Bob Dylan: The 1966 Live Recordings

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Bob Dylan
The 1966 Live Recordings
(Sony Legacy)
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Knowledgeable music fans need only look at the title of Bob Dylan’s latest excavation of unreleased material to understand that it’s five-star stuff. The 1966 Live Recordings exhaustively document one of the most hallowed tours in rock history, as Dylan took the band that would become The Band overseas, thrilling most and angering some by charging up his newest compositions and some old warhorses with fierce electric energy. The audio evidence unearthed here should only enhance that reputation.

Dylan previously released the Manchester show from this tour (the one where the fan shouts “Judas” at him) way back on Bootleg Series Volume 4. Releasing 36 discs worth of performances allows for listeners to trace this remarkable musical journey step by incendiary step. (Alas, those shows in the states are audience tapes and are thus hampered by poor sound quality.)

The way the shows are mixed with the music front and center, it’s sometimes hard to hear the infamous catcalls aimed at Dylan. You can, however, hear his withering responses, although it’s not until the tail end of the tour that it turns into open warfare. Considering the way the final London show devolves into mutual provocation between artist and audience, it’s understandable why Dylan retreated from that madness soon after.

While most people focus on the electric half of the shows, with Dylan howling above The Band’s funky assault, you can make a case that the acoustic portions of these concerts hold just as much value. Dylan goes through an eight-song set of staggering quality (“Desolation Row,” “Just Like A Woman,” Visions Of Johanna,” and so on) with his interpretive skills at their peak and his hold over his audiences nothing short of mesmeric. Maybe only Dylan completists will shell out for a series of discs with repetitive set lists. Those completists will be getting a bargain.