(Abandoned) Desire is the latest Bob Dylan release on Scorpio which features the quadrophonic edit of the album, several rare live performances and several outtakes including a never before heard variation of “Joey.”
Disc one contains the quadrophonic needle drop for Desire. The label uses a very nice copy of the LP. Only faint surface noise can be occasionally be heard.
For a time in the mid-seventies many high profile LPs were release quadrophonic as well as the standard stereo and mono formats. This early attempt at an upgrade over stereo failed for many reasons. But just as mono and stereo mixes might have discernible differences, it is the same with quadrophonic.
For Bob Dylan, Nashville Skyline, Planet Waves, and Desire each had quad versions and mixes which include variations from the stereo releases. According to Rob van Estrik on the great Searching For A Gem website: “The entire (Desire) album was drastically remixed by Don DeVito from the master session tapes for quadraphonic replay. The resulting LP sounds entirely different from the regular release and is consequently one of the most collectable Dylan albums. Contrary to what was stated in Isis #50, the CD version of the album is NOT the Quadraphonic remix.”
According to van Estrik, the album was created using the Columbia “SQ” quadraphonic system and has several variations. At the end of the third verse in “Joey” there is a vocal mistake where Dylan sings “to the boss I say he said.” In “Romance In Durango,” at the end of the third verse, he sings “In the face of God will appear” and also there is a bad trumpet track that was removed from the stereo release.
There is also an intrusive scraping sound just before the third verse in “One More Cup Of Coffee” and faint studio chatter after “Oh, Sister.”
After the LP, disc one ends with three bonus tracks. The first is a performance of “Hurricane” played before Rubin “Hurricane” Carter at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Clinton, NJ on December 7th, 1975, the night before the first Night Of The Hurricane at Madison Square Garden. Sourced from a fair to good audience tape, it is interesting to hear the performance for the song’s subject.
The second bonus track is “Romance In Durango” from the November 24th, 2003 show at the Hammersmith Apollo in London. This is the only performance of the Desire track since the Rolling Thunder Revue in 1976. The arrangement is very close to the studio recording.
The final bonus track is the only live performance of “Abandoned Love,” taped at The Other End in Greenwich Village in New York City on July 3rd, 1975. Joe Kivak, the taper of the set, recalled the evening in his book Encounters With Bob Dylan: “Their first song was ‘Pretty Boy Floyd,’ with Bob singing harmony and his guitar buzzing right along. Then Jack started ‘How Long Blues.’ After the first verse, he looked at Bob in a way that seemed to ask him to sing a verse.
“Bob simply shook his head and mouthed something inaudible. When the song finished, however, Dylan began strumming his guitar. But since it was still buzzing, he asked Jack to trade instruments with him. At that moment, everyone in the room was in a trance; it’s not every day one gets to hear an impromptu Bob Dylan performance in a tiny club. After a couple of lines, we realized he was performing a new song, with each line getting even better than the last. The song was ‘Abandoned Love,’ and it still is the most powerful performance I’ve ever heard.
“Ramblin’ Jack started strumming along in the beginning, but he soon realized the rarity of the moment and stopped and stepped to the side. As Bob sang, the nervousness so evident earlier vanished completely. He was so moving. There he was, hitting us with new material, with everyone hanging on his every word.
“It was an incredible feeling to be in that small club listening to Bob Dylan perform a new song. We all felt we were watching history in the making. After he finished, he returned to his seat near the back of the club and quietly watched the rest of the show. Jack appeared so speechless and overwhelmed by Dylan’s performance that he started his next song with Bob’s buzzing guitar.”
Disc two starts off with the newly surfaced “Joey” outtake. Recorded on July 14th, it sounds pretty close to the studio version. It starts off with female singers singing the second line of the chorus: “Joey, Joey / What made them want to come and blow you away?” and in the second verse Dylan sings “They always seemed to walk between the mob and the man in blue” instead of “It always seemed they got caught between the mob and the men in blue.”
The rest of the disc contains outtakes such as “Rita Mae,” “Catfish” and “Golden Loom.” Also included are the first take of “Hurricane” and Dylan’s session with Bette Midler which surfaced several years ago on New York Sessions 1974-1975 (no label).
(Abandoned) Desire is packaged in a slimline jewel case with a thick booklet printed on gorgeous glossy paper. The liner notes are very comprehensive, covering the sessions and the specifics of the quadrophonic edit. Scorpio is one of the greatest labels and this release demonstrates they still have the ability to not only find new material but to produce beautiful, collectible titles.