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Bob Dylan – Sing A Bit Of These Workingman’s Blues (TMR-115/116/117)

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Sing A Bit Of These Workingman’s Blues (Tambourine Man Records TMR-115/116/117) 

Agganis Arena, Boston, MA – November 11th & 12th, 2006
Disc 1, Boston first night, November 11th, 2006:  Maggie’s Farm, She Belongs To Me, Lonesome Day Blues, Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right, It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding), Workingman’s Blues #2, Tangled Up In Blue, Blind Willie McTell, Most Likely You’ll Go Your Own Way (And I’ll Go Mine), Ballad Of Hollis Brown

Disc 2:  Highway 61 Revisited, Spirit On The Water, Summer Days, Thunder On The Mountain, Like A Rolling Stone, All Along The Watchtower.  Boston second night, November 12th, 2006:  Absolutely Sweet Marie, Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power), Honest With Me, Positively 4th Street, Masters Of War

Disc 3:  ‘Till I Fell In Love With You, When The Deal Goes Down, Every Grain Of Sand, Rollin’ And Tumblin’, Tangled Up In Blue, Nettie Moore, Highway 61 Revisited, Thunder On The Mountain, Like A Rolling Stone, band introduction, All Along The Watchtower

Sing A Little Bit Of These Workingman’s Blues
is a convenient 3-CD package of the two Boston concerts at the Agganis Arena at Boston University.  The sound quality for both concerts is very similar (same taper?) and falls below the other releases by TMR this month.  Both are good to very good and clear audience recordings but the lower frequencies are emphasized and the bass sometimes becomes distorted interfering with the overall enjoyment of the recording.  Louder passages suffer the most and the first night fares worse than the second.  For these two nights, nine unique tape sources exist (five for the first night and four for the second) and it makes one wonder if these are the best possible sources that could have been used or if there was a rush to release these two concerts.  Regardless these are two interesting concerts.  The label prints the complete review of the first show on the inside inserts from The Patriot Ledger, some of whose observations include:  “In general, Saturday’s show was more rocking than the Pawtucket gig, as Dylan and his band seemed to settle into a midtempo, country/folk-rock groove, where the Pawtucket set leaned more toward rootsy Americana.  That might be due in some part to the openers, as the McCoy Stadium show featured bluesman Jimmie Vaughn and country guitar slinger Junior Brown, while this segment of the tour features the harder rocking Raconteurs.

“Dressed in a black Western suit with accompanying hat, Dylan strolled out onstage promptly at 9 p.m. and began a lively pop-rock version of ‘Maggie’s Farm.’  His backing quintet was dressed in gray suits with black shirts, for the kind of contrast that had to be deliberate. Denny Freeman and Boston’s Stu Kimball provided superb guitar, and Don Herron’s accents on pedal steel and fiddle were delightful.  Dylan, as usual lately, played just his electric keyboard, but his own forays seemed much more obvious here than at the August concert. Dylan didn’t speak to the crowd until his last song of the night, but then sounded positively chatty as he explained, ‘I want to play guitar, but then I’d have to find someone to play this thing. … One of these days!’  (“Ever-changing Dylan Delights” by Jay Miller).  The set list includes great versions of “Blind Willie McTell”, “Ballad Of Hollis Brown” and especially “Workingman’s Blues #2″ from Modern Times.  But the second night at the Agganis Arena is a more interesting concert.  As stated above, the sound quality of the tape is a bit worse than the first night’s with the bass being overloaded during loud passages and having an overall dull feeling.  Even worse is the tape is not complete.  “Cold Irons Bound”, which was played between “When The Deal Goes Down” and “Every Grain Of Sand”, is listed on the track listing on the back but a cut in the tape eliminates the song from this release.  Since each of the four sources has this track it is an oversight on the part of the label for failing to include it. 

It is a shame too because this is a beauty of a show and one of the best from the tour.  “Absolutely Sweet Marie”, the sometime “B” opener, is used probably to jumble the set list more than usual since he was playing two nights in the same venue followed by a haunting version of “Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power)”.  “When The Deal Goes Down”, Dylan’s meditation of mortality set to a waltz beat, sounds sublime as does “Every Grain Of Sand”, his meditation on destiny and fate.  Dylan prefaces “Tangled Up In Blue” with a bit of “Oh Susanna” on the keyboard to lighten the mood which becomes serious again with “Nettie Moore” from the new album.  The audience follow every line of this magnificent new song and cheer after the lines “I’m the oldest son of a crazy man / I’m in a cowboy band” and “She been cooking all day and it’s gonna take me all night / I can’t eat all that stuff in a single bite”.  The performance is so astounding that “Highway 61 Revisited” and the encores sound banal afterwards.  The band introduction before “All Along The Watchtower”, although not noted on the artwork, is tracked separately.  The front cover has a good picture of Dylan at the keyboards and a wide live shot on the back.  Overall it is hard to recommend Sing A Little Bit Of These Workingman’s Blues because of the quality of the tapes and the oversight regarding the missing track on disc three.

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If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)

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