Album Experiment: Bob Dylan's Oh Mercy - U2 Feedback

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Old 10-23-2007, 01:14 PM   #1
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Album Experiment: Bob Dylan's Oh Mercy

This is another installment in an ongoing experiment in trying to improve or "fix" albums by various artists. Many of us have attempted to rearrange various U2 albums; I know Pop in particular has gone under the knife more times than Michael Jackson. Also, ATYCLB had an earlier track order that I've promoted at every oppprtunity.

The last time around I discussed a reworked Automatic For the People, which didn't go over too well because of how sacred this album is to many people. While I think the album is great, I felt it could have been improved by a different order and the removal of the inexplicably bad and out-of-place Ignoreland.

In the thread on Let It Be...Naked I just cobbled together a new attempt at turning that into an actual great Beatles album, and it reminded me of something I did about six months ago with Bob Dylan's 1989 effort Oh Mercy, which isn't as highly regarded and may go down a little easier with open-minded Dylan fans, and non-Dylan fans as well (I happen to think this is his most accessible album).

This one is an interesting case because I already think Oh Mercy is great, though I appear to be in a small minority that believes it's better than the trio of recent Dylan comeback albums, Time Out of Mind, Love & Theft, and Modern Times (which I think are all brilliant as well), even though when it came out it was considered the best Dylan release since Blood on the Tracks.

Oh Mercy was also produced by Time Out of Mind's Daniel Lanois, and I think part of the reason it suffers by comparison is that it's much shorter than the other three, and Lanois was much better known and revered when the second album came out. Dylan's near-death experience prior to Time's release garnered a lot of attention as well, and he had gone for 7 years without new material--the stage was set for a big comeback story.

Dylan has been known in the past for leaving some great songs off his albums for various reasons, most notably with 1983's Infidels and Oh Mercy.
There's actually a bootleg floating around that contains all the songs and variations from the sessions titled The Deeds of Mercy (if you want to hunt it down yourself). What I've done is taken what I think are the best takes and inserted them into Oh Mercy's tracklisting, with a bit of rearrangement of the order. Links to these relatively hard-to-find tracks will follow.

Below is the new track order, with the original track # or outtake status noted in parentheses:

Side One
1. Political World (1)
2. God Knows (outtake, version #2)
3. Where Teardrops Fall (2)
4. Everything Is Broken (3)
5. Born in Time (outtake)
6. Ring Them Bells (4)
7. Most of the Time (6)

Side Two
8. Series of Dreams (outtake, version #2)
9. Man In The Long Black Coat (5)
10. What Was It You Wanted? (9)
11. What Good Am I? (7)
12. Disease of Conceit (8)
13. Dignity (outtake)
14. Shooting Star (10)

Some extra notes:

* As the album was recorded in the LP/Cassette era, I've preserved the division of Sides One and Two. Most of the Time is a powerful closer to the first half of the album, and Dreams is an atmospheric, driving track that fits best opening the second half.

* The version of Series of Dreams that I used is the same one used on the Bootleg Series 1-3 boxed set of unreleased Dylan material that came out in the early 90's. One of the other versions was great too and I wanted to give it some attention, but ultimately take #2 was the best.

* Dignity was remixed for the Greatest Hits Vol. 3 from 1995, with additional instrumentation and (slightly overdone) production added by Brendan O'Brien. It's a great track, but I felt it would be best to keep the version from the original sessions, which is good in its own right. It's now the longest song on the album, and because of this I put it in the album's "climax" spot, right before the perfect coda of Shooting Star.

* God Knows was rerecorded for the follow up album Under the Red Sky, which has been much maligned (rightfully so) by critics & Dylan fans, and the song has appeared live many times over the years. Since it was from these sessions though, I felt it appropriate to steal it back. This version is better than the Don Was produced one on UTRS anyway.

* Born in Time is a beautiful ballad that seems the most worthy of inclusion here. I stuck it up into the heart of the album with Ring Them Bells, where I also moved Most of the Time up to. I feel these are the strongest and powerful songs and are well-served by being grouped together. This switch moves Man in the Long Black Coat to side two, where I think its atmospherics are more fitting, esp. next to Dreams.

* The last change was pulling What Was It You Wanted from the penultimate spot and moving it above What Good Am I? and Disease of Conceit instead of after them. It's a bit faster than those two, with a little bit of a groove, and prevents there from being too many slow, ballady songs in a row.

* I prefer to avoid pruning, though I considered axeing Where Teardrops Fall, the clear low point of the album. You could pretty much remove this, leave everything else intact, and it still works,

Song links:

God Knows
pttp://www.s endsp ace.com/file/ktkcku

Born in Time
pttp://www.s endsp ace.com/file/r294f6

Series of Dreams
pttp://www.s endsp ace.com/file/kn8577

Dignity
pttp://www.s endsp ace.com/file/l2tm9c


If anyone needs the entire album, let me know and I we can figure something out.

Please share your opinions and comments!
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Old 10-23-2007, 01:22 PM   #2
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...and I have no idea why I posted this in the movies section!

Mods, can someone move this to Bang & Clatter?
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Old 10-23-2007, 10:56 PM   #3
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Old 10-23-2007, 11:17 PM   #4
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I'm going to try that sometime this week.
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Old 10-24-2007, 12:16 AM   #5
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Should I repost this myself in Bang/Clatter?

