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Bob Dylan Remastered

At the backend of 2009, I decided to take stock of exactly where we were up to with the re-mastering and remixing of Bob Dylan’s extensive back catalogue. This long overdue article, published in ISIS Magazine issue 147, was prompted both by the release of four newly re-mastered Bob Dylan CDs and by the euphoria that surrounded the re-mastering of the Beatles’ back catalogue. Now, over a year later, Sony has undertaken a similar project to that of the Beatles by releasing the first eight Bob Dylan albums in their original mono state.

Since the publication of ISIS 147, this article has been extensively rewritten and brought up to date to include those eight mono CD albums (included in the “Bob Dylan: The Original Mono Recordings” box set), plus the releases of “Together Through Life”, “Christmas In The Heart” and “In Concert: Brandeis Live 1963”.

This article was revisited again in February 2011, April 2012 and June 2014 for inclusion on the ISIS Magazine website. The most recent revision was undertaken in June 2015 for our new-look website.

Released in 2013, “The Complete Album Collection Vol. 1” Red Box” is dealt with as a separate piece at the end of our main article. Although some of this collection was remastered for the release, I have chosen to deal with this huge career spanning box set separately, because the albums are not available individually.

Why, you might ask, is this information important? When compact discs began to be released in the mid-’80s, digital technology was in its infancy. Digital transfers were made at much lower bit-rates than are currently available, reverb was often added and record companies routinely failed to go back to a suitable master or to the multi-tracks, but instead used master tapes that had been compressed and equalised for the sole purpose of cutting vinyl discs. This problem was exacerbated by the fact that up until the late 1960s compression and equalisation was routinely applied at the mix-down stage, which means that there are no original masters without these troublesome characteristics. Due to the poor quality of earlier CD pressings record companies have, in recent years, begun re-mastering many classic albums.

The ongoing plan to re-master all(?) of Bob Dylan’s albums was set in motion in 1999. The project was started primarily because Columbia’s parent-company Sony had developed Super Audio CD players. SACDs utilized a new analogue-to-digital transfer process known as Direct Stream Digital encoding (DSD). This new method of data transfer enabled more of the information contained on the original analogue tapes to be transferred to the digital disc. The result was that the digital music sounded much closer to the original analogue recording. There were, however, some massive drawbacks with the system. The discs cost considerably more to manufacture and they could only be played on very expensive Sony SACD equipment.

As a result of extremely poor sales of SACDs, Sony began work in the early 2000s on a new type of disc that would contain several layers of digital information. These discs, known as hybrid SACDs, would have one layer for SACD information and a second layer containing standard CD information. The resulting discs could then be played on both SACD machines and on standard compact disc players, therefore eliminating the necessity for buying new and expensive equipment.

In late 2003, 15 of Dylan’s albums were simultaneously released as hybrid SACDs. Six of these titles also featured 5.1 surround sound and, because remixing is a prerequisite for surround sound, the standard CD layer of these titles was also remixed. The titles in question were “Another Side Of Bob Dylan”, “Bringing It All Back Home”, “Blonde On Blonde”, “Blood On The Tracks”, “Slow Train Coming” and “Love And Theft”.

The reason these particular titles were selected for release in surround sound is unclear. However, it is possible, even probable, that the master tapes for the three mid-sixties albums were in such poor condition that Sony had no other choice than to go all the way back to the original four-track studio tapes and remix for stereo. Because Sony was forced to remix for stereo, it was easier and more cost effective to also release those titles in 5.1 surround sound. As Roger Ford points out, “The surround treatment was apparently determined more by force of circumstance than by consideration of which would benefit most.” Roger goes on to point out the crazy consequences of this method of selection, “The result of this expediency is that the one-man-and-his-guitar “Another Side” got a surround mix while “Highway 61”, with its full electric band, didn’t.” (www.rdf.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk). “Blood On The Tracks” was almost certainly selected for 5.1 surround because of its classic status. The reasons for remixing “Slow Train Coming” and, even more so, “Love And Theft” are more difficult to fathom.

Since the 2003 SACD releases, Sony has revisited and re-mastered “Bob Dylan” and “The Times They Are a-Changin’” in 2005, and “New Morning”, “Before The Flood”, “The Basement Tapes” and “Dylan And The Dead” in 2009. Even more recently (2010), the first eight albums have been released as part of “Bob Dylan: The Original Mono Recordings”. This eight-album set is currently available both on CD and on vinyl LP.

It should be noted that the eight LPs contained in the vinyl box set sound very slightly different from the CD releases. There are a number of reasons for this. One: Analogue vinyl is quite obviously a different medium to that of the digital compact disc, and most vinyl enthusiasts will tell you that the sound of vinyl is more natural and warm. Two: Although the same master tapes were used for both the CDs and LPs, a different specialist vinyl “engineer”, George Marino of Sterling Sound, was used to make the LPs. The contentious subject of digital EQ-ing has also been addressed because Marino was able to go straight from the analogue tape recorder to the LP cutting lathe without EQ in the middle.

 

To Re-master Or Remix?

To clarify, re-mastering is when an engineer goes back to a fully mixed master tape and then re-masters that tape for release on CD. Remixing is when the engineer goes all the way back to the multi-track session tapes and mixes these into a new mono or stereo master tape. In doing this, the engineer will often take the opportunity to change things around (maybe bring the vocals and bass up, take the guitar down and possibly even change the position of the instruments in the speakers). The thorny debate as to whether or not classic albums should be remixed (changed in any way) or left alone for posterity is purely subjective. In the main, even when Sony have gone all the way back to the studio tapes their goal has been to remain true to the original mixes.

 

A Run-through Of Dylan’s Back Catalogue

What follows is a run-through of the re-pressings of Bob Dylan’s back catalogue. Unless a routine repressing or a special release requires re-mastering or remixing, or a new master needs to be made because of wear, Sony always (in theory) use the most recent master tape for all of their releases. For instance, the sleeve to the most recent stereo pressing of the “Bob Dylan” album reads “originally released 1962 © 2005”. In this case, 2005 refers to the date that the album was re-mastered. This article focuses mostly on UK releases but where significant variants exist releases from other world territories may be mentioned. With the recent resurgence in vinyl LPs, this Internet article now takes in to account the many specialist audiophile LP releases.


Bob Dylan  

Bob Dylan long box formatAlmost all copies of Bob Dylan’s début LP, originally released in the USA in March 1962, were produced in mono. The “Bob Dylan” LP continued to be re-pressed in the USA in mono up until 1968. The UK was the first country outside of the USA to release “Bob Dylan”. UK copies were available in mono and stereo. It was several years before other territories released the album and as a consequence all of these releases were in stereo only.

The stereo issue of this album should come with a government health warning! This is a fine example of early 1960s stereo at its absolute worst. With only guitar, vocal and harmonica to deal with, the engineer has spread these three elements so thin and wide across the soundstage that the end result is nothing short of bizarre! He places the guitar entirely in one channel and the vocal in the other. The harmonica is then placed wholly either right or left, seemingly depending on the mood of the engineer. If you listen through headphones, you will hear some guitar in the vocal channel and some vocal in the guitar channel, but this is nothing more than leakage, i.e. the engineer hasn’t mixed the tape this way, it’s merely that the vocal mic has picked up some guitar and vice-versa. This stereo mix is so hideous that for many years the only version of this album that I could listen to was my early sixties pristine mono vinyl LP.

“Bob Dylan” was released on CD in world territories in 1988/89 in the same appalling stereo. This edition appears to have been made straight from a master tape that was compressed for cutting vinyl. The first CD release of this album in North America came in a “long box” format. This format was standard for many of Dylan’s early CD releases in North America. The format was unique to the USA and Canada. This release is of interest to collectors because the front cover photo is not the original picture but an out-take from the original 1962 “Bob Dylan” LP photo session! Surely a mistake?

The first release manufactured especially for Europe and the UK was made in Austria in 1991 (Columbia COL CD 32001). The music content was a straight copy of the existing CD.

Although “Bob Dylan” was not included among the 2003 15 album SACD reissues, it was re-mastered for CD in 2005 and after more than 40 years the album was again listenable. No details as to the engineer are given on this release but the work was apparently carried out by Steve Berkowitz and Mark Wilder. When I first heard this CD (without headphones) I thought it was a stereo reduction to mono, but a closer listen revealed that my cloth ears were mistaken. What the dynamic duo of Berkowitz and Wilder had done was to go back to the original three-track studio tapes and create a completely new mix– still stereo, but with an extremely narrow (almost mono sounding) soundstage.

With all the original stereo bullshit corrected, and a punchier and crisper sound to boot, this album was for the first time listenable on compact disc. In 2009, “Bob Dylan” was made available in Japan as a “Blu-spec” CD release (SICP 20213).

In 2010, a mono mix of “Bob Dylan” was released as part of “Bob Dylan: The Original Mono Recordings”. This mono mix is how the LP was intended to sound when it was originally released. However, if you don’t want to fork out for the eight-album “Mono Box” set, the 2005 Berkowitz / Wilder stereo CD release is actually pretty damn good and to be honest Dylan’s vocals sound very slightly better on the stereo release.

Vinyl: Reissued in the UK as a 180gm “stereo” vinyl LP (SVLP 85) 1999.

Reissued as a mono vinyl 180gm LP in the USA by Sundazed (Columbia LP 5120) in January 2004.

“Bob Dylan” is also available as a mono LP as part of the vinyl box set version of “Bob Dylan: The Original Mono Recordings” released in December 2010. These LPs were cut by George Marino and pressed at Sterling Sound, New York.

“Bob Dylan” Music On Vinyl (MOVLP242). Despite Stories In the Press that the eight mono albums continued in the Sony vinyl release of “The Original Mono Recordings” would only be available as part of the box-set, these LPs have now been individually released under licence in Europe, in mono on 180g vinyl, by the Dutch specialist label Music On Vinyl.

Note: The usual mechanism for Music On Vinyl Dylan releases is that any and all re-mastering work is carried out in New York by former Sony/Legacy executive producer Steve Berkowitz. Berkowitz (along with mastering engineer Mark Wilder) has been responsible for all of Dylan’s re-mastering work for a number of years. Berkowitz’s re-mastered tapes are sent to Music On Vinyl as High Res digital audio files (96KHz / 24 bit), MOV then make their test pressing which is sent to Berkowitz for approval. After final approval, vinyl pressing commences at MOV, Holland.

In the case of the eight titles originally included in the Columbia box set “Bob Dylan: The Original Mono Recordings” however, the above convention did not apply. When the eight mono albums (MOVLP239 “Bob Dylan” through MOVLP246 “John Wesley Harding”), were released individually in 2010 by Music On Vinyl, they were pressed using the same new metal plates that were created for the manufacture of the Columbia “Mono Recordings” box set. The metal parts were delivered directly to MOV, Holland by Sony / Columbia. These eight MOV albums are therefore truly AAA.

Also See Discography


The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan  

The abysmal late eighties CD release of this album (CDCBS 32390), which appears to have been made straight from a master tape that was compressed for cutting vinyl, was superseded in late 2003 when it was released as part of the 15-disc SACD reissue. The re-mastered CD layer of the SACD was made available as the standard CD release in UK/Europe (512354 2) in March 2004 and in North America (CK 92402) in June 2004. Whilst this re-master is an improvement on the original 1980s CD, it is still pretty damn awful because the original stereo mix is the problem (see my comments about the “Bob Dylan” album in this article or go to Roger Ford’s piece in ISIS 153). Quite why Sony decided to reissue this album in 2003 without remixing is a complete mystery to me.

In 2010, a mono mix of “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” was released as part of “Bob Dylan: The Original Mono Recordings”. This mono mix is how the LP was intended to sound when it was originally released in the summer of ’63. This CD and perhaps the mono “Bob Dylan” are justification enough to buy the “Original Mono Recordings” box set.

