Bob Dylan “East Troy 1988” (No Label BD 61888)
Disk 1; Subterranean Homesick Blues / You’re A Big Girl Now / The Ballad Of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest / Maggie’s Farm / Gates of Eden / Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again / Mama, You Been On My Mind / Ballad of Hollis Brown / Boots of Spanish Leather / Barbara Allen (53:00)
Disk 2; Tangled Up In Blue / Absolutely Sweet Marie / I Shall Be Released / Like A Rolling Stone / It Ain’t Me, Babe / Blowin’ In The Wind / Gonna Serve Somebody / All Along The Watchtower (38:04)
This audience recording from the very cusp of Dylan’s never ending tour follows Scorpio’s 1988 soundboard releases by a good 5 years. Unlike the soundboards, it’s not as clear (obviously) but (equally obviously) coming from a date that is sandwiched between the other two, it’s as strong a performance as the reviews have suggested. There’s a good deal of audience participation and chatter but the mix is excellent both music and vocals are forthright especially when Dylan turns acoustic, the show is great. However, towards the end of the set, the CD cuts back and forth between two recordings, one a little wider than the other. it’s very well done but quite noticeable.
Thankfully Dylan and his band had sharpened up from the early days of ‘Interstate 88’, as this part of the tour had come to be known, and the songs are played with a furious passion and as tightly as a ducks ass. The shows also got longer, whether by default or design, this was the second longest night so far, second only to the previous night’s 19 song epic.
“Subterranean Homesick Blues” sounds like it has been panel beaten to submission and thrown to the crowd, chewed up punk style, “You’re A Big Girl Now”, however beefy sounding, comes away with a swinging panache.
“Maggie’s Farm” is sung like Dylan is warming up to headbutt anyone and everyone in the crowd, G.E. Smith’s guitar flails, whirlwind like behind him, backing Dylan up like a psyched wingman. Afterwards an audience member close to the mike is heard to utter “I recognised 3 songs from that ..” a newcomer by all accounts. Wonder what he’d make to Dylan’s concerts nowadays?
“Gates Of Eden”might be almost unrecognisable from it’s intro, thumpingly brutal, churning and slow, it’s appearance is as much of a blow as it’s 60’s counterpart – except we now know the words (and Dylan still remembers them!) but the track is a great throw, while smilingly demolishing it’s past.
Dylan acoustic set throws the first piece of the night, an excitable version of “Mama, You’ve Been On My Mind”, his voice quivering as he rapidly plows through one of “Another Side”’s love songs, the “Ballad Of Hollis Brown” is 60’s Dylan sung by 80’s Dylan, a man who’s voice has almost settled in to his adulthood, a voice that’s older than the one that sung it first time around (Who’d have thought it at the time, huh?) the acoustic set finishes dovetailed with another love song, the traditional “Barbara Allen”, it’s second appearance this part of the tour.
Disk two begins with a striking, “Tangled Up In Blue”, all busy bass, energetic slide guitar, stuttering drums. Dylan chatters out the lyrics, rapid fire, throwing out the ‘Oos’ at the end of his lines as you might expect of him, G.E. throws a bustling county-styled solo into the mix. Theres a slight glitch on the CD at 5:07 splicing part of the words in to the next instrumental part but it is fast if noticeable.
There follows a fussy, rampant “Absolutely Sweet Marie” before a slow, bright, “I Shall Be Released” is played out. Dylan plays it more Dylanesque than usual, drawing out his words to the point of snapping. The main part of the set draws to a close with a rapturous version of “Like A Rolling Stone” (this is where the splice comes in, right at the very end)
After the gap, Dylan then steps back on to the stage (theres that splice again) and duets with G.E. on a wonderfully pared down pair including, “It Ain’t Me, Babe” and “Blowin’ In The Wind”. The band fall back to electric for a pulsing, disco beat driven, “Gotta Serve Somebody”, relentlessly wriggly, fused with an undeniable frision it would be the perfect end to the night were it not for the song that tops it, a fantastic, Hendrix styled “All Along The Watchtower” where the guitar spar frequently between each other, before it gives a fallible ending by just about giving up. It’s such a shame after such a strong beginning.
Given that there’s only 88 minutes of material, one might have thought that No Label might have found a way to follow Rattlesnake’s route of releasing 90 minute CDs instead of two rather short CDs but until they do, this will be the way to go.
Props must be given the label for their rather lovely cover art – an antiqued blush of rust surrounding Dylan and a rather grand looking typeface adorn this simple looking but not boring cover. It sits well between the two Scorpio titles that surround this date.