That’s Been Fifty Years Ago… 50 Years of the CDB Part 39: Off the Grid: Doin’ it Dylan
On April 1, 2014 – in what many probably thought was an elaborate April Fool’s Day prank - The CDB released “Off the Grid-Doin’ it Dylan,” a tribute album to Bob Dylan who was a pivotal figure in dad’s career.
It was also the first album of new material released through Blue Hat Records distribution deal with Megaforce Records, which is primarily a heavy metal label, and the original distributor of Metallica’s early recordings
Notice I said first album of new material. The deal came in place in 2012, and there was another release, but it was a repackaging of hits called ‘Hits of the South.’
One quick side note, the CD digipak ‘HOTS’ came coated with a shiny layer which looked great, but made signing in a standard black Sharpie marker impossible, so he had to use a lot of silver Sharpies on that album.
Later releases would be in a matte finish, and worked much better, starting with ‘Off the Grid.’
Before securing distribution with Megaforce, Blue Hat released a couple of other in-house releases, including a repackaged Christmas album and a few digital singles and such.
Dad was still touring heavily, and 2013 was really the soonest that he could get in and cut something new, and he hadn’t had time to write much. Plus, being the creative talent that he was, he was looking to do something different, but unsure of what that should be.
Enter Anson Mount.
Currently, Anson Mount stars as Captain Christopher Pike on the Star Trek prequel series, “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds,” however, in 2013 he was the start of AMC’s “Hell on Wheels,” a hard biting Western about the first transcontinental railroad construction in the 1860s.
Dad was a fan of the show, and surprisingly, Anson was a fan of his and they became Twitter buds. The two were on the same page of a lot of topics, which is kind of surprising for someone in Hollywood, but he grew up in White Bluff, TN.
Anson had an idea, he wanted to have dad do a guest appearance on the show. The writers had written a saloon scene where Anson would dance with a woman and he wanted to invite dad to fly to Alberta to be in the band for the saloon.
But at 77 years old, with a hectic touring schedule, and a filming location in extremely rural Alberta, it wasn’t going to happen.
So, Plan B was for dad to record something in his studio and let a live band play on set, but use dad’s recording.
That would work.
To sound authentic, the recording would need to be acoustic, so no electric instruments and dad brought in banjo virtuoso Leroy Troy, to put some finishing touches on the recording.
The final piece was called “Hell on Strings,” and was featured in the season three episode, “One Less Mule.”
Dad decided this different style would be something that could turn out an album pretty quickly and do a bit of a reinvention of the band’s sound.
Dad turned to Bob Dylan’s music, whose insistence on finishing his “Nashville Skyline” album when dad was only scheduled for one 3-hour session was a key moment in dad’s career.
One last bit to touch on since the last new album was in 2009, there was a huge change in the band lineup. Dad’s friend and keyboard player since before the CDB existed, Taz DiGregorio, passed away in a single vehicle accident in 2011.
I remember the call in the middle of the night, it was devastating.
And while nobody could ever fill Taz’s shoes, by 2012 dad had a replacement keyboard player, Shannon Wickline.
Okay, I know that’s a lot of setup, but the rest should go pretty quickly, on to the music.
The album kicks off with “Tangled Up in Blue,” originally from the 1975 album ‘Blood on the Tracks.’
The tempo and feel of the CDB version is more akin to Hootie and the Blowfish’s Dylan-inspired “Only Wanna Be With You.”
The CDB version is considerably shorter than the original, as dad left out several verses, but dad said it was one of his favorite Dylan songs.
Next is one of Dylan’s most iconic songs, “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” Dad said he felt if any song personified Bob Dylan, it was this one. He said, “it was in the sixties when we had two generations that were just at loggerheads with each other, over the Vietnam War, over music, over lifestyles, dress,” and Dylan’s song is basically saying that your children are beyond your control now, and you just have to accept the changing times.
It was originally released in 1964, from the album of the same name.
“I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” is from ‘John Wesley Harding,’ and dad said that it’s a “good time” song that just about anyone could have recorded, possibly even someone like Waylon Jennings, the lyrics aren’t quite as obscure as some of Dylan’s others, and it just has a good feel to it.
“Gotta Serve Somebody” in dad’s words, is a simple truth, “there are only two entities to serve, God and the devil.” And that holds true for everyone, no matter what walk of life you come from, “either willingly, or unwittingly,” you’re gonna serve somebody.
It comes from Dylan’s first Gospel album, 1979’s ‘Slow Train’ Comin,’’ after becoming a Christian in 1978.
“I Shall Be Released” was written by Dylan in 1967, but it became a hit for The Band in 1968.
