The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4: Live 1966 The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert (1998)

Disc One 1. She Belongs to Me 2. Fourth Time Around 3. Visions of Johanna 4. It's All Over Now, Baby Blue 5. Desolation Row 6. Just Like a Woman 7. Mr. Tamborine Man Disc Two 1. Tell Me, Momma 2. I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Met) 3. Baby Let Me Follow You Down 4. Tombstone Blues 5. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat 6. One Too Many Mornings 7. Ballad of a Thin Man 8. Like A Rolling Stone


One of those "legendary" shows where the story is necessary before a review can be given: This was a very heavily bootlegged concert from 1966 that was erroneously labeled as a performance at the Royal Albert Hall (hence the inclusion of the quotation marks in this, legitimate, release). This show was during the time of Dylan's early career where the inflexible folkies that thought he was some sort of god got very nasty when he started incorporating electric instruments into his set. And here, in its raw unpolished live format, the nastiness slowly creeps out into a rather unpleasant crescendo.

The first half of this show is just Dylan by himself on guitar, which is what most wanted and everyone was happy. As the second half (disc) of the show opens up, we hear his new backup band, The Hawks, start to tune their instruments before ripping into an electric set. At first, the crowd is polite enough, but each song has more groaning and grumbling in between the songs, until the legendary scream of "Judas!" is heard from one pathetic whiny concert goer. So, yes, you are witnessing a piece of Dylan history when listening to this album with all of the blemishes for everyone to see.

My problem with the disc, is that I don't necessary buy a CD to listen to history, but I buy one to listen to music, and this album sounds like....well....a bootleg. Maybe if Dylan didn't already have gobs and gobs of live albums (and more would follow in the subsequent "Bootleg" issues), I may have warmed up a bit more to this album. To be fair, this is the first live release from this particular period of his history, and Dylan never really remained consistent in the studio or at his shows, so it's not an unnecessary duplication. There's just too many cracks here for me to really enjoy the album, whether it's the above mentioned disharmonious morons in the audience, Dylan's consistent coughing through the songs (especially during the acoustic set), or The Hawks sounding a bit bewildered, and maybe a bit frightened as they're trying to follow along to their leader without letting a hostile crowd boo them off the stage.

It must be said that although the acoustic set comes across as a bit bland and/or repetitive, the second disc is quite good. Some of the songs featured are from his early acoustic days, and the new treatment they get does those old numbers justice. Well, it was a bootleg, and it is a big part of history. Not only Dylan's but the whole genre of popular music.

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