Bob Dylan, “Los Angeles 1978 Last Night” (No Label BD 6778)
Disk 1: A Hard Rain’s Gonna Falls (Inst.) / Love Her With A Feeling / Baby, Stop Crying / Mr. Tambourine Man / Shelter From The Storm / Love Minus Zero – No Limit / Tangled Up In Blue / Ballad Of A Thinman / Maggie’s Farm / I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met) / Like A Rolling Stone / I Shall Be Released / Going, Going, Gone. (62:23)
Disk 2 : Rainy Day Women 12 & 35 (Inst.) / One of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later) / You’re A Big Girl Now / One More Cup Of Coffee (Valley Below) / Blowin’ In The Wind / I Want You / Señor (Tales of Yankee Power) / Masters Of War / Just Like A Woman / Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright / Simple Twist Of Fate / Oh, Sister / All Along The Watchtower / All I Really Want To Do / Band Introductions / It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) / Forever Young / The Times They Are A-Changin’ (79:49)
In the seventies there were very few concert tapers who could touch the name of Mike ‘The Mike’ Millard. Generally estimated to be one of the names to get to know when you were searching for the best audience recordings – Mike certainly had great taste too and though he would record a lot of touring bands around LA, Mike seemed to reserve his best for the top acts – Springsteen, Zeppelin, The Who, Dylan to name but a few.
Ferociously guarded over his concert recordings and the few that he would share them with, very few of these excellent tapes escaped ‘quality control’ and Mike made sure that they wouldn’t go far as he marked his tapes individually – the tapes could be tailored with a sound fluctuation, a clip in the audience noise or one of the tracks themselves and then they were recorded in Mike’s own hand to whom they had been copied for. Woe betide the taper who chanced his arm and Mike’s trust if copying and trading on one of these elusive recordings.
At the same time, Bob Dylan was taking his own new masterworks on the road. Dylan was pushing his Las Vegas style along, his own brand of glittery showmanship marking a difference between the Dylan of his Rolling Thunder revue tour and his ‘Elv-ish’ phase. Chatty, reborn, happy with his world again, this fever had given him more to look forward to, Dylan was exactly who we thought he wasn’t and yet, completely right at the time. The author Paul Williams correctly points out that this was Dylan’s attempt at reassessing the 1974 tour by finessing the sound of his greatest hits and adding a little polish to it.
The ‘Warm Up’ shows at the Universal Amphitheatre in L.A. were predecessors to the larger and longer world tour that Dylan was shortly to impart on. A full weeks residency, following the earlier rehearsals at the Rundown Studios in CA which followed Dylan’s earlier successes in the far East and Australia.
Mike’s tape from tonight features the small waves of difference – presumably inherent because Mike had marked his tape but possibly as Mike was moving the positioning of his microphone and changing the levels as he saw fit – As his references were reported to be lost, we may never know. There are no less than three atmospheric changes through ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ where the tape changes between a little reedy to bassy and then fuller still but one that’s ironed out, the rest of the set runs output any discernible changes in speed or sound.
As for the music played in the concert – well, we know by now that Dylan was on an impassioned force, eager, charged and playing the ’Song And Dance Man’. The concert heats up towards the end as Dylan starts to let loose and becomes energised by his backing vocalists. Maybe I’ve been hardened to the change in Dylan’s output over the years but these are the concerts I come back to more and more as I hear more tapes from the 2000’s – they’re just more exhilarating to me to hear while Dylan doesn’t just run through the hits and eschew his audience’s preferences, instead, he gives them it all albeit with the passage of time, we understand the mood he was in. Thanks to Mike’s recording however, we can hear the crowd enjoy it as much as we can now.
The CDs cover is up to the standards of the No Labels best, albeit, a little flawed. A double sided front insert – both featuring pictures that are ever so slightly grainy but with crystal clear fonts and an easy read font in a traditional style. The two picture disks are brilliantly chosen. For the recordings alone, these are choice disks but No label have also put together a fantastic package worthy of collecting too. The only thing that might make you think twice about this release is the fact that there was also an alternate Millard recording of the same night (!) presumably recorded by a Mike affiliate. Read the reviews and make up your own mind or collect them both.