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Comrades From The North

Crickey, what is happening? Are the gods of speed and steel really falling? Maybe, maybe not. These fair isles of ours have recently hosted the COP26 summit in the vibrant city of Glasgow and there was much hope of a greener future emerging from the outcomes of this ‘last chance’ for Mother Earth. There was significant scepticism and cynicism too. In the end, an agreement was reached, one which would ‘keep 1.5 alive’ but that end turned out not to be the final end- at the last trumpet both China and India (and others) watered down their commitments to reductions in the utilisation of fossil fuels. Seems like they were one too many mornings and a thousand miles behind.

As the world opened up again, even though the Covid crisis is far from over, Dylan announced his Rough and Rowdy Ways Worldwide Tour 2021-2024, the first leg of which kicked off in Milwaukee on 2nd November. This initial show lived up to the billing with Dylan showcasing no fewer than eight songs from the said album. The eighteen-song set featured many spine-tingling moments. Dylan was in fine form paying great attention to his vocal delivery from his piano stool and, on a number of songs, from centre stage initially before moving to the piano. By the second show in Chicago, Dylan had settled upon his final song choices and stuck with the same set (up to the time of writing) albeit with occasional variations in song order. There were many great performances driven by a thoroughly sound band now comprising stalwarts Tony Garnier and Donnie Herron, guitarists Bob Britt and Doug Lancio all propelled by drummer Charley Drayton.

Since our last issue, Columbia have released the latest instalment of The Bootleg Series (Vol 16) with the evocative, if inaccurate, title of Springtime in New York. (See elsewhere in this issue for a detailed exposition). The set has not met with universal acclaim but has sought to shed light upon Dylan’s recording activities in the first half of the 1980s. Many collectors have suggested that it might have been better to concentrate on the work of a single album, Infidels, to provide a complete record of the sessions, leaving the other albums for future releases. Notwithstanding that, it remains a very worthwhile effort, one which has provided sonically superb cuts of songs which were sometimes 'ruined' by the production values of the era. It also features Dylan in very fine voice indeed. For those who struggled to enjoy the original versions of Shot Of Love, Infidels and Empire Burlesque, their beauty no longer will go unrecognised. Let's be grateful for the continuing emergence of these wonderful artefacts and enjoy the anticipation of future issues.

As we went to print news came through of a large cache of early home and other recordings that have been acquired by the Bob Dylan Center. The Rolling Stone website provided an aural reveal from this collection making available one previously non-circulating cut from the Carnegie Chapter Hall performance in November 1961, namely He Was A Friend Of Mine.

Wherever you are in the world it seems that you can now look forward to Dylan coming your way if the world can continue to emerge from the dreaded virus and if his ambition for this World Tour remains undimmed. We hope that you get to see him in action.

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

Mike & John

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