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Comrades From The North

Hello and welcome. Itís the last issue of the year and, whilst we hope that you are able to have a peaceful festive season, our hearts go out to all of those who have been affected by the awful forest fires in California.Truly heartbreaking.

On the new Julian Cope CD (Skellington 3, highly recommended) there is a delightful, playful little ditty called Stop Harping on About the Way Life Used to Be which gave us some pause for thought on first (and subsequent) listens. It is basically a list song in which Cope catalogues many events from the past to show that life may not have been so wonderful after all in whatever days one cares to recall. So he reminds us of things like the three-day week, the Berlin Wall, outside toilets, The Laughing Gnome, teachers who caned, the Iraq War and so on. You get the picture. Well all of this makes at least one of us feel like a right old curmudgeon. You may recall that, in our last editorial, we drew a parallel between the contents of some box sets , particularly those from top jazz artists, and those issued on Dylanís behalf by Columbia. The point being made was that the former were almost always comprehensive, leaving nothing in the can and often including the studio chatter. In other words a complete record of a given session. Whereas, with the Dylan sets, we werenít always treated to that luxury. And then what happens? They decide to release the very next instalment of The Bootleg Series, in this case volume 14, More Blood, More Tracks. Not only that, they also have included every surviving take and some studio chatter. Well done Columbia, we are heartily grateful for what is a wonderful package. For collectors this release represents something of a holy grail. Not only is this one of the greatest recordings ever made, it is also one which was/is fascinating in its evolution. And we get to see the album-making in progress as if we were there. The early, extraordinary solo takes, the gradual, but minimal use of backing instruments, the differing approaches to the same song, the lyrical variations and the final, eleventh hour re-recordings in chilly Minnesota. We are also given a peek into one of Dylanís legendary note-books. It all adds up to six hoursí worth of the making of a masterpiece. Even the single CD version, which contains many of the highlights of its bigger cousin, provides an excellent snapshot of the sessions. This is a great effort all round - from artist to company.

Dylan himself is on the road again, trucking through North America on a tour that will be over by the time you read this piece. The biggest surprise was the absence of Stu Kimball. It would appear that he has quit the band. His fourteen-year tenure (gosh has it really been that long?) has taken him around the world many times and he has had his little moment in the light in recent tours when he has emerged on to the stage ahead of the band to play his delightful introductory piece. We wish him well. The current shows sound pretty good - the set lists remain fairly rigid with the occasional introduction of substitute songs, but the spine of the set is relentlessly unmoving. There are no songs from the Great American Songbook and there are a few lyrical variations and new arrangements. Those attending seem to have enjoyed them and those of us listening to the captured sounds elsewhere find them enjoyable. So whatís not to like?

If we may return to that Julian Cope song one last time, there is a great put-down of the often-mouthy Bob Geldof. Cope chastises the listener for:

"Mistaking I Don't Like Mondays for punk
In six different formats, all of them junk."

Well we canít offer six different formats, only the one printed copy but we hope that there is something in this issue to spark your interest and keep you occupied for part of your seasonal break. A new year beckons - we trust one of more hope for California.

May you climb on every rung ..........

Mike & John


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