New York Modern Times (Tambourine Man Records TMR-118/119)
New York City Center, New York, NY – November 20th, 2006
Disc 1: Intro., The Levee’s Gonna Break, Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power), Rollin’ And Tumblin’, Boots Of Spanish Leather, High Water (For Charley Patton), When The Deal Goes Down, It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding), Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right, Tangled Up In Blue
Disc 2: Spirit On The Water, Highway 61 Revisited, Nettie Moore, Summer Days, Ain’t Talkin’, Thunder On The Mountain, Like A Rolling Stone
New York Modern Times is one of four new releases from Tambourine Man Records covering five different nights on the tour concluded last month. This contains a complete audience recording from the final night of the tour at the New York City Center in midtown. This show was a last minute addition to the itinerary and, being a cozy 2,700-seat venue, is a contrast to the other shows in the Metropolitan area at the Nassau Coliseum and Meadowlands Arena. It is close to the stage and picks up every detail of the performance sounding simply wonderful. The label didn’t apply any mastering to enhance the experience so it shines all on its own.
The only problem is on disc two where there is serious digital interference. It begins at the very end of “Nettie Moore” and continues through “Summer Days”, a couple in “Ain’t Talkin'” and one right in the middle of the final encore “Like A Rolling Stone”. New York is a special concert because seven of the ten songs from Modern Times, “The Levee’s Gonna Break”, “Rollin’ And Tumblin'”, “When The Deal Goes Down”, “Spirit On The Water”, “Nettie Moore”, “Ain’t Talkin'”, and “Thunder On The Mountain”. Like the tour in the spring, Dylan is still favoring an organ sound from the electric piano although it isn’t as loud as in the other recordings, blending in much better with the music.
The usually opener “Maggie’s Farm” is dropped and replaced with “The Levee’s Gonna Break” from the new LP. This is the second performance of the song which also opened the November 18th show in Philadelphia and is an excellent way to begin. “Senor” is the more somber following track and only about half of the song is played (the final verses are dropped). “Rollin’ And Tumblin'” is the second song from the new album to be played. That song is followed by the first big applause of the evening when Dylan steps out and plays harp at the end of “Boots Of Spanish Leather”.
Drummer George Recile experiments with a quasi-disco beat for most of “High Water (For Charley Patton)” which sounds rather amusing but overall the song loses its power and sounds rather chaotic. It is followed by a sublime version of “When The Deal Goes Down”. The audience sound mesmerized as Dylan sings the words and he receives one of the loudest ovations at the song’s conclusion. “Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right” and “Tangled Up In Blue” are two semi-acoustic songs in the set. “Nettie Moore” makes an appearance and the set closes with the common closer “Summer Days”. The first encore is the only performance to date of “Ain’t Talkin'” from Modern Times. Dylan introduces the band afterwards by saying, “it ain’t easy playing this kind of music, but these guys do okay.”
“Thunder On The Mountain” and “Like A Rolling Stone” are the two common encores. “All Along The Watchtower”, the third song most commonly played as an encore, was dropped from the set list to accommodate the new song. Graphically, the artwork is a gorgeous production with photos from the event including a large panorama of the stage and audience giving a “you are there” immediacy. The front has a photo closer to the stage and the back is a close up of the eye Dylan uses for his logo. For all four new releases TMR use picture discs instead of the Spartan design used for past titles and New York Modern Times contains a caricature of Dylan.
Despite being produced so fast after the event, this is not a rush job by any means but comes so close to being an absolute masterpiece. The only negative about this release are the mastering flaws on the second disc. The ticks make it sound like the cd laser is going haywire. When the first disc of Supper Club (one of the best from this past year) was first issued with the songs out of order the label issued a corrected disc. Hopefully they can do the same and make this release an almost instant classic. But despite the flaws this is a great release by the Tambourine Man Records label and is recommended.
N.B.: In January TMR produced a corrected second disc that is free from the digital flaws mentioned above and plays perfectly. The timing and the cover design are identical between them but the matrix numbers found on the back are different. The faulty disc has number TMR-119 ABP and the replacement disc has number TMR-119. New copies will have the corrected disc, but if yours is defective you are encouraged to contact your vendor for a replacement. Now that this matter is cleared up, New York Modern Times is now an amazing release and absolutely essential to own.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)