I feel like a moron every time I see this thread here.
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Old 10-24-2007, 02:10 AM   #6
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i must say, it is amusing
but any dylan topic is good
by my book
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Old 10-24-2007, 10:19 AM   #7
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One of these days I have to sit down and try this with Infidels. Two of the b-sides from that are Blind Willie McTell and Seven Days, both pretty well known in their own right by this point.
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Old 10-24-2007, 07:43 PM   #8
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I really, really, really love Oh Mercy.

but I'll still tamper with it by including Series of Dreams, and changing the tracklisting.

Side A
1 Political World
2 Where Teardrops Fall
3 What Was is it You Wanted?
4 Man in the Long Black Coat
5 Ring Them Bells

Side B
1Series of Dreams
2 Most of the Time
3 What Good Am I?
4 Everything is Broken
5 Disease of Conceit
6 Shooting Star

Putting Everything Is Broken on Side B livens up that side of the album. Series of Dreams has to start a side, I cant imagine it anywhere else on any album. But I couldn't bring myself to put it in place of Political World.
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Old 10-24-2007, 09:03 PM   #9
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Dorian, have you heard any of the other outtakes? I can't stress enough how good Born in Time is. Right up there with the best stuff on the album. And you should know the others too.

Your placement of Series of Dreams is exactly what I was thinking, though I think Broken is maybe a bit too humorous and poppy to be that deep in the album. I love the song and your reasoning, but maybe God Knows would be better there?

A variation:

1. Political World
2. Everything is Broken
3. Where Teardrops Fall
4. Born In Time
5. Ring Them Bells
6. Most of the Time
7. Man in the Long Black Coat

-

8. Series of Dreams
9. What Was It You Wanted?
10. God Knows
11. What Good Am I?
12. Disease of Conceit
13. Dignity
14. Shooting Star

This moves Long Back Coat to the end of Side One, where I imagine it still works as a creepy closer, and God puts a little bit of speed into Side Two before the two ballads. I don't know. Still like mine better!
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Old 10-24-2007, 09:17 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by lazarus
Dorian, have you heard any of the other outtakes? I can't stress enough how good Born in Time is. Right up there with the best stuff on the album. And you should know the others too.

Your placement of Series of Dreams is exactly what I was thinking, though I think Broken is maybe a bit too humorous and poppy to be that deep in the album. I love the song and your reasoning, but maybe God Knows would be better there?

A variation:

1. Political World
2. Everything is Broken
3. Where Teardrops Fall
4. Born In Time
5. Ring Them Bells
6. Most of the Time
7. Man in the Long Black Coat

-

8. Series of Dreams
9. What Was It You Wanted?
10. God Knows
11. What Good Am I?
12. Disease of Conceit
13. Dignity
14. Shooting Star

This moves Long Back Coat to the end of Side One, where I imagine it still works as a creepy closer, and God puts a little bit of speed into Side Two before the two ballads. I don't know. Still like mine better!
Good call on the Long Black Coat placement...

I haven't heard all the outtakes, only familiar with the versions of Series of Dreams and Dignity. I haven't come across 'The Deeds of Mercy' before but I'd love to hear God Knows... I'll take a look around the torrent sites.

thanks for the heads up
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Old 10-24-2007, 09:24 PM   #11
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Dorian, the links to those outtakes are in my first post ^^

The original version of Dignity sounds a lot different, too.

Go get 'em!
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Old 10-25-2007, 04:01 PM   #12
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^ how did I miss those outtake links?

alright, this proves it, the Oh Mercy sessions have to be one of the most productive periods of Dylan's life! why isn't Born in Time on that album!?
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Old 10-25-2007, 05:50 PM   #13
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I knew you'd feel that way.

If you think these are good, you're going to be even more appalled at what Dylan left off Infidels. It's obscene.

What I just discovered yesterday is that Born in Time actually did make it to an album. Like God Knows, it was rerecorded for Under the Red Sky. Not surprised I forgot that because I've tried to forget that entire album. If you go to BobDylan.com you can stream it. The Don Was version is quite inferior, and a shame that this great song was ruined a bit for posterity.
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Old 10-25-2007, 06:40 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by lazarus

What I just discovered yesterday is that Born in Time actually did make it to an album. Like God Knows, it was rerecorded for Under the Red Sky. Not surprised I forgot that because I've tried to forget that entire album.

I have that album too.. I can't even think of Like God Knows..

you ever give World Gone Wrong a listen? I've been getting into Good as I've Been to You recently, and I know WGW is a companion piece of sorts but I haven't heard any of it. I know they're all traditionals, but he really brings some soul to the songs on GAIBTY. ressurects their spirit y'know?
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Old 10-25-2007, 07:30 PM   #15
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I think World Gone Wrong is slightly better (esp. Blood in My Eyes, a great performance), but there's both pretty much the same. I've actually never been a huge fan of solo acoustic Dylan, and that includes the old classic stuff. Obviously there are some great songs that I enjoy, but I prefer him working with more instrumentation. I love Dylan throughout the 70's, even the over-the-top Budokan period, because at least the was trying new arrangements of the songs.
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