Blues”, “Talking Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues”, and two more takes of “Sally Gal”. Dylan recorded cover versions of “Wichita”, Big Joe Williams’s “Baby, Please Don’t Go”, and Robert Johnson’s “Milk Cow’s Calf’s Blues”. Because Dylan’s songwriting talent was developing so rapidly, nothing from the April sessions appeared on Freewheelin’.
The recording sessions at Studio A resumed on July 9, when Dylan recorded “Blowin’ in the Wind”, a song which he had first performed live at Gerde’s Folk City on April 16. Dylan also recorded “Bob Dylan’s Blues”, “Down the Highway”, and “Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance”, all of which ended up on Freewheelin’, plus one original composition, “Baby, I’m in the Mood for You”, which did not.
At this point, music manager Albert Grossman began to take an interest in Dylan’s business affairs. Grossman persuaded Dylan to transfer the publishing rights of his songs from Duchess Music, whom he had signed a contract with in January 1962, to Witmark Music, a division of Warner’s music publishing operation. Dylan signed a contract with Witmark on July 13, 1962. Unknown to Dylan, Grossman had also negotiated a deal with Witmark. This gave Grossman fifty percent of Witmark’s share of the publishing income generated by any songwriter Grossman had brought to the company. This “secret deal” resulted in a bitter legal battle between Dylan and Grossman in the 1980s.
Albert Grossman became Dylan’s manager on August 20, 1962. Since Dylan was under twenty-one when he had signed his contract with CBS, Grossman argued that the contract was invalid and had to be re-negotiated. Instead, Hammond responded by inviting Dylan to his office and persuading him to sign a “reaffirment”—agreeing to abide by the original contract. This effectively neutralised Grossman’s strategy, and led to some animosity between Grossman and Hammond. Grossman enjoyed a reputation in the folk scene of being commercially aggressive, generating more income and defending his clients’ interests more fiercely than “the nicer, more amateurish managers in the Village”. Dylan critic Andy Gill has suggested that Grossman encouraged Dylan to become more reclusive and aloof, even paranoid.  While recording Freewheelin’ in New York, Dylan had his first performance at Carnegie Hall.
On September 22, Dylan appeared for the first time at Carnegie Hall, part of an all-star hootenanny. On this occasion, he premiered his new composition “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall”, a complex and powerful song built upon the question and answer refrain pattern of the traditional British ballad “Lord Randall”. “Hard Rain” would gain added resonance one month later, when President Kennedy appeared on national television on October 22, and announced the discovery of Soviet missiles on the island of Cuba, initiating the Cuban Missile Crisis. In the sleeve notes on the Freewheelin’ album, Nat Hentoff quotes Dylan as saying that he wrote “Hard Rain” in response to the Cuban Missile Crisis: “Every line in it is actually the start of a whole new song. But when I wrote it, I thought I wouldn’t have enough time alive to write all those songs so I put all I could into this one”. In fact, Dylan had written the song more than a month before the crisis broke.
Dylan resumed work on Freewheelin’ at Columbia’s Studio A on October 26, when a major innovation took place—Dylan made his first studio recordings with a backing band. Accompanied by Dick Wellstood on piano, Howie Collins and Bruce Langhorne on guitar, Leonard Gaskin on bass, and Herb Lovelle on drums, Dylan recorded three songs. Several takes of Dylan’s “Mixed-Up Confusion” and Arthur Crudup’s “That’s All Right Mama” were deemed unusable, but a master take of “Corrina, Corrina” was selected for the final album. An ‘alternate take’ of “Corrina, Corrina” from the same session would also be selected for a single issued later in the year. At the next recording session on November 1, the band included Art Davis on bass, while jazz guitarist George Barnes replaced Howie Collins. “Mixed-Up Confusion” and “That’s All Right Mama” were re-recorded, and again the results were deemed unsatisfactory. A take of the third song, “Rocks and Gravel”, was selected for the album, but the track was subsequently dropped.
On November 14, Dylan resumed work with his backup band, this time with Gene Ramsey on bass, devoting most of the session to recording “Mixed-Up Confusion”. Although this track did not appear on Freewheelin’, it was released as a single on December 14, 1962, and then swiftly withdrawn. Unlike the other material which Dylan recorded between 1961 and 1964, “Mixed-Up Confusion” attempted a rockabilly sound. Cameron Crowe described it as “a fascinating look at a folk artist with his mind wandering towards Elvis Presley and Sun Records”.
Also recorded on November 14 was the new composition “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”, accompanied by a virtuoso guitar part played by Bruce Langhorne. (Clinton Heylin writes that while the sleeve notes of Freewheelin’ describe this song as being accompanied by a backing band, only Langhorne is audible on the released version.) Langhorne then accompanied Dylan on three more original compositions: “Ballad of Hollis Brown”, “Kingsport Town”, and “Whatcha Gonna Do”, but these performances were not included on Freewheelin’.
Dylan held another session at Studio A on December 6. Five songs, all original compositions, were recorded, three of which were eventually included on The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan: “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall”, “Oxford Town”, and “I Shall Be Free”. Dylan also made another attempt at “Whatcha Gonna Do” and recorded a new song, “Hero Blues”, but both songs were ultimately rejected and left unreleased.
Traveling to England
Twelve days later, Dylan made his first trip abroad. British TV director Philip Saville had heard Dylan perform in Greenwich Village, and invited him to take part in a BBC television drama: The Madhouse on Castle Street. Dylan arrived in London on December 17. In the play, Dylan performed “Blowin’ in the Wind” and two other songs. Dylan also immersed himself in the London folk scene, making contact with the Troubadour folk club organizer Anthea Joseph and folksingers Martin Carthy and Bob Davenport. “I ran into some people in England who really knew those [traditional English] songs,” Dylan recalled in 1984. “Martin Carthy, another guy named [Bob] Davenport. Martin Carthy’s incredible. I learned a lot of stuff from Martin.”
Carthy taught Dylan two English songs that would prove important for the Freewheelin’ album. Carthy’s arrangement of “Scarborough Fair” would be used by Dylan as the basis of his own composition, “Girl from the North Country”. A 19th century ballad commemorating the death of Sir John Franklin in 1847,”Lady Franklin’s Lament”, gave Dylan the melody for his composition “Bob Dylan’s Dream”. Both songs displayed Dylan’s fast-growing ability to take traditional melodies and use them as a basis for highly personal songwriting.
From England, Dylan traveled to Italy, and joined Albert Grossman, who was touring with his client Odetta. Dylan was also hoping to make contact with his girlfriend, Suze Rotolo, unaware that she had already left Italy and was on her way back to New York. Dylan worked on his new material, and when he returned to London, Martin Carthy received a surprise: “When he came back from Italy, he’d written “Girl From the North Country”; he came down to the Troubadour and said, ‘Hey, here’s “Scarborough Fair”‘ and he started playing this thing.”
Returning to New York
Dylan flew back to New York on January 16, 1963. In January and February, he recorded some of his new compositions in sessions for the folk magazine Broadside, including a new anti-war song, “Masters of War”, which he had composed in London. Dylan was happy to be reunited with Suze Rotolo, and he persuaded her to move back into the apartment they had shared on West 4th Street.
Dylan’s keenness to record his new material for Freewheelin’ paralleled a dramatic power struggle in the studio: Albert Grossman’s determination to have John Hammond replaced as Dylan’s producer at CBS. According to Dylan biographer Howard Sounes, “The two men could not have been more different. Hammond was a WASP, so relaxed during recording sessions that he sat with feet up, reading The New Yorker. Grossman was a Jewish businessman with a shady past, hustling to become a millionaire.”
Because of Grossman’s hostility to Hammond, Columbia paired Dylan with a young, African-American jazz producer, Tom Wilson. Wilson recalled: “I didn’t even particularly like folk music. I’d been recording Sun Ra and Coltrane … I thought folk music was for the dumb guys. [Dylan] played like the dumb guys, but then these words came out. I was flabbergasted.” At a recording session on April 24, produced by Wilson, Dylan recorded five new compositions: “Girl from the North Country”, “Masters of War”, “Talkin’ World War III Blues”, “Bob Dylan’s Dream”, and “Walls of Red Wing”. “Walls of Red Wing” was ultimately rejected, but the other four were included in a revised album sequence.
The final drama of recording Freewheelin’ occurred when Dylan appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show on May 12, 1963. Dylan had told Sullivan he would perform “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues”, but the ‘head of program practices’ at CBS Television informed Dylan that this song was potentially libelous to the John Birch Society, and asked him to perform another number. Rather than comply with TV censorship, Dylan refused to appear on the show. There is disagreement between Dylan’s biographers about the consequences of this censorship row. Anthony Scaduto writes that after the Ed Sullivan Show debacle, CBS lawyers were alarmed to discover that the controversial song was to be included on Dylan’s new album, only a few weeks from its release date. They insisted that the song be dropped, and four songs (“John Birch”, “Let Me Die In My Footsteps”, “Rambling Gambling Willie”, “Rocks and Gravel”) on the album were replaced with Dylan’s newer compositions recorded in April (“Girl from the North Country”, “Masters of War”, “Talkin’ World War III Blues”, “Bob Dylan’s Dream”). Scaduto writes that Dylan felt “crushed” by being compelled to submit to censorship, but he was in no position to argue.
According to biographer Clinton Heylin, “There remains a common belief that [Dylan] was forced by Columbia to pull “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues” from the album after he walked out on The Ed Sullivan Show.” However, the ‘revised’ version of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan was released on May 27, 1963; this would have given Columbia Records only two weeks to recut the album, reprint the record sleeves, and press and package enough copies of the new version to fill orders. Heylin suggests that CBS had probably forced Dylan to withdraw “John Birch” from the album some weeks earlier, and that Dylan had responded by recording his new material on April 24. Whether the songs were substituted before or after The Ed Sullivan Show, critics agree that the new material gave the album a more personal feel, endistanced from the traditional folk-blues material which had dominated his first album, Bob Dylan.
A few copies of the original pressing of the LP with the four deleted tracks have turned up over the years, despite Columbia’s supposed destruction of all copies during the pre-release phase (all copies found were in the standard album sleeve with the revised track selection). Other permutations of the Freewheelin’ album include versions with a different running order of the tracks on the album, and a Canadian version of the album that listed the tracks in the wrong order. The original pressing of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan is considered the most valuable and rarest record in America, with one copy having sold for $35,000.
  1. Know the history.