Vinyl: “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” was reissued as a mono vinyl LP in the USA by Sundazed (Columbia LP 5115) in November 2001; as a 180gm stereo vinyl LP by Absolute Analog (PC 8786) USA 2001

Simply Vinyl stereo LP UK (1999, 2001 and 2003). The Simply Vinyl releases were pressed on 180gm, 160gm and 125gm vinyl.

“Freewheelin’…” is also available as a mono LP as part of the vinyl box set version of “Bob Dylan: The Original Mono Recordings” released in December 2010. These LPs were cut by George Marino and pressed at Sterling Sound, New York.

“The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” Music On Vinyl (MOVLP240). Despite Stories In the Press that the eight mono albums continued in the Sony vinyl release of “The Original Mono Recordings” would only be available as part of the box-set, these LPs have now been individually released under licence in Europe, in mono on 180g vinyl, by the Dutch specialist label Music On Vinyl.

Note: The mechanism for the production of these 180g Music On Vinyl LPs is explained at the end of the entry for the “Bob Dylan” début album release.

Also See Discography


The Times They Are a-Changin’  

The 1989 European CD release came with a 24-page booklet. These late eighties releases were superseded when the album was re-mastered in late 2005. This re-master is a great improvement on the previous CD pressings, all of which were mastered from compressed tapes originally made for vinyl production.

In 2010, a mono mix of “The Times They Are a-Changin’” was released as part of “Bob Dylan: The Original Mono Recordings”. Unfortunately, when they began work on “Times…”, series producer Steve Berkowitz and engineer Mark Wilder were unable to track down a copy of the original mono master tape! So for this album, Berkowitz and Wilder had to go back to the three-track studio tapes and create a completely new mono mix. They achieved this by mixing the three-track tapes to exactly match the sound of an original copy of a first issue US mono LP. They did a great job and it’s a matter of taste whether you prefer this to the 2005 stereo CD. Both are excellent.

Vinyl: Reissued as a stereo vinyl LP in the USA by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (#1986).

Simply Vinyl (SVLP 0003) 180gm stereo release (UK), 1999.

Simply Vinyl (125017) stereo 125gm, 160gm and 180gm releases (UK), 2001/2003.

Sundazed 180gm mono vinyl LP by (Columbia LP 5108) in August 2001.

“Times…” is also available as a mono LP as part of the vinyl box set version of “Bob Dylan: The Original Mono Recordings” released in December 2010. These LPs were cut by George Marino and pressed at Sterling Sound, New York.

“The Times They Are a-Changin’” Music On Vinyl (MOVLP241). Despite Stories In the Press that the eight mono albums continued in the Sony vinyl release of “The Original Mono Recordings” would only be available as part of the box-set, these LPs have now been individually released under licence in Europe, in mono on 180g vinyl, by the Dutch specialist label Music On Vinyl.

Note: The mechanism for the production of these 180g Music On Vinyl LPs is explained at the end of the entry for the “Bob Dylan” début album release.

Also See Discography


Another Side Of Bob Dylan  

In Europe, the late eighties CD release of this album was revisited three times (CBS CDCBS 32034; CBS 461013 2; Columbia 467390 2; Columbia CD 32034). All of the above stereo CD releases of this album were made direct from the compressed vinyl cutting master tape. This version was superseded in late 2003 when the album was remixed and re-mastered for the 15-disc SACD reissue. The remixed and re-mastered CD layer of the SACD was made available as the standard CD release in UK/Europe (512354 2) in March 2004 and in North America (CK 92402) in June 2004. Apart from a slight distortion, which is present on the vocal mic, this re-master transforms the original CD release.

In 2010, a mono mix of “Another Side Of Bob Dylan” was released as part of “Bob Dylan: The Original Mono Recordings”. This mono mix is excellent, but in my opinion so was the original stereo LP and the 2003 SACD/CD mix which is currently being used to produce the standard CD. The only version of “Another Side…” that doesn’t stand scrutiny is the original late eighties stereo CD release.

Vinyl: Reissued in the UK by Simply Vinyl (SVLP 0078) as 180gm stereo LP, 1999.

Reissued as a mono vinyl LP in the USA by Sundazed (Columbia LP 5121) in August 2002.

“Another Side Of Bob Dylan” is also available as a mono LP as part of the vinyl box set version of “Bob Dylan: The Original Mono Recordings” released in December 2010. These LPs were cut by George Marino and pressed at Sterling Sound, New York.

 “Another Side Of Bob Dylan” Music On Vinyl (MOVLP242). Despite Stories In the Press that the eight mono albums continued in the Sony vinyl release of “The Original Mono Recordings” would only be available as part of the box-set, these LPs have now been individually released under licence in Europe, in mono on 180g vinyl, by the Dutch specialist label Music On Vinyl.

Note: The mechanism for the production of these 180g Music On Vinyl LPs is explained at the end of the entry for the “Bob Dylan” début album release.

Also See Discography


Bringing It All Back Home  

The 1988 (first) stereo CD release of this album was one of the very few original CD releases to be remixed for the then new compact disc medium. Roger Ford has opined that this remix was probably carried out because the original stereo master tapes were worn and unfit for use and I would concur with this logical reasoning. However, this mix was not well received and the album was remixed again and re-mastered in late 2003 for inclusion in the 15-disc SACD reissue series. The remixed and re-mastered CD layer of the SACD was made available as the standard stereo CD release in UK/Europe (512353 2) in March 2004 and in North America (CK 92401) in June 2004.

Although all of the SACD reissues were a great improvement on the previous CD releases, this title, partly because of Michael Brauer’s remix, was probably the biggest upgrading of the entire 15 SACD reissue series. Occasionally there’s a little too much “top” but overall the sound is very good. However, to my ears, this album has always sound far better in good ol’ mono.

In 2010, a mono mix of “Bringing It All Back Home” was released as part of “Bob Dylan: The Original Mono Recordings”. This mix surpasses any of the previous CD releases and I doubt I’ll ever listen to anything else (I don’t have a pristine original mono LP). This CD has everything, including a slightly longer fade of the harmonica solo at the end of ‘Mr Tambourine Man’. This fadeout is shorter on the original stereo LP and the 2003 stereo CD remix.

Vinyl: Reissued in the UK by Simply Vinyl (SVLP 0036) as a stereo 180gm vinyl LP, 1999.

Reissued as a mono vinyl LP by Sundazed (Columbia LP 5070) in the USA, March 2001.

“Bringing It All Back Home” is also available as a mono LP as part of the vinyl box set version of “Bob Dylan: The Original Mono Recordings” released in December 2010. These LPs were cut by George Marino and pressed at Sterling Sound, New York.

 “Bringing It All Back Home” Music On Vinyl (MOVLP243). Despite Stories In the Press that the eight mono albums continued in the Sony vinyl release of “The Original Mono Recordings” would only be available as part of the box-set, these LPs have now been individually released under licence in Europe, in mono on 180g vinyl, by the Dutch specialist label Music On Vinyl.

Note: The mechanism for the production of these 180g Music On Vinyl LPs is explained at the end of the entry for the “Bob Dylan” début album release.

Also See Discography


Highway 61 Revisited  

This album was first released on CD in Japan in 1985. The first European / UK release, which came a little later, was also pressed in Japan (though it was later pressed in Austria). The eighties stereo CD release of this album suffered particularly badly from being made directly from the compressed vinyl cutting master. This album was first released as a re-mastered CD in the USA in June 1992. Re-mastering was carried out by engineer Steve Hoffman and released by DCC under licence from Columbia (Columbia/DCC GZS-1021). The release was part of the company’s gold CD audiophile series. It seems that although an extremely persistent Mr Hoffman could not get permission to remix this album, he did persuade Columbia to track down a version of the stereo master tape that he hoped still existed. What he was looking for was a tape that came after the studio multi-tracks (which he was not allowed access to) but before the compressed and equalised vinyl cutting master that had been used to make both the stereo vinyl LP and the original late eighties CD. The tapes were found in the depths of Columbia’s vaults marked “Do Not Use”. The tapes were labelled thus not because they were inferior, but simply because they were not the compressed masters needed to make vinyl LPs.

This reissue was the ultimate version of “Highway 61 Revisited” until it was re-mastered by Greg Calbi for the late 2003 15-disc SACD reissue. The re-mastered CD layer of the SACD was made available as the standard CD release in UK/Europe (512351 2) in March 2004 and in North America (CK 92399) in June 2004. Calbi appears to have used the same tapes that Hoffman prised out of Columbia but the resulting SACD release sounds very much better. In all of its incarnations this album has never undergone a remix.

In 2010, a mono mix of “Highway 61 Revisited” was released as part of “Bob Dylan: The Original Mono Recordings”. Unfortunately, series producer Steve Berkowitz and engineer Mark Wilder were unable to obtain the original mono master tape for this release. It seems that this tape cannot be found anywhere in the United States! However, during an interview conducted by Roger Ford for ISIS, Berkowitz and Wilder said that they were able to locate, through the Sony Music archive in Germany, a tape made in 1965 for the manufacture of “Highway 61 Revisited” in France. This tape, which was fortunately in excellent condition, turned out to be the best mono mix that Berkowitz and Wilder had ever heard, and as a result they were able to give us a digital CD that comes very close to the quality of the original mono LP. This 2010 mono release is by far the best CD available.

Vinyl: This album was released in 1998 in the UK as a 180gm “stereo” LP by Absolute Analogue (62572). This album was also released in stereo on 180gm vinyl by the UK label Simply Vinyl (SVLP 173), 2000. To my mind, the ultimate versions of “Highway 61 Revisited” are still to found on mono vinyl (a pristine copy of the original 1965 mono LP; the May 2001 mono US Sundazed vinyl reissue (Columbia LP 5071); or “Bob Dylan: The Original Mono Recordings” vinyl box set version released in December 2010). These LPs were cut by George Marino and pressed at Sterling Sound, New York.

Despite Stories In the Press that the eight mono albums continued in the Sony vinyl release of “The Original Mono Recordings” would only be available as part of the box-set, these LPs have now been individually released under licence in Europe, in mono on 180g vinyl, by the Dutch specialist label Music On Vinyl (MOVLP247).

Note: The mechanism for the production of these 180g Music On Vinyl LPs is explained at the end of the entry for the “Bob Dylan” début album release.

Also See Discography


Blonde On Blonde  

This classic album has been treated incredibly shabbily by Columbia over the years. As many of you will be aware, the original mono mixes of “Blonde On Blonde” went through a number of revisions before the album’s delayed release, and due to much confusion at Columbia, most of these mixes got released in one country or another!

The original 1966 stereo vinyl issue was replaced in the USA by a revised mix in 1968. The original UK stereo releases (late ’66) used the original 1966 US mix and this “old” inferior mix continued to be used in the UK until the early 1980s when the UK caught up and began cutting this album from the 1968 US revised mix. Twelve years after the fact!

“Blonde On Blonde” was first issued in UK on CD in late 1987 and this version, remixed by Tim Geelan, was a massive improvement over all of the stereo vinyl releases. This CD was not made from the compressed stereo vinyl master tape. Instead, the engineer remixed the album from the original four-track masters and in some cases these new mixes were very different from the vinyl LPs. It is possible that this release might have been put together from more than one source tape.

This ’87 CD presented the double vinyl album on a single compact disc. However, in order to fit the album on to one CD several of the tracks had to be significantly cut. The two tracks worst effected were a faded out ‘Just Like a Woman’ and the epic ‘Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands’, which lost over half a minute of the closing harmonica solo.

Complaints flooded in regarding this appalling treatment of Dylan’s ’66 masterpiece and fortuitously recent advances in compact disc technology allowed the total playing time of a disc to be extended. Columbia US quickly issued a revised edition, which restored ‘Just Like a Woman’ to its former glory, but still left ‘Sad Eyed Lady’ short on harmonica. A third pressing, produced in 1989, finally put things to rights. In the UK, however, the first badly edited CD version remained on sale for many years!

