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Bob Dylan – Complete State Fair Arena 1976 (Thinman-046/47)

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Complete State Fair Arena 1976 (Thinman-046/47) 

State Fair Arena, Oklahoma City, OK – May 18th, 1976 
Disc 1: Lindy Lou (T-Bone Burnett), Mr. Tambourine Man, Simple Twist Of Fate, Vincent Van Gogh, Maggie’s Farm, One Too Many Mornings, Mozambique, Isis, Turn Turn Turn (Roger McGuinn), Love Of The Bayou (Roger McGuinn), Blowin’ In The Wind, Railroad Boy, Deportees

Disc 2: I Pity The Poor Immigrant, Shelter From The Storm, Oh Sister, Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat, You’re A Big Girl Now, You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go, Lay Lady Lay, Silver Mantis, I Want You, Going Going Gone, Idiot Wind, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, Gotta Travel On

Documents from the second Rolling Thunder Review are a fascinating contrast to the first. The 1975 tapes display the enthusiasm and joy of Dylan and Guam of being on the road, creating groundbreaking music and playing in cozy venues. The then-unknown numbers from Desire and Dylan’s polemic on behalf of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter dominated the set list. Some of the shows, such as Montreal and New York, are among the very best in the Dylan archives. But the second tour was almost the polar opposite. The emphasis shifted from Desire to the bitterness of Blood On The Tracks: Dylan’s polemic shifted from being on behalf of the Hurricane to a polemic on behalf of himself with “Idiot Wind” serving as the epic number in the latter half of the show. Dylan also chose to play much more lead guitar and, utilizing his white National, emphasized fuzz over tone.

There are two tape sources in circulation for Oklahoma: a fragmented soundboard recording and an mediocre sounding audience tape. All previous releases of this show are derived from the soundboard. Creatures Void Of Form (Razor’s Edge RAZ 001) was released in 1993 placing it among the earliest and contains mostly soundboard tracks from May 3rd New Orleans show. Hold The Fort Lock Up The Warehouse (Wanted Man WMM 040/041) has the New Orleans and Fort Worth soundboards and only “Going Going Gone” from Oklahoma City. The Tall Grass & The Ones I Love (no label) contains eleven tracks in poor quality and was followed in 1997 by Blood And Thunder (Junk 003).

Complete Stair Fair Arena 1976 is the first edition of this concert to utilize both tape sources. Thinman also include the four non-Dylan tracks which is to their credit. The difference between the two tapes is pronounced but it does work very well and this release gives as complete as possible document of the show in Oklahoma City that night. The first disc begins with T-Bone Burnett playing “Lindy Lou” which comes from the soundboard recording. The track ends with Bob Neuwirth introducing T-Bone before the audience recording is edited in for Dylan singing “Mr. Tambourine Man.” He sings this alone with harp and acoustic guitar as he did ten years before. The audience calms down after the initial lyric and it is possible to enjoy the song in this boomy recording.

Dylan sings “Simple Twist Of Fate” alone but “Vincent Van Gogh” has the band joining in with Neuwirth sharing the vocals. The soundboard comes in for “Maggie’s Farm,” played in the heavy start-stop arrangement favored on this tour. At fifty-five seconds in “One Too Many Mornings” the soundboard tape fades into the audience recording. It returns again for “Mozambique” and runs through the two Roger McGuinn tracks. “Isis,” a hold over from the previous year, isn’t dominated by Scarlet Rivera’s violin but by the guitar and is given a heavy rhythm. The quality of the soundboard is very dull for “Turn Turn Turn” but brightens up a bit for “Love Of The Bayou.” The final three tracks are Dylan’s duets with Joan Baez and stem from the audience recording. It is clear enough to enjoy and these are among the highlights of the tape.

“Deportees,” the Woody Guthrie song, is an interesting choice. It seems to replace the Mexican epic “Romance In Durango” indicating that Dylan is replacing the Peckinpaugh inspired fantasy for a realistic comment upon illegal aliens. The soundboard picks up again at the beginning of disc two with “I Pity The Poor Immigrant” and runs through “Oh Sister.” The audience recording picks up for “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” and “You’re A Big Girl Now.” The soundboard then comes in for “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” and runs through to “Lay Lady Lay.” “Silver Mantis” is from the audience recording, “I Want You” and “Going, Going, Gone” are from the soundboard and the audience picks up with “Idiot Wind” to the end of the disc.

The second half of the show is the more interesting since Dylan turns the meanings of many of the songs around. “Shelter From The Storm” is fuzz a dominated electric version and Dylan’s intonation of the lyrics changes the song from a hymn of vicarious satisfaction to one of brutal self-flagation not obvious on Blood On The Tracks. “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” and “I Want You” were rarely played on this tour and both are played in their original Blonde On Blonde arrangements. “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” is given a heavy rhythm and is played much faster than its studio counterpart. “Lay Lady Lay” is hard and cynical with the additional lyrics “Let’s go upstairs / Who really cares?”

“Going, Going, Gone” includes the different lyrics “I been walking on clouds, sleeping in the dust / Now I just got to go, before it’s all Diamonds And Rust,” an obvious nod to Baez’ song “Diamonds And Rust” which she sang on the first RTR. “Idiot Wind” begins with a new rhythm which might be an attempt at a new arrangement, but the song goes back to the normal one. Even in the mediocre audience tape Dylan’s fury comes through as he spits out the lyrics with malice and particular venom. The show ends with Harry Belafonte’s “Gotta Travel On” with the different artists taking the verses as they come up. This song is from Belefonte’s 1962 album Midnight Special and has the distinction of being the first recorded efforts of Dylan, who played harp on the title track.

This is a fun and raucous way to end the long evening. Complete State Fair Arena 1976 is packaged in a double slimline jewel case. The inserts come on heavy paper with a dull, photo paper finish which is simply beautiful. Thinman makes ample use of stills from the “Hard Rain” television special which was taped less than a week after this show and shares many musical characteristics with Oklahoma City. This is the label’s second release from the 1976 RTR after their version of the San Antonio show and is one of the label’s more impressive efforts. This concert, depite fragments appearing on the titles mentioned above, has received very little respect from manufacturers. Thinman give some dignity to this concert and it can be judged as among the finest from this tumultuous tour. (GS)

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Bob Dylan - Complete State Fair Arena 1976 (Thinman-046/47), 3.8 out of 5 based on 2 ratings

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