The “Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” was Dylan’s second record, released in late May 1963. Shortly in advance of its release, he was to appear on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” but its producers didn’t like “Talkin’ John Birch Blues.” Instead of changing what he was going to sing on the show, Dylan instead declined to perform. After this happened, a decision was made to change the songs on the record. Some copies were pressed with the “wrong” or “original” songs, but they likely came out with a label that lists the “corrected” song list and order. White-label promos are even more messed up. The deleted tracks to look and listen for include: “Rocks and Gravel,” “Let Me Die In My Footsteps,” “Gamblin’ Willie’s Dead Man’s Hand” and “Talkin’ John Birch Blues.” If your copy plays these songs, it’s worth some money, especially in stereo.
  1. Identify a common pressing.
The label will be red and say “Guaranteed High Fidelity” on a common mono copy. If it plays what it says (none of the rare tracks included), it’s the corrected, common version of the record, worth only about $40 in near-mint condition (looking and sounding like new) for mono, $50 for stereo, as of 2007. Because the labels of American pressings may belie their contents, the best way to tell if you have a rare version is to play the record and listen for the deleted songs.
  1. Check the labels and the cover.
If the record cover lists the original songs and plays the “corrected” song list, it’s likely the Canadian pressing worth about $200 near mint. If the label lists the corrected song list but plays the original lineup, it could get $12,000 for a near-mint copy, with “very good” condition grabbing about $4,000, as of 2007. In stereo, if it lists and plays the original tracks, it could sell for $30,000.
  1. Appraise a white-label promo.
White-label promo records might have original songs listed on labels and timing strips (all will play the corrected song lineup) and can sell for $800 to $3,000 near mint, as of 2007, depending on which lists the original song lineup. A near-mint white-label promo that plays and lists the standard tracks can even get $500 for the seller; the difficulty comes in finding a promo in that condition.
  1. Identify the rare copies without playing the records.
Look at the “dead wax” between the grooves and the label. If the numbers end in “1,” followed by a letter, it’s a rare original pressing. Any other number, and it’s the common version of the record. A less-scientific way to identify the rarity is by looking at the width of side one, track three. If it’s the widest, it’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” which, on the common version of the record, is the last song on the side, rather than track three.
Songs and themes
Side One
  1. “Blowin’ in the Wind”
“Blowin’ in the Wind” is among Dylan’s most celebrated compositions. In his sleeve notes for The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961–1991, John Bauldie writes that it was Pete Seeger who first identified the melody of “Blowin’ in the Wind” as Dylan’s adaptation of the old Negro spiritual “No More Auction Block”. According to Alan Lomax’s The Folk Songs of North America, the song originated in Canada and was sung by former slaves who fled there after Britain abolished slavery in 1833. In 1978, Dylan acknowledged the source when he told journalist Marc Rowland: ‘”Blowin’ in the Wind” has always been a spiritual. I took it off a song called “No More Auction Block”—that’s a spiritual and “Blowin’ in the Wind” follows the same feeling.’ Dylan’s performance of “No More Auction Block” was recorded at the Gaslight Cafe in October 1962, and appeared on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961–1991.
Critic Andy Gill wrote: “‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ marked a huge jump in Dylan’s songwriting: for the first time, Dylan discovered the effectiveness of moving from the particular to the general. Whereas ‘The Ballad of Donald White’ would become completely redundant as soon as the eponymous criminal was executed, a song as vague as ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ could be applied to just about any freedom issue. It remains the song with which Dylan’s name is most inextricably linked, and safeguarded his reputation as a civil libertarian through any number of changes in style and attitude.”
“Blowin’ in the Wind” became world famous when Peter, Paul and Mary issued the song as a single three weeks after the release of Freewheelin’. They and Dylan both shared the same manager: Albert Grossman. The single sold a phenomenal three hundred thousand copies in the first week of release. On July 13, 1963, it reached number two on the Billboard chart with sales exceeding one million copies. Dylan later recalled that he was astonished when Peter Yarrow told him he was going to make $5,000 from the publishing rights.
  1. “Girl from the North Country”
There has been much speculation in print about the identity of the girl in the song. Clinton Heylin states that the most frequently mooted candidates are Echo Helstrom, an early girlfriend of Dylan from his hometown of Hibbing, and Suze Rotolo, whom Dylan was pining for as he finished the song in Italy. Howard Sounes suggests the girl Dylan probably had in mind was Bonnie Beecher, a girlfriend of Dylan’s when he was at the University of Minnesota. Musicologist Todd Harvey notes that Dylan not only took the tune of “Scarborough Fair”, which he learnt from Martin Carthy in London, but also adapted the theme of that song. “Scarborough Fair” derives from “The Elfin Knight” (Child Ballad Number 2), which was first transcribed in 1670. In the song, a supernatural character poses a series of questions to an innocent, requesting her to perform impossible tasks. Harvey points out that Dylan “retains the idea of the listener being sent upon a task, a northern place setting, and an antique lyric quality”. Dylan returned to this song on Nashville Skyline (1969), recording it as a duet with Johnny Cash.
  1. “Masters of War”
A scathing, anti-war song, “Masters of War” is based on Jean Ritchie’s arrangement of “Nottamun Town”, an English riddle song. Written in late 1962 while Dylan was in London, a number of eyewitnesses (including Martin Carthy and Anthea Joseph) recall Dylan performing the song in folk clubs at the time. Ritchie would later assert her claim on the song’s arrangement; according to one Dylan biography, the suit was settled when Ritchie received $5,000 from Dylan’s lawyers.
  1. “Down the Highway”
Dylan composed this song in the form of a 12-bar blues. In the sleeve notes of Freewheelin’, Dylan explained to Nat Hentoff: “What made the real blues singers so great is that they were able to state all the problems they had; but at the same time, they were standing outside of them and could look at them. And in that way, they had them beat.” Into this song, Dylan injected one explicit mention of an absence that was troubling him: the sojourn of Suze Rotolo in Perugia: “My baby took my heart from me/ She packed it all up in a suitcase/ Lord, she took it away to Italy, Italy.”
  1. “Bob Dylan’s Blues”
Dylan begins this track with a spoken intro where he describes the origins of folk songs in a satirical vein: “most of the songs that are written uptown in Tin Pan Alley, that’s where most of the folk songs come from nowadays”. What follows has been characterized as an absurd, improvised blues which Dylan, in the sleeve notes, describes as “a really off-the-cuff-song. I start with an idea and then I feel what follows. Best way I can describe this one is that it’s sort of like walking by a side street. You gaze in and walk on.” Harvey points out that Dylan subsequently elaborated this style of self-deprecatory, absurdist humor into more complex songs, such as “I Shall Be Free No.10” (1964).
  1. “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall”
Dylan was only 21 years old when he wrote one of his most complex songs, “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall”, often referred to as “Hard Rain”. Dylan is said to have premiered “Hard Rain” at the Gaslight Cafe, where Village performer Peter Blankfield recalled: “He put out these pieces of loose-leaf paper ripped out of a spiral notebook. And he starts singing [‘Hard Rain’] … He finished singing it, and no one could say anything. The length of it, the episodic sense of it. Every line kept building and bursting”. Dylan performed “Hard Rain” days later at Carnegie Hall on September 22, 1962, as part of a concert organized by Pete Seeger. The song gained added resonance when U.S. President John F. Kennedy gave his warning to the Soviet Union over their deployment of nuclear missiles in Cuba, just one month after Dylan’s first performance of “Hard Rain”. Critics have interpreted the lyric ‘hard rain’ as a reference to nuclear fallout, but Dylan resisted the specificity of this interpretation. In a radio interview with Studs Terkel in 1963, Dylan said,
    “No, it’s not atomic rain, it’s just a hard rain. It isn’t the fallout rain. I mean some sort of end that’s just gotta happen …. In the last verse, when I say, ‘the pellets of poison are flooding the waters’, that means all the lies that people get told on their radios and in their newspapers.”
Many people were astonished by the power and complexity of this work. For Robert Shelton, who had given Dylan an important boost in his 1961 review in the New York Times, this song was “a landmark in topical, folk-based songwriting. Here blooms the promised fruit of the 1950s poetry-jazz fusion of Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, and Rexroth.” Folk singer Dave Van Ronk later commented: “I was acutely aware that it represented the beginning of an artistic revolution.” Pete Seeger expressed the opinion that this song would last longer than any other written by Dylan.
Side Two
  1. “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”
Dylan wrote this song on hearing from Suze Rotolo that she was considering staying in Italy indefinitely, and he used a melody he adapted from Paul Clayton’s song “Who’s Gonna Buy You Ribbons (When I’m Gone)”. In the Freewheelin’ sleeve notes, Dylan comments: “It isn’t a love song. It’s a statement that maybe you can say to make yourself feel better. It’s as if you were talking to yourself.”
Dylan’s contemporaries hailed the song as a masterpiece: Bob Spitz quotes Paul Stookey saying “I thought it was a masterful statement”, while Dave Van Ronk called it “self-pitying but brilliant”. Dylan biographer Howard Sounes commented: “The greatness of the song was in the cleverness of the language. The phrase “don’t think twice, it’s all right” could be snarled, sung with resignation, or delivered with an ambiguous mixture of bitterness and regret. Seldom has the contradictory emotions of a thwarted lover been so well expressed, and the song transcended the autobiographical origins of Dylan’s pain.”
  1. “Bob Dylan’s Dream”
“Bob Dylan’s Dream” was based on the melody of the traditional “Lady Franklin’s Lament”, in which the title character dreams of finding her husband, Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin, alive and well. (Sir John Franklin had vanished on an expedition searching for the North West Passage in 1845; a stone cairn on King William Island detailing his demise was found by a later expedition in 1859.) Todd Harvey points out that Dylan transforms the song into a personal journey, yet he retains both the theme and the mood of the original ballad. The world outside is depicted as stormy and harsh, and Dylan’s most fervent wish, like Lady Franklin’s, is to be reunited with departed companions and to relive the fond memories they represent.
  1. “Oxford Town”
“Oxford Town” is Dylan’s sardonic account of events at the University of Mississippi in September 1962. U.S. Air Force veteran James Meredith was the first black student to enroll at the University of Mississippi, located a mile from Oxford, Mississippi. When Meredith first tried to attend classes at the school, a number of Mississippians pledged to keep the university segregated, including the state governor Ross Barnett. Ultimately, the University of Mississippi had to be integrated with the help of U.S. federal troops. Dylan responded rapidly: his song was published in the November 1962 issue of Broadside.
