Sunday, January 8, 2017

Bob Dylan - Eat The Document Soundtrack

Bob Dylan – Eat The Document Soundtrack
(soniclovenoize reconstruction)

Side A:
1.  Tell Me, Momma
2.  I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)
3.  Ballad of a Thin Man
4.  Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues

Side B:
5.  Mr. Tambourine Man
6.  Baby, Let Me Follow You Down
7.  One Too Many Mornings
8.  Like a Rolling Stone

My New Year’s Resolution is to keep this blog updated!  Starting off 2017 is an album that truly never was: the theoretical soundtrack to the unreleased documentary film Eat The Document, which chronicled Bob Dylan’s famous 1966 World Tour, backed by what would become The Band.  A behind-the-scenes look at a controversial and confrontational moment in rock history in which Dylan “went electric” to the great chagrin of his folk-purist audiences, the tour is filled with impassioned and even spiteful performances, a direct response from the jeers from the audience who thought he “sold out”.  This reconstruction compiles the soundboard recordings of the actual, full performances only partially featured on Eat The Document, presented in (mostly) film order, edited to sound as a continuous performance and effectively becoming a unique Bob Dylan live album in itself.   

Bob Dylan’s famed “Electric Trilogy”—1965’s Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and 1966’s Blonde On Blonde—proved that rock music could be intellectual by combining his often abstract poetics into a rock band context.  While obviously a success on record, Dylan slowly tested the waters for a live incarnation of his vision throughout 1965, beginning with his performance at the Newport Folk Festival on July 25th, backed by the Buttersfield Blues Band--a performance allegedly infuriating Pete Seeger who attempted to cut all power to the stage!  Deciding he needed a formal and relatively trustworthy backing band for the following tours, Dylan hired Canadian bar-rockers The Hawks to back him on sporadic gigs throughout 1965.  Although The Hawks—who would later re-title themselves to The Band and see their own success—proved to be an excellent backing band in a live setting, they failed to accommodate Dylan in the studio.  Early sessions for Highway 61 Revisited’ s follow-up in January 1966 proved unusable to Dylan’s standard and he relocated to Nashville to finish the album; only “One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)” from the January New York sessions made the album.

Regardless, Dylan regrouped with his road-tested crew, intending to promote his new album Blond On Blonde with a world tour.  Although the tour went underway in February—before the album was even finished!—two new faces slipped into Dylan’s entourage by April.  The first was soundman Richard Alderson, who provided the PAs for the European leg of the World Tour.  Personally invited to make soundboard recordings of that leg of the tour by Dylan (in exchange for assistance in building Alderson’s dream recording studio), Alderson ran the sound while taping almost everything on a trusty mono Nagra recorder.  He was no stranger to this, since he had also recorded Dylan’s set at The Gaslight CafĂ© in 1962. 

The second new face was filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker, who was tasked to film Dylan’s tour—onstage and off—to make a comprehensive document of the turbulent events.  Like Alderson, Pennebaker too was no stranger to Dylan’s inner-circle, as he had recently filmed Dylan’s acoustic European tour the previous year, eventually released as Don’t Look Back, the penultimate statement from Dylan’s live acoustic period.  Just like the previous year, Pennebaker filmed behind the scenes: early morning hangovers in hotel rooms; backstage celebrity jam sessions; furious audience members; an awkward limo ride with John Lennon.  Pennebaker also filmed the live performances themselves, usually on-stage with the man himself, getting extreme close-ups of a jubilant Dylan relishing in challenging the audience, their outrage only fueling him to rock harder.  But unlike Don’t Look Back (in which Dylan himself had little input), Dylan wanted directorial credit and final cut privilege.  After a handshake deal, Pennebaker was slated as cinematographer with the intent of Dylan and his crew editing Pennebaker’s footage for the ABC Television series ABC Stage 67. 

The tour closed with a pair of shows at The Royal Albert Hall on May 26th and 27th, which were professionally recorded to three-track by CBS Records for a possible live album, but it never materialized (within the proceeding 50 years, anyways).  Exhausted, Dylan retired to his new home in Woodstock, NY for a temporary break until a motorcycle crash on July 29th gave him an excuse to retire from the live stage for an indefinite amount of time.  Meanwhile, Pennebaker and Bob Neuwirth compiled their own edit of the footage, tentatively called You Know Something Is Happening.  This edit was rejected by Dylan that summer, and he proceeded to create his own edit of the tour footage with Howard Alk and Gordon Quinn assisting.  Influenced by the surrealism movement, Dylan’s cut of the film relied on no established narrative, featured no complete performances and was assembled in no specific order.  It was titled Eat The Document, a paraphrased quip by music journalist Al Aronowitz suggesting how to approach the documentary medium itself.  Of course, ABC rejected Eat The Document as being incomprehensible to the general audience and has remained unreleased ever since.

