Bob Dylan – Down From The Castle (Tambourine Man Records TMR 207/208)

Down From The Castle
(Tambourine Man Records TMR 207/208)

Schlosshof, Bad Mergentheim, Germany – July 6th, 2012

Disc 1 (75:48): Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat, To Ramona, Things Have Changed, Tangled Up In Blue, Honest With Me, Sugar Baby, The Levee’s Gonna Break, Make You Feel My Love, High Water (For Charley Patton), Desolation Row, Highway 61 Revisited, Love Sick

Disc 2 (78:37): Thunder On The Mountain, Ballad Of A Thin Man, Like A Rolling Stone, All Along the Watchtower, Blowin’ In The Wind.  Freilichtbühne Junge Garde, Dresden, Germany – July 3rd, 2012:  Under The Red Sky, Things Have Changed, Tangled Up In Blue, Rollin’ And Tumblin’, Sugar Baby, John Brown, Visions Of Johanna, Blind Willie McTell

Bob Dylan began the summer European tour with an appearance in England before traveling to Germany for four shows.  The July 6th show in Bad Mergentheim was the fourth and final show in Germany.  Dylan first visited Bad Mergentheim in 1991 when they began the “Leider im Schloss” program.  In the years since, after hosting artists such as Neil Young, Deep Purple and Konstantin Wecker with the African Choir, Dylan returned for another show in the Schlosspark.  

The outdoor venue is among the complex of buildings surrounding the Schloss Mergentheim, the medieval castle home of the old order of Teutonic Knights.  

Tambourine Man Records utilize the “Schubert” tape.  It is a very good stereo audience recording on Down From The Castle.  It emphasizes the lower frequencies at the expense of clarity, and at times it becomes quite muffled and fuzzy.

The show itself is very good.  A review titled  Konzert in Bad Mergentheim: Bob Dylan und die Erwartungen points out that “Dylan starts at the keyboard but moved to the new grand piano for ‘To Ramona’ which he controls less than the harmonica, but worked just as fresh and intimate.  He them moves to the front of the stage, and so it goes throughout the entire evening.  Alternating between keyboard, piano and harmonica, and with the five musicians including guitarist Charlie Sexton, Dylan prepares boundless new arrangements of old songs. To prove their timelessness? In ‘Desolation Row’, which consists of the master back at the piano, comes in Bad Mergentheim certainly not as an endlessly stretched apocalypse bit, but like a jazz band they stretched the piece in with new phrases and experimental hairstyles happy and easy every old gravitas.”

“At 71 years old Bob Dylan and his profound, angry, cynical, and sometimes sad songs are as powerful as ever.  So gritty and powerful that he cannot tell from the real America. Although the hymn ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ sounds different today than 40 years ago – the Medal of Freedom, which Obama hung around his neck in May, was awarded to Bob Dylan for content and entertainment.”

Dylan himself, who always starts concerts on time, was thirty-five minutes late.  They started off with “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat,” returning to the opening slot after a short hiatus.  Witness say he looked tired, but the performance is very tight as is the following “To Ramona ” played for the first time on the tour.  

After the fast “Things Have Changed” and “Tangled Up In Blue” (these two songs have followed one another in the set for over a year now), Dylan surprises the audience with “Honest With Me,” another tour debut.  

“Sugar Baby” feels unsteady but “The Levee’s Gonna Break” riles up the audience.  The band even include some instrumental passages to get the audience into the groove of the song.  “Make You Feel My Love” is the third and final tour debut in the set.  

The next four songs, “High Water (For Charley Patton),” the jazzy “Desolation Row,” “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Love Sick” provide the “gravitas” mentioned in the newspaper review of the show.  The final of the four especially sounds very dark and heavy in the recording.  “Thunder On The Mountain” sounds light and playful in contrast.

In addition to “Like A Rolling Stone” and “All Along The Watchtower,” Dylan rewards the appreciative audience with “Blowin’ In The Wind,” an additional encore.  

TMR include eight bonus tracks from the July 3rd show at the Freileichtbühne Junge Garde in Dresden.  It’s the same show and same tape source Godfather used for bonus tracks on The Ballad Of Paddock Wood (Godfather GR 791/792).  Five songs, “Under The Red Sky,” “Sugar Baby,” “John Brown,” “Visions Of Johanna” and “Blind Willie McTell” are common between both releases.  TMR chose to include “Things Have Changed,” “Tangled Up In Blue” and “Rollin’ And Tumblin'” instead of “Watching The River Flow,” “Ballad Of A Thin Man” and “Blowin’ In The Wind.” 

Down From The Castle is a good title by TMR.  It’s a shame the Bad Mergentheim show doesn’t sound as good as the other tapes from the European tour.  It is a great concert and deserves a better sounding recording.  But, this still isn’t bad and is worth having.  

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