  1. “Talkin’ World War III Blues”
The “talkin’ blues” was a style of improvised songwriting that Woody Guthrie had developed to a high plane. (A Minneapolis domestic recording that Dylan made in September 1960 includes his performances of Guthrie’s “Talking Columbia” and “Talking Merchant Marine”.) “Talkin’ World War III Blues” was a spontaneous composition Dylan created in the studio during the final session for The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. He recorded five takes of the song and the fifth was selected for the album. The format of the “talkin’ blues” permitted Dylan to address the serious subject of nuclear annihilation with humor, and “without resorting to his finger-pointing or apocalyptical-prophetic persona”.
  1. “Corrina, Corrina”
“Corrina, Corrina” was recorded by the Mississippi Sheiks, and by their leader Bo Carter in 1928. The song was covered by artists as diverse as Bob Wills, Big Joe Turner, and Doc Watson. Dylan’s version borrows phrases from a few Robert Johnson songs: “Stones In My Passway”, “32-20 Blues”, and “Hellhound On My Trail”. An alternate take of the song was used as a B-side for his “Mixed-Up Confusion” single.
  1. “Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance”
“Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance” is based on “Honey, Won’t You Allow Me One More Chance?”, a song dating back to the 1890s that was popularized by Henry Thomas in his 1928 recording. “However, Thomas’s original provided no more than a song title and a notion”, writes Heylin, “which Dylan turned into a personal plea to an absent lover to allow him ‘one more chance to get along with you.’ It is a vocal tour de force and … showed a Dylan prepared to make light of his own blues by using the form itself.”
  1. “I Shall Be Free”
“I Shall Be Free” is a rewrite of Leadbelly’s “We Shall Be Free”, which was performed by Leadbelly, Sonny Terry, Cisco Houston, and Woody Guthrie. According to Todd Harvey, Dylan’s version draws its melody from the Guthrie recording but omits its signature chorus (“We’ll soon be free/When the Lord will call us home”). Critics have been divided about the worth of this final song. Robert Shelton dismissed the song as “a decided anticlimax. Although the album has at least a half dozen blockbusters, two of the weakest songs are tucked in at the end, like shirttails.” Todd Harvey has argued that by placing the song at the close of the Freewheelin’ LP, Dylan ends on a note of levity which is a relief after the weighty sentiments expressed in several songs on the album.
Dylan promoted his upcoming album with a number of radio appearances and concert performances. In May 1963, Dylan performed with Joan Baez at the Monterey Folk Festival, where she joined him on stage for a duet of a new Dylan song, “With God on Our Side”. Baez was at the pinnacle of her fame, having appeared on the cover of Time magazine the previous November. The performance not only gave Dylan and his songs a new prominence, it also marked the beginning of a romantic relationship between Baez and Dylan, the start of what Dylan biographer Sounes termed “one of the most celebrated love affairs of the decade”.
The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan was released at the end of May. According to Scaduto, it was an immediate success, selling 10,000 copies a month and bringing Dylan an income of about $2,500 a month. An article by Nat Hentoff on folk music appeared in the June issue of Playboy magazine and devoted considerable space to Dylan’s achievements, calling him “the most vital of the younger citybillies”.
In July, Dylan appeared at the second Newport Folk Festival. That weekend, Peter, Paul and Mary’s rendition of “Blowin’ in the Wind” reached number two on Billboard’s pop chart. Baez was also at Newport, appearing twice on stage with Dylan. The combination of the chart success of “Blowin’ in the Wind”, and the glamor of Baez and Dylan singing together generated excitement about Dylan and his new album. Tom Paxton recalled: “That was a big breakout festival for Bob. The buzz kept growing exponentially and it was like a coronation of Bob and Joan. They were King and Queen of the festival”. His friend Bob Fass recalled that after Newport, Dylan told him that “suddenly I just can’t walk around without a disguise. I used to walk around and go wherever I wanted. But now it’s gotten very weird. People follow me into the men’s room just so they can say that they saw me pee.”
In September, the album entered Billboard’s album charts; the highest position Freewheelin’ reached was number 22, but it eventually came to sell one million copies in the US. Dylan himself came to acknowledge Freewheelin’ as the album that marked the start of his success. During his dispute with Albert Grossman, Dylan stated in a deposition: “Although I didn’t know it at the time, the second album was destined to become a great success because it was to include ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’.” Besides “Blowin’ in the Wind”, “Masters of War”, “Girl from the North Country”, “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” have all been acclaimed as masterpieces, and they have been mainstays of Dylan’s performing repertory to the present day. The album’s balance between serious subject matter and levity, earnest finger-pointing songs and surreal jokes captured a wide audience, including The Beatles, who were on the cusp of global success. John Lennon recalled: “In Paris in 1964 was the first time I ever heard Dylan at all. Paul got the record (The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan) from a French DJ. For three weeks in Paris we didn’t stop playing it. We all went potty about Dylan.”
Cover art
The album cover features a photograph of Dylan with Suze Rotolo. It was taken in February 1963—a few weeks after Rotolo had returned from Italy—by CBS staff photographer Don Hunstein at the corner of Jones Street and West 4th Street in Greenwich Village, New York City, close to the apartment where the couple lived at the time. In 2008, Rotolo described the circumstances surrounding the famous photo to The New York Times: “He wore a very thin jacket, because image was all. Our apartment was always cold, so I had a sweater on, plus I borrowed one of his big, bulky sweaters. On top of that I put on a coat. So I felt like an Italian sausage. Every time I look at that picture, I think I look fat.” In her memoir, A Freewheelin’ Time, Rotolo analyzed the significance of the cover image:
It is one of those cultural markers that influenced the look of album covers precisely because of its casual down-home spontaneity and sensibility. Most album covers were carefully staged and controlled, to terrific effect on the Blue Note jazz album covers … and to not-so great-effect on the perfectly posed and clean-cut pop and folk albums. Whoever was responsible for choosing that particular photograph for The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan really had an eye for a new look.
Critic Janet Maslin summed up the iconic impact of the cover as “a photograph that inspired countless young men to hunch their shoulders, look distant, and let the girl do the clinging”.
The success of Freewheelin’ transformed the public perception of Dylan. Before the album’s release, he was one amongst many folk-singers. Afterwards, at the age of 22, Dylan was regarded as a major artist, perhaps even a spokesman for disaffected youth. As one critic described the transformation, “In barely over a year, a young plagiarist had been reborn as a songwriter of substance, and his first album of fully realized original material got the 1960s off their musical starting block.” Janet Maslin wrote of the album: “These were the songs that established him as the voice of his generation—someone who implicitly understood how concerned young American felt about nuclear disarmament and the growing movement for civil rights: his mixture of moral authority and nonconformity was perhaps the most timely of his attributes.”
This title of “Spokesman of a Generation” was viewed by Dylan with disgust in later years. He came to feel it was a label that the media had pinned on him, and in his autobiography, Chronicles, Dylan wrote: “The press never let up. Once in a while I would have to rise up and offer myself for an interview so they wouldn’t beat the door down. Later an article would hit the streets with the headline “Spokesman Denies That He’s A Spokesman”. I felt like a piece of meat that someone had thrown to the dogs.”
The album secured for Dylan an “unstoppable cult following” of fans who preferred the harshness of his performances to the softer cover versions released by other singers. Richard Williams has suggested that the richness of the imagery in Freewheelin’ transformed Dylan into a key performer for a burgeoning college audience hungry for a new cultural complexity: “For students whose exam courses included Eliot and Yeats, here was something that flattered their expanding intellect while appealing to the teenage rebel in their early-sixties souls. James Dean had walked around reading James Joyce; here were both in a single package, the words and the attitude set to music.” Andy Gill adds that in the few months between the release of Freewheelin’ in May 1963, and Dylan’s next album The Times They Are A-Changin’ in January 1964, Dylan became the hottest property in American music, stretching the boundaries of what had been previously viewed as a collegiate folk music audience.
Critical opinion about Freewheelin’ has been consistently favorable in the years since its release. Dylan biographer Howard Sounes called it “Bob Dylan’s first great album”. In a survey of Dylan’s work published by Q magazine in 2000, the Freewheelin’ album was described as “easily the best of [Dylan’s] acoustic albums and a quantum leap from his debut—which shows the frantic pace at which Dylan’s mind was moving.” The magazine went on to comment, “You can see why this album got the Beatles listening. The songs at its core must have sounded like communiques from another plane.”
For Patrick Humphries, “rarely has one album so effectively reflected the times which produced it. Freewheelin’ spoke directly to the concerns of its audience. and addressed them in a mature and reflective manner: it mirrored the state of the nation.” Stephen Thomas Erlewine’s verdict on the album in the Allmusic guide was: “It’s hard to overestimate the importance of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, the record that firmly established Dylan as an unparalleled songwriter … This is rich, imaginative music, capturing the sound and spirit of America as much as that of Louis Armstrong, Hank Williams, or Elvis Presley. Dylan, in many ways, recorded music that equaled this, but he never topped it.”
In March 2000, Van Morrison told the Irish rock magazine Hot Press about the impact that Freewheelin’ made on him: “I think I heard it in a record shop in Smith Street. And I just thought it was incredible that this guy’s not singing about ‘moon in June’ and he’s getting away with it. That’s what I thought at the time. The subject matter wasn’t pop songs, ya know, and I thought this kind of opens the whole thing up … Dylan put it into the mainstream that this could be done.”
Freewheelin’ was one of 50 recordings chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry in 2002. The citation read: “This album is considered by some to be the most important collection of original songs issued in the 1960s. It includes “Blowin’ in the Wind,” the era’s popular and powerful protest anthem.” The following year, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it number 97 on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time (this ranking would later be changed to number 98 in the published book version of the list)