Uneaten documents of the 1966 Tour eventually leaked out over time, beginning with bootleg copies of Alderson’s acetate recordings.  Reputation grew of the confrontational tour, which even led to a legendary misappropriation of a legendary show.  The Manchester Free Trade Hall show on May 17th featured a legendary jeer—calling Dylan a “Judas”, in which Dylan responds “You’re a liar!” and tells the band to “Play it fucking loud!”  The initial bootlegger intentionally mislabeled the show as being at the Royal Albert Hall so the records could be stealthy pressed as the album Royal by Albert Hall.  The bootleg’s fame had grown so much that an official recording sourced from CBS’s multitracks was scheduled in the 90s, even perpetuating its mythos by retaining the incorrect venue location as the Royal Albert Hall!  While this pristine stereo mix of the show was scrapped by Dylan, a bootleg sourced from a leaked Sony Records DAT tape appeared in 1995 as Guitars Kissing & The Contemporary Fix.  An official remixed rawer version that featured more of the room ambience was finally approved by Dylan and released as The Bootleg Series Vol 4 in 1998. 

Pennebaker’s footage itself was scarcely seen aside from bootleg videos and private showings of Eat The Document until Martin Scorsese’s 2005 biopic No Direction Home.  Unlike Eat The Document, No Direction Home featured complete performances and even featured the entire Judas/Liar affair.  Finally, the 36-CD box set The 1966 Live Recordings was released in 2016, containing all of Alderson’s surviving soundboard tapes as well as the three shows professionally recorded to three-track by CBS (as well as a handful of audience tapes to represent the missing shows).  Due to the sudden availability of audio recordings paired with the No Direction Home footage, some online sleuths—notably members of the Expecting Rain forums—were able to piece together what specific performances were originally featured on Eat The Document, a task that was previously impossible due to Dylan & Alk’s abstract film editing techniques.  For the first time in fifty years, we are able to piece together an actual soundtrack to this film that never was!

All recordings on this reconstruction are taken from The 1966 Live Recordings, all being Alderson’s fantastic mono soundboard recordings.  The tracks are presented in the order as seen in Eat The Document, with the exception being that “Mr. Tambourine Man” is moved up to open Side B as a sort of acoustic intermission, and “Like a Rolling Stone” is moved down to end the album and create a finale.  Side A opens with the energetic Liverpool 5/14/66 performance of “Tell Me, Momma”, which was also featured on The Band’s 2005 anthology A Musical History.  This is followed by the driving Cardiff 5/11/66 take of “I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)”.  While the film features a montage of three performances of “Ballad of a Thin Man” (from Newcastle, Cardiff and Glasgow), here we will use the entire Newcastle 5/21/66 performance in which Dylan truly accuses the audience itself to be the flabbergasted Mr. Jones.  Concluding the side is the anguished Belfast 5/6/66 performance of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues.” 

Side B begins with what we now know as the serene Newcastle performance of “Mr. Tambourine Man”, which merges into the rollicking Liverpool “Baby, Let Me Follow You Down.”  Next is the dusty Belfest performance of “One Too Many Mornings”; since the recording was incomplete, a patch is used from Sheffield 5/16/66 to create a full take of the song which luckily includes a large amount of booing from the audience, followed by Dylan’s taunting.  After an audience member requests his biggest hit, Dylan obliges and the album concludes with the powerful Liverpool “Like a Rolling Stone”.  The resulting album not only fills in the ambiguity left from Eat The Document, but creates a hair-raising live record filled with some of the highlights from his 1966 Tour, worthy of a theoretical release in March 1967 (a place surely taken by Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits).  Although as an imaginary soundtrack to a film that was never released, it's a bit of a stretch... but when you got nothing, you got nothing to lose. 

