Bringing It All Back Home

 

Part I: History 

Bringing It All Back Home was the record where Dylan finally plugged in. His first attempts to record amplified music had been in the autumn of 1962, when he produced the frantic but aborted "Mixed Up Confusion" single, the gentler "Corrina Corrina" as its B-side and the even more discreetly-accompanied take of "Corrina Corrina" that appeared on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. There was also the bluesy "Rocks And Gravel" that was originally scheduled for the album but dropped, and some rockabilly-styled takes of "That's All Right Mama" that didn't even make it that far. It seemed that at the time Columbia wanted Dylan firmly as a folk artist, not as a Sun-era rock and roll revivalist. From the three recording sessions he did with backing musicians, only the album cut of "Corrina" survived at that time. 

In the intervening two years, though, the music world had moved on a long way. The Beatles had invaded America (and Dylan's consciousness), and a 1964 record by another British band had a particular influence on Dylan's future direction: The Animals' version of "House Of The Rising Sun". They had taken the arrangement from Dylan's first album and recorded it with electric rock backing, producing a huge international hit and laying one of the foundation stones of the coming folk-rock boom. 

In December of 1964 Dylan's producer, Tom Wilson, took Dylan's own original solo recording of "Rising Sun" and overdubbed an electric studio band onto it, thinking to maybe create a Dylan cover of The Animals' hit - a strangely circular notion. The same treatment was applied to three other 1961-62 Dylan recordings too, but these four overdubbed songs stayed on the shelf. Dylan presumably didn't like the results, and it's quite likely that the whole thing was Wilson's idea, not his. Note  

But whether or not Dylan was influenced by this experiment, a few weeks later a full electric band was booked for the recording sessions for his new album.

 

Recording 

On January 13, 1965, Dylan arrived at Columbia's Studio A with fifteen or so new songs, and spent a day putting down guide versions. These were mostly acoustic, though he had a little amplified fun at the end of the day's recording. Note The following day the full crew was there. Drummer Bobby Gregg had already played at the previous month's unproductive overdub session, and went on to play with Dylan both in the studio and on the road throughout 1965. The other musicians included guitarist Bruce Langhorne and stand-up bassist Bill Lee, both of whom had played on Dylan sessions in 1962;  John Sebastian and Steve (né John) Boone from The Lovin' Spoonful; veteran bass-player Joe Mack, contracted under his proper name of Joseph Macho Jr.; guitarists Al Gorgoni, Kenny Rankin and John Hammond Jr. (son of Dylan's former producer); and pianist Paul Griffin, whose playing was later heard to much better effect on Highway 61 Revisited and the "One Of Us Must Know" single. On the third and last day of these January sessions Frank Owens replaced Griffin on piano. The whole of the released album was recorded in just two days. The producer was Tom Wilson, the recording engineers Roy Halee and Peter Dauria.

 

Mixing 

In the 1960s Columbia used different staff engineers to mix the mono and stereo versions of albums; this is one reason why the mono and stereo mixes so often sounded different. Nothing seems to have been written about the mixing of this particular album, but since stereo was still very much a minority format it is almost certain that Dylan's involvement would have been with the mass-market mono version, particularly as this was the one which would get AM radio airplay.  See the separate article on mono and stereo recordings for a more detailed discussion.

 

Vinyl Releases 

Bringing It All Back Home was released in March 1965 in the US, in both mono and stereo. In the UK it was released in May, tying in with Dylan's solo tour there.

One result of using different engineers for the mono and stereo releases is that songs were often faded out differently in the stereo format. This is very evident on Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde, where some tracks differed by half a minute or more. There are several differences of this type on Bringing It All Back Home, but on a much lesser scale: the biggest discrepancy is only 5 seconds. Details are given in Appendix B

The stereo LP mix also balances the various instruments slightly differently here and there, with the piano in particular being more audible on some of the songs on Side 1. The biggest difference, though, is the thin, weak sound; this is discussed in more detail in Part II.

