Return To Me, Mia Bella (Godfather GR380/381)
Mandela Forum, Florence, IT – April 18th, 2009
Disc 1 (72:29): Maggie’s Farm, Mr. Tambourine Man, Most Likely You Go Your Own Way (And I Go Mine), Man In The Long Black Coat, Rollin’ And Tumblin’, The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll, ‘Till I Fell In Love With You, Workingman’s Blues #2, Highway 61 Revisited, Ballad Of Hollis Brown, Po’ Boy, Summer Days, Return To Me
Disc 2 (77:06): Thunder On The Mountain, Like A Rolling Stone, All Along The Watchtower, Spirit On The Water, Blowin’ In The Wind. Bonus tracks, PalaLottomatica, Rome, IT – April 17th, 2009: Cat’s In The Well, Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright, Things Have Changed, Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum, Make You Feel My Love, It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding), Beyond The Horizon, Love Sick
Return To Me, Mia Bella contains the complete third and final show in Italy on Bob Dylan’s most recent tour of Europe. Godfather use an excellent sounding stereo audience recording which is very crisp, deep and powerful and what Dylan fans come to expect from modern day concert recordings. There is a small but after “Ballad Of Hollis Brown” but no music is lost.
It is obvious Dylan wants to come out charging at the Florence audience by the choice of material in the first part of the show. “Maggie’s Farm” is played as the opener on this tour for the first time in years. This new arrangement emphasizes the bitterness in the words. “Mr. Tambourine Man” is played in an arrangement emphasizing a martial beat.
“Most Likely You Go Your Own Way” is a frequent inclusion in Europe and contains the same bite as the 1974 arrangement which both opened and closed most of those concerts. But the first true surprise comes with “Man In The Long Black Coat.” Dylan comes out from behind the keyboard to play guitar on this song. The dark and mysterious mood this song creates is almost completely abandoned in favor of a quick paced country tempo. The opening salvo ends with the stage thumper “Rollin’ And Tumblin’.”
Things slow down a bit for “The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll” (but just a bit). As the band pound the waltz tempo Dylan growls the narrative of the unjust death. Dylan moves back to center stage with harp only for “‘Till I Fell In Love With You” (Godfather have a picture from this song on the interior of the sleeve). This is followed by “Workingman’s Blues #2” which one review writes: “Bob sang this song with a rare intensity and proofed that this song is a gem (it reminds John Lennon’s ‘Working Class Hero’ thirty years or so after).” It is truly moving, but comparisons to the Lennon song are inaccurate because Dylan misses the intense anger of the Lennon song.
“The Ballad Of Hollis Brown” burns with despair in this arrangement and it is only when they play “Po’ Boy” that things begin to lighten up a bit. “Summer Days” (two songs from Love & Theft played in a row is rare) is followed by Dylan’s cover of the Dean Martin standard “Return To Me” and even sings the final verse in Italian: “ritorna a me…solo tu solo tu mio grande amore!” Something which is truly unique at a Dylan concert. “Thunder On The Mountain” has Dylan playing around with various intonations of the words. “Like A Rolling Stone” turns into a giant sing-a-long with the Florence audience. Two relatively quiet songs, “Spirit On The Water” and a “Blowin’ In The Wind” dominated by violin close the show.
As a bonus, and to provide as much music as possible, Godfather offers eight of the eighteen songs from the previous evening in at the PalaLottomatica in Rome. The sound quality of the tape unfortunately doesn’t measure up to Florence. It is distant but strangely enhanced by tremendous echo and crowd cheering. It is listenable, but not what Dylan collectors come to expect. The songs are taken from various parts of the show with no duplication with the Florence set list.
The opening three songs of the show start with “Cat’s In The Well” and a version of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” played to almost comic effect. “Things Have Changed” features Dylan on guitar and “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum,” a song popular in Europe, features Dylan at center stage with harp. Return To Me, Mia Bella is another sterling Bob Dylan release on the Godfather label. It comes packaged in the tri-fold gatefold sleeve with several pictures from the Florence show on the front and insert.
I’m by no means a hardcore Dylan collector however I did purchase the latest studio release and do enjoy it. matter of fact it remained in my cd player for a week as I once again adjusted to Dylan’s voice. Because I was curious how the old and new songs would sound live I sought out several releases from the current tour including this one from Godfather and agree with GS that this one is sourced from a excellent quality recording. I do believe I read somewhere that Godfather’s source is a exclusive which just added to my curiosity of having this one. If you are like me and only want a few recordings from this current tour and packaging, performance, and sound quality are a factor, I highly recommend picking this up.