Lossless Flac (part 1, part 2)

Sources used:
The 1966 Live Recordings (2016 Columbia Records)

flac --> wav --> editing in SONAR and Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
*md5, artwork and tracknotes included

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Who - Lifehouse (upgrade)

The Who – Lifehouse
(soniclovenoize reconstruction)
September 2016 UPGRADE

Side A:
1.  Teenage Wasteland
2.  Time Is Passing
3.  Love Ain’t For Keeping
4.  Going Mobile
5.  Baby Don’t You Do it

Side B:
6.  Baba O’Riley
7.  Mary
8.  I Don’t Even Know Myself
9.  Greyhound Girl
10.  Bargain

Side C:
11.  Naked Eye
12.  Behind Blue Eyes
13.  Too Much of Anything
14.  Let’s See Action
15.  Getting In Tune

Side D:
16.  Pure and Easy
17.  Won’t Get Fooled Again
18.  This Song Is Over

This is a long-overdue upgrade to one of the very first reconstructions on my blog: the doomed rock opera Lifehouse by The Who, the next in a series of alternate Who albums.  Originally planned as a double concept album and the soundtrack to its accompanying film, Lifehouse was too technically complex and conceptually baffling to all except Pete Townshend.  After a nervous breakdown while making the album and the lack of support from manager and producer Kit Lambert, Lifehouse was scrapped and paired down to the single LP Who’s Next, which became one of The Who’s crown achievements, critically and commercially.  This reconstruction attempts to pull the best sources of all tracks associated with the Lifehouse project recorded by The Who and assemble them not only in a pleasing and cohesive track order, but to follow the storyline of the film. 

The upgrades to this September 2016 edition are:
  • Revised track order that follows the Lifehouse storyline more logically, as well as a more sonically-pleasing flow.  
  • “Relay” and “Join Together” are dropped from the tracklist, as there is no evidence they were originally meant to be in the Lifehouse project.
  • “Baby Don’t You Do It” and “Naked Eye” are added to the tracklist as there is evidence they were originally considered for the Lifehouse project in some fashion.  
  • The final Olympic takes of “Behind Blue Eyes” and “Pure and Easy” are used instead of the rougher Record Plant takes.  
  • A unique stereo mix of “Time is Passing” is featured, using the left channel of the track from Odds and Sods synced with the right channel from the Exciting The Who bootleg.
  • Most sources are taken from the Japanese 2010 and 2011 SHM CD remasters of Who’s Next and Odds and Sods respectively, the most pristine and dynamic masters available of both releases.  
  • “Let’s See Action” is sourced from the new The Who Hits 50, which features the full single version.  

Following the critically and commercially successful 1969 rock opera Tommy was no easy task for The Who.  At first the beginnings were modest with a self-produced EP recorded in May 1970 at Pete Townshend’s garage studio (dubbed Eel Pie)—possibly to mimic the stripped and fantastic Live at Leeds, released that month.  Featuring recent songs written while touring Tommy, The Who tracked “Postcard”, “Now I’m A Farmer”, “Water”, “Naked Eye” and “I Don’t Even Know Myself”.  This EP never saw the light of day for various reasons, including questions of marketability and inflated song length.  It's more likely that Townshend had instead concocted an epic idea worthy enough to follow-up Tommy—another rock opera that not only functioned as a soundtrack to a companion film, but would include an audience-participated live performance with the band itself.  That September, Townshend began recording elaborate demos for much of the album, tracking all the instruments himself.  Unlike Tommy, the material for this project—now called Lifehouse—would consist of approximately 20 stand-alone songs, without the need for musical interludes to propel the storyline; each song would be self-sufficient. 

The original storyline itself was simple, albeit Bradbury-esque.  The setting was in the not-too-distant future, in an ecologically-destroyed United Kingdom.  Most people live in the major cities and are electronically connected via special suits to The Grid, a Matrix-like virtual reality computer program that feeds, entertains and pacifies the populace, which is controlled by a villainous character named Jumbo.  Since it is not approved by The Grid, music is outlawed completely; despite this, a hacker musician named Bobby who lives outside the city amongst the hippy-gypsy farmer communes broadcasts a signal of classic rock (called Trad) into The Grid.  Some rebellious few congregate to the secret Lifehouse to experience the music Bobby broadcasts, which are somehow tailor-made for each individual person, the music representing their own life experience (and performed by, who else, but The Who!). 

The story begins with Ray and Sally, husband and wife turnip farmers, also living in a traveling commune outside of the city.  Their teenage daughter Mary intercepts the Lifehouse broadcasts and runs away from her family to seek the source of the pirate signal.  While Ray goes after her, Sally finds Bobby attempting to find The One Note, a musical note that represents all people and unites the universe.  After falling in love, the pair travel to London to find and play The One Note at The Lifehouse. By the end of the double album, Ray catches up to the couple, Jumbo’s troops storm the rock festival at The Lifehouse just as Bobby plays The One Note, and we find the rebel youth have simply vanished, transcended to another plane, along with any civilians attached to The Grid who had witnessed the event. 