The mono version was deleted in 1969 in both the US the UK, though it continued to be produced in some countries well into the seventies. The original stereo LP version remained on Columbia's vinyl catalogue in the US until the late 1990s; in Europe it appears to have been discontinued in the early-to-mid 1990s

 

Significant Reissues 

The album was first released on CD in 1987, with many countries importing discs manufactured in Japan. By this time the original stereo tapes had worn to the point that they were judged no longer fit for purpose, so the album was remixed from the 4-track studio recordings. Many tracks are longer than on the LP, and here and there individual instruments have received different treatments. No firm information has emerged about who did this remixing; however, it seems likely that it was Tim Geelan, the Columbia staff engineer who remixed Blonde On Blonde for CD around this time. Note

In 1999 the UK specialist label Simply Vinyl reissued the original stereo album under licence, but this edition was only available for a few years.

The mono album was reissued in 2001 by the US vinyl specialist label Sundazed, remastered from the original mono mix-down tapes by the label's owner, Bob Irwin; this appears still to be in print. 

In September 2003 Sony came out with their hybrid SACD reissue of the album. This was momentous not so much because of the Super Audio CD format, which never really took off outside a small audiophile market, but because Sony again had the album remixed from the original studio four-track tapes.  This, according to Sony's Steve Berkowitz, was because the original stereo master tape was no longer usable. Perhaps the 1987 remix was not used because it only existed in 16-bit CD format, and Sony needed a higher-definition source for the SACD release; or perhaps Steve Berkowitz, the overall producer of the Dylan reissue programme, just didn't like the earlier remix. Note  The new remix was done by Michael H. Brauer, who had previously done excellent remixes of Street Legal, Live 1966 and Blonde On Blonde.  For Bringing It All Back Home, Steve Berkowitz provided some guidance in the mixing process. The hybrid SACD edition had Brauer's stereo mix in both normal CD and SACD formats (mastered by Greg Calbi), and also his 5.1 surround mix (mastered by George Marino). 

With the failure of the SACD format to gain widespread popularity, this hybrid version was deleted within a few years. However, in 2004 Brauer's stereo remix was reissued as a plain CD, providing a less expensive alternative to the SACD edition.  The audio content is identical to the CD layer of the hybrid SACD. The original 1987 CD version was deleted at this time, leaving the much improved remix as the new standard edition; this remains in print.

In late 2010 Sony finally released the 1965 mono mix in CD format as part of their Original Mono Recordings CD box set.  The digital mastering work was done by engineer Mark Wilder. Note  There were also new high quality 180g pressings of the mono LP, both as part of the vinyl edition of the Mono Recordings box set and as an individual LP released in Europe by Dutch company Music On Vinyl. Both editions derived from lacquers cut for Sony by George Marino in New York.  The Music On Vinyl pressing was reissued in Europe in 2015, though curiously as a Sony Legacy rather than a Music On Vinyl release, and with no indication on the sleeve (beyond the CL 2389 catalogue number) to say whether it is a mono or stereo LP. 

Starting in 2013 the US audiophile label Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab has released both the mono and stereo album mixes, each in a 45rpm double-disc vinyl edition; and each mix has also been released as a remastered hybrid SACD.

In 2012 Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab produced a new 45rpm double-disc stereo vinyl edition of the album.  While they claimed to have used the "original master tapes", it turned out that this did not mean the original 1965 stereo masters.  It just meant that they had used the most original tapes Sony would let them have.  So in fact the this was Michael Brauer's 2003 remix of the album, as used on Sony's own CD and hybrid SACD editions; only the final mastering of the vinyl cut was different. Mobile Fidelity also released a stereo-only edition on hybrid SACD, remastered by Shawn Britton from Brauer's mix. More recently (2016-17), they have put out limited edition pressings of the mono mix in both 45rpm vinyl and hybrid SACD formats.

