The 1966 Live Recordings
Live, Box Set
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A monumental 36-disc box set featuring every known recording from the mythic and controversial 1966 tour of the US, UK, Europe and Australia.
With the exception of the Manchester concert (May 17, 1966) released as Bob Dylan Live 1966 The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 in 1998, a pair of songs appearing on the 1985 Biograph compilation and a smattering of others, the overwhelming majority of tracks and performances on Bob Dylan: The 1966 Live Recordings are previously unreleased in any format--official or bootlegged--and are being made available now for the very first time.
All the songs on The 1966 Live Recordings were written by Bob Dylan (vocal, guitar, piano, harmonica) with the sole exception of "Baby, Let Me Follow You Down," a traditional song arranged by Bob Dylan for concert performance. Dylan is accompanied on these recordings by Robbie Robertson (guitar), Rick Danko (bass, backing vocals), Richard Manuel (piano), Garth Hudson (organ) and Mickey Jones (drums). (Sandy Konikoff plays drums on the White Plains and Pittsburgh shows only.)
Meticulously researched, curated and restored for this extraordinary collection, Bob Dylan: The 1966 Live Recordings is drawn from three main audio sources: soundboards, CBS Records mobile recordings and audience tapes.
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For fans of Dylan's early period this massive set will be a good addition to the music shelf. If you've heard Vol. 4 in the Bootleg Series you already have a good idea of what's here. 1966 was a pivotal year for both Dylan and music. And similar to the earlier release of the '65-'66 studio recordings, this set includes every gig he did in '66. Five "stars" because I was around then listening to Dylan and I still remember how exciting it sounded when he strapped on an electric guitar and had a tough, rocking, roadhouse band backing him. Some fans will rate this release higher or lower depending on how they hear all these concerts. So, to each his own on that subject. If you want to know a lot more about these concerts, read the recently published book "Judas!: From Forest Hills to the Free Trade Hall..." by Clinton Heylin, an in depth look at that whole period.
But let's also remember that (also like the '65-'66 studio set) these recordings had to be released by the record label or their 50 year copyright protection would go out the window, allowing anyone who had access to the recordings to release them and keep the money. So while I'm very happy to have these recordings don't believe all the hype about finding all these tapes and issuing them just for avid fans (like me admittedly) to pounce on.
I haven't had this set long enough (I started listening just before release day) to listen to every single gig--but I'm in no hurry--preferring to hear each concert as a standalone experience. So I listened to the first couple of concerts and then picked various dates from across this set to get a better idea of overall sound quality. Most of these sets have decent to good sound--but remember these are soundboard recordings for the most part with their own sonic limitations, and a few concerts recorded by CBS for possible release, that are the best sounding of the bunch. The last concerts (grouped together because of their audience origins) from Feb. and April of '66 in the U.S., Australia, and Sweden, are audience tapes with less than stellar sound. But at least they're all included. The packaging isn't as massively cool as the previously mentioned studio box set, but does have good notes by Clinton Heylin, along with some nice period photos. The outer box is a thick-ish cardboard with some nice period graphics all over it, not much bigger than the CD envelopes inside (with pics from Pennebaker's films) that has been used for other large sets, especially for jazz artists or classical music.
The set lists are pretty much the same from gig to gig. There's no real need to dissect every gig or song from different concerts. Dylan changed up his performances from gig to gig which you can hear across this collection. At this late date it may be hard for some people to listen to several of these gigs in one sitting, and wonder what all the excitement is (was) about. Admittedly (for me) this is something to be enjoyed in small doses like the huge Grateful Dead sets--a concert or two at a time--rather than sitting down and listening to several gigs nonstop. And I wonder if Dylan fans who weren't lucky enough to have been around in '66, and experienced that whole era, when Dylan morphed from acoustic folk music/'"voice of the people", to a whole other rock 'n' roll thing with (essentially) The Hawks adding to his new overwhelming (for some folk fans) electric sound, can fully appreciate what Dylan was doing.
"I adjusted the strap on my Telecaster so I could release it with a quick thumb movement and use the guitar as a weapon. The concerts were starting to feel that unpredictable." Robbie Robertson.
Every night you can hear Dylan escaping the bonds of folk music when he and his band plugged in and turned up the sound. There's an edge, an excitement, in Dylan's vocals and in his backing band's powerful playing that swept away the "old" Dylan sound. That was Dylan, the beacon, the leader, of the folk movement. This was Dylan blasting into outer space using electrified instruments. The concert from 6 May '66 in Belfast is just one example of this change. The acoustic set is nice, but the eruption when the full band plays is something else again.
"At one of the shows, where the stage wasn't much higher than the seating of the audience, a girl stormed the stage with scissors in her hand. Security grabbed her in time, but it was a close call." Robbie Robertson.
But if you weren't around in '66 and into Dylan's music, this collection will give you a good idea of the changes ("Drop dead Dylan.") Dylan was making in his music. I can remember being stunned at hearing Dylan "go rock 'n' roll" and being excited about it. But other Dylan fans I knew were dismayed at his "sell-out" from the perceived folk music principles he had previously laid out for fans. Remember the "Judas!" comment from an outraged audience member? That kind of thinking was very real back then. Dylan's "new" music was heard as some kind of hostile takeover, a betrayal, of his previous stance in folk music, which was the very soul of '60s folk/protest music for many people who believed he was a "traitor" (as some people yelled) to the folk movement. And it all disappeared when Dylan appeared on stage with an electric guitar around his neck and even more musicians standing with him with even more electric instruments. And the loud sound! And now having the chance to hear all these gigs as Dylan and his band attack many of these tunes brings back some of that '66 excitement and wonder. And for fans who weren't there way back then this is a chance to hear Dylan change his style night after night from a previously scruffy Guthrie inspired folk singer to rock 'n' roller. In (for me) small doses this is a chance to relive that whole era, and this music still has the electric excitement from that time. If you have the coin and are a fan of early, game-changing Dylan, you might want to investigate this set. If this is too much check out the 2 CD concert release (set for Dec. release) for a good idea of what's here. And now on to The Who box set (now held back until Dec.), celebrating their first album. It would've been too much to have so much good music in the span of a week or so and try and review it all. What a great couple of months for '60s music fans. And if you're a Deadhead and want a 21 CD set of live Dead from '71 post a comment and I'll get back to you.
Fifty years on, after chasing bootlegs on vinyl and CD, Sony/Columbia has gone a long way to end my qwest...Nothing, nothing matches the trove of music contained in this box set...This is the holy grail of 60s rock n' roll, no other ensemble rocked as hard as Dylan and the Hawks in 1966, not the Stones, not the Animals, not the Beatles, not the Who;nobody...These guys, night after night, blew the house down and did it facing intense audience hostility at nearly every gig...An intensity Dylan and the Hawks turned back on their tormentors with thunderous rock n' roll...It's all captured here...
I've listened to all the soundboard recordings in the box and, while the sets are identical (with the exception of Sydney), the performances are not...there are significant differences across shows, innovations and arrangements evolve and change in both acoustic and electric sets...Dylan's harp playing on some tracks from acoustic sets are worth the price of the entire box...And with the Hawks, they burned a path for ensemble players to follow...
You will not be bored buying the box...Treat your ears to an early Christmas present...