In 1992, Sony US released a newly remixed and re-mastered CD edition as one of the initial releases in Columbia’s MasterSound audiophile series. The 24-carat gold CD, which was presented in a 12” x 6” “long box”, was digitally mastered using the newly developed Super Bit Mapping 20-bit processing. This new mix, which was carried out by Sony Music’s Mark Wilder, was again taken from the four-track masters. This mix was applauded by some and heavily criticised by others. Nevertheless, Sony’s policy of always going back to the latest master tape meant that this master was used for a series of follow-on repackagings including the 1999 limited Millennium Edition, which was released in a cardboard replica LP sleeve.

This 1992 (mix-master) version was eventually superseded in late 2003 when it was replaced as part of the 15-disc SACD series. Michael Brauer’s 1999 re-mix was used for this release. A-List mix engineer Brauer had been brought in by Columbia in 1999 to begin work on re-mixing Dylan’s back catalogue but the results were not heard by most of us until the release of the hybrid SACD series in 2003.

The remixed and re-mastered “CD” layer of the hybrid SACD was made available as the standard stereo CD release in UK/Europe (512352 2) in March 2004 and in North America (CK 9240) in June 2004. Although this release is a colossal improvement on the early CD releases it is only a small step up from the 1992 MasterSound edition.

“Blonde On Blonde” was re-released in the UK and Europe in 2006 as part of “The Vinyl Classics” series (8287673603 2). This CD release, which is designed to look like a mini LP, is again taken from the 2003 SACD re-master.

In 2010, a mono mix of “Blonde On Blonde” was released as part of “Bob Dylan: The Original Mono Recordings”. For this release, engineer Mark Wilder went back through a perplexing array of mono tapes in the hope of locating the final (and best) US mono mix. Wilder, and 2010 series producer Steve Berkowitz, tracked this tape down by comparing all the available master tapes against a white-label promo copy of the US mono vinyl release. As Roger Ford explained in ISIS 153, this mix contains all of the post-recording improvements that have never been reflected in any of this album’s many stereo mixes. These include sorting out a major edit between the second and third verses of ‘One Of Us Most Know’, getting rid of the fade-out at the end of the song, and editing out Dylan’s vocal stumble in the last verse of ‘I Want You’.

Also on this release, ‘Rainy Day Women’ plays at its original intended speed. This song was deliberately speeded up by 2% on the single and all mono pressings of the album. This slight increase in tape speed was probably done simply to increase the tempo of the song. However, when it came to mixing the original stereo LP the tape speed was not altered. As Roger Ford points out on his website (www.rdf.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk), “This is just one piece of evidence that more care was put into the mono mixing than the stereo” (even as late as 1966!).

You might think therefore that we are going to wholehearted recommend that the new “Mono Box” version is the Holy Grail and that you should now assign your 2003 stereo re-mastered CD to a cardboard box in the attic, never again to see the light of day. Well, like Roger (in ISIS 153), I have mixed feelings about the best way of listening to this album. We have already established that the best mixes are to be found on final released version of the US mono LP and that the new “Mono Box” release is an attempt to replicate this original LP. We also know that the mono mix is the way Dylan intended the album to be heard back in 1966. However, in stereo the individual instruments have a little more separation, a little more room to breath. There will probably never be the perfect “Blonde On Blonde” and maybe the current standard 2003/04 stereo CD (from Michael Brauer’s 1999 mix (UK/Europe (512352 2) North America (CK 9240)) is a good as it gets. In any event, it’s great to now have the original finished mono mix in such excellent digital quality. Perhaps you should play one version one week and the other the next! At this point on an email, you would see a “smiley face” and perhaps a wink ;-)!

The mono CD is not available as a “stand-alone” release but can only be purchased as part of the “Bob Dylan: The Original Mono Recordings” eight-CD box-set.

Vinyl: For those of you who collect vinyl (and the numbers are steadily increasing) “Blonde On Blonde” has been reissued several times on LP.

Simply Vinyl (SVLP 063) UK, 180gm stereo vinyl.

Sundazed (Columbia LP 5110) 18ogm mono, USA in October 2002.

Mobile Fidelity (LMF 45009) USA, heavyweight stereo vinyl playing at 45RPM (4LP-set) 2011.

Also available in the mono vinyl LP box-set, “Bob Dylan: The Original Mono Recordings”. Released in December 2010, this version is excellent quality. This LP was cut by George Marino and pressed at Sterling Sound, New York.

Despite Stories In the Press that the eight mono albums continued in the Sony vinyl release of “The Original Mono Recordings” would only be available as part of the box-set, these LPs have now been individually released under licence in Europe, in mono on 180g vinyl, by the Dutch specialist label Music On Vinyl (MOVLP245).

Note: The mechanism for the production of these 180g Music On Vinyl LPs is explained at the end of the entry for the “Bob Dylan” début album release.

Also See Discography


John Wesley Harding  

This album was first released on CD in Europe and the UK in the mid 1980s (CBS CD 63252). It was reissued in the ’90s as a Columbia “Nice Price” release (Columbia 463359 2). This album was revisited musically for the first time in 2003 when it was remastered for the SACD series.

A great deal of controversy has surrounded the SACD release of “John Wesley Harding”. Although Steve Berkowitz and Greg Calbi did not remix this album for the 2003 SACD release, the CD layer does sound significantly different from both the original stereo LP and the 1986 CD.

Some people love this version whilst many others detest it. The harp sound is very strident, but then again, it always has been, and there’s a lot of EQ. This is by no means the best of the 2003 re-masters. The re-mastered CD layer of the SACD was made available as the standard CD release in UK/Europe (512347 2) in March 2004 and in North America (CK 92395) in June 2004. Like it or nor, this master is now used to make all of current stereo CD releases of “John Wesley Harding”.

In 2010, a mono mix of “John Wesley Harding” was released as part of “Bob Dylan: The Original Mono Recordings”. For this release, series producer Steve Berkowitz and engineer Mark Wilder went back to the original mono master and tried to iron out the problems that seem to have beaten others in the past (too much high end on the recording and too many piercing high notes from Dylan’s harmonica).

The original mono LP was only released in the USA, and then in very small numbers (the so-called UK mono release was a “fold down”– a joining together of the two stereo channels). So, unless you already own a copy of the US made 2003 Sundazed vinyl LP (Columbia LP 5123), you will not have heard the mono mix before. You should, because the sound of this new “Mono Box” release is head, shoulders, and maybe legs and feet above all of the previous stereo versions. It is also much better than the Sundazed mono vinyl LP.

The mono CD is not available as a “stand-alone” release but can only be purchased as part of the “Bob Dylan: The Original Mono Recordings” eight-CD box-set (October 2010).

Vinyl: This album was also issued in December 2010 as part of the “Bob Dylan: The Original Mono Recordings” vinyl box-set. These LPs were cut by George Marino and pressed at Sterling Sound, New York.

“John Wesley Harding” Music On Vinyl (MOVLP246). Despite Stories In the Press that the eight mono albums continued in the Sony vinyl release of “The Original Mono Recordings” would only be available as part of the box-set, these LPs have now been individually released under licence in Europe, in mono on 180g vinyl, by the Dutch specialist label Music On Vinyl.

Note: The mechanism for the production of these 180g Music On Vinyl LPs is explained at the end of the entry for the “Bob Dylan” début album release.

Also See Discography


Nashville Skyline  

This album was first released on CD in Europe and the UK in the mid 1980s (CBS CD 63601). As with many of Dylan’s early titles it was reissued in the’ 90s as a Columbia “Nice Price” release. This album was revisited musically for the first time in 2003 when it was remastered for the SACD series.

Although the 2003 SACD/CD release was not remixed it is a massive improvement on the original 1980s CD. The re-mastered CD layer of the SACD was made available as the standard CD release in UK/Europe (512346 2) in March 2004 and in North America (CK 92394) in June 2004.

This album was not released in the USA in mono. In the UK, it was available in mono, but as with the previous release, “John Wesley Harding”, the so-called mono release was merely a “fold down”– a joining together of the two stereo channels.

Vinyl: “Nashville Skyline” was reissued as a 180gm, stereo vinyl LP in the USA by Sundazed (Columbia LP 5124) in 2004. This title was also released in the UK as a 125gm LP by Simply Vinyl (63601).

In December 2012, “Nashville Skyline” (MOVLP660) was released in Europe on 180g vinyl by Dutch vinyl specialists Music On Vinyl.

Note: The mechanism for the production of these 180g Music On Vinyl LPs is explained at the end of the entry for the “Bob Dylan” début album release.

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Self Portrait  

Columbia has not revisited this album since it was originally released on CD in February 1991. The best (and only) way to listen to this album is via the Sundazed (September 2009) vinyl release (LP 5122). Mastered from the original analogue tapes and presented in a faithful reproduction of the original gatefold sleeve, this release is pressed on high-quality, high-definition vinyl.

Vinyl: Sundazed (LP 5122).

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New Morning  

The 2009 re-mastered release of this album is certainly warmer and more natural sounding than the previous late ’80s CD release. Dylan’s vocals sound great and the overall result is quite close to the sound of the original vinyl LP. In fact, a slight hiss from the analogue master tape is present! Some of the harshness of the previous CD has been lost. However, the overall volume has been increased (common in “modern” day recordings), which is not necessarily a good move for such a mellow album. To my ears the latest 2009 “New Morning” and “The Basement Tapes” (released at the same time) both sound significantly better than the previous CD incarnations.

The re-mastered “New Morning” was released in a gatefold digipak (88697082302) on March 30, 2009. This Limited-Edition Collector’s packaging was deleted after only seven weeks and replaced by the current jewel-case version (88697347002) on May 18, 2009. These two versions are identical (same master and same booklet with extra photos) just the outer packaging, digipak / jewel-case, is different.

Vinyl: In May 2012, “New Morning” (MOVLP513) was released in Europe on 180g vinyl by Dutch vinyl specialists Music On Vinyl.

Note: The mechanism for the production of these 180g Music On Vinyl LPs is explained at the end of the entry for the “Bob Dylan” début album release

Also See Discography


Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid  

Untouched since it was first released on CD in 1990 (Columbia CD 32098), this vastly underrated title is long overdue an overhaul.

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Dylan  

Originally released by Columbia in 1973, perhaps as a shot across Dylan’s bow, after he defected to David Geffen’s Asylum Records label, the European CD release of this album, which was made in Holland, was re-titled “Bob Dylan (A Fool Such As I)”. This album has never been revisited by Columbia and is now long out of print. It was allegedly deleted at the request of Bob Dylan’s people.

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Planet Waves  

Ceremonies of the horsemenThis vinyl LP was originally going to be entitled “Ceremonies Of The Horsemen”. The artwork, which had a different front cover painting (left) – still by Dylan – and a photo of Bob on the back, was pulled at the last minute.

Originally released in January 1974 by Asylum Records, “Planet Waves” was released under licence by Island Records in the UK. It appeared on other labels in some countries – for instance Elektra. In the UK, as in the USA, the sleeve notes were judged to be obscene, and the album was sold in a paper outer sleeve!

This album was release on CD in Europe and the UK in the late 1980s– Originally made in the USA (Columbia CK 36737) and then in Austria (CBS 32154). Compared with the insipid and cluttered eighties CD, the 2003 SACD edition is a revelation. Instruments not previously audible are suddenly present! It seems, however, that this release is a re-master only and not a remix. The CD layer of the SACD was made available as the standard CD release in UK/Europe (512356 2) in March 2004 and in North America (CK 92404) in June 2004.

Vinyl: Released in stereo in the UK in 2002 on 180gm by Simply Vinyl (SVLP 331).

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Before The Flood  

As was the case with “Planet Waves”, “Before The Flood” was originally released by Asylum Records in the USA. This album was released by Island Records in the UK, under licence.