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ON THIS DATE (May 27, 1966) – The Beatles: Paperback Writer b/w Rain 45 is released.

May 27, 1966 – The Beatles: Paperback Writer b/w Rain is released.
VALUE (Original US 45 with Picture Sleeve in mint condition) $125
“Paperback Writer” is a 1966 song recorded and released by The Beatles. Written by Paul McCartney and credited to Lennon/McCartney, the song was released as the A-side of their eleventh single. The single went to the number one spot in the United States, United Kingdom, West Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Norway. Written in the form of a letter from an aspiring author to a publisher, “Paperback Writer” was the first UK Beatles single that was not a love song (though “Nowhere Man”, which was a single in the US, was their first album song released with that distinction). On the US Billboard Hot 100, the song was at number one for two non-consecutive weeks, being interrupted by Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night”.
“Paperback Writer” was the last new song by the Beatles to be featured on their 1966 tour.
The track was recorded between 13 April and 14 April 1966.
“Paperback Writer” is marked by the boosted bass guitar sound throughout, partly in response to Lennon demanding to know why the bass on a certain Wilson Pickett record far exceeded the bass on any Beatles records. This changed with the “Paperback Writer” single.
“‘Paperback Writer’ was the first time the bass sound had been heard in all its excitement,” said Beatles’ engineer Geoff Emerick in Mark Lewisohn’s book The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions. “To get the loud bass sound, Paul played a different bass, a Rickenbacker. Then we boosted it further by using a loudspeaker as a microphone. We positioned it directly in front of the bass speaker and the moving diaphragm of the second speaker made the electric current.”
The background vocal harmonies at the beginning of the second chorus are provided by Lennon and George Harrison who sing the title of the French nursery rhyme “Frère Jacques” in several incantations. These harmonies occur at a little over one minute into the track.
Emerick stated that the “Paperback Writer” / “Rain” single was cut louder than any other Beatles record up to that time, due to a new piece of equipment used in the mastering process, referred to as “Automatic Transient Overload Control”, which was devised by the EMI maintenance department.
There is some dispute over who played what on Paperback Writer. In the November 2005 issue of Guitar Player Magazine, Paul McCartney claims to have played the song’s famous opening riff on his Epiphone Casino guitar, and photos from the song’s session seem to verify this claim. McCartney is also widely credited for the songs iconic bass line, but photos from the session show George Harrison playing a Burns Nu-Sonic bass, not an electric guitar. Whether or not Harrison recorded a bass line for Paperback Writer that was later removed and retracked by McCartney remains unclear.
Song lyrics
According to disc jockey Jimmy Savile, McCartney wrote the song in response to a request from an aunt who asked if he could “write a single that wasn’t about love.” Savile said, “With that thought obviously still in his mind, he walked around the room and noticed that Ringo was reading a book. He took one look and announced that he would write a song about a book.”In a 2007 interview, McCartney recalled that he wrote the song after reading in the Daily Mail about an aspiring author, possibly Martin Amis.  The Daily Mail was Lennon’s regular newspaper and copies were in Lennon’s Weybridge home when Lennon and McCartney were writing songs.
The song’s lyrics are in the form of a letter from an aspiring author addressed to a publisher. The author badly needs a job and has written a paperback version of a book by a “man named Lear.” This is a reference to the Victorian painter Edward Lear, who wrote nonsense poems and songs of which John Lennon was very fond (though Lear never wrote novels).
Aside from deviating from the subject of love, McCartney had it in mind to write a song with a melody backed by a single, static chord. “John and I would like to do songs with just one note like ‘Long Tall Sally.’ We got near it in ‘The Word.'” McCartney claimed to have barely failed to achieve this goal with “Paperback Writer,” as the verse remains on G until the end, at which point it pauses on C. The backing vocals during this section are from the French children’s song “Frère Jacques”.”
“Butcher cover”
In Britain the single was promoted with the infamous “butcher cover” art, depicting the Beatles with raw meat and decapitated baby dolls tossed about. This photograph was also originally used as the cover for the Capitol US-only album Yesterday and Today. The image was soon replaced with a normal picture of the band as it had caused great controversy in America. For the American release of the “Paperback Writer” single, the cover depicted the Beatles playing live, but with John Lennon and George Harrison’s images reflected so that it appears that they are playing left-handed. (See the image at the top of the page).
Promotional films
Michael Lindsay-Hogg directed four promotional films for the song shot on 19 and 20 May 1966. On the first day they recorded a colour performance at Abbey Road, for The Ed Sullivan Show, which was shown on 5 June, and two black and white performance clips for British television. These were shown on Ready Steady Go! and Thank Your Lucky Stars on 3 June and 25 June, respectively.
On 20 May, another colour film was made at Chiswick House in west London. The Beatles mimed to the song, and they were shown in and around the conservatory in the grounds of the house. The clip was first broadcast in black and white on BBC-TV’s Top of the Pops on 2 June.
“Rain” is a song by the English rock band The Beatles, credited to Lennon/McCartney. It was first released in June 1966 as the B-side of the “Paperback Writer” single. Both songs were recorded during the sessions for Revolver but neither appears on that album.
Written primarily by John Lennon, “Rain” has been called The Beatles’ finest B-side, especially notable for its heavy sonic presence and backwards vocals, both of which were a hint of things to come on Revolver, released two months later.
Three promotional films were made for the song “Rain”. These videos, along with other Beatles videos at the time, sparked George Harrison to say during the Beatles Anthology, “So I suppose, in a way, we invented MTV.”
The inspiration for “Rain” is agreed on by Neil Aspinall, The Beatles’ roadie, and John Lennon. They both described the band’s arrival in Melbourne, Australia, marked by rain and poor weather. Lennon said, “I’ve never seen rain as hard as that, except in Tahiti”, and later explained that “Rain” was “about people moaning about the weather all the time”.
Recording began on 14 April 1966, in the same session as “Paperback Writer”, and concluded on 16 April, with a series of overdubs before mixing on the same day. At that time, The Beatles were enthused about experimenting in the studio to achieve new sounds and effects. These experiments were showcased in their influential seventh album, Revolver. Geoff Emerick, who was the engineer for both sessions, described one technique he used to alter the sonic texture of the track by recording the backing track “faster than normal.” After playing the tape normally, “the music had a radically different tonal quality. A similar technique was used to alter the tone of Lennon’s lead vocal. It was recorded with the tape machine being slowed down, so making Lennon’s voice sound higher when played back at normal speed. The last verse of “Rain” includes backwards vocals, which was one of the first uses of this technique on a record. The backwards vocals are Lennon singing the lyrics of the song: “When the sun shines,” “Rain,” and “If the rain comes, they run and hide their heads.”
Both Lennon and producer George Martin have claimed credit for the idea; Lennon said:
            “After we’d done the session on that particular song—it ended at about four or five in the morning—I went home with a tape to see what else you could do with it. And I was sort of very tired, you know, not knowing what I was doing, and I just happened to put it on my own tape recorder and it came out backwards. And I liked it better. So that’s how it happened.”
Emerick confirms Lennon’s creative accident, but Martin remembers it differently:
            “I was always playing around with tapes and I thought it might be fun to do something extra with John’s voice. So I lifted a bit of his main vocal off the four-track, put it on another spool, turned it around and then slid it back and forth until it fitted. John was out at the time but when he came back he was amazed.     ”
The “Paperback Writer”/”Rain” single was the first release to use a new device invented by the maintenance department at Abbey Road called “ATOC” for “Automatic Transient Overload Control”. The new device allowed the record to be cut at a louder volume, louder than any other single up to that time. On the final mix of the single, Lennon was on lead vocal and rhythm guitar (1965 Epiphone Casino). Paul McCartney was on backing vocal as well as bass guitar (1964 Rickenbacker 4001S). George Harrison was on backing vocal and lead guitar (1962 Gibson Les Paul (SG) Standard). Finally, Ringo Starr played drums (Ludwig) and tambourine.
It was released as a B-side to “Paperback Writer” in the United States (Capitol 5651) on 30 May 1966 and in the UK on 10 June 1966 (Parlophone R5452). It later appeared on the compilations Hey Jude in the US and Rarities in the UK. It also appeared on the Past Masters CD (Parlophone CDP 7 90044 2).
Promotional films
The Beatles created three promotional films for “Rain” which are considered among the early precursors of music videos. The films were directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg who worked with them earlier on the pop 1960 television programme Ready Steady Go! One features The Beatles walking and singing in a garden and a greenhouse (filmed 20 May 1966 filmed at Chiswick House in London). The other two feature the band performing on a soundstage (filmed 19 May 1966, one in colour for Ed Sullivan and the other in black and white for the UK). McCartney was injured in a moped accident on 26 December 1965, six months prior to the filming of “Rain” and closeups in the film reveal a scarred lip and a chipped tooth. McCartney’s appearance in the film played a role in the “Paul is dead” rumors from 1969.
The Beatles’ Anthology documentary video includes a re-edit of two of these three clips, full of rhythmic fast cuts and several shots that went unused in the original videos. This creates an impression that the videos were more technically complex, fast-paced, and innovative than was the case. For example, the backwards film effects shown here are 1990s creations. Such effects were actually first deployed in the “Strawberry Fields Forever” promotional film of January 1967.
The song’s highest chart position in the US was number twenty three (11 June 1966). The “Paperback Writer” single reached number one in the UK (for two weeks starting on 23 June 1966). “Rain” is one of The Beatles’ most critically acclaimed songs, appearing on best-of lists, including Rolling Stone magazine’s The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (#463)., ranks “Rain” at #557 on the Top 3000 Songs, the 22nd highest-rated Beatle song on the site.
Notable in “Rain” is Ringo Starr’s drumming which Starr rates as his best recorded performance. Critics agreed: both Ian MacDonald and Rolling Stone said his drumming was “superb” and Richie Unterberger of Allmusic praised his “creative drum breaks”.  Paul McCartney also plays a complex bassline throughout the recorded performance.

