By The Waterfront Docks (Scorpio BD-07008)
Old Orchard Beach, Portland, ME – July 3, 1988
Subterranean Homesick Blues, Tangled Up In Blue, Highway 61 Revisited, Simple Twist Of Fate, The Ballad Of Frankie Lee & Judas Priest, Masters Of War, The Times They Are A-Changin’, To Ramona, Trail Of The Buffalo, Maggie’s Farm, You’re A Big Girl Now, Like A Rolling Stone, Hard Rain, Silvio, All Along The Watchtower
Just like the release several months ago of the Supper Club soundboards, By The Waterfront Docks is another new exciting Bob Dylan soundboard recording that has appeared out of nowhere. There already is an excellent stereo audience recording for the July 3rd, 1988 Portland Maine gig that can be found on Old Orchard Beach(Red Sky RSR-1002) (without “Maggie’s Farm”). On this new soundboard recording the vocals are high in the mix and the instruments are well-balanced with the audience cheering very low to being almost non-existent. Rather than a dry, flat soundboard, there is a nice percussive quality to the sound coming from this release that is very lively and engaging. During the more quiet sections of the show there is noticeable hiss, and there is a cut at 1:14 in “Maggie’s Farm.” Despite this minor flaws, collectors are fortunate to have such a good sounding document from a time when Dylan was “written off as a has-been” and at the very beginning of the Never Ending Tour. Maine is the eighteenth show of the “Interstate 88” summer tour of North America.
The opening song is “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” After never being played live for more than twenty years, this song opens each of the forty shows that year. Dylan fumbles the opening lines a bit, singing: “Johnny’s in the basement / mixing up the medicine / I’m on the pavement / thinking about the government / the man in the coon-skin cap / in the big pen / wants eleven dollar bills / you only got ten.” The “man in the coon-skin hat” makes a second appearance at the very end of the first verse. “Highway 61 Revisited” begins is journey of having an annual re-interpretation and in this show is heavily influenced with a country twang. It becomes more aggressive in the final verse. “Masters Of War” is also given a heavy interpretation. The next three songs serve as an acoustic set. “To Ramona” makes its first appearance in 1988 and in the Never Ending Tour. It is during this part of the show that Dylan would explore more traditional songs and he plays Woody Guthrie’s “Trail Of The Buffalo” with the Civil War tune “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” as a prelude.
The rest of the show comes close to being anti-climactic compared to the acoustic numbers. “Like A Rolling Stone” sounds good, but what really hold the whole band together is the professionalism of guitarist G. E. Smith. Many collectors claim that Smith was the best guitarist to play with Dylan during the NET, and it is difficult to argue with the slick production he brings to the stage show. It is not only in the accompaniments, but the tasteful arrangements he brings which always have a pop sensible hook to hang onto. “Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall” is the first encore and is played acoustically with just Dylan and Smith. The rest of the band return for the final two encore numbers, “Silvio” from the new album Down In The Groove and “All Along The Watchtower.” The former especially is one of the best of a generally mediocre album and works well onstage. By The Waterfront Docks overall is a nice surpise by Scorpio and a wonderful way to end the year full of Dylan surprises. It is packaged in a standard single jewel case with several photos from the era making this and essential title to own. (GS)