Bob Dylan – Gypsy’s Request (Mercury Den Music MDM-005/006)

Gypsy’s Request (Mercury Den Music MDM-005/006)

Great Woods Performing Arts Center, Mansfield, MA – September 12th, 1993 

Disc 1 (73:13):  You’re Gonna Quit Me, Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again, All Along The Watchtower, Under The Red Sky, I And I, Watching The River Flow, BlackJack Davey, To Ramona, Boots Of Spanish Leather, God Knows, Maggie’s Farm

Disc 2 (73:42): Ballad Of A Thin Man, It Ain’t Me Babe. Cal Expo Amphitheater, Sacramento, CA – October 8th, 1993: If Not For You, Mr Tambourine Man, Don’t Think Twice, Man In The Long Black Coat, Girl From The North Country. Walnut Creek Amphitheater, Raleigh, NC – September 19th, 1993: One More Cup Of Coffee. Filene Center Wolf Trap Farm Park, Vienna, VA – September 8th, 1993: BlackJack Davy

1993 was a busy year for Bob Dylan.  Riding off of the acclaim for his collection of covers on As Good As I Been To You, he toured both the US and Europe twice.  The final round of touring was six weeks co-headlining with Santana from late August to early October.  He ended the year with the legendary performances at The Supper Club in New York in November.

Gypsy’s Request documents the September 12th show at the Great Woods Performing Arts Center in Mansfield. Utilizing an excellent line recording, it was released first in 1999 on Great Woods (Wild Wolf 99-C-031) and elicited such comments as “This disc is nothing short of amazing. The performance is dead-on, and the vocals are way up front in your face. The recording is perfect digital quality right off of the soundboard. The show itself is among the best of the tour, and the song line-up is a taper’s dream” from and Deep Beneath The Waves commenting it is “near perfect quality and showcasing a focused, ‘biting’ Dylan performance that simply sizzles. … The line recording catches every little nuance and inflection with startling clarity. … You wanna know what Dylan sounded like in ’93, this is it.”

The Wild Wolf release sold out soon after release.  Mercury Den Music have reissued the tape and have cleaned up the edits in the bonus tracks.  Gypsy’s Request comes packaged with a beautiful sixteen page color booklet with liner notes explaining the background of the release and copious amounts of photographs from the tour and the general era.

Great Woods is a legendary recording, not only for the clarity, but for the intensity.  Dylan’s voice is clear, loud, and upfront but never intrusive.  It gives an aural duplication of the visual tight-shot close-up, a framing device Dylan favors for his movies and videos (“Tangled Up In Blue” is the most famous example).

He starts off with the trilogy of “You’re Gonna Quit Me,” “Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again” and “All Along The Watchtower,” a sequence which begins every show on this tour.  The first, a Mance Lipscomb cover, lends the latest album Good As I Been To You its title.

Two scarce songs, a playful “Under The Red Sky” and an odd version of “I And I,” follow.  Dylan follows with the three song acoustic set including “BlackJack Davy,” and “To Ramona” making its debut on this particular tour.  It would be played only three more times after this night.  The final intimate number is “Boots Of Spanish Leather.”  The set ends with an apocalyptic “God Knows” and a groovy rock and roll (some say it’s similar to The Rolling Stones) arrangement of “Maggie’s Farm.”

“Ballad Of A Thin Man” and an acoustic rendition of “It Ain’t Me Babe” are the two encores.

The filler includes a generous section of the October 8th show in Sacramento, California, the penultimate night of the tour.  “If Not For You” from New Morning, given a lazy country/western arrangement, is played for the only time on the tour.  Great also are the versions of “Man In A Long Black Coat” and “Girl From The North Country” (sounding suspiciously close to “Boots Of Spanish Leather.”)

One song from the September 19th concert in North Carolina, “One More Cup Of Coffee.”  It was played twice on the tour:  as an encore on August 31st in Michigan and as the penultimate song on September 19th, replacing “God Knows.”  The sound quality of the tape is merely good (not nearly as good as the other tapes), but this is one of the most violent and cut-throat versions of the song committed to tape.  Instead of the surreptitiousness of the studio recording, this is blunt and in-your-face. 

Mercury Den add the September 8th performance of “BlackJack Davy” from Vienna, Virginia, as an additional bonus.  It is an excellent recording, but the identical arrangement as Great Woods.  “Series Of Dreams” made its live debut in that show and would have been a more interesting choice.

Gypsy’s Request contains one of the all time great Dylan recordings and is another strong release by Mercury Den worth having. 

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