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Filed under Harrison, Lennon, McCartney, Paperback Writer, Rain, Starr, The Beatles

ON THIS DATE (May 26, 2003) Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin (DVD) is released.

May 26, 2003 – Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin (DVD) is released.
RF Rating 5/5
# Allmusic 4.5/5 stars
# Uncut           5/5 stars
# Rolling Stone 4/4 stars
Led Zeppelin is a double DVD set by Led Zeppelin, released in the United Kingdom on May 26, 2003 and the United States on May 27, 2003. It contains live concert footage of the band spanning the years 1969 to 1979. The recording of the DVD includes performances from the Royal Albert Hall in 1970, Madison Square Garden in 1973, Earls Court in 1975, and Knebworth in 1979, plus other footage. Bootleg footage from some of the concerts is interspersed with the professionally shot material.
The DVD cover features West and East Mitten Buttes, photographed from the visitor centre at the Navajo Tribal Park located at Monument Valley, Arizona.
Led Zeppelin guitarist and producer of the DVD, Jimmy Page, began work on the project in the early 2000s. While fans had been trading poor quality versions of Led Zeppelin video material for years, this was the first official archival video release to contain any footage of the band playing live.
In an interview he gave after the release of the DVD, Page explained the impetus behind the project:
    “The reason for [the DVD] was that there was no visual material [of the band] that was out there really. The studio albums had been put out in many different shapes and forms, but this was something that was sorely missing because [Led] Zeppelin built its material on live performances. So that had to be done.”
The idea for a live chronology had, however, dated back some time before this.
As was explained by Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant in 2003:
    “The idea of creating a Led Zeppelin collage has been in the works for … fifteen years. We just didn’t really have the time to put it together as a project because there was so much concentrated work that was required. So, as we all finished our individual projects, Jimmy Page took the helm along with some technical guys and this is what we’ve got.”
For the DVD, Page collaborated with music producer Kevin Shirley, with whom Page worked when he was performing with The Black Crowes.
Shirley recalled:
    “I produced the Black Crowes, and Jimmy joined them for a run of live dates in 1999. I saw the show in New York, and then I went to California and recorded the shows, took the tapes away, and fixed them up a little and mixed them. I did Live at the Greek without any input from anyone, as it wasn’t originally going to be an official release. But I think everyone was impressed with it; certainly Jimmy said he was. Then, when Jimmy decided to do a new [Led Zeppelin] DVD, he started looking for someone familiar with the modern applications necessary for surround sound mixing. If you listen to the Royal Albert Hall [concert] opening in 5.1, you can see Jimmy had this audio concept really early on of giving people a sense of the band going onstage and the audience swells around you. We had a meeting to discuss the requirements needed for the DVD project audio, and afterward, he asked if I would be interested in ‘helping’ him.”
Page, with Shirely and the producer and creative director Dick Carruthers, worked for the best part of a year to research, compile, load, mix and present the material. Much of the footage which was included on the DVD was painstakingly restored for several months, before being mixed at Sarm West Studios in London. In all, 132 cans of film and two sets of two-inch video tape were examined for the project.
Some of the video tapes suffered from a common fault called ‘Sticky Shed Syndrome’ where the bonding agent holding the magnetic particles to the tape backing decomposes to the point where the oxide is scraped off during playback. The tapes consequently had to be restored by baking them in ovens at 55°C (131°F) for three weeks in order for them to be played back. The audio portions were digitally remixed for stereo and 5.1 surround mixes.
Upon its release the DVD received excellent reviews. Michael Azerrad of Rolling Stone magazine gave the DVD four stars, describing it as the “Holy Grail of heavy metal” and “one of the best rock documentaries ever made.” As of November 2007, the DVD has had an overwhelmingly positive number of reviews on website Amazon, with 560 out of 618 reviewers giving it five stars, and on the Internet Movie Database with an average score of 9.4/10.
Disc one
    Royal Albert Hall, 9 January 1970
   1. “We’re Gonna Groove” (James A. Bethea, Ben E. King) – 3:14
   2. “I Can’t Quit You Baby” (Willie Dixon) – 6:25
   3. “Dazed and Confused” (Jimmy Page) – 15:10
   4. “White Summer” (Page, John Bonham) – 11:54
   5. “What Is and What Should Never Be” (Page, Robert Plant) – 4:02
   6. “How Many More Times” (Bonham, John Paul Jones, Page) – 20:02
   7. “Moby Dick” (Bonham, Jones, Page) – 15:02
   8. “Whole Lotta Love” (Bonham, Dixon, Jones, Page, Plant) – 6:03
   9. “Communication Breakdown” (Bonham, Jones, Page) – 3:40
  10. “C’mon Everybody” (Jerry Capehart, Eddie Cochran) – 2:28
  11. “Something Else” (Cochran, Sharon Sheeley) – 2:02
  12. “Bring It On Home” (Bonham, Dixon, Jones, Page, Plant) – 7:33
    Atlantic Records, February 1969
   1. “Communication Breakdown” (Bonham, Jones, Page) – 2:24
    Danmarks Radio (Gladsaxe Teen Club, Gladsaxe), 17 March 1969
   1. “Communication Breakdown” (Bonham, Jones, Page) – 2:46
   2. “Dazed and Confused” (Page) – 9:09
   3. “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” (Bredon, Page, Plant) – 6:46
   4. “How Many More Times” (Bonham, Jones, Page) – 12:20
    Supershow (Staines Studio, London), 25 March 1969
   1. “Dazed and Confused” (Page) – 7:33
    Tous en Scène (Theatre Olympia, Paris), 19 June 1969
   1. “Communication Breakdown” (Bonham, Jones, Page) – 2:51
   2. “Dazed and Confused” (edited) (Page) – 5:12
Disc two
    Sydney Showground, 27 February 1972 (Splodge edit)
   1. “Immigrant Song” (Page, Plant) – 4:03
    Madison Square Garden, 27–29 July 1973
   1. “Black Dog” (Jones, Page, Plant) – 5:30
   2. “Misty Mountain Hop” (Jones, Page, Plant) – 4:50
   3. “Since I’ve Been Loving You” (Jones, Page, Plant) – 8:03
   4. “The Ocean” (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant) – 4:16
    Earls Court, 24–25 May 1975 (see Earl’s Court 1975)
   1. “Going to California” (Page, Plant) – 4:41
   2. “That’s the Way” (Page, Plant) – 6:04
   3. “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp” (Jones, Page, Plant) – 5:31
   4. “In My Time of Dying” (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant) – 11:14
   5. “Trampled Under Foot” (Jones, Page, Plant) – 8:14
   6. “Stairway to Heaven” (Page, Plant) – 10:32
    Knebworth, 4 August 1979
   1. “Rock and Roll” (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant) – 3:47
   2. “Nobody’s Fault but Mine” (Page, Plant) – 5:45
   3. “Sick Again” (Page, Plant) – 5:08
   4. “Achilles Last Stand” (Page, Plant) – 9:03
   5. “In the Evening” (Jones, Page, Plant) – 7:56
   6. “Kashmir” (Bonham, Page, Plant) – 8:50
   7. “Whole Lotta Love” (Bonham, Dixon, Jones, Page, Plant) – 7:06
   8. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” – 1:21
    New York NBC Studio, 19 September 1970
   1. Press Conference – 3:26 (mono)
    Sydney Showground, 27 February 1972
   1. “Rock and Roll” (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant) – 3:06
   2. “Black Dog” (Page, Plant, Jones) and John Bonham Inverview – 1:48
    ABC Get to Know, 27 February 1972
   1. John Bonham and John Paul Jones after concert interviews with Jeune Pritchard
    BBC2 The Old Grey Whistle Test, 12 January 1975
   1. Robert Plant interview at the Vorst Nationaal in Brussels with Bob Harris (radio) – 3:47
    Remasters promo, October 1990
   1. “Over the Hills and Far Away” (Page, Plant) – 4:49
   2. “Travelling Riverside Blues” (Johnson, Page, Plant) – 4:09
Menu clips
Royal Albert Hall, 9 January 1970
    * Dressing room (pre-concert) – 0:27
    * “Thank You” (Page/Plant) (pre-concert keyboard rehearsal outro) – 0:34
    * “Heartbreaker” (guitar solo) – 0:36 (collage)
Reykjavik Airport, 22 June 1970
    * “Moby Dick” (Bonham/Jones/Page) (drum solo excerpt) – 0:56 (collage)
Laugardalshöll, 22 June 1970
    * “Dazed and Confused” (Page) (guitar bowing solo)
Sydney Showground, 27 February 1972
    * “Black Dog” (Page/Plant/Jones) – 0:36
Madison Square Garden, 27 July 1973
    * “Since I’ve Been Loving You” (Jones/Page/Plant) – 0:49
Madison Square Garden, 28 July 1973 (Knebworth campsite on 4 August 1979, video clip)
    * “Over the Hills and Far Away” (Page/Plant) – 2:23
Seattle Center Coliseum, 21 March 1975
    * “Whole Lotta Love (medley)” (Page/Bonham/Plant/Jones) (theremin solo and “The Crunge” excerpt from Earl’s Court, 25 May 1975) – 0:48
Earl’s Court, 24 May 1975 (streets of Belfast on 5 March 1971, clip)
    * “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp” (Page/Plant/Jones) – 0:49
Earl’s Court, 25 May 1975
    * “Stairway to Heaven” (Page/Plant) (guitar intro) – 0:54 (collage edit)
LA Forum, 21 June 1977 (8 mm video clips from various 1977 performances)
    * “The Song Remains the Same” (Page/Plant) – 5:37
The RIAA certified the Led Zeppelin DVD at 12 times platinum (1.2 million sales in the United States alone, 2.5 million worldwide). According to the BBC, the DVD broke all sales records for a music video, nearly three times as many in first week of sales as the previous record holder. It was, for three years, the highest selling music DVD in America.

