Bob Dylan’s Cutting Edge!

Random thoughts on Bootleg Series 12

I didn’t recognize most of the songs, why doesn’t he do them like the records?” is a common complaint of people who attend occasional Bob Dylan gigs.  Listening to the three versions of ‘Just Like a Woman’ on the recently released The Cutting Edge: Bootleg Series vol. 12 might make such people think again.  We hear Dylan and his band of Nashville studio musicians try three very different versions of the song: different tempos, different lyrics, until they get close to the version that was released on Blonde on Blonde.  But was that the ‘definitive’ version?  Some years after, when he went back on the road with The Band, he sang the song solo (available on the live album Before the Flood), a version more passionate and pointed in its delivery than the studio version.

It’s a similar story with ‘Visions of Johanna’, one of Dylan’s great songs of that or any era.  For Dylan fans it is an article of faith that Levon & The Hawks, the group of four Canadians and one Arkansan (Levon Helm) that became The Band, were his best collaborators.  Despite his rapport with them, so evident on The Basement Tapes: Bootleg Series vol. 11, he just can’t get them to give him what he wants here.  It is ironic then that it was “the flawless musicality of Nashville’s session players”, to quote the liner notes (with the vital addition of Al Kooper on organ), that delivered the sound and dynamic he wanted for that quintessential New York song ‘Visions of Johanna’.  He made at least 14 takes with the Hawks in New York, but, for whatever reason, they couldn’t nail it.  Two months later in Nashville he had what he wanted, after a couple of false starts and just one full take.

Bob Dylan Studio Portraits Side Light: 1965-330-007-082 Manhattan, New York, USA 1965

But less than six months later, on the 1966 European tour, Dylan was singing ‘Visions of Johanna’, solo — just his voice, guitar, and harmonica.  The version recorded at the Manchester Free Trade Hall (the same gig that has the infamous ‘Judas’ shout) is equally as strong as the Blonde on Blonde version, and allows us to digest and understand things we don’t get from the studio version with backing musicians.

Maybe it’s best to just listen to, and accept, whatever version Dylan is in the mood to give us?

With this release, as with many box sets, it could be said that it’s for people with more money than sense.  And indeed in a throwaway culture why should anyone be buying music laid down almost five decades ago?  Except that it is so wonderful to listen to, so wonderful to immerse yourself in.  That a good enough reason?

Liam Ronayne

 

Liam Ronayne Cork City Librarian
Liam Ronayne
Cork City Librarian

 

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Metal fans are violent, sour & dumb – Don’t ya think?

Well, the research would suggest otherwise

Let’s face it: Metal fans get a bad rap. They’re generally regarded as being unkempt, uncultured, loutish, and dour. And with that racket they listen to they must be a bunch of violent morons, right?

WRONG! Various academic studies in recent years have confirmed that metal fans are not guilty of all the offences listed above, and more.

Earlier this year, University of Queensland’s School of Psychology honours student Leah Sharman and Dr Genevieve Dingle conducted a study to monitor the effects of heavy music on a person’s mood and behaviour. The results showed that, in comparison to listeners of other music genres, metal fans were mainly calmed and inspired by their music! — despite the fact that the genre is awash with violent lyrics and imagery.

Cannibal Corpse, the world's top-selling Death Metal act.
Cannibal Corpse, the world’s top-selling Death Metal act.

Another study published this year found that, among its subjects –  fans of various musical genres in the 1980s, it was the heavy metal fans who turned out to be generally more content and happy in later life. Three Decades Later: The Life Experiences and Mid-Life Functioning of 1980s Heavy Metal Groupies, Musicians and Fans, published in the journal Self and Identity (via Pacific Standard), found that while “metal enthusiasts did often experience traumatic and risky ‘sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll’ lives, the metalhead identity also served as a protective factor against negative outcomes”.

That’s all well and good, but they’re still stupid right? Nope. Apparently quite the opposite:

In March of this year it was revealed that a disproportionate number of members in the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth, based at the University of Warwick in England (a body of 120,000 students which represents the top 5% of academic achievement), list heavy metal as their favourite kind of music.

There’s also a metalhead among the team that recently discovered water on Mars. Nepalese-American grad student Lujendra “Luju” Ojha, one of the discoverers of recurring slope lineae, the lines of flowing salt water that were observed on Mars, used to play in a metal band himself!