The story seems to make sense to us, in the internet age.  But the rest of the band members failed to understand Townshend’s concept (specifically Roger Daltrey’s inability to conceptualize wireless communication), and likewise Towshend had difficulty articulating it.  To make matters more confusing, Townshend intended not only live performances of The Who to be intercut within the narrative in the film, but the performances themselves were to be metaphysical music that would be “tuned” to each individual audience member.  The final touch was that The Who, by the end of the performance, would become holograms.  These performances at The Young Vic Theatre beginning in January 1971 and carrying on sporadically until the spring seemed to be unpromoted and open to the general public—anyone curious enough to wander into the Young Vic and discover The Who playing new material!  Unfortunately, The Who were a band who wanted to make metaphysical music that represented the souls of the individual audience members, who themselves casually arrived just wanting to hear the bands’ hits.  The Young Vic performances were a failed experiment and in the end simply amounted to public rehearsals of the new Lifehouse material.  With Townshend disheartened that not only the audience “didn’t get it” but his band as well, The Who relocated to New York to record the new songs properly in the studio, giving Lifehouse one final chance. 

Initial album tracking began at the Record Plant in March 1971, produced by manager Kit Lambert as usual and featuring legendary keyboardist Al Kooper and guitarist Leslie West of Mountain.  At least six core Lifehouse songs were all worked on to completion or near to it: “Baby Don’t You Do It” (allegedly a studio warm-up), “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, “Love Ain’t For Keeping”, “Behind Blue Eyes”, “Pure and Easy” and “Getting in Tune”.  By this time the band’s relationship with Lambert had broken down completely.  Lambert was producer only in name, as he was preoccupied with a heroin addiction and was unable to even mix the session!  Townshend (himself by this point a chronic alcoholic) also had problems finding a common-ground with Lambert in regards to the Lifehouse narrative; Kit had helped Townshend flesh out the concept of Tommy two years before, but they were unable to agree upon a script for the Lifehouse film.  The situation reached its boiling point when Townsend overheard Lambert blasting him at their hotel room, including his recommendation that the band should abandon the project.  Townshend in effect spiraled into a nervous breakdown, later claiming to have attempted to jump out of the hotel window.  That was the deathblow to Lifehouse. 

Still needing to finish an album—be it Lifehouse or otherwise—producer Glyn Johns was brought in to mix the Record Plant sessions and to see if it was salvageable.  Johns thought the recordings were up to par but recommended restarting the project with him at the helm, as he could better capture the essence of The Who to tape.  Recording began at Mick Jagger’s mansion Stargroves in April, testing the waters with “Won’t Get Fooled Again”.  Impressed with the results, Johns and the band relocated to Olympic Studios in May to overdub it and to record at least another 15 songs.  At this point in time, Johns urged an already discouraged Townshend to shelve the Lifehouse concept indefinitely and release the best material as a singular, non-conceptual album.  The result was Who’s Next, regarded as not only one of The Who’s greatest albums, but one of the greatest in rock history. 

While Johns apparently made the correct call in whittling down Lifehouse to Who’s Next, Townshend never really gave up on the project.  He continued working on it, adding new songs to the project that regardless found their way onto other Who singles and albums (“Join Together” and “Relay” in 1972, “Slip Kid” in 1976, “Who Are You” in 1977, etc).  After a failed attempt to write a new Lifehouse screenplay in 1980, the themes and basic plot outline were recycled by Townshend for his 1993 solo album Psychoderelict.   Townshend eventually commissioned a Lifehouse radio play for the BBC in 1999 and released a multi-disc boxset of his original 1970 Lifehouse demos, the radio play and its soundtrack in 2000 as The Lifehouse Chronicles.   To top it off, Townshend performed a series of concerts of the Lifehouse material later that year, released as Pete Townshend Live: Sadler Wells 2000.

While Townshend clearly gave his final word on the project, is it possible to rebuild the original Lifehouse that The Who attempted to raise in 1971?  An exact tracklist was never published and Townshend has revealed only the basic plotline, lacking any specifics or subplot descriptions.  And while The Lifehouse Chronicles gives an excellent overview of the material, presented in a cohesive narrative framework, it is very much retro-active, including later 70s compositions not originally included in the 1971 project and based upon the largely rewritten and convoluted 1999 BBC radio play.  For my reconstruction we will attempt to only use the songs originally intended to be a part of the 1971 project, using exclusively The Who recordings with gaps filled-in by Townshend’s 1970 solo demos.  Our tracklist will follow what we know of the original storyline, as reflected in the song lyrics, with further insight from the performance order of Townshend’s Live: Sadler’s Wells 2000.  Structurally, the first disc of will be set in the Scottish countryside and follow Mary’s journey to find Bobby, and Ray’s journey to find Mary.  The second disc will be set in The Grid of London and portray Bobby’s search for The One Note and his final confrontation with Jumbo’s army.  No live material is included, as I believe that intent was scrapped after the failure of The Young Vic experiments. 