Originally released on CD in 1987 in Japan (CBS/Sony 48DP 1026-7 ). This album was re-released in Japan in 1989 and 1991 in differing CD cases. The album was released in North America in 1989 as Columbia C2K 37661.

“Before The Flood” was released by CBS on CD in the UK and Europe in the 1980s (CBS CDCBS 22137). This title was revisited, but not changed musically, in 1991 (CD 22137). As with most CBS releases from this period these reissues were manufactured in Austria for distribution Europe-wide.

Re-mastered in March 2009, this one still sounds like it was recorded in a stadium, which of course it was. However, this re-master sonically highlights an album that richly deserves reappraisal.

The re-mastered “Before The Flood” was released in a gatefold digipak (88697082242) on March 30, 2009. This Limited-Edition Collector’s packaging was deleted after twelve weeks and replaced by the current jewel-case version (88697347022) on June 16, 2009. These two versions are identical (same master and same booklet with extra photos) just the outer packaging, digipak / jewel-case, is different.

Vinyl: In June 2011, “Before The Flood” (MOVLP340) was released in Europe on 180g vinyl by Dutch vinyl specialists Music On Vinyl. This release was taken from the re-mastering work carried out by Berkowitz for the March 30, 2009 Sony CD release (above).

Note: The mechanism for the production of these 180g Music On Vinyl LPs is explained at the end of the entry for the “Bob Dylan” début album release.

Also See Discography


Blood On The Tracks  

The original late eighties CD was later repressed as a Limited Millennium Edition, with some improvements. However, both of these CD releases were superseded in late 2003 when the album was released as part of the 15-disc SACD reissue. For this release Sterling Sound went back to the original studio tapes and the results are startling. This remix reintroduces much, if not all, of the warmth of the original vinyl LP while retaining and improving on the digital clarity. The remixed and re-mastered CD layer of the SACD was made available as the standard CD release in UK/Europe (512350 2) in March 2004 and in North America (CK 92398) in June 2004.

“Blood On The Tracks” was re-released on CD in Europe in 2005 as part of “The Vinyl Classics” series (Columbia 512350 5). This is a CD release designed to look like a mini LP. This CD is taken from the 2003 re-master. The CD album was repressed in 2006 in North America and this pressing is again from the 2003 re-master.

Vinyl: Columbia, USA (JC 33235) 180gm, 2001.

Mobile Fidelity, USA (LMF 381) 180gm, 2011. Taken from the June US 2004 re-master.

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The Basement Tapes  

The official “The Basement Tapes” album is nothing short of a train wreck. After eight years of waiting, in 1975 we got an album that was compiled and produced by Robbie Robertson containing 24 songs, eight of which had little or nothing to do with Bob Dylan. Although the album is a good listening experience, it fails the Dylan devotee on three points. First, and most important, it fails as an historical document due to the inclusion of non-Basement tracks. Second, much of the magic of the Big Pink sessions is lost by the inclusion of Band tracks, with overdubs carried out eight years after the event. Two, possibly three tracks, (‘Ain’t No More Cane’, ‘Don’t Ya Tell Henry’ and ‘Bessie Smith’), were recorded in Shangri-La Studios, Malibu by the Band in 1975 specifically for inclusion on the official release. With so much Dylan material available, why were Band tracks included? Third, the original warm stereo recordings were compressed into “collapsed” mono for the release. If this had been done in 1967, when mono was still king, I could understand it, but this album was “produced” in 1975!

The 2009 re-mastered “Basement Tapes” was therefore a prime candidate to be completely revisited. After all, no one could accuse the record company of messing with a classic album when the original release had already been so cruelly messed with! On the contrary, this would have been an opportunity to give us the classic album that we have always been denied.

Perhaps the passage of time has made a revamped “Basement Tapes” album less worthwhile. After all, ‘Quinn The Eskimo’ has been released on “Biograph”, ‘I Shall Be Released’, and ‘Santa Fé’ has appeared on “The Bootleg Series Vols. 1-3”, and ‘I’m Not There (1956)’ eventually saw the light of day in October 2007 when it was released on the “I’m Not There” soundtrack album. Even so, ‘Get Your Rocks Off!’, which was mixed for the “Safety Tape” and appears on the “Mixin’ Up The Medicine” bootleg, is available in fabulous quality and then there’s ‘Sign On The Cross’. And anyway, if the bootleggers can turn up more than 100 basement recordings surely official sources can find us some of these great songs in good quality?

The re-mastered “Basement Tapes” CD was released in a gatefold digipak (88697082292) on March 30, 2009. This Limited-Edition Collector’s packaging was deleted after only four weeks and replaced by the current jewel-case version (88697347082) on April 29, 2009. These two versions are identical (same master and same booklet with vey nice extra photos); just the outer packaging, digipak / jewel-case, is different.

Although this is the best official version of the “Basement Tapes” it doesn’t come close to the glorious stereo bootleg release, “Mixin’ Up The Medicine”, that was taken from the “Safety Tape”. On this mix, instruments and backing vocals can be clearly heard, which are not apparent on the official release. The stereo effect has Dylan’s vocal in one channel and any backing vocals in the other, which is a little disconcerting. That aside, the quality of this recording is outstanding. Listen to ‘Lo And Behold!’; there is a backing vocal that is higher in the mix than Dylan’s lead vocal! Where did that come from?

Vinyl: Mobile Fidelity (LMF 382), USA, 180gm, December 2011. Taken from the June 2004 CD re-master.

In December 2011, “The Basement Tapes” (MOVLP429) was released in Europe on 180g vinyl by Dutch vinyl specialists Music On Vinyl. This release was taken from the re-mastering work carried out by Berkowitz for the March 30, 2009 Sony CD release (above).

Note: The mechanism for the production of these 180g Music On Vinyl LPs is explained at the end of the entry for the “Bob Dylan” début album release.

Also See Discography


Desire  

This album was released on CD in the UK and Europe four times from the 1980s to 2000. All of these CD releases were superseded in late 2003 when the album was released as part of the 15-disc SACD reissue. The re-mastered CD layer of the SACD was made available as the standard CD release in UK/Europe (512345 2) in March 2004 and in North America (CK 92393) in June 2004. This release, which retains the slightly muddy mix of the eighties complete with some minor distortion on several of the vocals, is only a small improvement on previous issues. The 2004 SACD released would have benefited from a remix.

Vinyl: Simply Vinyl (SVLP 350), 180gm LP (UK).

In August 2013, “Oh Mercy” (MOVLP836) was released in Europe on 180g vinyl by Dutch vinyl specialists Music On Vinyl.

Note: The mechanism for the production of these 180g Music On Vinyl LPs is explained at the end of the entry for the “Bob Dylan” début album release.

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Hard Rain  

Although this CD was repressed for UK release in 2001 (CD32308), it has never been remixed or re-mastered.

Vinyl: In October 2011, “Hard Rain” (MOVLP345) was released in Europe on 180g vinyl by Dutch vinyl specialists Music On Vinyl. It appears that Steve Berkowitz re-mastered this album in New York especially for this MOV release. Prior to this release, “Hard Rain” had never before been remixed or re-mastered. This release is therefore unique to MOV and the sound quality is by far the best that’s currently available on CD.

Note: The mechanism for the production of these 180g Music On Vinyl LPs is explained at the end of the entry for the “Bob Dylan” début album release.

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Street Legal  

Eleven years after the original release of “Street Legal” on vinyl, Don DeVito, the original producer – or as the sleeve notes call him, “Captain in Charge” – returned to remix and re-master the album. This 1999 remix was a great improvement on everything that had gone before.

Although this release was superseded in late 2003, when the album was issued as part of the 15-disc SACD series, the later improvement is only slight. This album was originally recorded on a remote mobile rig and maybe this is a good as it gets, which is a great pity. The re-mastered CD layer of the SACD was made available as the standard CD release in UK/Europe (512355 2) in March 2004 and in North America (CK 92403) in June 2004.

Vinyl: Simply Vinyl (SVLP 197), 180gm, (UK) 2000, re-released 2010.

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At Budokan  

This double vinyl LP was released on August 21, 1978; the original issue was limited to the Japanese market only. Later that year, it was released in Australia and New Zealand. The album was extensively imported into many other world territories and at least one counterfeit edition could be found in Europe. Columbia decided therefore that the album would be released worldwide. The official worldwide release date was April 23, 1979.

The album was first released as a 2-CD set in Japan on November 21, 1987. It was released on CD in North America and Europe in 1989. The version released in Europe and the UK was manufactured by CBS Austria for distribution Europe-wide. It came in a double-width 2-CD jewel case. The most recent European release (467850 2) was June 6, 1996. This was a “Nice Price” Columbia release in a single-width jewel case. This album has not been revisited since this release.

Vinyl: This album has not been re-released on vinyl.

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Slow Train Coming  

The late eighties CD release of this album was superseded in late 2003 when it was released as part of the 15-disc SACD reissue. The re-mastered CD layer of the SACD was made available as the standard CD release in UK/Europe (512349 2) in March 2004 and in North America (CK 92397) in June 2004.

The SACD/CD was made available in 5.1 Surround Sound so this album would have been remixed for the 2003 release. However, to my ears there is no discernable difference between the original release and the re-master.

Vinyl: In June 2015, “Slow Train” (MOVLP345) was released in Europe on 180g vinyl by Dutch vinyl specialists Music On Vinyl.

Note: The mechanism for the production of these 180g Music On Vinyl LPs is explained at the end of the entry for the “Bob Dylan” début album release.

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Saved  

Original released on vinyl in June 1980, “Saved” was released on CD in Europe sometime around 1991-92. This album (CD32742) was revisited on November 18, 2002, but this revisit was merely cosmetic.*

Vinyl: This album has not been re-released on vinyl.

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Shot Of Love  

Original released on vinyl in August 1981, “Shot Of Love” was released on CD in Europe sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s (Columbia CK 37496). This pressing was manufactured in the USA. “Shot Of Love” was released on CD in Japan in December 1991. The first European CD pressing (for Europe and the UK) was made in Austria in February 1997. The European catalogue number was 474689 2. This pressing and catalogue number is still current in Europe and the UK. The disc was a straight copy of the original US CD release.

Bizarrely, when the Austrian plant revisited this title in 2002 (same catalogue number same disc), the cover image was presented in blues and purples instead of the standard multicoloured version. Also, the top blue band with the name Bob Dylan was now reproduced in brown. The blue bands, top and bottom of the rear cover, were also reproduced in brown! The “SHOT OF LOVE” text remains white. As far as I’m aware, this version is still currently for sale in Europe.

A couple of asides: An early UK vinyl release of this album (circa 1981) had the “SHOT OF LOVE” text printed in black. The original proposed rear sleeve design for the 1981 vinyl LP was of a Cadillac car. This back cover was changed at the last moment to the now familiar Dylan with a rose cover. However, the rejected back cover illustration was mistakenly used for the original 1981 Brazilian vinyl release, making this a sort after collectors item.

Vinyl: This album has not been re-released on vinyl.

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Infidels  

The late eighties CD release of this album was superseded in 2003 when it was released as part of the 15-disc SACD reissue. The re-mastered CD layer of the SACD was made available as the standard CD release in UK/Europe (512344 2) in March 2004 and in North America (CK 92392) in June 2004. Whilst not being overly spectacular, this is a nice crisp re-master with lots of definition between the instruments. The album was not remixed for this release.

Vinyl: This album has not been re-released on vinyl.

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Real Live  

This album was first released on CD in Japan in 1985 and in the UK and Europe in the early 1990s as (Columbia 467841 2). This album is no longer listed by Sony UK and has not been for several years. When I checked in August 2009, it was down to be repressed but this has not happened. This album has not been revisited by Columbia since it was first released on CD in the early nineties.

Vinyl: This album has not been re-released on vinyl.

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Empire Burlesque  

First released on CD in Japan on November 21, 1985, a CBS Japanese pressing for Europe (CDCBS 86313) was made available at around the same time. A version made in Austria for the UK and Europe (Columbia COL 467840 2) did not appear until February 4, 1991. This album has not been revisited since that release.

