Last night’s “Blood on the Tracks” show at the Pantages Theater was a one-of-a-kind event. The show reassembled the Minneapolis musicians who played on five of the key cuts of “Blood on the Tracks” (including “Tangled Up In Blue”) that Bob Dylan rerecorded in December 1974 immediately prior to the album’s release the following month.
Columbia/Sony has never corrected the credits on the album cover that exclusively identified Eric Weissberg and Deliverance as the album’s musicians. Even on last year’s remastered CD reissue of the album, the erroneous credits are retained. We touched on the story in “Tangled up in Bob” last Sunday, and Sunday’s Pioneer Press carried a good account of the outline of the story in Rob Hubbard’s “Retracing ‘Tracks.'”
Minneapolis guitarist Kevin Odegard has been on a 30-year campaign to correct the record. He has co-authored the new book A Simple Twist of Fate, just released, on the album’s New York and Minneapolis recording sessions. Last night’s show constituted another prong in Odegard’s campaign.
All the Minneapolis musicians appeared for the show — Odegard, guitarist Christ Weber, bassist Billy Peterson, organist Gregg Inhofer, drummer Bill Berg, and mandolinist Peter Ostroushko. To this lineup the show added Weissberg, Mary Lee Kortes (who has recorded her own CD devoted to “Blood on the Tracks”), Martin Devaney, Adam Levy, Pat Hayes (of legendary bar band Lamont Cranston) and Sherwin Linton.
The inclusion of Linton was an inspiration. We profiled him this past October in “Sherwin Linton comes back.” For the purposes of last night’s festivities, Linton came out dressed looking like the Man in Black and channeled Johnny Cash while performing “Shelter From the Storm.” I believe that Dylan has been a lifelong fan of Cash, and Cash was one of Dylan’s first and most loyal advocates in Nashville.
After a brief warm-up, the assembled musicians played “Blood on the Tracks” from beginning to end, rotating in several of the guest arrtists as vocalists to do the honors on some of the album’s key songs. The audience was full of friends and admirers of the musicians, supporting them in their quest for rectification of the historical record. The event was hot with feeling. Added to the raw emotion of the album’s tracks was the emotion of these guys who had all lived to reach this point where they could stake their claim with full knowledge of its meaning.
They played with a vengeance, hitting highs with Levy’s vocal on the incredible “Idiot Wind,” with Linton’s vocal on “Shelter From the Storm,” and with Mary Lee Kortes’s vocal on the album’s moving closing number, “Buckets of Rain.”
The entire cast of the show took the stage to close with a rousing reprise of the album’s opening track, “Tangled Up In Blue,” the first of the songs Dylan rerecorded in Minneapolis. The musicianship was utterly superb throughout, with Ostroushko’s mandolin fills especially making their mark on every one of the numbers.
History must be told, and these folks told it unforgettably last night. Let’s let Bob have the last word, from the album’s wry “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go”:
Flowers on the hillside, bloomin’ crazy,
Crickets talkin’ back and forth in rhyme,
Blue river runnin’ slow and lazy,
I could stay with you forever
And never realize the time.
UPDATE: London’s Independent carried a related story yesterday by Kevin Odegard’s British co-author, Andy Gill: “Blood on the tracks: A critic’s obsession.”