Local Current Blog

Bob Dylan’s upcoming Bootleg Series releases to touch on Minnesota recordings

Promotional art for 'More Blood, More Tracks,' Vol. 14 of the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series, out Nov. 2 via Columbia Records.

Bob Dylan fans can soon dive deeper into one of the songwriter’s most revered albums, Blood on the Tracks — which also happens to be the Duluth native’s only studio album to have a substantial portion recorded in Minnesota.

Out on Nov. 2, More Blood, More Tracks is the 14th volume of the Dylan’s Bootleg Series. Each of the volumes features rare or unreleased material from an era of Dylan’s career. More Blood, More Tracks transports listeners to two recording studios, one in New York and one in Minneapolis, where Dylan recorded his 15th studio album in just six days.

The collection will be released in two different formats. The first package is a single CD and two vinyl LPs containing different takes of all songs on Blood on the Tracks, as well as an unreleased version of “Up to Me.” The second is a six-disc CD Deluxe Edition which contains every existing recording from the New York and Minneapolis sessions in chronological order.

Bob Dylan initially recorded Blood on the Tracks over four days in September of 1974 at A&R Studios in New York. The album was mastered, but Dylan still wasn’t quite satisfied with it. In December, he returned to the studio, this time Sound 80 Studio in Minneapolis. Dylan spent just two days recording in Minneapolis, and re-recorded five of the album’s songs.

(If you’re a fan of The Current’s in-studio videos, you’ve seen at least some of what Dylan was looking at when he was recording: some of the acoustic baffling from the now-defunct Sound 80 was subsequently moved to Minnesota Public Radio’s Maud Moon Weyerhaeuser Studio.)

The collection will allow fans to listen to alternate takes and mixes from the New York sessions, but no outtakes remain from Minneapolis. The only surviving tracks from Sound 80 Studio are the mastered versions that appear on the original album.

Sound 80 Studio was the site for recordings of just about everything, from classical and polka to radio and TV commercials. (Prince would record there in 1977.) The studio had previously worked on two or three projects with Bob Dylan’s brother, David Zimmerman, a local record producer.

Kevin Odegard was taking refuge from the Minnesota chill inside of his apartment when he received a call from David Zimmerman. At the time, Odegard was working as a brakeman for the Chicago Northwestern Railroad, but he also was a guitarist and songwriter, and used to be managed by Zimmerman.

Zimmerman called Odegard to ask about a rare guitar, a Martin 1934 0042. Odegard referred Zimmerman to his friend Chris Weber, who owned a Minneapolis guitar shop called The Podium. Weber had just received a similar model (a 1934 0042G) in his shop a few days before, and agreed to deliver it to Zimmerman. Odegard thought that that was all Zimmerman had called for, until he reached out again to tell Odegard that the guitar was actually for Bob Dylan — and to ask if Odegard would assemble a band to accompany him in the studio.

Odegard started by calling drummer Bill Berg and bassist Billy Peterson. The two were renowned within the Twin Cities scene, and had played together in a number of jazz groups, including Natural Life. The duo were also experienced in recording with high-profile artists; they both played on the Cat Stevens album, Buddha and the Chocolate Box.

The rest of the band included Gregg Inhofer on keyboards, Peter Ostuoshko on mandolin, Odegard and Weber on guitar, and Tony Brown also on bass.

When they arrived in the studio, Dylan had no chord charts or sheet music. He would simply play a song for Chris Weber, who watched Dylan’s hands and learned the chords. Weber then taught the songs to the rest of the band.

In just two days, they re-recorded five of the songs from Blood on the Tracks: “Idiot Wind,” “You’re a Big Girl Now,” “Tangled Up in Blue,” “Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts,” and “If You See Her, Say Hello.”

Odegard chronicles the Sound 80 recording sessions in the book A Simple Twist of Fate, which he co-authored along with music critic Andy Gill.

There’s no clear answer as to why no alternate takes exist from the Minneapolis sessions. One theory is that Dylan was being bootlegged at the time, so the engineers scrapped all of the outtakes to prevent material from being leaked. Either way, the five master tracks are all that remain from those two days in Sound 80.

Although More Blood, More Tracks doesn’t come out until next month, Bob Dylan’s team are already planning the next volume of the Bootleg Series, which will focus on his earliest years. Rolling Stone reports that the focus will be Dylan’s time in Greenwich Village, will very possibly also include recordings of an even younger Dylan — in Dinkytown, Minneapolis. Recordings from that era include a trio of tapes referred to as the “Minnesota Tapes,” which were recorded by his then-girlfriend Bonnie Beecher and friend Tony Glover.

Beyond that, future releases will likely focus on the creation of 1997’s comeback album Time Out of Mind, and Dylan’s sessions with Johnny Cash in the late ’60s.

Rolling Stone’s source cites a European copyright law that makes material public domain if it’s not used for 50 years — reason for the exhaustive completeness of the box set highlighting Dylan’s ’60s peak. You know what that means: right around the corner, we might be reckoning with an official release of the complete Self Portrait sessions.

Colleen Cowie runs the blog Pass The Mic.