I’m not a fan of live albums. Most are a disappointment.
Either the sound quality of the recording is horrendous or the sound system used couldn’t adequately reproduce the artful effects created in the studio.
The same goes for the live shows themselves. I’m often left wondering if the artist has any true talent or not.
Today’s youth doesn’t seem to mind one way or the other. A live show is simply a spectacle, filled with computer-generated music and/or half-clad dancers.
They don’t even seem to mind if the artist is lip-syncing.
The thrill is just being there.
Ironically, it appears that recent Pulitzer Prize Winner Bob Dylan has brought us full circle.
His latest release, entitled “Bob Dylan: The 1966 Live Recordings,” is evidence that the thrill was just being there.
Unless you’re a Dylan fanatic, like me, you’ll find these recordings irritating if not downright repulsive.
The sound quality is horrendous, having been recorded through either the soundboard, the efforts of an inexperienced CBS recording engineer, or by a member of the audience. The magic that breathes life into these recordings was conjured up in the studio. which is purely a result of the advancements in technology.
The 36-CD set, which features every show during that year’s infamous world tour, was released for two reasons.
First, It was an historical event. The recordings capture his first “electric” tour, which generated a tremendous amount of negative response.
He opened the shows with an acoustic set, followed by an electric set. Each show was met with the same disdain for his going electric, which only drove Dylan to make the following electric sets progressively louder until the tour was finally over.
So, his management team, convinced that there’s a never-ending demand for Dylan material of the slightest variation, was happy to release this as yet another installment of the “Bootleg Series.” It’s become an annual event.
It certainly didn’t hurt that Dylan was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Literature shortly before the comprehensive collection was released. No singer-songwriter-musician has ever been nominated, let awarded the honor.
As a result, literature aficionados now have as much –if not more — disdain for Dylan than his folk-root fans did in 1966, especially after announcing that he would not be attending the acceptance gala on December 10.
I must also be noted that the songs were quickly approaching the expiration of their 50-year copyright.
Second, the whole thing boils down to a single word yelled out by an audience member between songs at the concert held in Manchester, England, on May 17, 1966.
Interestingly enough, a bootleg version led people to believe it transpired at the Royal Albert Hall. However, in 1998, it was correctly identified on the fourth volume of the “Bootleg Series.”
Anyway, reports indicate that Dylan considered his English fans, like their American counterparts, to be more accepting of his new direction than those in other parts of the world. He was wrong.
He was nearly finished with his electric set, when, between a “Ballad of a Thin Man” and “Like a Rolling Stone,” the audience member yells out “Judas!.”
“I don’t believe you,” responded Dylan. “You’re a liar.”
At least the spirited exchange of words is clearly audible on the CD.
Dylan immediately led the “Hawks,” who would later become known as “The Band,” into an impassioned version of “Like a Rolling Stone,” which concluded the show.
If you’re only interested in the “Judas” show, it will be released as a double-LP set on November 25, and a double-CD set on December 2, 2016. It will be entitled, “The Real Royal Albert Hall 1966 Concert.”
And, yes, to keep my collection complete, I recently took delivery of this release, too.
Recalling the incident in 2012, Dylan said, “Judas, the most hated name in human history. Yeah, and for what? For playing an electric guitar?.”
Looking back, he’s certainly got a point.
Give it a spin.
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