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Bob Dylan – Howlin’ At The Moonlight (Tambourine Man Records TMR-132/133)

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Howlin’ At The Moonlight (Tambourine Man Records TMR-132/133) 

Borgata Hotel Casino And Spa, Event Center, Atlantic City, NJ – June 23rd, 2007
Disc 1: Introduction, Cat’s In The Well, It Ain’t Me Babe, Just Like Tom Thumb Blues, It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding), Lay Lady Lay, Rollin’ And Tumblin’, Girl Of The North Country, High Water, Simple Twist Of Fate, Highway 61 Revisited, Tangled Up In Blue

Disc 2: Nettie Moore, Summer Days, Blowin’ In The Wind, Thunder On The Mountain, All Along The Watchtower. Bonus tracks, Borgata Hotel Casino And Spa, Event Center, Atlantic City, NJ – June 22nd, 2007: Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright, Watching The River Flow, Moonlight, Shelter From The Storm, Til I Fell In Love With You, Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again

Bob Dylan began the summer tour of the U.S. with two shows at the swank Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Howlin’ At The Moonlight contains the complete tape of Dylan’s second show with six songs from the first as the bonus. The tape used for the bulk of this release is very good and clear with a slight amount of dullness and with emphasis upon lower end frequencies. It is the kind of tape generally favored by TMR and forces the listener to feel the songs more than listen with the ears. The reviews were generally better for the second of the two Atlantic City shows although both are excellent concerts. The band are certainly tighter for the beginning of the summer tour than they were for the first couple of shows in Sweden at the beginning of the European tour in the springtime.

As he has been doing this year, Dylan plays guitar on the opening songs of the set. In this show he plays on the first five songs of the set: “Cat’s In The Well,” “It Ain’t Me, Babe,” “Just Like Tom Thumb Blues,” “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” and “Lay, Lady, Lay.” After the introduction the band play the most common opening song, “Cat’s In The Well.” What is most obvious is that the band are much tighter at the beginning of this tour as compared to the European tour, and Dylan’s voice has a mid-tour elasticity that will serve him well throughout the show. The first song mows down the audience with the band hitting the chord like hammers on anvils and the audience sound in awe. One review of this show uses the term “pouncing” which describes the effect of the opener perfectly. Dylan sings the second song, “It Ain’t Me, Babe,” with an audible, sarcastic sneer in his voice.

“Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” continues the heavy rhythmic workout and features a great guitar solo by Bob over a mandolin figure played by Herron and the band receive an ovation when he sings about going back to New York City. “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” continues the onslaught, but the following song “Lay, Lady, Lay” serves as a nice contrast. There is noticeable warmth in the arrangement and in Dylan’s delivery. A woman by the recorder shouts out “Oh my God!!” at the beginning of the song. “Rollin’ And Tumblin’” is the first song to be played from the keyboard and the organ sound is toned down in the mix letting the guitar and rhythm section carry the number. “Girl Of The North Country” features lush acoustic guitars and Dylan’s harp solo by the song’s conclusion.

“High Water (For Charley Patton)” has a tremendous amount of depth and presence in this recording and is as dramatic as the upcoming version in Bethel. One review observed, “Bob effectively reigned in the band on this number. I’m all about improvisation, but the band was beginning to sound a little overindulgent on this number. Bob kept the focus on the song. When he’s fully engaged like he was on this night, that’s a blessing.” The crowd follow every twist of the words in “Simple Twist Of Fate,” the first song in the set from his mid seventies output. After the rocking “Highway 61 Revisited” the band play “Tangled Up In Blue,” the second and last song from Blood On The Tracks. It is the same arrangement played at other stops on this tour although not as dramatic as the versions played in Scandinavia.

The second disc begins with an extraordinary version of “Nettie Moore.” The audience reacts to the narrative and cheers after “I’m the oldest son of a crazy man/ I’m in a Cowboy Band” and “They say whiskey will kill you/ But I don’t think it will” in particular. The first three verses Dylan sings faster than the band and lets them play catch up and they play the plodding beat. After the third verse there is the brief violin solo and at the song’s conclusion someone by the recorder shouts, “outstanding!” There is a brief count-in for a faster than usual version of “Summer Days” before the rock version of “Blowin’ In The Wind” closes the set. After several minutes of audience applause the band come back to play the two encore numbers “Rollin’ And Tumblin’” and “All Along The Watchtower” with no band introduction. They play an ambient doodle as a bridge between the two numbers.

The bonus tracks contain the songs from the previous evening that were not played in the second gig except for “Spirit On The Water.” The sound quality is again excellent sounding. Of particular note is the performance of “Moonlight” from Love And Theft which is sung in a lounge singer arrangement and new stops added to the chorus to emphasize the phrases “won’t you…love me.” “Shelter From The Storm” is underlined with a haunting acoustic guitar melody while Dylan sings the sublime words to the piece. Not all of the verses are sung unfortunately, but he does include the most beautiful images of redemption and self-sacrificial love. TMR use glossy paper inserts and gorgeous picture discs making Howlin’ At The Moonlight an attractive and worthy document of the first days of the summer tour. (GS)

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