Side A opens with “Baba M1” representing The One Note as an introduction, crossfaded into “Teenage Wasteland”, both Townshend’s demos taken from Lifehouse Chronicles.  Since there is an overlap between this and “Baba O’Riley”, the song is faded out before the redundant passages.  Here Ray introduces the listener to his world: living on the land in a caravan outside of The Grid.  Next, we introduce Bobby who is performing music in his own caravan with “Time Is Passing”.  Here a unique stereo mix of the song is created by syncing the left channel from Odds and Sods with the right channel from the bootleg Exciting The Who.  “Love Ain’t For Keeping” follows (using the Olympic take from Who’s Next with the extended Record Plant jam from Odds and Sods tagged onto the end), character development for Ray who sings this love song for his wife Sally.  The couple and their teenage daughter Mary travel the countryside in “Going Mobile” from Who’s Next, until Mary hears Bobby’s pirate broadcast of “Baby Don’t You Do It” from the Who’s Next 2010 remaster and decides to leave her parents in search of whomever is sending these magical signals.  Ray chases after her, which his perceived betrayal is also reflected in the song’s lyrics.

Side B opens with Bobby experimenting with The One Note in “Baba O’Riley” from Who’s Next.  Mary finds him and joins his caravan, on its way to London to host a rock concert at The Lifehouse, intending to free the populous from The Grid.  Bobby falls in love with Mary as heard in Townshend’s demo of “Mary” from Lifehouse Chronicles, but Mary is reluctant as heard in the Olympic version of “I Don’t Even Know Myself” from Odds and Sods.  Bobby tries to win Mary over in Townshend’s demo of “Greyhound Girl” from Lifehouse Chronicles, and disc one concludes with Ray vowing to retrieve his daughter no matter the cost—even venturing into the city to find her—in “Bargain” from Who’s Next.

Side C takes place in the future city of London, as we see the populace hooked up into The Grid, living a virtual reality life, an idyllic illusion meant to control them.  Here we use “Naked Eye” to create this setting and describe The Grid, using the Eel Pie recording from Odds and Sods; although this recording predates Lifehouse and hails from the scrapped 1970 EP, there is documentation that a version of “Naked Eye” was actually recorded during the 1971 Olympic sessions, thus indicating Townshend’s intent to use the song in Lifehouse.  Following, we are introduced to Jumbo, the controller of The Grid, who attempts to convince the listener he’s just misunderstood in “Behind Blue Eyes” from Who’s Next.  As Bobby and Mary infiltrate the city, they attempt to show people that their Grid lives are an illusion in the original mix of “Too Much of Anything” from Odds and Sods.  Both Bobby, Mary and Ray all arrive at The Lifehouse together and prepare for the rock concert in “Let’s See Action” from The Who Hits 50 and the show begins in “Getting in Tune” from Who’s Next, as Bobby hacks into the Grid and broadcasts The Lifehouse concert live to all linked into The Grid.

Side D opens with Bobby explaining what The One Note is and Mary urging him to use it to free everyone from Grid in the Olympic version of “Pure and Easy” from Odds and Sods.  Jumbo’s army storms the Lifehouse during “Won’t Get Fooled Again” from Who’s Next just as Bobby plays The One Note.  Right as the soldiers close in, all the protagonists and concert-goers vanish from their reality—as well as all the people on The Grid watching the show from their homes.  The closing credits presumably play over “This Song Is Over” from Who’s Next. The final touch being cover art created long ago by I Design Album Covers, we have one of the seminal Albums That Never Were, now better than ever. 

lossless FLAC (part 1, part 2, part 3)

Sources used:
The Who - Who’s Next (2010 SHM remaster)
The Who - Odds & Sods (2011 SHM remaster)
The Who - Exciting The Who (bootleg, 1997 Midas Touch Records)
The Who – Hits 50! (2014 Geffen Records)
Pete Townshend - Lifehouse Chronicles (2001 Eel Pie Records)

flac --> wav --> editing in SONAR and Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
*md5, artwork and tracknotes included