It’s a pretty sad, plaintiff song, about people in jail longing for the day they will be set free, seeing themselves projected high above the prison walls.
Dad said, “it’s bitter, it’s plaintiff, it’s the hope of getting out, someday.”
“Country Pie” is a special song for dad, because he played guitar on the original from ‘Nashville Skyline.’ He’s playing the main guitar riff of the song, “my favorite I ever played on a Dylan song,” but rather than play the same thing over 40 years later, he decided to rework it as a fiddle tune.
He said that he thought it was just Dylan’s take on country life.
“Mr. Tambourine Man” is one of Dylan’s better-known songs, but it was a bigger pop hit for The Byrds than it was for Dylan when both recorded it in 1965. Dad said that it “translates into something that could be recorded by kind of a pop group and get radio play.”
The concept of “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”- according to dad – is a simple one. It’s someone talking to his son, asking him questions, “where have you been,” “what did you see” and “what are you gonna do now,” “after that, it gets a little hairy,” according to him.
From there, the answers become very abstract, but for all of that, dad says that he thinks it basically means that he’s been out in the world, and it’s bad. It’s a bad rotten world with bad things going on, but there is hope.
It was originally from 1962’s ‘The Freewheeling Bob Dylan,” and another one of those perplexing but mesmerizing Dylan songs.
In an interview that he gave maybe 10 or 15 years ago, Bob said he wasn’t really sure where some of the lyrics he wrote came from.
Dad said he felt that “Just Like A Woman” – from 1966’s ‘Blonde on Blonde’ album - was one of the more tender things that Dylan ever wrote.
It’s about a woman who appears strong, she does all the things a grown woman does, but on the inside, she’s fragile like a little girl.
“Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)” also covered as just “The Mighty Quinn” by Manfred Mann closes out the album. Dad theorizes that the title could have come from a movie in which actor Anthony Quinn played an Eskimo, but – in his words – it gets a little hard to understand, he said that he wasn’t sure even Dylan knew what some of the lines meant, but dad really liked the song, stating that it was a good singalong song.
“Off the Grid” is an unexpected album, recorded in an unexpected style but highly listenable.
And something pretty cool happened with this album, for the first time since 1989’s ‘Simple Man’ album, a CDB album was pressed on vinyl. It only took 25 years, but better late than never.
There’s just something about a big LP vinyl that bears examining, much more than a CD and you lose a lot of the details when you are strictly digital or streaming.
And the cover is an interesting composite of half of dad’s face superimposed over an alleyway and a figure looking much like Bob Dylan from behind, actually, the model’s name was Larry Brother Love. I’m not making that up.
For the second time, dad dedicated an album to his friend and mentor, Bob Johnston, with the first one being 1973’s ‘Honey in the Rock.’
“Dedication to Bob Johnston:
You taught me so much, you encouraged me in so many ways.
You showed me How to stand up to adversity that was much bigger than I am.
You encouraged me to burn the midnight oil and made me realize that for every word there’s a rhyme, for every lyric there’s a melody if we Just develop the work ethic to pursue it. You took me to places I never dreamed about going and showed me sights I never thought I’d see.
You taught me to dream big and dream constantly and Jump the hurdles that stood in the way of my goals.?€?
Bob Johnston, my friend, my mentor, my inspiration, I salute you with love,
Admiration and wishes for God’s blessings on your life.
Charlie Daniels 2014”
Bob Johnston passed away in 2015, a little over a year after the Dylan tribute album was released.
Bob Johnston was a complicated individual who endured the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, but dad always had nothing but love and respect for him, no matter where he was in his life or in his career.
No Bob Johnston, likely no Charlie Daniels Band.
One last note, on April 27, 2015, Bob Dylan performed at Tennessee Performing Arts Center promoting his then most recent album. Dad went to see him and got to talk with him for a little bit before the show.
At the time it had been about 45 years since the last time they worked together, dad talked about his tribute album to Bob, and I don’t know if he had heard it at the time, but he was aware of it.
Oddly enough, Bob’s show that night would mostly feature songs that he didn’t originally record, because he had just released a tribute album of his own, ‘Shadows in the Night,’ the songs of Frank Sinatra.
Many people didn’t know how much an influence Bob Dylan was on dad’s career, even before he worked with him and I guess the same could be said for Dylan’s affection for Sinatra.
No matter the style, good music is good music.
Check out 'Off the Grid-Doin' it Dylan' HERE
Next, the acoustic trend continues with an all-cowboy album!
What do you think?
Let’s all make the day count!
Pray for our troops, our police, the Peace of Jerusalem and our nation.
God Bless America!
— Charlie Daniels, Jr.
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