Dylan news/SACD

Below is information lifted directly from the Dylan website.
The SACD releases have been moved from August to September-let's hope this doesn't follow the Sony Miles Davis route where sometimes releases just keep getting put back.
The movie that is mentioned, Masked And Anonymous for those that don't know was apparently scripted by Dylan under a false name.
The bad news is that despite the all star cast that the reviews haven't been very good.
By all accounts it's a bit arty,a bit baffling and Dylan apparently acts enigmatic-nothing like typecasting.
The most interesting thing I noted regarding the music on SACD is the first track on the free sampler available on early copies of the M&A soundtrack is from Dylan's next release on the Bootleg series- Vol 6-which is the live Halloween gig from '64.
Which if the whole album is released on SACD hybrid despite the fact that the material is old (and widely available on bootleg)it could very well qualify as the first release by a really major artist to come out on SACD hybrid.
I'll beat the Dylan kickers to it by mentioning that there is something ironic in that.

masked and anonymous Soundtrack to be Released on July 22

The soundtrack CD to Bob Dylan's new movie masked and anonymous will be released by Columbia Records on July 22, 2003. It features fourteen Bob Dylan songs, four of which are performed in the film by Bob Dylan himself and especially created for the film. "Dixie" and "Diamond Joe" are traditional songs recorded and performed for the first time. "Cold Irons Bound" and "Down In The Flood" are new performances. "City of Gold," performed by the Dixie Hummingbirds, is a previously unreleased Bob Dylan song. Also featured are the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia, Los Lobos, Shirley Caesar and an array of international artists.
Track listing:
performed by the Magokoro Brothers
performed by Shirley Caesar
3. DOWN IN THE FLOOD (new version) { RealPlayer }
performed by Bob Dylan
performed by the Grateful Dead
performed by Sophie Zelmani
6. ON A NIGHT LIKE THIS { RealPlayer }
performed by Los Lobos
performed by Bob Dylan
8. Come Una Pietra Scalciata (LIKE A ROLLING STONE)
performed by Articolo 31
performed by Sertab
10. NON DIRLE CHE NON E COSI (If You See Her, Say Hello)
performed by Francesco De Gregori
performed by Bob Dylan
performed by Jerry Garcia
13. COLD IRONS BOUND (new version)
performed by Bob Dylan
Bonus Track
performed by the Dixie Hummingbirds

The album will be available as a standard package and in a limited edition digi-pak. The limited-edition package contains a hybrid Super Audio CD (SACD) featuring seven tracks from the newly remastered catalog in standard audio, super audio and 5.1 surround sound. This special disc is playable on any CD player as well as on an SACD compatible player.

Bonus disc track listing:
from the upcoming The Bootleg Series Vol. #6, Bob Dylan Live 1964, The Philharmonic Hall Concert (previously unreleased)
from Bringing It All Back Home
from Blonde on Blonde
from Blood on the Tracks
from Slow Train Coming
from "Love and Theft"
bonus track from the soundtrack Masked And Anonymous (Special SACD hybrid disc recording


Watch the masked and anonymous trailer!

Bob Dylan's new movie masked and anonymous opens nationwide in July and August.
View the trailer.

Hear "Down In The Flood" from the soundtrack album. (RealPlayer)


Fifteen Classic Bob Dylan Albums to be Released on Hybrid Super Audio CD
Every Phase of A Legendary Career Is Represented In The First Major Sonic Upgrade of His CD Catalog

All titles arrive in stores September 2, 2003

On September 2, 2003, Columbia/Legacy will release fifteen classic albums by Bob Dylan in the hybrid Super Audio CD (SACD) format. These discs—the first recordings by any Sony Music artist to be issued in this format—will also feature restored artwork based on original album packaging.

Hybrid Super Audio CD discs feature a high-density layer which can provide high-resolution, multi-channel surround sound in addition to a separate two-channel stereo SACD version of the same music, and a layer with a CD version of the recording. The result is a hybrid disc whose full audio potential can be realized by the new generation of SACD players, and which is fully compatible with all other existing CD players on the market today.

These fifteen titles mark the start of a long-term program to enhance and upgrade the sonic quality and packaging elements of one of the most important album catalogs in popular music. Only one Bob Dylan album, Blonde on Blonde, has been released previously in the standard Super Audio CD format. Blonde on Blonde, along with five other titles—Another Side of Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home, Blood On The Tracks, Slow Train Coming, and "Love and Theft"—will now be issued as 5.1 multi-channel releases with accompanying stereo mixes, in addition to their hybrid SACD versions.

Here are the fifteen hybrid Super Audio CD titles by Bob Dylan, in chronological order:

1) The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (released May 1963)—Includes "Blowin' in the Wind," "Masters of War," "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right," and "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna fall." Freewheelin' was Dylan's second Columbia album, but his first collection of all original songs. Produced by John Hammond.