So, there you go: Metal fans are calm, happy and smart. Maybe YOU need more metal in your life!

 

Cork’s Soprano, Rita Lynch

The Lyric Feature (RTE Lyric FM)

Friday 9 October, 7 – 8 pm

Rita Lynch was born in Macroom in 1914 and showed an early talent for singing which was encouraged by her mother. Despite having her early career disrupted by the Second World War she went on to record for HMV and to tour extensively performing in operas, concerts and
oratorios in Ireland, the UK and the USA. In this programme Evelyn Grant visits the soprano’s daughter Mary Shaw as she sifts through the
extensive personal archive of letters, programmes, costumes, recordings and stories which her mother left behind.

Rita Lynch Portrait

In 2014, The Rory Gallagher Music Library  made available, online,
selected images and other materials relating to Rita Lynch as part of the celebrations to mark the one hundredth anniversary of her birth. If you would like to visit the Rita Lynch Archive then please click on the link below:

Rita Lynch Archive

A CD of Rita Lynch’s music is also available to borrow from Cork City
Libraries.

Rita Lynch CD

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A Treasure Trove of Taste!

Liam Ronayne, Cork City Librarian — as those who know him are aware — is a huge music fan and is always happy to spend a coffee break chatting about the latest goings-on in the music world or about revered legends of the past. It isn’t often, however, that Liam would have the time to put pen to paper on the subject, but considering that this is Rory Gallagher & Taste and that Liam himself is a fan, he’s gone that extra mile: 

The Taste Box Set, I’ll Remember — recently released by UMG / Polydor — is a four-disk treasure trove.

On disk 3, the five numbers culled from a 1970 BBC Radio 1 live set are introduced by John Peel, so laid-back he’s virtually horizontal. Peel remarks that, “Taste are one of those bands . . . who need to be seen and heard live to be fully appreciated”. That’s a view that most would agree with, borne out here by pillars of Taste’s live set, like ‘Catfish’, ‘Gamblin Blues’ and ‘Sugar Mama’, and by the version of ‘What’s Going On’ captured live in Stockholm not long before the band split up, which breathes so much more into the song than the studio version. Gallagher’s legendary energy, fantastic technique, and joy in the music are all to be found in the many live cuts over the four disks, and especially on the Stockholm set.

But it would be very wrong to overlook the beautifully crafted songs that make up ‘On the Boards’, Taste’s second studio album. This is a very special artefact in itself, and much more than a keepsake of the live sets. In the title track, the band, all three of them, stretch out to great effect: the dynamic, the groove, the bluesy sound all remind us what was lost when they did split up.

Another rare Taste postcard

Another unmissable aspect of the Box Set for Rory fans from this part of the world is having a full 56 minutes of the original line-up from 1968, with Eric Kitteringham on bass and Norman ‘Sticks’ D’Amery on drums. Seven numbers were recorded in the Maritime Hotel, Belfast (Van Morrison & Them’s old stomping ground) as a demo to interest record labels; there are versions of ‘Blister on the Moon’ and ‘Born on the Wrong Side of Time’, recorded as singles for the Major Minor label (run by Belfast promoter Phil Solomon), songs that were re-recorded with Wilson and McCracken for Taste’s debut album on Polydor the following year. The four tracks recorded at the Woburn Abbey Festival in England in the summer of 1968 showcase a lively, powerful band, with a great sense of fun.

Liam Ronayne Cork City Librarian
Liam Ronayne
Cork City Librarian

The Road to Hamburg

‘A Question & Answer Session with Johnny Campbell’

Cork City Library, Thursday, 27 August, 7pm

During his musical apprenticeship with the Fontana Showband, the young Rory Gallagher, a mere fifteen when he joined in 1963, learned his craft as a touring musician. Never to be content as a cog in a machine churning out safe, dance-hall friendly, pop hits, night after night, Rory would inevitably push himself to the fore. As his reputation as a guitarist began to grow, the Fontana changed their name to The Impact in 1965 to reflect a more blues/rock-oriented set list showcasing Rory’s fiery guitar work.

