- Tombstone Blues
- Shooting Star
- All Along The Watchtower
- The Times They Are A-Changin'
- John Brown
- Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
- Desolation Row
- Knockin' On Heaven's Door
- Like A Rolling Stone
- With God On Our Side
Bob Dylan: Vocals/ Guitar/ Harmonica
Bucky Baxter: Pedal Steel/ Electric Slide Guitar
John Jackson: Guitar
Tony Garnier: Bass
Brendan O'Brien: Keyboards
Winston Watson: Drums/ Percussion
Taped but Not Used
I Want You
Don't Think Twice, It's All Right
Everything Is Broken
Love Minus Zero/No Limit
Absolutely Sweet Marie
My Back Pages
Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You
Recorded at Sony Music Studios, New York - 17th & 18th November 1994
"Y'know every one of my songs could be written better. This used to bother me, but it doesn't anymore. There's nothing perfect anywhere, so I shouldn't expect myself to be perfect." Bob Dylan 1965.
"Unplugged" had proved to be a positive step for many artists over the years, and people like Neil Young, Eric Clapton and Rod Stewart had benefited from the experience and shown a hitherto untapped or unknown side to their talents. Such an experience would seem tailor made for Bob Dylan and the only question was why he hadn't done it sooner. Sadly this proved to be a disappointment and a missed opportunity. The choice of songs was poor with all but three of the eleven tracks being sixties songs and one of those "John Brown" had been considered too inferior for release in 1963. Dylan's decision to assume his mid sixties look of polka-dot shirt and sunglasses for the album cover was also an unwise choice. This was a couple of years before he adopted the far more stylish "southern gent" look.
Filmed at Sony Music Studios in New York over two nights (November 17th and 18th 1994) and released in June 1995, this is not really an album to like or dislike, in fact it is hard to find any emotive words to describe such a non-event. Dylan himself sounds tired and totally lacking in enthusiasm and only a couple of songs ("Shooting Star" and "Dignity") rise above the banal and lacklustre. For the rest, there is a brave attempt at an upbeat "Tombstone Blues," "All Along The Watchtower" is poorly thought out and Dylan's timing seems off, and the almost spoken version of "The Times They Are A-Changin'" does not work at all. The already mentioned "John Brown" is uninspired and brings nothing to the album and "Rainy Day Women" is a sad and dismal shadow of its former self.
"Desolation Row" is done in a monotone and sounds as if Dylan does not know what the hell he is saying but he does try to inject some feeling into the usually reliable "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" with some degree of success. "Like A Rolling Stone" is reasonable and is greeted with the predictable applause as is "With God On Our Side" in which Dylan omits the verse about the holocaust. Michael Gray uses the words dreary, phoney and tawdry to describe this performance, and it would be difficult not to agree with him.
The mid nineties were a bleak and inspirationally sparse period for Bob Dylan and this sorry performance shows just how devoid of ideas he was. Thankfully two years later would see the release of the brilliant and highly acclaimed "Time Out Of Mind" that would put him back on the road to greatness and help infuse some much needed enthusiasm into his live performances.