2) Another Side of Bob Dylan (released August 1964)—Includes "All I Really Want to Do," "Spanish Harlem Incident," "Chimes of Freedom," "My Back Pages." "A rich, complex album" (Paul Williams, Crawdaddy). Produced by Tom Wilson.

3) Bringing It All Back Home (released March 1965)—Includes "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Gates of Eden," "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)," "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue." The first Dylan album to include accompaniment by an electric band, and his first Top Ten LP. Produced by Tom Wilson.

4) Highway 61 Revisited (released August 1965)—Includes the No. 2 hit single "Like a Rolling Stone," "Ballad of a Thin Man," "Highway 61 Revisited," "Desolation Row." Produced by Tom Wilson and Bob Johnston.

5) Blonde on Blonde (released May 1966)—Includes "Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35," "Visions of Johanna," "Just Like a Woman," "I Want You." This landmark double LP was the first Bob Dylan album recorded in Nashville. Produced by Bob Johnston.

6) John Wesley Harding (released December 1967)—Includes "John Wesley Harding," "All Along the Watchtower," and "Drifter's Escape." With the inclusion of "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight," Dylan returned rock to its country roots. Produced by Bob Johnston.

7) Nashville Skyline (released April 1969)—Includes "Lay Lady Lay," "To Be Alone With You," "I Threw It All Away," "Country Pie." Produced by Bob Johnston.

8) Planet Waves (released January 1974)—Includes "On a Night Like This," "Going, Going, Gone," "Forever Young," "You Angel You." With instrumental backing by The Band, Planet Waves became Dylan's first Number One album. Produced by Bob Dylan, Robbie Robertson, and Rob Fraboni.

9) Blood On The Tracks (released January 1975)—Includes "Tangled Up in Blue," "Simple Twist of Fate," "If You See Her, Say Hello," "Shelter from the Storm." "The writing is the source of the record's powerÉThere are times when he sounds closer, more intimate and more real than anyone else." (Jon Landau, Rolling Stone) Produced by Bob Dylan.

10) Desire (released January 1976)—Includes "Hurricane," "Black Diamond Bay," "One More Cup of Coffee," "Oh, Sister." Desire features violinist Scarlett Rivera and songs co-written with Jacques Levy. Produced by Don Devito.

11) Street Legal (released June, 1978)—Includes "Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)," "Changing of the Guards," "Baby, Stop Crying," and "Is Your Love in Vain?" Produced by Don Devito.

12) Slow Train Coming (released August 1979)—Includes the Grammy Award-winning single "Gotta Serve Somebody," "I Believe in You," "Slow Train," "When He Returns." Produced by Jerry Wexler and Barry Beckett.

13) Infidels (released November 1983)—Includes "Jokerman," "License to Kill," "I and I," "Sweetheart Like You." Dylan's sidemen include Mick Taylor (guitar), Mark Knopfler (guitar), Sly Dunbar (drums), and Robbie Shakespeare (bass). "Eight vigorous songs that teem with self-effacing introspection and witÉ" (Christopher Connelly, Rolling Stone). Produced by Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler.

14) Oh Mercy (released September, 1989)—Includes "Political World," "Everything Is Broken," "Ring Them Bells," "Man in the Long Black Coat." Recorded in New Orleans with Louisiana musicians including Cyril Neville (percussion), Rockin' Dopsie (accordion), Willie Green (drums), and Mason Ruffner (guitar). Produced by Daniel Lanois.

15) "Love and Theft" (September, 2001)—Includes "Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, "Mississippi," "Summer Days," "High Water (for Charley Patton)." "All pop music is love and theft, and in 40 years of records whose sources have inspired volumes of scholastic exegesis, Dylan has never embraced that truth so warmly. Jokes, riddles, aperçus, and revelations will surface for years... Grade: A Plus." (Robert Christgau, The Village Voice)

"The release of these classic Bob Dylan albums on hybrid SACD will extend the benefits of this exciting format to a much wider audience," says Jeff Jones, Senior Vice President, Legacy Recordings. "Each of these Dylan titles will be painstakingly remastered and reproduced to the highest quality standards."

To clarify my comment above I meant release not previously available.
More info on the releases and quite interesting regarding the mixes.
I conccur with the findings the sampler sounds very good indeed.

News: The SACD Remasters

In January this year Sony finally announced that they will be renovating Dylan's back-catalogue.

