Bob Dylan – Houston 1981 Soundboard (Zion-236)

Bob Dylan, ‘Houston 1981 Soundboard’ (Zion-236)
Disk 1: Introduction by Roland Grivelle / Gotta Serve Somebody / I Believe In You / Like A Rolling Stone / Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll / Man Gave Names To All The Animals / Maggie’s Farm / Girl Of The North Country / Ballad Of A Thin Man / Simple Twist Of Fate / Heart Of Mine / All Along The Watchtower / I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight / Forever Young (51:45)
Disk 2: Gamblin’ Man / The Times / Hard Rain / Watered Down Love / Shot Of Love / Just Like A Woman / Solid Rock / Masters Of War / When You Gonna Wake Up / In The Garden / Blowin’ In The Wind / It’s All Right, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) / It Ain’t Me Babe / Knocking On Heaven’s Door (69:56)
Live at the Summit, Houston, Texas, USA. 12th November, 1981.
Originally released on the Silver Rarities label in 1990, this double disk soundboard was rightly celebrated at the time – A great performance twinned with a great sound – The only thing that upset collectors was the way it was presented, as two singular disks.

More expensive to purchase than a double CD set through some dealers, you would also run the risk that someone may just drop in and buy Vol.1 to check the sound while waiting for vol.2 the next time your dealer rolled in to town, should you be late to the fair, you’d be stuck with Vol.2 and worse, an incomplete collection.
The Vagabound / Wilbury Recordings label remedied this in 2003 (Don’t keep us waiting guys!) by issuing the set in a digi-gatefold however, the immitable BobsBoots site mentions the fact that, “There is perhaps a very slight high end presence to this set that is not quite so pronounced on the original, but it is extremely slight. Definately not worth an upgrade. As with its predecessor, there is a second of silence two minutes into Shot Of Love. Unlike the original, over two minutes of Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door is lost as the song inexplicably fades early. There is no reason for this, as the CD is only an hour long. There are no vocals lost, but gone is a sweet lead guitar solo.”
Nine short years later (C’mon!), the No Label crew have released an upgrade to the set, making it sound even better than ever – a bit beefier, bolder even with a broader separation. It’s not a million miles away from the original but it sounds like the audience are lower in the mix, the band take a pronounced lead in the recording. It sounds more natural than the Silver Rarities release – Dylan’s stage banter is more pronounced. 
It’s a great show – Many more ‘classic’ Dylan tracks have been added to the mix as Bob turned down the rapture of his 1980 tour, the spiritual tracks that remain are the right ones, the older songs that feature the Sisters of Soul are really well redressed to fit the form of the show. 
The original first disk is around 30 seconds longer than it‘s remaster, the second around 30 seconds shorter, with a longer remaster length. Regardless, we’re missing nothing.
The artwork for the new issue is much better than the initial release – Much more readable, much easier on the eye – packed with photos from the era, it’s a classy looking package indeed. A definite pick-up.

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