Dylan's, Simon's youth revisited; Bowie, Bangles repackaged


Bob Dylan - Live 1964Sad you never got a chance to hear Bob Dylan perform back in his heyday? While you can't go back in time, Columbia's Legacy label has just unearthed a two-CD recording of a 23-year-old Dylan from 1964 at the New York Philharmonic Hall.

Accompanying the disc is a thick booklet of notes and photos documenting the night. Live 1964 includes a sparse guitar and harmonica recording of "The Times They Are a-Changin,'" as well as "If You Gotta Go, Go Now," "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)," "Talkin' World War III Blues" and "Mr. Tambourine Man."

On the second disc, the young folk singer is joined by the queen of the folk movement (and Dylan's romantic interest) at that time, Joan Baez, to sing "Silver Dagger," "It Ain't Me, Babe" and more.

Paul Simon - SongbookPaul Simon on the lam
During the same year that Dylan was dueting with Baez, a discouraged folk duet singer, Paul Simon, caught a plane and took his songs solo. Simon & Garfunkel's debut album, Wednesday Morning, 3 a.m., hadn't taken off, and so Simon took to playing London coffeehouses on his own. Eventually, he would record a solo album there, The Paul Simon Songbook, which included a future Simon & Garfunkel hit, "I Am a Rock," and a solemn, single-voiced re-recording of Wednesday Morning's "The Sound of Silence." Ironically, at the same time Simon's album was released in England, a remixed version of Wednesday Morning's "Sound of Silence" was released in the States.

It belatedly became a hit, pulling Simon back to the United States to tour and forge a meteoric career with Art Garfunkel. That "lost" solo album from Simon is now available on CD from Columbia's Legacy label and features the above songs, as well as simple guitar and vocal renderings of "Leaves That Are Green," "April Come She Will," "He Was My Brother" and more.

David Bowie - EarthlingLatter Day Bowie Reissues
Usually, albums are reissued because 20 and 30 years later, they have become "classic" in some way, and bonus tracks recorded at the time are included to give the discs even more reissue value. That said, David Bowie's mid- to latter-day '90s albums can hardly be considered "classics" yet, and are certainly not among the best recordings of his career.

Nevertheless, Columbia has reissued 1995's Outside, 1997's Earthling and 1999's 'hours…'. The albums originally were issued on Virgin Records, and now each include bonus songs.

Non-Essential Bangles
Bangles - EssentialSony's Legacy label also has released four more discs in its "Essential" series, covering the careers of the Bangles, Donovan, Tammy Wynette and Fred Astaire. Given the breadth of the careers of all of these artists, (and previously released "hits" collections), the label's decision to release single-disc compilations, rather than the usual, more expansive double CD Essential lineup is problematic.

While the two-CD Essential sets of other artists spotlighted by the label truly gave a solid picture of the songs of those artists' careers, these new single disc sets seem to be nothing more than bargain-basement repackagings of old sets.

The Essential Bangles CD, in particular, is needless. Essentially, it's a repackaging of its 1990 Greatest Hits CD, omitting a 1984 B-side track and its early popular single "Going Down to Liverpool," and in their place adding a song from the Goonies soundtrack, a 1988 B-side and two interesting but obscure early songs. It completely ignores last year's excellent reunion album, Doll Revolution (which featured a title track written by Elvis Costello).

A true Essential updating of the Bangles would have included a couple songs from Doll Revolution and could not have ignored "Going Down To Liverpool." If you own their Greatest Hits already, there's slim reason to buy this one. If you don't, the track order of Greatest Hits is still superior, though both CDs include the standards, "Walking Down Your Street," "Manic Monday," "Eternal Flame," "Walk Like An Egyptian," "Hero Takes a Fall" and "Hazy Shade of Winter."