In short, on September 16 they will start by releasing fifteen remastered Dylan albums in hybrid Super Audio CD format. The finalised list of titles is The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, Another Side of Bob Dylan*, Bringing It All Back Home*, Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde On Blonde*, John Wesley Harding, Nashville Skyline, Planet Waves, Blood On The Tracks*, Desire, Street Legal, Slow Train Coming*, Infidels, Oh Mercy and Love and Theft*. The six asterisked titles will include not only the remastered stereo mix but also a surround-sound mix playable through multi-channel SACD players. See the news item on bobdylan.com , and the hi-fi trade reports at
http://www.highfidelityreview.com/news/news.asp?newsnumber=19366243 ,
http://www.highfidelityreview.com/news/news.asp?newsnumber=16008578 ,
http://www.highfidelityreview.com/news/news.asp?newsnumber=17884305 and
http://www.prosoundnews.com/stories/2003/july/0718.5.shtml .

The Technicalities

Setting aside for a moment the matter of the surround mixes, each recording will be remastered in two types of digital encoding. The first is the normal PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) system used for regular CDs; the second is the much newer, higher-fidelity DSD (Direct Stream Digital) system used for Super Audio CDs. These two versions will be pressed as separate layers on a single "hybrid" disc. This is the approach recently taken by ABKCO for their reissues of the Rolling Stones' old Decca/London catalogue.

Listeners with standard CD players will be able to listen to the regular CD layer, and should get the benefit of the effort Sony have put into using lower-generation source tapes, improved digital mastering and so on.

Those with Super Audio CD players will get to hear the DSD-encoded layer. This will reproduce more of the subtleties of the original analogue recordings, provided their loudspeakers - and their ears - are up to the job. I'm told that you really need loudspeakers with supertweeters on the top: these will reproduce the extra high-frequency information that carries the subtleties missed by ordinary CD encoding.

It's worth noting that the only previously-released Dylan SACD title, Blonde On Blonde, is a single-layer disc which can only be played on SACD machines. It's welcome that this album has now been added to the list of hybrid releases, as this means that Michael Brauer's much-improved 1999 remix of the album will at last be accessible to listeners without SACD players.

To find out more about the Super Audio CD format, visit http://www.sonymusic.com/sacd/ . (Note that at the time of writing the pop-up announcement about the Dylan SACD release program still contains the superseded list of titles.)

The Stereo Mixes

The original stereo mixes of the 1960s albums were produced for what was at that time a minority market, almost certainly without any involvement from Dylan himself. They display many faults which would not have been part of Dylan's vision when he created the albums, and have a sound quality which was constrained by early stereo vinyl technology - above all, very limited bass.

Thankfully, it seems that Sony have decided to abandon these mixes, probably in order to get the most impressive sound quality, but in some cases also because the old stereo mixdown tapes are worn out. Certainly at least three of the albums (Blonde On Blonde as noted above, plus Another Side of Bob Dylan and Bringing It All Back Home) have been remixed in stereo from the original multi-track studio masters, and with luck this will prove to be true for The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan and Highway 61 Revisited as well, in this initial batch of releases.

Sony's promotional 6-track sampler CD for the new reissue series includes one track each from Bringing It All Back Home ("Love Minus Zero / No Limit") and Blonde On Blonde ("Memphis Blues Again"). These certainly sound excellent even in regular CD mode, far better than on previous CD releases. If all the stereo remixes are to this standard then this will at least partly make up for the exclusion of the original mono mixes - see below.

Surround Sound

Five of the albums will include a 5.1 surround mix in the SACD layer in addition to the stereo mix. To enjoy these you'll need a multi-channel SACD player, a six-channel amplifier, five identical top-flight loudspeakers, one sub-woofer, and a lot of experimentation with furniture and speaker positions. An average home cinema set-up will not do, I'm told; the requirements for multi-channel hi-fi audio are much more exacting.

Assuming you have the space and the money for this type of set-up, what will you hear? Well, there appear to be different ways in which producers can opt to use the additional channels of surround sound. The first option is to remix the original multi-track recordings and feed some of the tracks into the rear channels, so that for example you might hear someone playing an instrument behind you. This might be feasible with Dylan's later albums which were recorded on a large number of tracks, but wouldn't make much sense with the early recordings which were recorded on four tracks at most. (Or at least, it wouldn't make any more sense than the familiar stereo mixes of Dylan's first couple of albums, where you can have guitar, vocal and harmonica all coming at you from different directions.)

The other approach is to use the rear channels for ambience only, to give the illusion of being in a particular space that isn't your own living room. The mixing engineer can create this ambient information either by pure electronic synthesis, or by playing a stereo recording in a particularly favoured room which is miked-up to record the results in surround-sound. Either way, of course, this has nothing to do with the reproduction of any historic reality, but it can potentially make for a more involving listening experience.

Well-known engineer Michael Brauer produced the surround mixes for Another Side of Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home and Blonde On Blonde. Talking about the last of these, he says: "The sound field is all about what is going on in front as opposed to hearing instruments behind you (except for the first song). There is more depth, it's more like a panoramic stereo."

