Bob Dylan – Politics Of Sin (Chrome Horse Records CHR-05/06)

Politics Of Sin (Chrome Horse Records CHR-05/06)

Johanneshovs Isstadion, Stockholm, Sweden – July 8th, 1981

Disc 1 (76:34):  Come On In This House, It’s Gonna Rain, Show Me The Way, She Belongs To Me, The Times They Are A-Changin’, Gotta Serve Somebody, I Believe In You, Like A Rolling Stone, Till I Get It Right (Red Lane/Larry Henley), Man Gave Names To All The Animals, Maggie’s Farm, Simple Twist Of Fate, Dead Man Dead Man, Girl From The North Country, Ballad Of A Thin Man, Slow Train, Walk Around Heaven All Day (Rev. James Cleveland/Cassietta George)

Disc 2 (68:57):  Let’s Begin (Jim Webb), All Along The Watchtower, Lenny Bruce, What Can I Do For You?, Solid Rock, Mr. Tambourine Man, Just Like A Woman, Watered-Down Love, When You Gonna Wake Up?, In The Garden, Blowin’ In The Wind, It’s All Over Now Baby Blue, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door

Bob Dylan began his first tour of Europe since 1978 with two shows in France, six shows at Earl’s Court in London and two in Birmingham.  All the shows were well received but tightly rehearsed and performed.  Only after these shows, beginning with the July 8th show in Stockholm, did Dylan begin to tinker more with the setlist and arrangements.

This was still the “gospel” period so the emphasis was upon the evangelical songs, but this concerts marks a much appreciated change in the show.  Politics Of Sin utilizes an excellent stereo audience recording of the entire show, opening numbers and all.  It is a fantastic document on par with the more famous show two nights later in Drammen, Norway (immortalized on In The Summertime (Dandelion DL 022/23).

Stockholm begins like the others with a three song gospel set sung by the female singers Clydie King, Carolyn Dennis, Regina Havis and Madelyn Quebec.  But, unlike all the other gospel shows before, dating back to 1979, when Dylan comes onstage he doesn’t play the all band electric “Gotta Serve Somebody.”  

Instead, he comes out alone with acoustic guitar and plays “She Belongs To Me” in the same solo arrangement he opened with on the fabled 1966 tour of Europe.  He follows with a similar arrangement of “The Times They Are A-Changin’.”  Dylan would employ this pattern several more times on the tour but would play only one song, alternating between “Times” and “Blowin’ In The Wind.”  

Afterwards the band enter the stage and the proceed with “Gotta Serve Somebody,” and emotional “I Believe In You” and “Like A Rolling Stone.”  His voice sounds weaker than in Earl’s Court but has much warmth and vitality.

While Dylan is introducing McCreary for her song “Till I Get It Right” someone interrupts him by requesting “Lay, Lady, Lay.”  Dylan quips, “Yeah, I will play it, if you’ll sing it.”  McCreary gives a passionate performance of the tune.  

“Dead Man, Dead Man” is one of the loudest songs of the night and one of the biggest highlights of the set.  Carolyn Dennis sings “Walking Around Heaven All Day” and Dylan duets with Clydie King on “Let’s Begin.”  

The show closes with “In The Garden.”  Before introducing the band Dylan says to Stockholm, “I hope we played something that you came to hear. If we played something that you came to hear applaud. Ha-ha. And if we didn’t play something you came to hear, applause  I guess we played enough…”

They play the gospel arrangement of “Blowin’ In The Wind” as the first encore.  Dylan pulls out his acoustic guitar and jokes that “I saw somebody on television last night play this song. I’m gonna try to do it as good as he did it” referring to Mikael Wiehe.  He plays a solo acoustic version of the song and, as a final encore, they play the reggae arrangement of “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” so popular in the seventies.  

Chrome Horse include a thick booklet insert with this release containing the bulk of an article “The Diamond Voice Within” by Neil Spencer with a rare interview of Dylan.  He makes some interesting observations:  

Munich is the eleventh stop on a European tour that will take in eight countries and 23 shows, around a third of them in Britain. Being in the business of a ceaseless quest for a Bob Dylan interview, (one of several score, if not hundred), I get to see shows in Paris, London, and Munich where the quest will, to an extent, be realised; a brief backstage rencontre being promised by Dylan’s management. 

“This was Dylan’s sixth or seventh visit to Europe in his 20 year career, and this time round it was different. A lot has changed since Dylan last trod Albion’s shores, not least the social and cultural fabric of Britain itself. …The national press, radio and tv didn’t seem to know quite how to respond to the new, Christian Bob Dylan; and for them it was a case of better the cosy fantasy scenarios of last-chance power drives down endless american highways than the uncomfortable moral imperatives of Dylan’s new kingdom.

“Dylan’s refusal to bow to the myths of rock – he’d always kept an ambiguous, open relation with ‘rock’ anyway, what with his folk roots, the frequent diversions into country, blues and anything else that took his fancy – and his insistence on his personal salvation had cost him heavy with critics and fans.

“To some of them, any type of born-again Christianity smacked of U.S. president Ronald Reagan’s ‘moral majority’, even though Dylan’s new songs have consistently spelt out an anti-establishment stance, the protest era rekindled if anything. There again, any spiritual values smack of humbug to a sometimes insensitised youth culture, more caught up with the materialist and consumer values it professes to despise than perhaps it realises or cares to admit.

“Christian or not, in the gritty business of attracting paying customers, there are few artists able to command the allegiance that Dylan still does, and ugly rumours of unsold tickets finally gave way to near-capacity audiences. Around 120,000 saw the British shows.”

Politics Of Sin is another high quality release by the label.  The great sound and the care to confirm the show’s historic nature make it one worth having.  

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