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Filed under DVD, Led Zeppelin

ON THIS DATE (May 25, 1978) David Gilmour: David Gilmour is released.

May 25, 1978 – David Gilmour: David Gilmour is released in the UK (June 17, 1978 in the US).

RF Rating 4/5
# Allmusic 2.5/5 stars
# Tentative Reviews 4.5/5 stars

David Gilmour is the first solo album from Pink Floyd guitarist and vocalist David Gilmour, released on May 25, 1978 in the UK and on June 17, 1978 in the US. The album reached #17 in the UK and #29 on the Billboard US album charts and was certified Gold in the US by the RIAA. The album was produced by Gilmour himself, and consists mostly of bluesy, guitar oriented rock songs except for the ballad “So Far Away”.

In an interview with Circus Magazine in 1978, Gilmour said this: “This album (David Gilmour) was important to me in terms of self respect. At first I didn’t think my name was big enough to carry it. Being in a group for so long can be a bit claustrophobic, and I needed to step out from behind Pink Floyd’s shadow.”

The album was recorded at Super Bear Studios in France between December 1977 and early January 1978 with engineer John Etchells. Then the album was mixed at the same studio in March 1978 by Nick Griffiths. The cover was done by Hipgnosis and Gilmour.

There was no credit for playing guitar (which Gilmour did) on the original EMI pressings of the original album LP-cover. Gilmour is credited for contributing “Keyboards, Vocals”. The CBS/Columbia pressings (outside Europe) listed Gilmour for contributing “Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals”.

The album’s only single was “There’s No Way Out of Here” which flopped in Europe but did extremely well on American FM rock radio. The song was originally recorded by the band Unicorn (which Gilmour produced) in 1976 as “No Way Out of Here” for their album Too Many Crooks and was later covered by Monster Magnet on their Monolithic Baby! album.

The album is a Joker’s Wild reunion of sorts, with Rick Wills and Willie Wilson joining Gilmour for the recording of the album.

One of the tunes he wrote at the time, but did not use, evolved into the Pink Floyd classic “Comfortably Numb” from The Wall. However, one song included on this album, “So Far Away”, used a chorus progression not unlike the chorus to “Comfortably Numb”, albeit in a different key.

The instrumental song “Raise My Rent” includes bits that would later be resurrected in the Pink Floyd songs “What Do You Want from Me?”, “Hey You” and “Keep Talking”.

A slightly different version of the song “Short and Sweet” can also be found on collaborator Roy Harper’s 1980 album, The Unknown Soldier. Musically, “Short and Sweet” can be seen as a precursor to “Run Like Hell” (also from The Wall), with its shifting chords over a D pedal point, and a flanged guitar in Drop D tuning.[1]

David Gilmour was re-released by EMI Records in Europe as a digitally remastered CD on August 14, 2006. Legacy Recordings/Columbia Records released the remastered CD in the US and Canada on September 12, 2006.

“Mihalis” is Greek for Michael, and was the name of a yacht Gilmour owned at the time.

A five song promotional film was made to promote the album. The band comprised Gilmour himself on guitars and vocals plus the two musicians on the album (bass player Rick Wills and drummer Willie Wilson) plus David Gilmour’s brother Mark on rhythm guitar and Ian McLagan on keyboards and performed “Mihalis”, “There’s No Way Out of Here”, “So Far Away”, “No Way” and “I Can’t Breathe Anymore”. There were additional female backing singers on “There’s No Way Out of Here” and “So Far Away”. The performances of the tracks in the promotional film differed to the album versions. “Mihalis” had an extended ending guitar solo. “There’s No Way Out of Here” was slightly shorter as one of the verses was deleted but the ending guitar solo was different from that on the album and had a clean ending instead of fading out like on album version. The track “So Far Away” had an extended ending guitar solo on this performance and ended in a faster tempo than the album version. The performance of the song “No Way” had Gilmour playing regular lead guitar solos at the end of the track on his Fender Esquire (with distortion) instead of the lap steel guitar solos (with distortion) that had appeared on the album version and had a clean ending instead of fading out like on the album (the remastered CD version of the album had Gilmour’s lap steel solo extended this time to feature a duel between himself playing high notes on his lap steel and lower notes on his trademark Stratocaster during the fadeout on the remaster). The middle part of the album version, for where the first of two lap steel guitar solos were on the album version, was deleted. “I Can’t Breathe Anymore” had Gilmour playing a regular guitar solo at the end of this song’s performance whilst on the album version (and on the remastered CD in an extended coda), a distorted lap steel guitar countered the ending guitar solo. The ending of the promo performance of “I Can’t Breathe Anymore” was longer than on the album.

Also, Gilmour promoted the album with his first ever interviews with North American media and FM rock radio stations. The promotion paid off as the album made a respectable showing on the Billboard album charts peaking at #29 (which until 2006’s On an Island was Gilmour’s highest charting solo album in the U.S.) and eventually going Gold.

