Bob Dylan – Melbourne ’92 and the Bromberg Sessions (Tambourine Man records TMR-008/009)

Bob Dylan, ‘Melbourne ’92 and the Bromberg Sessions’ (Tambourine Man records TMR-008/009)

Disk one; Intro / New Morning / Lay Lady Lay / All Along The Watchtower / Just Like A Woman / Tangled Up In Blue / Black Muddy River / Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat / Love Minus Zero – No Limit / Little Moses / Golden Vanity / Mr. Tambourine Man (53:07)
Disk two; Cat’s In The Well / Idiot Wind / The times they Are A Changin’ / Highway 61 Revisited / Absolutely Sweet Marie / Balled Of A Thin-Man / Blowin’ In The Wind – Sloppy Drunk * / Polly Vaughan * / Catskills Serenade * / Miss The Mississippi And You * (59:04)
The Palais Theatre, Melbourne, Australia. April 6th, 1992, except tracks marked *, recorded at The Acme Studios, Chicago, IL, June 1992. 
One of the Early releases on the Tambourine Man records label, ‘Melbourne ’92 and the Bromberg Sessions’ was the first CD that would feature this show at the Palais Theatre, in Melbourne, Australia – From a year where Dylan live recordings, or at least good ones, seem to be at a stretch. The set also features four tracks from the much vaunted ‘Bromberg Sessions’ (more of which later) in perfect quality, from the master tapes, strangely enough, however, the set was by and large ignored. In an effort to explain why this set should be in your collection, this latter day review will go in to more detail. Firstly, the live set. 
The venue tonight, The Palais Theatre in Melbourne, Australia, is noted as the largest seated theatre in Australia by Wikipedia. An old ‘Picture Palace’ (Movie theatre) in St. Kilda, Victoria, it has a 3,000 capacity, so while it’s no stadium, it’s no small club either despite the affectation of the sound on this tape. A close quarters sound, there’s a mixture of feels here – Either pally, chattiness by the audience through some of the better known trails, pin-drop silent for the covers – and what covers they are! – ranging from “Black Muddy River” (A Grateful Dead track, one of the very few times that Dylan would play this live), “Little Moses” (A Carter Family original that Dylan took to playing numerous times through 1992 – ’93) and “Golden Vanity” (A traditional, inspired by Samuel Pepys), the show seems to be the most bottom heavy with covers for this tour, the Dead song spearheading a reason to go ahead and take a twist to the setlist. The rest of the set list, as it was for the rest of the tour was Dylan of the time – his contemporaneous ’90’s style of heading in to radio friendly rock while singing in his waspish, high-pitched nasal style, his reticence of speaking to the audience had already begun. 
The show starts with ’New Morning’, the first time on this tour that Bob would start on this some, the first time, in fact, that Dylan would play this track. The song has a wonderful, optimistic marching tempo to it, multiple guitar measures bubble and swim about underneath the beat until they start to take more life and start to spiral out and around towards the end of the track. ‘All Along The Watchtower’ follows the typical Hendrix-styling. Dylan is very gear to get there words out and almost appears to step in too fast at odd-angles. It’s an odd occasion but not quite as bewildering as his phrasing on ‘Just Like A Woman’ where Dylan goes haywire from time to time attempting to add a dash too much to his singing. At least a sweet harp solo makes to temper all that. 
A wonderful, ’Tangled Up In Blue’ (Only marginally marred by what sounds like someone close to the taper aping Dylan’s annunciation but highlighting a brilliant guitar solo in the middle and a harp solo towards the end) leads in to ‘Black Muddy River’, no-one cheers the song when it starts, no-one starts when Dylan sings the lyrics either. The internet being a long way away just yet, no one in the room was putting the two together or they were being quietly respectful. The rendition is typically Dylan – respectful but with the odd fill by Bucky Baxter that adds a different texture. 
‘Love Minus Zero / No Limit’ really lifts the crowd and hails a ripple of recognition, where as ‘Little Moses’ raises early an eyebrow. I must admit, I found it to be one of the highlights of the evening – As soft as silk-bedsheets, as careful as a breeze, Dylan really hits the mark here and stuns the crowd to a near silence. Much the same befalls, ‘Golden Vanity’, presented in a true folk style, Dylan holds the occasion and the audience in the palm of his hand for over 6 minutes. 
‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ is fitted with the same suit that ‘New Morning’ is. A gently-urgent beat rests behind it and it marches along with a grinnin’-cowboy stride. The beautiful extended intro shines brightly and Dylan’s rapid fire delivery is amusing. There also lies within, a barely there harp but it’s something quite exquisite. The song tails out with an extended jam coda. Dylan speaks at the end of the song by saying, “That was Mr. Tambourine Man with, er, extra kinda ending to it .. two endings at the same time”.
‘Cats In The Well’, underplayed these days, starts off disk 2, a rancorous scuffle that could certainly meet the needs of the set has the Ozzie crowd happy, it’s jerky, zippy twist a great livener to the set, the ‘Idiot Wind’ that follows slows the tempo down again but reinvents it’s self well to find it’s style rooted in the 1990’s, it would have worked well on any of Dylan’s concurrent albums at this time. Its length, appealingly drawing.
There’s a steely remake for ‘Ballad Of A Thin Man’, wizened, fuzzy guitars, drumming that skips around like it’s anxious to fit somewhere, Dylan’s vocalisations are a scream as, just before the middle-solo he goes to town to really launch his power behind his words. Once the band exit, the set ends on a simple Dylan fronted, ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’. No more than a simple take on a classic track and a harkening back to what Dylan would have done way back in ‘63. It’s the perfect way to end the set.
The Bromberg sessions are presented as they might be a radio broadcast, they have a vaguely medium-wave quality – Whether this was a stylised trick of production or a polish added by the holder of the tapes to conceal any kind of source (Even to try lure the tradee in to not sharing these recordings with anyone else lest they get the original owner in to any sort of trouble), they’re good enough in fidelity though and, like the concert, the sound adds a little ‘era’ to it, though, it might be the wrong era for these specific recordings. They are, as noted, from masters, not MP3s. It’s a shame that the rest of the tracks have never seen the light as part of the full album – ‘Duncan And Brady’ and ‘Miss The Mississippi And You’ appear on the official “Tell Tale Signs” variants, however the rest of the tracks (12 are listed by Olaf’s) reside in the vault for the time being. 
‘Sloppy Drunk’ (Jimmie Rodgers) – A funky rehash on this song, the bass is gummy thick, horns abound in the background, fiddle and mandolin take up the rest. 
‘Polly Vaughan’ (trad.) – A winsomely easy take on this traditional track, it has a cool-evening-by-the-fire vibe, shimmering notes of a quiet wave take us through before the first chorus blossoms in to a bloom of steely guitar. This form sticks through the track there’s a beautiful solo that lingers at the coda of the track. 
‘Catskills Serenade’ (David Bromberg) – A Bromberg original, it starts with a plaintive, delicate strummed acoustic guitar before being joined by a gentle electric guitar and also ghostly hammond organ before the track just builds quietly before the end falls to include some wonderfully woeful harp playing that leads us out. The lyrics here seem to hint at marital discord, a man who has been left to fend alone. Someone who is thinking back over past plans.   
‘Miss The Mississippi And You’ (Jimmie Rodgers) – The second Jimmie Rodgers cover from these sessions, the feel is similar to the previous track, and though the harp remains, the hammond is replaced by a tremulous mandolin in the back. It remains true to its original version but is unfortunately too shiort in playing time – Assume this was its original length but it would have been nice to hear the track linger on. 
This is certainly a set to have in your collection, not just for those elusive Bromberg sessions but for the 1992 show. Very few of these shows from the Palais residency made it out to silvers, this one in particular was very well caught and sounds great for its recording. Featuring some very rare covers inbetween the regular set means that there’s something to study but also plenty to enjoy. This is a dynamite set to own. 


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