Vinyl: This album has not been re-released on vinyl.

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Knocked Out Loaded  

This album was first released on CD in Japan on September 21, 1986. It was first pressed in Austria for the UK and Europe in 1993. This album (467040 2) has not been revisited since the February 1, 1993 release date.

Vinyl: This album has not been re-released on vinyl.

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Down In The Groove  

This album (Columbia 460267 2) was released on CD in the UK in 1988. It was revisited as a product in 2001. However, this appears to have been a cosmetic or catalogue change and has nothing to do with the music. This title is no longer listed by Sony UK, and has not been for several years! The album can, however, be obtained along with “Empire Burlesque” and “Under The Red Sky”, as part of a 3-CD set entitled “Original Album Classics” (Columbia/Legacy/Sony Music 88697742502CD2). This package, released July 26, 2010, was made in Austria for the UK and Europe.

Vinyl: This album has not been re-released on vinyl.

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Dylan &The Dead  

This album was re-mastered and released in a gatefold digipak (88697082282) on March 30, 2009. This release has not sold anywhere near as quickly as the other three 2009 re-masters and therefore stocks of the Limited-Edition Collector’s digipak are still available from Sony UK. This product will be replaced by a jewel-case release when the digipak has sold out. The reason that this album, which is not highly rated by most Dylan fans, was selected for re-master before other titles is not clear to me.

Vinyl: This album has not been re-released on vinyl.

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Oh Mercy  

The 1989 CD release of this album was superseded in late 2003 when it was released as part of the 15-disc SACD reissue. The re-mastered CD layer of the SACD was made available as the standard CD release in UK/Europe (512343 2) in March 2004 and in North America (CK 92391) in June 2004. This warm and inclusive re-master is a definite improvement on the original CD release. The album was not remixed for this release.

Vinyl: Re-issued in the UK as stereo re-mastered 180gm vinyl LP by Simply Vinyl (SVLP 319) 2005.

Re-issued in the USA as stereo re-mastered 180gm vinyl LP by 4 Men With Beards (4M815) 2011.

(This is the label’s only Dylan release. In case you are wondering, the company is not run by four men with beards – although I believe two of them might have beards – rather, their catalogue is said to be for men with beards. Ermm.

In December 2013, “Oh Mercy” (MOVLP659) was released in Europe on 180g vinyl by Dutch vinyl specialists Music On Vinyl.

Note: The mechanism for the production of these 180g Music On Vinyl LPs is explained at the end of the entry for the “Bob Dylan” début album release.

Also See Discography


Under The Red Sky  

First released in September 1990, this album was immediately available on CD. It was made in Austria for release in the UK and Europe. The catalogue number was CBS 467188 2. This CD was re-released in 1991 with the same catalogue number but this time on the Columbia label. This album (467188 2) was again revisited on October 26, 1992, but this revisit was merely cosmetic.*

Vinyl: This album has not been re-released on vinyl.

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Good As I Been To You  

First released in October 1992, this album was immediately available on CD. It was made in Austria (Columbia 472710 2) for the UK and Europe. This album (467188 2) was again revisited on February 10, 1997, but this revisit was merely cosmetic.*

Vinyl: In December 2011, “Good As I Been To You” (MOVLP427) was released in Europe on 180g vinyl by Dutch vinyl specialists Music On Vinyl. Uncharacteristically, it appears that this release was not re-mastered (by Steve Berkowitz) but taken directly form the original 1992 Micajah Ryan engineered master tape (via digital files). Nevertheless, the sound quality on this one is excellent and the best that’s currently available.

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World Gone Wrong  

First released in October 1993, this album was immediately available on CD. It was made in Austria (Columbia 474857 2) for the UK and Europe. This album (467188 2) was again revisited on January 13, 1997, but this revisit was merely cosmetic.*

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MTV Unplugged  

This live album was released in the UK and Europe on Columbia 478374 2 in April 1995. This release contains an extra track, ‘Love Minus Zero/No Limit’, which was not included on the US release. However, the European release contained an annoying overdubbed “loop” of audience applause on ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’. Once noticed, which wasn’t hard, there was no way of ignoring this loop! This pressing was recalled after a flood of complaints. The current “corrected” edition (2024359) was released on March 29, 2004.

Vinyl: Issued in the UK as a 2LP set, (Columbia 478374-1/Simply Vinyl SVLP 100), 1995.

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Time Out Of Mind  

Although this album was only released in 1997, it was scheduled to be re-mastered in late 2003 for inclusion as part of the 15-disc SACD series! However, a late decision was made not to include this album in the series and it is not clear if the re-mastering process was actually carried out. Nevertheless, a remix(?) of the track ‘Love Sick’ appeared on the March 2004 Limited Edition USA compilation made for Victoria’s Secret. This version is slightly longer and much cleaner sounding than on the original Dylan album! A crisper version of ‘Not Dark Yet’ was also released on the August 2006 US Limited Edition CD single of ‘Rollin’ And Tumblin’’. These two major improvements in sound would indicate that re-mastering (even remixing) was in fact carried out in 2003 and that these two tracks had been taken from the proposed SACD/CD tape masters. If so, was this a mistake? Sony has a strict policy of using the most recent master tapes for all subsequent pressings. If the 2003 SACD re-master was made then, that would be the most recent master tape. However, as this tape was not previously used/released, I would have thought that the engineer should have gone back to the last “used” tape, i.e. the 1997 mix.

Vinyl: The best quality version of “Time Out Of Mind” is without doubt the 2-LP vinyl release (Columbia COL 486936 1). This edition was pressed in Holland for release in the UK and Europe. ‘Can’t Wait’ is probably the best example, but most of the tracks suffer from a loss of dynamics and some clipping when listened to on CD.

In April 2014, “Time Out Of Mind” (MOVLP1049) was released in Europe on 180g vinyl by Dutch vinyl specialists Music On Vinyl.

Note: The mechanism for the production of these 180g Music On Vinyl LPs is explained at the end of the entry for the “Bob Dylan” début album release.

“Time Out Of Mind” and “Love And Theft” are now available as a “twin-pack” CD release (88697145152 – September 28, 2007). “Time Out Of Mind” is available as a “triple-pack” CD release, “The Dylan Trilogy” (88697203112 – November 17, 2007) with “Love And Theft” and “Modern Times”, and is also included in another “triple-pack” (88697161492 – September 6, 2009) with “Infidels” and “Oh Mercy”. When we first produced this article in 2009, “Time Out Of Mind” was not listed separately by Sony UK and although this is still the case, this album is currently available on catalogue number 486936 2.

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“Love And Theft”  

Although this album was only released on September 11, 2001, it was re-mastered in late 2003 for inclusion as part of the 15-disc SACD release! It was also decided that the SACD release would be remixed for 5.1 Surround Sound. Why “Love And Theft” was chosen for this treatment is something of a mystery. In any event, the standard stereo CD layer of the hybrid SACD was also remixed but to my ears it sounds exactly the same as the original 2001 release! Nevertheless, as was the case with all 15 of the SACD releases, the CD layer from the 2003 SACD was released in the UK and Europe (512357 2) as a re-mastered CD edition and this is now the standard UK/European release. However, this version was not released in North America. The US and Canada, like virtually every other country outside of Europe, continues to use the original 2001 master tapes. If any of Dylan’s recent albums were in need of attention then “Time Out Of Mind” not “Love And Theft”, would seem to be the prime candidate.

Leaving sound quality for a minute, the original 2001 release of “Love And Theft” Columbia CK 86076 (USA), Columbia COL 504364 9 (UK), was a special limited edition issue. This digipak edition with a bonus two-track disc was limited to 150,000 copies worldwide.

Vinyl: This album was available as a 2-LP vinyl release in the USA and in the UK (Columbia C2 85975 – USA and Columbia COL 504364 1 – UK). Both these vinyl releases sounded a little better than the CD releases. However, this LP release is now deleted from the Sony catalogue.

In May 2012 “Love And Theft” (MOVLP506) was released in Europe on 180g vinyl by Dutch vinyl specialists Music On Vinyl.

Note: The mechanism for the production of these 180g Music On Vinyl LPs is explained at the end of the entry for the “Bob Dylan” début album release.

Also See Discography


Modern Times  

Released August 2006 on CD (Columbia 82876 87606 2) USA; (Columbia 82876 87686 2) Europe– Deluxe Edition CD + DVD.

Vinyl: This album was available also as a 2-LP vinyl release in the USA and in the Europe (Columbia 82876 87606 1). This vinyl release sounds much better than the CD. You only need to compare the first two tracks, ‘Thunder On The Mountain’ and ‘Spirit On The Water’, to hear the difference.

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Together Through Life  

Released in deluxe packaging on CD with two bonus discs in April 2009 (88697516972) USA and UK. A “standard” edition CD was released at the same time.

A special French limited edition of this title was released in France. This four-disc version contained an audio CD entitled “My Bob Dylan”. This disc was a 72-minute French-language documentary about Dylan with excerpts from Dylan songs and cover versions by French artists. Yet another special edition of this album was released in Japan. This version came with a 22-page booklet of notes, song lyrics (in English and Japanese), plus advertisements for recently remastered Dylan albums and other sundry items. Unlike the deluxe editions in other counties, the Japanese edition contained a DVD not featuring the Roy Silver interview, but a rather excerpts from Japanese movies containing Bob Dylan tracks!

Vinyl: This album was released as a 2-LP vinyl release in the USA and in the UK and Europe (Columbia 88697 43893 1). This vinyl release sounds a little warmer than the CD. However, at the time of writing (December 14, 2010), this title is in the process of being deleted. It is interesting that the small, but clearly significant upsurge in vinyl sales has prompted Sony/Columbia to go back to producing their own vinyl releases.

In the not too distant past, the rights to vinyl were being licensed out by Sony to smaller manufacturers like Sundazed, Absolute Analog, and Simply Vinyl. Whilst it is good to see that Columbia is again regularly issuing new Dylan albums on vinyl, they appear not to remain in the catalogue for very long.

Also See Discography


Christmas In The Heart  

Released in October 2009, the deluxe version of this fun festive release came with five greetings cards bearing the same picture as the album cover (Columbia 88697 57323 2). Royalties from sales of the recordings are donated to Feeding America as well as two international charities providing millions of meals for people in need in the US, UK and developing world.

The album was also released as a “standard” edition (same catalogue number as above).

Vinyl: This album was also released on 180gm vinyl by Columbia (88697 57323) but quickly sold through and was deleted.

Also See Discography


Brandeis Live 1963  

This mono CD album was originally released in a card sleeve in October 2010 and given away “free” with both the “Bob Dylan: The Original Mono Recordings” box and “The Bootleg Series Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos”. According to Sony Music this was a limited edition issue. Nevertheless, the album, which was recorded at Brandeis Folk Festival in Waltham, Massachusetts on May 10, 1963, was officially released as a separate “stand alone” item on April 11, 2011 (April 12, in the USA). This release was issued in a jewel case with a slightly amended cover design. (Columbia/Legacy 88697 794552 2, USA), (Columbia/Legacy/Sony Music 88697 80442 2, Europe).

Vinyl: In April 2011, “Brandeis University 1963” was released in mono on 180gm vinyl in the US (Columbia/Legacy 88697 84743 1). It was rumoured that this album would not be released on vinyl in Europe. It was, however, released in Europe on 180gm vinyl by Music On Vinyl (MOVLP286). Other than being transferred to analogue, both the US and European LPs are made from the same master tape as was the CD release.

Also See Discography


Side Tracks  

Originally released only as a two-disc bonus CD to accompany “The Complete Album Collection Vol. One”, “Side Tracks” has since been released in Europe by Music On Vinyl as a 3-LP set.