The 2003 remix of the album is now available as a high-resolution download from HDTracks, Qobuz and other online sources, as well as in compressed form from iTunes and elsewhere.  For now, the mono mix seems only to be available as a compressed download from iTunes

November 2015 brought us The Bootleg Series Vol.12: The Cutting Edge 1965-1966. This was of course not intended or structured as a new release of Dylan's original albums from this period; but nonetheless the hugely expensive Collector's Edition did, by virtue of including everything Dylan recorded in the studio in those two years, include all the tracks that appeared on those albums; and they were in new, no-frills mixes by Steve Addabbo, who was already known to Dylan followers for mixing The Bootleg Series Vol.10: Another Self Portrait. Some of the 5,000 purchasers of this 18-CD set have no doubt used it to compile their own simulated new editions of the three 1965-66 albums.

 

Album Sleeves 

Rod MacBeath made an excellent, detailed study of this album's cover in his series on Dylan's record sleeves in the now defunct Dylan fanzine The Telegraph many years ago. He identified, for example, practically all the LP sleeves so carefully strewn around in the front cover photograph, and even named the cat (Rolling Stone, if you must know). Alan Fraser's website Searching For A Gem is also an excellent source of information, including illustrations of the sleeves and labels of Dylan releases from all over the world.  What follows here is a very brief overview in relation to this particular album.

The original record sleeve was a field day for Daniel Kramer, with that brilliantly-staged colour photo of Dylan and Sally Grossman on the front, and six monochrome shots on the back showing Dylan in the company of various famous friends of the time - Joan Baez, Peter Yarrow, Allen Ginsberg, film-maker Barbara Rubin. 

US stereo sleeveAs was standard Columbia practice in the sixties, the stereo edition compromised the original front sleeve design by dropping the title and picture down in order to show the stereo serial number and the "360 Sound" double-arrow logo. As a result the white space below the picture pretty well disappeared. 

On the US rear sleeve Columbia printed their logo and the catalogue number in the top right-hand corner of the photo of Dylan with Joan Baez. This proved difficult to adapt for the UK market, which required the CBS logo and a different catalogue number; so the background was cropped from the upper part of this photo, Dylan and Baez appearing as cut-outs.

France, as usual in the sixties, did its own thing with the sleeve. The original edition was a gatefold, with the rear photos rearranged and Dylan's sleeve notes omitted in favour of advertising for other French Dylan LPs and EPs. To make up for that the centre spread contained transcribed words for all the songs (generally closer to the recorded versions than the words published elsewhere), with some interpretative notes on the songs in French. Note

Subterranean Homesick Blues sleeveThe sleeve variation that has provoked most comment and perplexity over the years is the one released by CBS in the Benelux countries and Germany. Here, to cash in on the popularity of Dylan's latest hit single, they actually changed the title of the album to Subterranean Homesick Blues. The album is otherwise identical. Amazingly, the variation carried over into the CD era, and as far as I know was only dropped with the advent of the 2003 SACD and 2004 remastered CD editions.

The 2003 SACD edition came in a digipak whose front was based on the original mono LP design. It had the original rear picture photos, marginally cropped, on the back, but omitted the original sleeve notes.  These notes appeared in the booklet, along with five new Daniel Kramer photos, mostly from the recording sessions.  Two more session photos appeared on the inside cover and beneath the transparent disc tray.

The now-standard remixed and remastered CD edition (since 2004) has a jewel case with inserts very much following the external design of the SACD. The booklet is pretty much the same as for the SACD, but for one strange exception. On the penultimate page, where the SACD booklet has a Daniel Kramer photo of Dylan with producer Tom Wilson, the jewel-case CD booklet has instead a detail of the large photo that's on page 2 of the booklet (showing just Dylan's forehead and shades), cropped to not quite the right shape to fit the space. Despite being expunged photographically, Wilson still gets his production credit on the same page of the booklet. Note

The 2010 mono CD reissue, like all the others in Sony's The Original Mono Recordings box set, comes in a CD-sized paper-on-card replica of the original US mono LP sleeve.  The mono LP reissues from both Sony and Music On Vinyl likewise come in sleeves that replicate the original.

The 2013 Mobile Fidelity hybrid SACD comes in an open-out card sleeve; there are some new photos included in the booklet inside. However, the aesthetics are rather spoiled by Mo-Fi's usual bright blue ORIGINAL MASTER RECORDING banner across the top of the outer sleeve and the booklet.

 

Last updated November 2017

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