Culture & Criticism From the Far Distant Realms
For years, some fans thought they already had the famous Royal Albert Hall concert in their possession. But they were mistaken: What was initially thought to be the Royal Albert Hall recording was really Dylan’s performance at Manchester that had been mislabeled along the way. And while the material on these records will not be ‘new’ to you, this 2-CD set from his May 26, 1966 concert is definitely worth grabbing for the mix that Grammy-award winning engineer Chris Shaw gives 15 of the greatest rock-and-roll songs ever written. Listeners will immediately be struck with the way the acoustic portion of the show resonates: Dylan’s voice is its own tight-combed instrument, resonating with faith and hope, with hunger and wonder. Moreover, the harp breaks glow with a transcendental beauty- the rushing swirl of the harmonica on “Tambourine Man” leaves you breathless and in tears, removed to a holy new mystical place reserved for angels. Moving to the electric half of the show, you are immediately struck by Dylan’s passion – voice soaring the shape of wings across the thirsty sun-burnt lips of the sky. Of course, “Like A Rolling Stone” is the big cut on the disc, fueled by the blazing raw fists of Robbie Robertson’s guitar set against the diesel-drunk lilt of Richard Manual’s piano. Meanwhile, “Tom Thumb’s Blues” gains a crystalline clarity from Shaw’s mix that might be the one thing that’s missing from the Manchester show previously released in 1998 as the “Live 1966” show. Sit back and absorb these records and you’ll immediately see why Dylan was just awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature: These are poems about the journey of God costumed in the warm bread of song. And like all the great poets who came before him, Dylan tosses roses into the air and lets the petals drip down like an invisible shroud: It’s time to harness up your boots for the ride of a lifetime.