Track List: Baby, I’m in the Mood for You, Mixed-Up Confusion (Single Version), Tomorrow Is a Long Time, Lay Down Your Weary Tune, Percy’s Song, I’ll Keep It with Mine, Can You Please Crawl out Your Window? (Single Version), Positively 4th Street (Single Version), Jet Pilot, I Wanna Be Your Lover, I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met) (Live), Visions of Johanna (Live), Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn), Watching the River Flow, When I Paint My Masterpiece, Down in the Flood (Live), I Shall Be Released, You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere, George Jackson (Acoustic Version), Forever Young, You’re a Big Girl Now, Up to Me, Abandoned Love, Isis (Live), Romance in Durango (Live), Caribbean Wind, Heart of Mine (Live), Series of Dreams, Dignity (Alternate Version), Things Have Changed.

From a marketing point of view it would have made much more sense to have included more rarities on the “Side Tracks” bonus CD.

Vinyl: In November 2013, “Side Tracks” (MOVLP964) was released in Europe on 180g vinyl by Dutch vinyl specialists Music On Vinyl.

Note: The mechanism for the production of these 180g Music On Vinyl LPs is explained at the end of the entry for the “Bob Dylan” début album release.


Tempest

“Tempest” was released by Sony Music on: September 7, 2012 (Europe/Australia/New Zealand);  September 11, 2012 (USA); September 26, 2012 (Japan). The album was issued both as a “standard” edition and as a deluxe edition. The deluxe edition does not contain any extra content, but has a slipcase including a booklet of Dylan magazine covers from round the world.

 Vinyl: “Tempest” was release by Sony as a 2-LP set on September 7, 2012 in Europe and on September 11, 2012 in the U.S.A.

 

Also See Discography


Shadows In The Night  

 “Shadows In The Night” was released by Sony Music on: February 2, 2015 (Europe/Australia/New Zealand);  February 3, 2015 (USA). The album was issued “standard” edition release

50,000 copies were given away in the USA with the February / March issue of AARP magazine. 

Vinyl:  “Shadows In The Night” was release world-wide by Sony as a 2-LP vinyl set. It was available from  January 30, 2015 in Europe and February 3, 2015 in USA.

Also See Discography


Albums in the above reviews marked * have been revisited by Sony since the original release date but there are no changes to the musical content. These later release dates appear for a number of reasons including label changes CBS/Columbia/Sony and changes in pressing plants, packaging and pricing, such as “Nice Price” releases.

Below is a list of Bob Dylan’s albums as released on Compact Disc. Bob Dylan’s record label began releasing Compact Discs in 1984 and most of Dylan’s back catalogue was released on CD between 1984 and 1990. Many of Bob Dylan’s early CD releases in Europe and the UK were manufactured in the USA and released on the Columbia label with “CK” prefixes (though some were made in Canada). Later CD releases in Europe and the UK were manufactured in Europe. The vast majority of these releases were made in Austria, though some were made in Holland. These releases were on the CBS label and generally had CDCBS prefixes.

Album titles in bold have all been re-mastered. Some, as discussed above, have also been remixed and where remixing has taken place the words (stereo remix) will be found in bold next to the album title. The catalogue number is for the UK/European release and the date is when the title was released in its latest re-mastered form.

In total, 21 Bob Dylan albums have been re-mastered for stereo and eight of the 21 have been remixed for stereo. One other album, “The Times They Are a-Changin’”, was remixed in mono for the 2010 “Mono Box” set. Three albums, ‘Dylan’, ‘Real Live’ and ‘Down In The Groove’ no longer appear in Sony’s UK catalogue. “Biograph” is still being produced in its “Display Box” but all of the unique “Bootleg Series” packaging for the editions 1-3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 have now been discontinued and from November 29, 2010 these releases are available only in standard jewel case editions.

 


Bob Dylan (stereo remix) (519891 2 – June 20, 2005)

The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (512348 2 – March 29, 2004)

The Times They Are a-Changin’ (remixed for the mono box) (519892 2 – June 20, 2005)

Another Side Of Bob Dylan (stereo remix) (512354 2 – March 29, 2004)

Bringing It All Back Home (stereo remix) (512353 2 – March 29, 2004)

Highway 61 Revisited (512351 2 – March 29, 2004)

Blonde On Blonde (stereo remix) (512352 2 – March 29, 2004)

John Wesley Harding (512347 2 – March 29, 2004)

Nashville Skyline (512346 2 – March 29, 2004)

Self Portrait (460112 2 – February 11, 1991)

New Morning (88697347002 – May 18, 2009)

Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid (CD32098 – November 18, 2002)

Dylan (No longer listed by Sony UK)

Planet Waves (512356 2 – March 29, 2004)

Before The Flood (88697082242 – June 25, 2009)

Blood On The Tracks (stereo remix) (512350 2 – March 29, 2004)

The Basement Tapes (88697347082 – April 26, 2009)

Desire (512345 2 – March 29, 2004)

Hard Rain (CD32308 – February12, 2001)

Street Legal (stereo remix) (512355 2 – March 29, 2004)

Bob Dylan At Budokan (467850 2 – June 6, 1996)

Slow Train Coming (stereo remix) (512349 2 – March 29, 2004)

Saved (CD32742 – November 18, 2002)

Shot Of Love (474689 2 – February 3, 1997)

Infidels (512344 2 – March 29, 2004)

Real Live (No longer listed by Sony UK)

Empire Burlesque (467840 2 – February 4, 1991)

Knocked Out Loaded (467040 2 – February 1, 1993)

Down In The Groove (No longer listed by Sony UK as a single CD release)

Dylan & The Dead (88697082282 – March 30, 2009)

Oh Mercy (512343 2 – March 29, 2004)

Under The Red Sky (467188 2 – October 26, 1992)

Good As I Been To You (472710 2 – February 10, 1997)

World Gone Wrong (474857 2 – January 13, 1997)

The 30th Anniversary Concert (474000 2 – June 30, 1997)

MTV Unplugged (2024359 – March 29, 2004)

Time Out Of Mind (486936 2 – December 10, 2001)

“Love and Theft” (stereo remix) (512357 2 – March 29, 2004)

Modern Times (82876876062 – August 28, 2006)

Together Through Life (88697516972 – April 27, 2009)

Christmas In The Heart (88697573232 – October 13, 2009)

Brandeis Live 1963 (88697 80442 2 – April 11, 2011)

Tempest (88725464142 – September 7, 2012)

Shadows In The Night (88875057962 – February 3, 2015)

Biograph (508123 2 – September 23, 2002)

 

The Bootleg Series 1-3 (488100 2 – November 10, 1998) & (88697732882 – November 29, 2010)

The Bootleg Series Vol 4: Live 1966 (491485 2 – October 12, 1998) & (88697732892 – November 29, 2010)

The Bootleg Series Vol 5: Live 1975 (510140 2 – November 25, 2002) & (88697732902 – November 29, 2010)

The Bootleg Series Vol 6: Live 1964 (512358 2 – March 29, 2004) & (88697732912 – November 29, 2010)

The Bootleg Series Vol. 7: No Direction Home (520358 3 – September 5, 2005) & (88697732942 – November 29, 2010)

The Bootleg Series Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs (88697357972 – October 2008) & (88697746102 – November 2010)

The Bootleg Series Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos (88597761792 – October 18, 2010)

The Bootleg Series Vol. 10: Another Self Portrait 88883 73488 2 – August 27, 2013)

The Bootleg Series Vol. 11: Bob Dylan And The Band: The Basement Tapes Complete (88750 16122 2 – November 4, 2014)

 

Since this page was published, Sony / Columbia has released all of Bob Dylan’s albums in a box set entitled “The Complete Album Collection Vol. One”. For this project, a number of albums were re-mastered. However, because these re-mastered CD’s are only available as part of the box set, I have chosen not to include them in the individual album write-ups. These albums are, however, covered in detail in the following article which was published in ISIS magazine issue 171 (December 2013).


The Complete Album Collection Vol. One  

 The Complete Album Collection Vol. One or A Life’s Work in a 7 x 5-inch Box! by Derek  Barker

You only get one chance to make a first impression– or so the saying goes. My first impression of “Another Self Portrait” was one of quality. I knew what to expect even before the product arrived. Sony had told me the size and appearance of the box would be the same as the previous bootleg series release, “Tell Tale Signs”, but even so I was impressed by the sturdy box and Bob’s artwork looked great in the 8.5 x 8-inch format (though it looked even better, in fact stunning, as an LP boxed album!). There were numerous problems within the pages of the two books (see ISIS 170), but overall it was a very nice release. I suppose I was expecting something even better from “The Complete Album Collection”; after all, this was going to be the entire career (almost) of one of the greatest artists of the 20th century and beyond!

My first impression was that the Big Red Box wasn’t that big after all. I didn’t know the exact size of this box in advance and I suppose I expected something a little bigger. Can Bob Dylan’s entire career really exist in a 7 x 5-inch box? Well, “The Complete Album Collection Vol. One” is available from Sony on a single USB stick so I guess the answer must be yes.

Ignoring size, which I’m told isn’t everything, the not so Big Red Box is certainly very sturdy and beautifully finished with its silky, satin texture and high gloss elements– 10-out-of-10 so far. The card CD sleeves are, however, a different matter altogether. The first album I pulled from the box was “Self Portrait”. I wanted to give “SP” a quick spin to check if the hiccup introduced to ‘Cooper Kettle’ on “BS10” had been rectified and sure enough them jugs are now fillin’ without a hitch, or for that matter a glitch. Good news then re the music but what has happened to the sleeve? Was there a shortage of ink at the printer? The front and back cover and the entire inside photo-spread are weak and lifeless. The same can be said about the front cover to “Street Legal”, which is a red/brown blur without a hint of black. It looks like the smoky haze on Elizabeth Street has drifted all the way to Santa Monica for the photo session! This sleeve looks like a poor photocopy of the original. The reproduction quality of these two sleeves is simply awful and “Desire” is not much better. Apart from acquiring a crosshatch pattern, the sleeve to “World Gone Wrong” has almost gone right. All a little disappointing.

Before leaving “Self Portrait” completely, I have to report that I had a great deal of difficulty in extracting the disc from the gatefold sleeve! The CD is such a tight fit that you have to grab the face of the disc in order to pull it out. I’m pleased to say that I have many other versions of “Blonde On Blonde” because the discs seem so tight in that particular gatefold that I’m not totally convinced they’ll ever come out! In truth, the discs appear to be quite tight in all cases but the problem is much worse with “Portrait” and “Blonde”.

The reason for the increased difficulty here is that someone had the bright (cough) idea of designing all of the gatefold sleeves with the openings on the inside!!! This crazy design means it’s extremely difficult to get the discs out. Also, whilst all of the single albums, and the doubles “Before The Flood” and “The Basement Tapes”, have smooth insides, the sleeves to “Portrait” and “Blonde” are not only gatefold with inner openings, but the insides of the sleeves are a coarse card which doesn’t allow the discs to slide out. Another point is that unlike “The Original Mono Recordings” there are no paper or cellophane inner sleeves; the CDs are naked in their card covers. This brings me on to the question of whom the collection is aimed at. What exactly is Sony’s marketing strategy?

I was told by Sony before the release that they had every intention of pricing “The Complete Album Collection…” as an affordable artefact and in my opinion they have lived up to that promise.

This product has, however, divided readers with some people saying that £150 for something they already have is a rip-off whilst others are reasoning that simple math (divide the number of discs by the ticket price– £3.20 per disc), tells you it’s a in fact a bargain. Some people are even referring to it as a “budget release”.

These points are pertinent because if you look at this product as a budget release then the price and quality is nothing short of superb. If, however, you consider Sony’s aim was to produce a deluxe, all-singing, all-dancing product then you have a right to be disappointed.

Perhaps I could be accused of sitting on the fence but I see this release as being somewhere between the two. It seems to me that Sony may have put as many “deluxe elements” as they were able into this one without pushing the price through the roof.

