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A 'Blood on the Tracks' redux, sans Dylan

By Wire services
Published March 3, 2004

MINNEAPOLIS - In late 1974, a studio in south Minneapolis took center stage in Bob Dylan's musical life: the rerecording of half the songs on his "comeback" album, Blood on the Tracks.

It was, as those who were there like to quote the song, a simple twist of fate that brought them together to help energize one of Dylan's most critically acclaimed and biggest-selling albums.

"This was a whole bunch of coincidences, beginning in New York ... that conspired to bring together a masterwork," says Kevin Odegard, who played guitar in the Minneapolis sessions.

Nearly 30 years later, those musicians remain largely anonymous and still uncredited on the album sleeve. But that anonymity is ending.

A new book, A Simple Twist of Fate: Bob Dylan and the Making of Blood on the Tracks (DaCapo Press, $25) by Odegard and British rock journalist Andy Gill, hit the shelves in February. The Minneapolis musicians will reunite to perform the album from start to finish tonight at the Pantages Theatre in Minneapolis.

Don't expect Dylan to be there. He is scheduled to perform tonight in St. Louis. He did not respond to an AP request for an interview.

Blood on the Tracks came at a crucial time for Dylan, who had returned to Columbia Records after a stint with Asylum. His marriage to Sara Lowndes was breaking up, and the songs on Blood on the Tracks are mainly about love and loss.

Tangled Up in Blue, Dylan's jangly reminiscence about a lover and the 1960s when there was "music in the cafes at night and revolution in the air," is among the songs from the Minneapolis sessions that made the album, and it remains a Dylan concert staple.

Odegard had recorded two albums in the 1970s when he got a call from his manager, David Zimmerman, Dylan's younger brother. Zimmerman was looking for a rare 1930s Martin guitar, the type favored by singer Joan Baez.

"Right away my antenna went up," Odegard says. He contacted his friend Chris Weber, who owned a guitar store near the University of Minnesota. By coincidence, Weber had received a similar guitar on consignment.

Odegard swore Weber to secrecy: The guitar was for Dylan.

On Dec. 27, 1974, they headed to Sound 80, a studio in a working-class neighborhood. (Sound 80 has since been sold and is now used by Orfield Laboratories Inc. for testing products' acoustical properties.)

In walked Dylan, quietly, "just like one of the guys," Odegard says.

"He wasn't ultrastrange and scary and standing in the corner and people walking on tiptoes," Weber remembers. The "curly haired kid," 34 years old at the time, stuck out his hand and said, "Hi, I'm Bob Dylan," Weber says.

Dylan had recorded Idiot Wind in New York City that September at sessions overseen by producer Phil Ramone (since known for his work with Billy Joel, Paul Simon and Sinead O'Connor). But Dylan sounds venomous as he denounces a former lover in the Minneapolis version that ended up on the album.

Odegard credits the liveliness of the Minneapolis versions to the rhythm section of drummer Bill Berg and bassist Billy Peterson, known for their jazzy style. Peterson praises Dylan's spontaneity. After a few rehearsals with musicians who were hearing the songs for the first time, Dylan would quickly record them.

"He was a genius, man," Peterson says. "He captured the creative process. He never belabored it."

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