REVIEW by Ned Raggett,
By the time of David Gilmour’s solo debut, he had not only established himself several times over as an underrated, powerful guitarist in Pink Floyd, but as a remarkably emotional singer, his soothing approach perfectly suited to such songs as “Wish You Were Here.” The self-titled album, recorded with journeyman bassist Rick Wills and Sutherland Brothers drummer Willie Wilson, later to be part of the touring Floyd lineup for its Wall dates, isn’t a deathless collection of music in comparison to Gilmour’s group heights, but is a reasonably pleasant listen nonetheless. Certainly it’s much more approachable than Animals, released earlier that year, eschewing epics for relatively shorter, reflective numbers. While Gilmour wrote the vast majority of the songs himself, the most successful number was co-written with Unicorn member Ken Baker: “There’s No Way Out of Here,” an agreeably dreamy, wistful song featuring an attractive acoustic slide guitar/harmonica hook. That it sounds a bit like a Pink Floyd outtake certainly doesn’t hurt, but one figures Roger Waters would have tried for some heavily barbed lyrics to offset the melancholy. Throughout the album Gilmour sounds like he’s having some jamming fun with his compatriots in his own particular blues-meets-the Home Counties style, adding keyboard overdubs here and there (his efforts are passable, but it’s understandable why he’s known for his guitar work first and foremost). Numbers of note include “Cry From the Street,” with its fully rocked-out conclusion, the sweetly sad “So Far Away,” one of his best vocal showcases, and the concluding “I Can’t Breathe Anymore,” capturing the recurrent Pink Floyd theme of isolation quite well. While one would be hard-pressed to hum a memorable melody outside of “There’s No Way Out of Here,” it’s still a good enough experience for those who enjoy his work.

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ON THIS DATE (May 24, 1968) Small Faces: Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake is released.

May 24, 1968 – Small Faces: Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake is released.
RF Rating 4.5/5
# Allmusic 5/5 stars
Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake was a successful concept album by Small Faces. Released on 24 May 1968 the LP became a number one hit in the UK Album Charts on 29 June where it remained for a total of six weeks. The album was featured in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
The title and the design of the distinctive packaging was a parody of Ogdens’ Nut-brown Flake, a brand of tobacco which was produced in Liverpool from 1899.
The A-side is a mix of early heavy rock with “Song of a Baker”; psychedelic cockney knees-up songs “Lazy Sunday” and “Rene”, the opening instrumental title track (which resembles their second single “I’ve Got Mine”, which was a flop in 1965), and the soul influenced ballad “Afterglow (Of Your Love)”.
The B-side is based on an original fairy tale about a boy called Happiness Stan, narrated in his unique ‘Unwinese’ gobbledegook by Stanley Unwin, who picked up modern slang from the band and incorporated it into the surreal narrative.
Happiness Stan (Story)
When Stan looks up in the sky and sees only half the moon, he sets out on a quest to search for the missing half. Along the way he saves a fly from starvation, and in gratitude the insect tells him of someone who can answer his question and also tell him the philosophy of life itself. With his magic power Stan intones, “If all the flies were one fly, what a great enormous fly-follolloper that would bold,” and the fly grows to gigantic proportions. Seated on the giant fly’s back Stan takes a psychedelic journey to the cave of Mad John the hermit, who explains that the moon’s disappearance is only temporary, and demonstrates by pointing out that Stan has spent so long on his quest that the moon is now full again. He then sings Stan a cheerful song about the meaning of life.
Due to the album’s complexities, Ogdens’ was never performed live, however it was performed as a whole once on the BBC’s television programme Colour Me Pop on Friday 21 June 1968. Songs featured were “Song of a Baker”, “Happiness Stan”, “Rollin’ Over”, “The Hungry Intruder”, “The Journey”, “Mad John” and “Happydaystoytown”. Although the band mimed to the studio recordings, their microphones were left on to capture little ad libs. Playbox Theatre Company, UK, have performed the whole album as a theatre piece in November 2008. It was directed by Stewart McGill and performed by a young cast with a Small Faces tribute band, and it was narrated by Stanley Unwin’s son, John. The world’s first major concert format production of Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake was due to be staged at London’s indigO2 venue in October 2010, but was cancelled following a cease and desist notice served by Kenney Jones, Ian McLagan and the Steve Marriott Estate’s representative.
In 2000 Q magazine placed Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake at number 59 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever.
Highest UK album chart position: 1968, Number One (for six weeks), and a total of 19 weeks on chart.
The album was originally released on vinyl in a circular novelty package of a metal replica of a giant tobacco tin inside which was a poster created with 5 connected paper circles with pictures of the band members. This proved too expensive and was quickly followed by a paper/card replica with a gatefold cover. Two limited-edition CD releases (including a three-disc deluxe edition in 2006 that included the original mono mix of the album on CD for the first time) went even further by packaging the disc(s) in a circular tin (as the original vinyl release had). However, most CD releases use conventional packaging, superimposing the circular artwork on a square booklet.[3]
The award-winning artwork for the album cover was done by Mick Swan who was a product of the sixties art school scene. Any other work by him is unknown but he is known to have worked as a fine arts tutor at Lowestoft F.E. College in 1974
REVIEW by Bruce Eder,

There was no shortage of good psychedelic albums emerging from England in 1967-1968, but Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake is special even within their ranks. The Small Faces had already shown a surprising adaptability to psychedelia with the single “Itchycoo Park” and much of their other 1967 output, but Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake pretty much ripped the envelope. British bands had an unusual approach to psychedelia from the get-go, often preferring to assume different musical “personae” on their albums, either feigning actual “roles” in the context of a variety show (as on the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album), or simply as storytellers in the manner of the Pretty Things on S.F. Sorrow, or actor/performers as on the Who’s Tommy. The Small Faces tried a little bit of all of these approaches on Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake, but they never softened their sound. Side one’s material, in particular, would not have been out of place on any other Small Faces release — “Afterglow (Of Your Love)” and “Rene” both have a pounding beat from Kenny Jones, and Ian McLagan’s surging organ drives the former while his economical piano accompaniment embellishes the latter; and Steve Marriott’s crunching guitar highlights “Song of a Baker.” Marriott singing has him assuming two distinct “roles,” neither unfamiliar — the Cockney upstart on “Rene” and “Lazy Sunday,” and the diminutive soul shouter on “Afterglow (Of Your Love)” and “Song of a Baker.” Some of side two’s production is more elaborate, with overdubbed harps and light orchestration here and there, and an array of more ambitious songs, all linked by a narration by comic dialect expert Stanley Unwin, about a character called “Happiness Stan.” The core of the sound, however, is found in the pounding “Rollin’ Over,” which became a highlight of the group’s stage act during its final days — the song seems lean and mean with a mix in which Ronnie Lane’s bass is louder than the overdubbed horns. Even “Mad John,” which derives from folk influences, has a refreshingly muscular sound on its acoustic instruments. Overall, this was the ballsiest-sounding piece of full-length psychedelia to come out of England, and it rode the number one spot on the U.K. charts for six weeks in 1968, though not without some controversy surrounding advertisements by Immediate Records that parodied the Lord’s Prayer. Still, Ogden’s was the group’s crowning achievement — it had even been Marriott’s hope to do a stage presentation of Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake, though a television special might’ve been more in order. As with most Immediate Records releases, it has gone through multiple reissue cycles on vinyl and CD; the original LP came in a circular sleeve in keeping with the design of the cover, and was reissued in a more convention jacket during the 1970s and early ’80s. Most of the CD versions until the 1990s were, in keeping with the poor state of the Immediate Records tape library, substandard in sound, but since 1994 or so there has been a succession of good-sounding digital remasterings.

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ON THIS DATE (May 24, 1968) The Rolling Stones: Jumpin’ Jack Flash is released.

May 24, 1968 – The Rolling Stones: Jumpin’ Jack Flash is released in the UK. (June 1 in the US)
“Jumpin’ Jack Flash” is a song by English rock and roll band, The Rolling Stones, released as a single in 1968. Called “supernatural Delta blues by way of Swinging London” by Rolling Stone, the song was perceived by some as the band’s return to their blues roots after the psychedelia of their preceding albums Between the Buttons and Their Satanic Majesties Request. One of the group’s most popular and recognizable songs, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” has been featured in many films and on the Rolling Stones compilation albums Through the Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2), Hot Rocks, Singles Collection and Forty Licks.
Written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, recording on “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” began during the Beggars Banquet sessions of 1968 (although it was not released on that album). Regarding the song’s distinctive sound, guitarist Richards has said:
    “I used a Gibson Hummingbird acoustic tuned to open D, six string. Open D or open E, which is the same thing – same intervals – but it would be slackened down some for D. Then there was a capo on it, to get that really tight sound. And there was another guitar over the top of that, but tuned to Nashville tuning. I learned that from somebody in George Jones’ band in San Antonio in 1964. The high-strung guitar was an acoustic, too. Both acoustics were put through a Philips cassette recorder. Just jam the mic right in the guitar and play it back through an extension speaker.”
Richards has stated that he and Jagger wrote the lyrics while staying at Richards’ country house, where they were awoken one morning by the sound of gardener Jack Dyer walking past the window. When Jagger asked what the noise was, Richards responded: “Oh, that’s Jack – that’s jumpin’ Jack.” The rest of the lyrics evolved from there. Humanities scholar Camille Paglia speculated that the song’s lyrics might have been partly inspired by William Blake’s poem “The Mental Traveller”: “She binds iron thorns around his head, / And pierces both his hands and feet, / And cuts his heart out of his side / To make it feel both cold & heat.”
Jagger said in a 1995 interview with Rolling Stone that the song arose “…out of all the acid of Satanic Majesties… It’s about having a hard time and getting out. Just a metaphor for getting out of all the acid things.”In his autobiography, Stone Alone, Bill Wyman has claimed that he came up with the song’s distinctive main guitar riff on an organ without being credited for it.”
On the studio version of the number, Jagger provided the lead vocals and maracas, Richards played acoustic guitars, electric bass guitar and the floor tom, Brian Jones played electric guitar, Charlie Watts was on drums and Bill Wyman was on organ. Either Nicky Hopkins or Ian Stewart contributed piano, and producer Jimmy Miller joined in on the backing vocals.
Released on 24 May 1968, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” (backed with “Child of the Moon”) reached the top of the UK charts and peaked at number three in the United States. Some early London Records US pressings of the single had a technical flaw in them: about halfway through the song’s instrumental bridge, the speed of the master tape slows down for a moment, then comes back to speed. The first Rolling Stones album on which the song appeared was their 1969 compilation album, Through the Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2), one year after the single was released.
The Rolling Stones have played “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” during every tour since its release; it ranks as the number the band has played in concert most frequently, and has appeared on the concert albums Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!, Love You Live, Flashpoint, The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus (featuring the only released live performance of the song with Brian Jones). Jones is heard clearly, mixing with Richards’ lead throughout the song. Two promotional videos were made in May 1968: one featuring a live performance, another showcasing the band lip-syncing, with Jones, Jagger, and Watts donning makeup. The intro is not usually played in concert; instead the song begins with the main riff. The open E or open D tuning of the rhythm guitar on the studio recording has also not been replicated in concert (with the possible exception of the 1968 NME awards show, no recording of which has ever surfaced). In the performance filmed for The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus in December 1968, Richards used standard tuning; and ever since the band’s appearance at Hyde Park on 5 July 1969, he has played it in open G tuning with a capo on the fourth fret.
In March 2005, Q magazine placed “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” at number 2 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks. In 2004, Rolling Stone rated the song 124th on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. VH1 placed it at 65 on its show 100 Greatest Rock Songs.