Ireland’s conservative music scene was hardly the ideal stomping ground for this new direction, however, and The Impact was forced to find work abroad. As a natural metamorphosis, a stripped-down three-piece version of the band — featuring Rory on guitar & vocals, Johnny Campbell on drums and Oliver Tobin on bass — eventually found themselves on the club circuit in Hamburg, Germany.

heritage week poster 2015

For three Irish teenagers arriving in Hamburg in 1965, a city still reverberating with the aftershock from legendary performances at the Star Club, from the likes of The Beatles and Jerry Lee Lewis, it must have been like walking on to a film set, such was its legendary status. Even today, Hamburg is a city which pulses with primal, hedonistic energy. We can only imagine what it was like back in its heyday of the 1960s.

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Monument to the legendary Star Club in St. Pauli, Hamburg

Throughout this relatively short but formative period in Rory Gallagher’s career, Johnny Campbell was the man behind the drum kit. As part of the 2015 National Heritage Week programme of events, Johnny will be in Cork City Library on Thursday, 27 August, at 7pm, for a special ‘Question & Answer’ session on his time with The Impact Showband and Rory Gallagher. So, if you’d like to hear it ‘from the horse’s mouth’, then here’s your chance!

In 1966, Rory Gallagher quit The Impact and went on to form the Taste. The rest, as they say, is history. And what a history it is! even if it ended prematurely. Like another Irish hero, Cú Chulainn, Rory Gallagher lived a short life that was filled with glory and his name will live on as part of musical lore until the last Fender Strat is plugged into the last Vox AC 30.

 

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Rory’s Mountain Dew: Number 1 in Hot Press!

In its latest issue, Hot Press, Ireland’s leading music magazine, published a list of Ireland’s greatest gigs since the magazine’s inception in 1977. The number-one spot in the festivals category was claimed by none other than Rory Gallagher at the Mountain Dew Festival, Macroom, County Cork, in June of 1977!

And who could argue with the result? Not alone was the Mountain Dew Festival the first major, open-air music festival of its kind to be staged in Ireland, but it was headlined by the nation’s first true Rock God!

As Hot Press puts it: Rory Gallagher had soundtracked the 1970s for so many people, playing powerfully incendiary shows in the National Stadium and the Ulster Hall every year, but the first Macroom Festival was a moment when Irish music entered another dimension.

Follow the link below to read the full honour roll and scroll down to the Top 10 Festivals section to read the entry on Rory in Macroom.

Image copyright of Hot Press Magazine.
Image copyright of Hot Press Magazine.

Were you there in Macroom in 1977? Do you think it deserves the top spot as Ireland’s greatest ever festival? Feel free to share your memories in the comments below!

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Against the Stream : The Resurgence of Vinyl

CD shops have all but disappeared, Apple’s iPod Classic has been assigned to the scrap heap and the uber-cool are discussing their latest vinyl purchases in espresso bars everywhere.

So, just what is going on in the world of music?

Firstly, it looks like vinyl is back and it won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Vinyl presses, some of which haven’t seen the light of day since the 1980s are being dragged out of warehouses everywhere in an effort to meet the rising demand. Nielsen Soundscan reports that 9.2 million vinyl albums were sold in 2014. That’s the highest number in 20 years and a significant increase on the 6.06 million units that were sold in 2013. Vinyl sales have, in fact, increased by over 220 per cent since the beginning of the decade. What’s also significant, as reported by http://www.digitaltrends.com, is that vinyl buyers are largely music fans under 35 years of age, which seems to indicate a bright future for the medium.

Copyright The Nielsen Company 2015
Copyright The Nielsen Company 2015

Meanwhile, CD sales have seen a steady decline. According to Nielsen Soundscan, CD sales dropped by 15 per cent last year and have been nosediving steadily since 2004. What may surprise some people, however, is that digital download sales are also seeing a downturn, leading Apple to ditch the 80 GB capacity iPod Classic in favour of the much smaller, multi-use iPod touch.

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Copyright The Nielsen Company 2015

Spotify seems to be the leading player in a relatively new medium of music consumption which is definitely on the rise: web streaming. As of January 2015, Spotify had 15 million paying subscribers and a total of 60 million active users. Why bother paying for digital downloads that will only clog your phone’s hard drive, when you can listen to music any time you like for free on Spotify? Well, that’s the question isn’t it?

What does this all tell us? Is the CD going the way of the dodo and taking with it its baby brother, the MP3? Is the resurgence of vinyl to be attributed to a change in attitude on behalf of music fans whereby they are no longer willing to sacrifice quality for convenience?

Or is it a case of fashion rather than passion?

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

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