|Further illustrates the principle
(useful to recall when you go to see him live) that when Dylan is on,
he's unbeatable, but when he's off he's mediocre to outright horrible.
And there's no way to predict which you'll get (of the two Dylan live
shows i've seen, i got one horrible and one fan-f'n-tastically good,
Several of the tracks on here suffer from less than pristine sound, and
it can be seen why several others remain "Alternate Takes":
"Desolation Row" sounds as if he's not quite sure of the lyric (or the
tune, for that matter)
"Blowin' in the Wind" has an overly-long harmonica intro (it's not the
only one, but it's the most annoying) which includes a couple of those
"miss the harp and blow on the mike" moments that Neil Innes satirises
in his "Protest Song" ("I've suffered for my music, and now it's your
turn...") in "Pleasure at Her Majesty's" and "Monty Python at Hollywood
"Ballad of a Thin Man" is both poorly recorded (live) and has a
slogging-through-mud vocal delivery.
And so on -- the sort of thing that you get in sets of alternate takes,
out takes and live or demo versions of material from a popular artist's
long career. But even the downer tracks are worth having, because they
help to put the performer in perspective.
And the "up" tracks are some of the best recorded Dylan i have ever
heard -- particularly the Newport performance of "Maggie's Farm" backed
by the Butterfield Blues Band that was part of the electric set that
allegedly got him booed offstage (I say "allegedly" because, according
transcript of the official tape taken from the soundboard and
available online, it actually appears that the booing is mostly for
Peter Yarrow trying to strictly enforce the time limit on Dylan's set
when the audience wants more).
Anyway, whether or not Dylan actually got booed for that set, the
performance that opened it, "Maggie's Farm" (impeccably reproduced
here, considering the year and the fact that it was a remote live
recording), might almost have been calculated to stick a thumb in folk
purists' eye -- i had to keep reminding myself that this was only 1965
as the tight band roared through the song, with Dylan's vocal
absolutely matching the fervor of the backup.
I've never seen the Scorsese film from which this is the soundtrack,
but this is one of the few "soundtrack" albums that can pretty well
stand up for themselves (in fact, one could argue that the soundtrack
may well be more important than the film, or perhaps the film's only
reason for existing...)
Well worth the price. Buy it.