It sounds, then, as though the surround mixes will at least be sensible and avoid gimmickry, but whether they will be worth the effort and expense to hear, I can't presently say. I can't even find a local hi-fi dealer who's got the set-up to play me the tracks on the sampler. Perhaps this technology is cheaper and more readily available in developed countries like the USA. Initial response to the sampler's surround mixes from one or two US correspondents has been very enthusiastic.

One final point: the fact that only certain albums have been selected to include a surround mix is quite baffling. If it were all the later, more technically sophisticated recordings that had been selected this would perhaps have been more comprehensible, but half of the chosen six are 1960s LPs. So did Sony only have enough budget to do six titles? Will surround-sound enthusiasts have to buy some of these albums yet again in a couple of years' time when they do add the surround mixes? And from the particular perspective of this website, what is the logic of providing surround mixes for Bringing It All Back Home and Blonde On Blonde but not Highway 61 Revisited? Answers by e-mail, please. For now, I can't help thinking that the inclusion of a smattering of surround mixes has more to do with the promotion of SACD technology than it has to do with the thoughtful restoration of Dylan's catalogue.

No Mono Versions

Dylan fans, myself included, have campaigned strenuously for the inclusion of the original mono mixes of the albums up to Blonde On Blonde. These records were originally mixed first and foremost for mono listening, and these are the versions that Dylan would have given all his attention to at the time. The hybrid SACD format has plenty of room to accommodate these on the SACD layer. However, it's now clear that this is not to be. Sadly, Sony would rather create surround mixes that very few people are currently equipped to play than make historic works of art available in the best possible quality.

It's good, of course, that most of these historically definitive mono versions are currently available once again via the licensing deal with Sundazed Records. But the fact that Sundazed are only allowed to release them on vinyl indicates that Sony - and presumably Dylan's office - view them as being relevant only to a dwindling nostalgia market. These original mono mixes really should be made available in an archival-quality, noise-free digital format, and it seems that a major opportunity has been missed.

No Bonus Tracks

The idea of a Dylan reissue series was first floated by Sony several years ago. At that time they suggested that it would be along the lines of The Byrds' CD reissues. These added extra tracks to each title, including contemporary singles and out-takes. Insiders say that tracks were indeed chosen for at least the first few projected Dylan releases.

However, it's clear now that no additional material will be included other than the surround mixes on six of the albums. This reflects a trend within the industry for handling reissues of major artists. Some years ago David Bowie's RCA albums were issued on CD with bonus tracks, but the latest remastered series has none. And the recent Rolling Stones reissue series also includes no additional material.

Opinion among Dylan enthusiasts is sharply divided here, but personally I'm in favour of this reconsidered approach. As works of art I think the original albums stand better on their own than diluted by tacked-on outtakes, however good those tracks may be. The shape of the album gets changed. How could Bringing It All Back Home end with anything other than "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue"? You need silence after that, not "If You Gotta Go, Go Now".

And it must be remembered that most of Dylan's best outtakes from 1961-1989 have already been released on the anthologies Biograph and The Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3. If Sony can ever get Dylan's permission to release more historic studio material then I would much rather see done it as further volumes in the Bootleg Series. Sony and Dylan, of course, may have additional, more commercial reasons for sticking to this approach.

The Bottom Line

If you're a hi-fi enthusiast and you have enough money then you'll probably get all the gear anyway - have fun. Otherwise, never mind the SACD and 5.1 surround technology - I believe the real value of these new editions will be in the improvements they bring to regular CD listeners. The signs are that they'll give us the first decent stereo mixes of Dylan's 1960s albums, and noticeable improvements on some of the 70s material. Roll on September 16!

Last updated July 2003

Well.... thanks for all that, Ben! I keep up with this through bd.com and the discussion forum there (where I post under the same moniker), but I'm really glad to see another Dylan freak here! I don't think there are very many on this site.

Saw M&A a couple of months ago as a guest of Columbia...I loved it. The fantastic reviewer for the "Chicago Reader" also liked it, as have a few other mainstream critics (although, as you say, most critics don't get it).
Cp-it's not really just for Dylan nuts like ourselves as this is so far THE biggest reissues on SACD for a major artist.
From the sampler the remastering is a big big step up on redbook-for those who enjoy the benefits they hear on SACD it should be great too.
Similarly even a modest Rock/songwriting fan should own 4 of these records-Bringing It All Back Home,Highway 61 Revisited,Blonde On Blonde and Blood On The Tracks.
Undoubtly 4 of the greatest albums ever made.
I've started negotiations with my local independant record shop for the whole set!
Yes, Ben, those are 4 of the greatest albums ever...by anyone...period (IMO). "Oh Mercy," "TOOM," and "Love and Theft" are on my essential list, too.