Bob Dylan’s a major musical figure who I haven’t covered on this blog yet. He has a huge discography, brimming with greatness – and I’ll tackle his 1960s albums and later highlights sometime. But I wanted to participate in blog dylan, a Bob-fest organised by Danica at Living A Beautiful Life, so I dug up an old review of my favourite Dylan live album; enjoy!
The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966, The “Royal Albert Hall” Concert
In 1965, Dylan stopped folk singing and started playing with a rock band and writing more complex songs with more verbal imagery. This was disconcerting to his audience, who preferred him to keep producing folk anthems such as ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ and ‘The Times They Are A Changing’. He and his band were constantly heckled at concerts, and the records that he produced during the period were sometimes harangued by critics: the sleeve notes report that one critic dismissed ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ as “sub-standard Dylan” with “monotonous melody line and expressionless intoning….going over to the electronic enemy.”This album was recorded at the height of the controversy; just before ‘Like A Rolling Stone’, a member of the audience shouts “Judas” at Dylan. Dylan’s famously backed by most of the musicians who went on to form The Band – while Levon Helm sat the tour out, tiring of the controversy, Rick Danko, Robbie Robertson, Richard Manuel, and Garth Hudson are all present.
The two discs of the live album document the different halves of the show (which was actually in Manchester, the original bootleg was misnamed so the official release continues the tradition): the first is a solo acoustic set, while the second is an electric set with most of The Band backing Dylan. The first disc is very focused and intimate, with some excellent vocal performances as Dylan tackles epics ‘Desolation Row’ and ‘Visions of Johanna’. The second disc is even better with The Band providing fire and intensity; with guitarist Robbie Robertson’s aggressive leads. As well as highlights from recent electric albums Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde, Dylan reaches back into his catalogue for electrified versions of ‘Baby Let Me Follow You Down’ and ‘One Too Many Mornings’.
Albert Hall is a great live album, given extra impetus by its historical significance. Highly recommended.