In any event, these box-sets are not new, Sony Legacy / Columbia has previously released entire (or near-entire) career spanning box-sets, all of which have been entitled “The Complete [Columbia] Album Collection”, by the likes of Miles Davis, Johnny Cash, Charlie Mingus, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Herbie Hancock, Taj Mahal, Leonard Cohen, Harry Nilsson, Tony Bennett, Judas Priest, and Blue Oyster Cult, to name but a few.

These collections have obviously sold at various prices primarily depending on the number of discs included. The size of the collection however, is certainly not the only factor in Sony’s pricing strategy.

To my knowledge, the largest collection is “Miles Davis: The Complete Columbia Album Collection”. Released in late 2009, this box-set contained a staggering 71 discs (52 albums across 70 CDs and one DVD)! I can’t now remember the original price of this set, which is sold out at Sony, but, since its deletion, dealers have been asking on average £450 for this collection!

Many of these sets are, however, priced quite similarly by Sony. Although the 63-disc Johnny Cash box sells for around £175, Sony’s UK “trade” price for this product is exactly the same as the Dylan box, which makes the Cash collection probably the best value of all Columbia boxes. The Dave Brubeck, Herbie Hancock and Charlie Mingus boxes all breakdown to approximately the same price per disc as the Dylan set. As one might expect, there are some anomalies. A month before the release of the Dylan box there was a 15-disc Paul Simon career box which sold on Amazon for around £80, some £20 more than the same size Taj Mahal box.

Compared to “The Original Mono Recordings” box, which contained Dylan’s first eight albums, the reproduction of the album sleeves in the “Complete Columbia Album Collection” is poor. “The Original Mono Recordings” CDs were beautifully presented in replicas of the original sleeves, even down to glued paper back covers and the rough textured front for the “Times” cover . The CDs were also housed in a replica inner paper sleeves.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be so critical. After all, it’s the music the matters. But then again, we already had the music.


The Re-Masters

We now arrive at the thorny subject of re-mastering. Ploughing through 41 albums listening for differences in sound has not been a quick or easy task!

A number of readers have emailed me regarding various albums in the “box-set” and it is clear that not everyone agrees about what has been re-mastered and what has not. It is also clear that we don’t all agree which albums sound better and which, if any, sound worse. It is true that we all hear music a little differently and we all have our own opinions, likes and dislikes, and music is of course a subjective thing. There is, however, another more fundamental problem. After exchanging emails with several people it became obvious to me that we were not all singing from the same hymn sheet. Some people were comparing their original 1980s CDs with the box-set whereas in all cases I have compared the box-set CDs to the previously released “newest” versions, i.e. the 2003 re-mastered SACD releases and the six stand-alone 2009 re-masters.

The first two CDs to go under the microscope had to be the ones that sparked so much debate when Sony announced their roll call of albums– “Shot Of Love” and “Street Legal”.


Shot Of Love 

Okay, here we go, in the words of The Grateful Dead, “What a long strange trip…” Despite Sony’s pre-release information to the contrary, and notwithstanding the fact that when loaded into iTunes it does not say “re-mastered” (the other re-masters do), “Shot Of Love” has been re-mastered! If it hasn’t been, then what on earth have they done to it, because to my ears there is quite a difference? The sound on the box-set CD is fuller and somewhat louder. There certainly seems to be an improvement as far as the bass is concerned and there also appears to be more “space” around the instruments. If you doubt my words and have the time and facilities, take a look at the sound waves and you’ll see there is a huge difference between the late ’80s CD and the new box-set version. You might also see that the sound is so full there even appears to be some clipping. In fact, loudness and clipping is in evidence on quite a few of the box-set titles.

Although it is not listed on the box-set CD sleeve, ‘The Groom’s Still Waiting At The Altar’ is of course included on the disc. Even though the track was not featured on the original LP, it was included on the 1985 CD release and has been present on all subsequent pressings. “Shot Of Love” is unique in that it is the only Bob Dylan album ever to undergo a track change.


Street Legal

Those who thought that in their pre-release information Sony had put an asterisk against “Street Legal” when it should have been next to “Shot Of Love” were wrong because “Street Legal” has without doubt been re-mastered. Nevertheless, as expected there is no great improvement (it seems that in the case of “Street Legal”, the old proverb that you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear is indeed true). However, while the 2013 re-master might not be great improvement, there is certainly a great difference!

The original 1980s CD album was both remixed and re-mastered in 1999 by the LP’s original producer, Don DeVito. The “sound quality” on this CD was a vast improvement both on the original 1978 vinyl and on the first CD release. Although this release was superseded in late 2003, when Steve Berkowitz re-mastered the album as part of the 15-disc SACD series, the later improvement was only slight. Quite why the compilers of the new box-set thought the master tapes could yield much more than they have already given up is something of a mystery to me.

It could be, however, that the intention was not necessarily to prise more out of the tapes but rather to adjust specifics. One important example would be that although the 1999 remix (from which the 2003 re-master was made) provide us with a general improvement in the overall sound, it tended to bury Bob’s vocals a little and this problem has been rectified on the 2013 version.

As with a lot of re-mixes and re-masters some people will like the old and some the new. Many I’m sure will like this 2013 version which could be described as a little cleaner than the others. The biggest and most noticeable difference on the 2013 box-set version however is the authoring and editing.

There are a number edits on the new release, the most notable by far being on the opening track, ‘Changing Of The Guards’, where the fade is now significantly cut– the length of the track being 6.41 on the 2013 box-set instead of 7.05 as on the 1999 CD and 2003 SACD/CD releases. However, if you go all the way back to the original 1980s CD, which was made directly from the master tapes used for the original 1978 LP, you will see that the track was in fact originally shorter! I haven’t sat with a stopwatch, but the 1978 LP timing for ‘Changing Of The Guards’ is somewhere between 6.36 and 6.41.

There is also a very noticeable difference in the gap between track six ‘Seňor’, and track seven ‘True Love Tends To Forget’. The space between these two songs has been almost edited out on the new 2013 box-set so that tracks six and seven are virtually joined. Once again, however, if you go back to 1978 LP that’s how it was– virtually no gap. It seems clear therefore that for the new 2013 re-master Sony has decided to start from scratch, going all the way back to the original master tapes and although they have re-mastered they have left the original 1978 edits in tact. I have to award Sony 10-out-of-10 for effort here but to my ears this new endeavour is slightly less rewarding than the 2003 version! As previously mentioned however, on the new version Bob’s vocals are somewhat restored in the mix and for many this will be justification enough to place the new box-set version ahead of all the rest.

In any event, as far as pure sound quality is concerned I think it is time to admit that those “Rundown” Studio tapes have nothing more to give us. Pity.

For those of you who are still confused by all the “Street Legal” mixes and re-masters here is a rundown (pun intended!).

1978 Vinyl (Mixed by Don DeVito).

1980s CD (DeVito’s original mix taken from master tapes that had been compressed and equalised for the purpose of cutting vinyl discs!).

1999 CD (Don DeVito was brought back to carry out a complete re-mix specifically for CD.

2003 SACD/CD (Don DeVito’s 1999 re-mix was used as the basis for Steve Berkowitz 2003 SACD/CD re-master.

2013 Box-Set (On this occasion Berkowitz went all the way back to the original 1978 mix to created a new master).


Hard Rain

Although “Hard Rain” was repressed for UK release in 2001, until now it has never been remixed or re-mastered and was desperately in need of a clean-up. The old CD sounds extremely muddy when compared to the Music on Vinyl LP. The first thing you notice about the newly re-mastered box-set “Hard Rain” is that it has been re-indexed. This appears to be due to the fact that the beginning and end of each track now have fades.

The aforementioned long strange trip takes another twist in the road with this one. The original vinyl album displayed this rather unattractive feature, i.e. fades, but when the album was re-mixed and re-mastered for the original CD, the fades were dispensed with to create a more authentic “live” feel to the album. Unfortunately, this latest 2013 re-master restores the original fades. I would think this has occurred because the engineer has returned to an original master tape, possibly the one used to create the original vinyl album. Nevertheless, although the box-set album is the best quality CD version of “Hard Rain” there are, however, a couple of very small faults on ‘Oh Sister’.

At the beginning of the line “You should not treat me like a stranger” (at 00:08 seconds) the very beginning of the word “You” is cut. This fault is extremely minor and hard to spot. The second problem with ‘Oh Sister’, which can be found at 3:53, is far more noticeable. The problem occurs in the line “You may not see me tomorrow”, where the centre “o” in the word “tomorrow” is cut. These “glitches” are in fact digital silences and the second one, at 3:53, could be the result of someone attempting to fix an issue on the master tape and is a similar fault to the one on ‘Copper Kettle’.

Interestingly, there appear to be two versions of the “Hard Rain” disc. Sony originally informed me that only discs with the part number 88691924312-D22 (that’s the number on the label/face of the disc) had been pressed from the “faulty” master and that discs with the number 88691924312-22 (no ‘D’) were okay.

They also said that discs made from the “corrected master” had the words “Made in the EU / BIEM/GEMA / LC 00162” in the small yellow text around the edge of the disc.

Unfortunately, this has proved not to be the case and the best way of telling if your copy has the fault is to play it! However, the faulty discs appear to have a matrix number ending /88691924312-22 21 (this is the hard to see number etched on the inner ring of the silver side of the CD). Corrected discs end /88691924312-22-1 21 (note the addition of a ‘-1’ after the 22).

Sony is aware of the issues and willing to replace discs.

In actual fact, Amazon.uk pulled the box set down from their website stating that due to a customer complaints the product was “Under Review”. In any event, it was quickly reinstated, assumedly after Sony assured them that the situation was under control and that replacement discs would be sent to customers.

While on the subject of box set faults, someone emailed to inform me that they had read about a “glitch” on ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ on the new “Real Live” disc. The person said that after hearing the news he had played the track through three times and couldn’t hear the fault. I’ve listened very closely to the track and I am quite certain that no such “glitch” exists. In my candid opinion, the person who originally raised this issue either has faulty hearing or faulty equipment!

Those who have complained about poor quality control on the last two Sony Bob releases should note that these problems have been miniscule in comparison to some of the earlier Sony box-set releases. Early copies of “Miles Davis: The Complete Columbia Album Collection” were atrociously put together with anything between a third and half of the card sleeves in some sets coming apart. This was due to a problem with the glue. Of far greater concern however was the fact that glue from the inside of the sleeves had ended up on to the faces of the discs!


Live At Budokan and Real Live

The other two live albums to get the 2013 box-set treatment, “Live At Budokan” and “Real Live”, have both benefited a little from a re-mastering clean-up. “Real Live” has not been available in the UK for a number for years! It was listed to be repressed in 2009 but this didn’t happen.


Down In The Groove

 “Down In The Groove”. This album was released on CD in the UK in 1988. It was revisited as a product in 2001. However, this appears to have been a cosmetic or catalogue change and has nothing to do with the music. As is the case with “Real Live”, this title has been out of print for quite some time in the UK! The album can, however, still be obtained along with “Empire Burlesque” and “Under The Red Sky” as part of a 3-CD set entitled “Original Album Classics”. This package was released in July 2010. Now, at long last, “Groove” has undergone a facelift and, whilst the difference is not huge, the new box-set version is certainly an improvement.


Dylan

This album, the European CD release of which was made in Holland and re-titled “Bob Dylan (A Fool Such As I)”, had never been revisited by Columbia and until now was long out of print. It was allegedly deleted at the request of Bob Dylan’s people. Nevertheless, until December 2009, the album was available on iTunes as part of the special download “Bob Dylan: The Collection”. To these aging ears this one is quite an improvement over the old deleted CD and in all probability sounds a little better than the original vinyl– instruments, vocals, in fact most everything now appears a little cleaner and clearer.


Empire Burlesque

“Empire Burlesque” is an album that certainly needed some attention and I’m pleased to say that it has benefited quite a lot from re-mastering. Like most of the box-set albums the volume is noticeably higher than the original CD.


Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid

 “Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid”. Untouched since it was first released on CD in 1990, this vastly underrated title was long overdue an overhaul. Like most of the re-masters in the new box-set this one has benefited from the time and work invested in it in 2013.


Under The Red Sky

Although “Under The Red Sky” has most definitely been re-mastered, I can’t detect any real discernible difference. Maybe the sound on the re-mastered disc is fractionally fuller and I perhaps noticed this most on ‘Handy Dandy’. The fade out on ‘Born In Time’ is perhaps very fractionally longer on the re-mastered disc but there’s nothing to write home about here.


Saved

As with “Under The Red Sky”, “Saved” is only a marginal improvement over the original 1991 CD.


Knocked Out Loaded

 “Knocked Out Loaded” was first released on CD in Japan in September 1986 but did not appear in the UK and Europe until 1993 since which time it has not been revisited. The new 2013 box-set released is big improvement on the previous CD.


Good As I Been To You

Available on CD from the album’s original release date of October 1992, “Good As I Been To You” had not previously been re-visited on Compact Disc and the new box-set CD is an improvement. In December 2011, the album was released in Europe on 180g vinyl by the specialist Dutch company Music On Vinyl. Uncharacteristically, it appears this release was not re-mastered by Steve Berkowitz but instead taken directly from the original ’92 Micajah Ryan engineered master tape (via digital files). Nevertheless, the sound quality on the MOV album is extremely good and although the new box-set CD falls short of that, especially on warmth, it is a reasonably good effort.


World Gone Wrong

The box-set is the first time that “World Gone Wrong”, originally released in October 1993,  has been revisited. The original CD release suffered from some “distortion” (listen to the guitar on ‘Delia’) and quite a lot of tape hiss was also in evidence. Although the new box-set CD is perhaps a touch warmer, the problems that I always heard on the 1993 pressing are still very much in evidence here. Listen to the “silence” immediately before ‘Delia’ and you will hear what I mean about tape hiss! Unlike “Good As I Been To You”, on this one I really can’t hear very much difference between the old CD and the re-master. In fact, any audible differences were so hard to detect I compared the waveforms between the 1993 and 2013 CDs and they looked identical!


Modern Times

While “Modern Times” has not been re-mastered it does sound a little fuller and warmer. The difference in sound was enough for me to take time to compare the waveforms of the original 2006 CD album with the new box-set release and for whatever reason there is a slight difference. In actual fact, the overall sound of the box-set “Modern Times” seems very slightly closer to the excellent double vinyl release. I repeat, however, “MT” has not been re-mastered.


Time Out Of Mind

I’ll finish this hurried trawl through “The Complete Album Collection Vol. One” with the tangled tale of “Time Out Of Mind”. “TOOM” is an out-and-out Marmite album (note: other yeast extract products are also available). You either love or hate Daniel Lanois’ production on this one and to quote Bob Dylan, “There ain’t no neutral ground”.

There are certainly more objectors than lovers but those who approve of Lanois’ production seem to love it with a feeling.

In his book “Still on the Road”, Clinton Heylin talks about “layers of gunk” and of Lanois’, “blinkered ideas about how the album should sound”. He also talks of Dylan, “Trying to throw off the shackles of sound Lanois was ever seeking to impose”. In “Behind the Shades” Clinton writes that Lanois, “delivered a Dylan CD that sounded like a Lanois CD” (don’t they all?) and that he “produced perhaps the most artificial-sounding album in the man’s canon”. Clinton is often accused of hyperbole but on the whole I would concur with his remarks about “TOOM”.

I found it interesting therefore that in his box-set booklet notes Clinton made little or no mention of Dan the Man’s ethereal soup; the “slanging match” in the parking lot being his only reference of the conflict of ideas between the two men. Now, I appreciate that space was limited (forty-two 12x12cm pages doesn’t offer masses of space to review 41 albums), and it’s quite understandable that Mr Heylin was not able to vent his spleen in the manner he is accustomed to doing in his own books; nevertheless, there were many who doubted that Clinton would pull too many punches, even on this official product.

At the end of the day, however, these notes had to get past Jeff Rosen before being included in the box and Clinton must have been aware that a certain amount of restraint and diplomacy was a prerequisite to their inclusion. Be that as it may, as far as “Time Out Of Mind” is concerned, even Dylan has voiced dissatisfaction with the sound.

Overall, Clinton has shown an amazing degree of restraint throughout his album by album chronology. When writing about “Down In The Groove” in “Behind the Shades” Clinton talks about the “dissolute state of Dylan’s artistry”, referring to the album as a “lumpen mess” and a “thirty-two minute epitaph to a once-revolutionary career”. Not so in these notes. Clinton has previously been very critical of “Biograph” and of Jeff Rosen’s track selection. Here, however, he almost waxes lyrical about the five-LP, three-CD collection. But I digress.

Getting back to “Time Out Of Mind”, as we stated in ISIS 170, nothing after “World Gone Wrong” (1993) has been re-mastered for this set.

“Time Out Of Mind” was scheduled to be re-mastered in late 2003 for inclusion as part of the 15-disc SACD series. However, a late decision was made not to include this album in the project. It has since been mooted that the exclusion of “Time Out Of Mind” from the SACD cube was because Lanois’ production contract does not allow for any re-mixing without his approval, including surround sound!

Where does this information come from? I find it very hard to believe that Lanois has control over what Dylan’s people do with Bob’s albums! And if it is true, does the clause state remixing, re-mastering or both? Maybe, just maybe, I could get my head round a remixing clause, but re-mastering!?

Although “Time Out Of Mind” wasn’t included in the 2003 SACD releases it is not clear whether or not the re-mastering process – or even a re-mix – was actually carried out.

What appears to be a remix of ‘Love Sick’ appeared on the March 2004 Limited Edition USA compilation made for Victoria’s Secret. This version is a couple of seconds longer and has a much “cleaner” sound than the original “Time Out Of Mind” album release! A crisper version of ‘Not Dark Yet’ was also released on the August 2006 U.S. Limited Edition CD single of ‘Rollin’ And Tumblin’’. These two major improvements in sound would indicate that re-mastering (even remixing) was in fact carried out in 2003 and that these two tracks were taken from the proposed SACD master tape. As I’ve mentioned before, Sony has a policy of using the most recent master tapes for all subsequent pressings so it’s quite plausible that this happened. This being the case, the same “mistake” could conceivably have happened when they came to press the CD for the new box set. I regret to inform you however, that this is not the case. As far as the new box set is concerned, “Time Out Of Mind” remains untouched.

Overall, the majority of the new box-set CDs are an improvement over their predecessors. As one might expect however, some show greater improvements than others. As previously mentioned, some of the new re-masters exhibit loudness issues and in some cases there is a fair amount of clipping, even on albums that have not been re-mastered! One example of this is “Slow Train Coming” where at times the sound waves hit all the stops.

* * *

Following is a listing of the best sound quality versions of Bob Dylan’s albums on CD. Although many of Dylan’s albums sound best on vinyl, I have only included CDs here. This is because even with the recent increased interest in vinyl the vast majority of people reading this piece will still be listening only to CDs.

Please bear in mind that these are my personal CD favourites. Others will, I’m sure, disagree– they will be wrong, but they will disagree (insert your own smiley face here). Possibly the most contentious of these choices will be mono over stereo. This subject could be argued well into the night but my simple rule of thumb is; when it’s Bob and his guitar, it must be mono; when more musicians are added and more “space” is required to separate the instruments, I lean toward stereo. The debate will be at what point (album) do we drew the line in the sand?

After much thought I have decided to include Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab releases in this listing. The reasons for my uncertainty here is that these are non-Sony/Columbia releases and they are often difficult to locate outside of North America.

Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (MFSL or MoFi) began life in 1977 producing top quality licensed re-issued albums mostly of popular rock acts. These albums were all cut at 1/2 speed from the original tapes, using no compression or velocity limiting. In November 1999 MFSL was forced to close its doors after it was unable to collect a large sum of money and product owing to the company upon the bankruptcy of one of its biggest distributors (I know that feeling only too well!). Nonetheless, the company was resurrected in 2001.

Whilst MFSL continues to produce audiophile vinyl, they also manufacture their own “Ultradisc UHR” (Ultra High Resolution) SACDs. To my ears most of these SACD releases sound very slightly warmer (more vinyl like) and a little less loud and “bright” than the equivalent Sony releases.


 

Bob Dylan (1962)                                             “Bob Dylan: The Original Mono Recordings” (2010)

The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1963)             “Bob Dylan: The Original Mono Recordings” (2010)

The Times They Are A-Changin’ (1964)      “Bob Dylan: The Original Mono Recordings” (2010)

Another Side Of Bob Dylan (1964)               “Bob Dylan: The Original Mono Recordings” (2010)

Bringing It All Back Home (1965)                “Bob Dylan: The Original Mono Recordings” (2010)

Highway 61 Revisited (1965)                         Sony “SACD/CD Mix” 2003 (now the standard CD)

Blonde On Blonde (1966)                               Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab – SACD

John Wesley Harding (1967)                         Sony “SACD/CD Mix” 2003 (now the standard CD)

Nashville Skyline (1969)                                 Sony “SACD/CD Mix” 2003 (now the standard CD)

Self Portrait (1970)                                         “The Complete Album Collection” (2013 re-master)

New Morning (1970)                                      “The Complete Album Collection” (2009 re-master)

Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid (1973)              “The Complete Album Collection” (2013 re-master)

Dylan (1973)                                                    “The Complete Album Collection” (2013 re-master)

Planet Waves (1974)                                        Sony “SACD/CD Mix” 2003 (now the standard CD)

Before The Flood (1974)                               “The Complete Album Collection” (2009 re-master)

Blood On The Tracks (1975)                        Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab – SACD

The Basement Tapes (1975)                         Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab – SACD

Desire (1976)                                                   Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab – SACD

Hard Rain (1976)                                           “The Complete Album Collection” (2013 re-master)

Street-Legal (1978)                                        Sony “SACD/CD Mix” 2003 (now the standard CD)

At Budokan (Live, 1979)                               “The Complete Album Collection” (2013 re-master)

Slow Train Coming (1979)                            Sony “SACD/CD Mix” 2003 (now the standard CD)

Saved! (1980)                                                 “The Complete Album Collection” (2013 re-master)

Shot Of Love (1981)                                      “The Complete Album Collection” (2013 re-master)

Infidels (1983)                                               Sony “SACD/CD Mix” 2003 (now the standard CD)

Real Live (1984)                                            “The Complete Album Collection” (2013 re-master)

Empire Burlesque (1985)                            “The Complete Album Collection” (2013 re-master)

Knocked Out Loaded (1986)                       “The Complete Album Collection” (2013 re-master)

Down In The Groove (1988)                       “The Complete Album Collection” (2013 re-master)

Dylan & The Dead (Live, 1988)                  “The Complete Album Collection” (2009 re-master)

Oh Mercy (1989)                                           Sony “SACD/CD Mix” 2003 (now the standard CD)

Under The Red Sky (1990)                         “The Complete Album Collection” (2013 re-master)

Good As I Been To You (1992)                   “The Complete Album Collection” (2013 re-master)

World Gone Wrong (1993)                         “The Complete Album Collection” (2013 re-master)

MTV Unplugged (Live, 1995)                     “The Complete Album Collection” / Standard Release

Time Out Of Mind (1997)                            “The Complete Album Collection” / Standard Release

Love And Theft (2001)                                 Sony “SACD/CD Mix” 2003 (now the standard CD)

Modern Times (2006)                                  “The Complete Album Collection”

Together Through Life (2009)                   “The Complete Album Collection” / Standard Release

Christmas In The Heart (2009)                 “The Complete Album Collection” / Standard Release

Tempest (2012)                                             “The Complete Album Collection” / Standard Release

 


With thanks to Alan Fraser at Searching For A Gem