Columbia Studio B, New York
Ghost Riders in the Sky
This tape is proof that Dylan's stature was so great in 1970 that he could
book time in a major studio to sit and fool around with a famous friend
and come up with absolutely nothing usable. Very few recording artists
then or now could do the same. Touted as a session with George
Harrison, this tape is actually part of the New Morning sessions, and
in fact one song (If Not For You) was at one time considered for
inclusion on that album. There was actually much more material recorded
at the same session, including versions of Sign on the Window and
Time Passes Slowly. Other musicians include Charlie Daniels on bass
and Russ Kunkel on drums. Bob Johnston plays piano on a few songs as
Unlike the Johnny Cash sessions which took place the year before, this was not an effort to blend the two talents into an equal collaboration. Harrison is a sideman only, and uncredited on studio logs at that, but still Rolling Stone magazine at the time made it sound like an historic meeting of the minds. What really took place here was an effort to come up with one or two original songs for the next album. I'd like to hear what they did with Sign on the Window and the other originals, but it's likely that nothing good ever came of them. As stated previously, the version of If Not For You recorded during these sessions was intended for New Morning but replaced at the last minute by a superior version recorded at a later date. The original If Not For You eventually found its way onto The Bootleg Series.
What we have on this tape is mostly fooling around, wasting time really, perhaps warming up for the real work at hand or relaxing afterward. Dylan runs through some older songs from his catalog, and some of these show promise: Song To Woody, Gates of Eden, One Too Many Mornings. The fact that none of these songs were formally worked on, or restarted to get clean intros, shows that they were just tossed off for fun. Most of the songs are covers of songs that George Harrison might have been interested in playing: Matchbox, True Love. Some of these show promise, especially Matchbox, but for the most part the music here is truly awful. Telephone Line might have been a good blues had it been worked on a little and finished. Ghost Riders is just abysmal, and Dylan shows that he doesn't have a clue how Cupid is supposed to go.
Sound quality is excellent.
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