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ON THIS DATE (May 23, 2000) Johnny Cash: Love, God, Murder is released.

May 23, 1971 – Johnny Cash: Love, God, Murder is released.
RF Rating 4.5/5
# Allmusic 4/5 stars

# Rolling Stone 4.5/5 stars

Love, God, Murder is a Johnny Cash compilation box set released in 2000. It features three themed CDs of songs Cash chose from his catalog. Love features relationship songs, mostly written for June Carter Cash. God is a collection of Gospel and spiritual songs. Murder features another recurring topic of Cash’s career, and perhaps his favorite subject, but one that he encouraged people “not to go out and do”. Each album was also released separately on the same day. In 2004 Life, a fourth compilation was released.

Although the three albums within the box set are compilations, they demonstrate Cash’s lifelong affection for releasing concept albums. Examples of previous Cash albums based around a common theme include Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian (1964), Sings the Ballads of the True West (1965), America: A 200-Year Salute in Story and Song (1972) and The Rambler (1977).

Each of the three discs contains liner notes by a celebrity. Love has liner notes by Cash’s wife, June Carter Cash, U2’s frontman Bono contributes liner notes for God, and Murder’s liner notes are by film director Quentin Tarantino.

REVIEW by Richie Unterberger,

Each of the three CDs in this box set are comprised of 16 songs devoted to a single theme: love, God, and murder, of course. And each of the three CDs is available separately should you not have a yen for one or two of the discs. Certainly there is a lot of notable music on this box, as it was personally chosen by Cash himself from recordings spanning the mid-’50s to the mid-’90s, mostly heavily weighting the 1955-70 period. There are a few well-known classics here that virtually anyone considering buying this will already know (and probably have), like “I Walk the Line,” “I Still Miss Someone,” “Ring of Fire,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” and “The Long Black Veil.” The emphasis, however, is on LP tracks, B-sides, and live recordings that probably won’t be familiar to the moderate Cash fan; there are also three mid-’60s tracks previously unreleased in the U.S., though none of them are particularly outstanding. Some of those obscure songs are excellent (“Oh, What a Dream,” the brutal hangman humor of “Joe Bean,” “Mister Garfield”) and almost all of them are worth hearing. And each of the CDs is decorated by liner notes from Cash and a celebrity (his wife June Carter for Love, Bono of U2 for God, and director Quentin Tarantino for Murder). The question still nags: who exactly will find this box wholly satisfying? Not the average Cash fan, who wants a smaller greatest-hits set with more familiar tunes. Not the rabid Cash fan, who probably already has much of this, and might want more well-balanced and thorough boxes, such as those issued on Bear Family of Cash’s early material. It’s for the in-betweeners, who certainly find the more conventional box retrospective The Essential Johnny Cash 1955-1983 the essential first stop.

* Allmusic 4.5/5 stars link

Track listing
1. “I Walk the Line” (Cash) – 2:46
2. “Oh, What a Dream” (Cash) – 2:03
3. “All Over Again” (Cash) – 2:07
4. “Little at a Time” (Cash, Terry) – 1:57
5. “My Old Faded Rose” (Cash, Cash) – 2:53
6. “Happiness Is You” (Cash, Cash) – 2:57
7. “Flesh and Blood” (Cash) – 2:40
8. “I Tremble for You” (Cash, DeWitt) – 2:15
9. “I Feel Better All Over” (Rogers, Smith) – 2:04
10. “‘Cause I Love You” (Cash) – 1:47
11. “Ballad of Barbara” (Cash) – 3:49
12. “Ring of Fire” (Carter, Kilgore) – 2:39
13. “My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You” (Ross, Wills) – 2:26
14. “While I’ve Got It on My Mind” (Cash) – 2:21
15. “I Still Miss Someone” (Cash, Cash) – 2:35
16. “The One Rose (That’s Left in My Heart)” (Lyon, McIntire) – 2:27

* Allmusic 3.5/5 stars link

Another feature of Cash’s career is his affinity for another type of album centered around a single topic: gospel albums. God pulls from a vast catalog of spiritual songs that includes the albums Hymns by Johnny Cash (1959), Hymns from the Heart (1962), Sings Precious Memories (1975), Believe in Him (1986) and My Mother’s Hymn Book (2004).

Track listing
1. “What on Earth Will You Do (For Heaven’s Sake)” (Cash) – 2:09
2. “My God is Real” (Morris) – 2:01
3. “It Was Jesus” (Cash) – 2:06
4. “Why Me Lord?” (Kristofferson) – 2:22
5. “The Greatest Cowboy of Them All” (Cash) – 3:58
6. “Redemption” (Cash) – 3:04
7. “Great Speckled Bird” (Carter, Smith) – 2:11
8. “The Old Account” (Traditional) – 2:25
9. “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” (Traditional) – 1:53
10. “When He Comes” (Cash) – 3:33
11. “The Kneeling Drunkard’s Plea” (Carter, Carter, Carter, Cash) – 2:33
12. “Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord)” (Traditional) – 3:54
13. “Man in White” (Cash) – 5:33
14. “Belshazzar” (Cash) – 2:26
15. “Oh, Bury Me Not (Introduction: A Cowboy’s Prayer)” (Lomax, Lomax, Rogers, Spencer) – 3:55
16. “Oh Come, Angel Band” (Cash) – 2:44

* Allmusic 4.5/5 stars link

Track listing
1. “Folsom Prison Blues” (Cash) – 2:52
2. “Delia’s Gone” (Silbersdorf, Toops) – 2:18
3. “Mr. Garfield” (Elliott) – 4:39
4. “Orleans Parish Prison” (Feller) – 2:30
5. “When It’s Springtime in Alaska (It’s Forty Below)” (Franks, Horton) – 2:40
6. “The Sound of Laughter” (Howard) – 2:38
7. “Cocaine Blues” (Arnall) – 2:50
8. “Hardin Wouldn’t Run” (Cash) – 4:22
9. “Long Black Veil” (Dill, Wilkin) – 3:07
10. “Austin Prison” (Cash) – 2:10
11. “Joe Bean” (Freeman, Pober) – 3:09
12. “Going to Memphis” (Cash, Dew, Lomax) – 4:22
13. “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town” (Cash) – 3:05
14. “Highway Patrolman” (Bruce Springsteen) – 5:22
15. “Jacob Green” (Cash) – 3:06
16. “The Wall” (Howard) – 2:10

Released March 23, 2004
* Allmusic 4/5 stars link

As a result of the success of the first three collections, in 2004, a fourth volume, Life, was released. It mostly features songs about social and economic struggle.

Track listing
1. “Suppertime” (Ira Stanphill) – 2:51
2. “Country Trash” (Cash) – 2:25
3. “The Night Hank Williams Came to Town” (Braddock, Williams) – 3:22
4. “Time Changes Everything” (Duncan) – 1:51
5. “I Talk to Jesus Every Day” (Tubb) – 2:04
6. “You’re the Nearest Thing to Heaven” (Atkins, Cash, Johnson) – 2:40
7. “I’m Ragged But I’m Right” (Cash) – 2:37
8. “These Are My People” (Cash) – 2:38
9. “The Ballad of Ira Hayes” (Peter LaFarge) – 4:09
10. “Oney” (Chestnut) – 3:08
11. “Man in Black” (Cash) – 2:53
12. “I’m Alright Now” (Hensley) – 2:41
13. “Ragged Old Flag” (Cash) – 3:08
14. “I Wish I Was Crazy Again” (McDill) – 2:44
15. “Where Did We Go Right” (Loggins, Schlitz) – 2:58
16. “Wanted Man” (live) (Bob Dylan) – 2:59
17. “I Can’t Go on That Way” (Cash) – 2:33
Outtake from The Rambler (1976)
18. “Lead Me Gently Home” (Thompson) – 1:59

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