Bob Dylan – Rothbury Night (Festival Records SG 5709)

Rothbury Night (Festival Records SG 5709)

Rothbury Music Festival, Double JJ Ranch, The Odeum Stage, Rothbury, MI – July 5th, 2009

Disc 1 (71:55):  Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat, Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power), Tangled Up In Blue, Rollin’ And Tumblin’, Spirit On The Water, High Water (For Charley Patton), ‘Til I Fell In Love With You, Po’ Boy, Highway 61 Revisited, Ballad Of A Thin Man, Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again

Disc 2 (36:02):  Nettie Moore, Thunder On The Mountain, Like A Rolling Stone, Jolene, All Along The Watchtower, band introductions, Blowin’ In The Wind

Born from this years tour a rarely seen artifact – the Bob Dylan soundboard. Recorded at Rothbury Festival, July 5th 2009 this CD has created an excitement in Dylan circles not seen since Bobby’s last studio album – the album this show was to promote & was a good dampener to the news of Bobby’s forthcoming “Christmas” album that only Dylan could release with out a wry smirk. This is the second version of this show to be released after the original CD on Japanese label Social Graces ( only their second release after their premier Rolling Stones CD “Training Wheels” which was also copied by Rattlesnake ) & will be followed by releases on the mighty Crystal Cat records & the equally exemplary label Rattlesnake. but after all the hub-ub & hubris is it worth it? 

The show itself was certainly well received by most that attended & has collected a few plaudits online & through the press. The recording is a very good soundboard – certainly nothing like i expected for a festival as i expected a little more audience involvement but then it doesn’t sound as quiet as some pre-FM masters so sometimes it sounds like a radio studio recording where the audience are usually quietly respectful.   The tape begins with a slightly off kilter fanfare that sounds like a 1960’s medieval TV film that is soon over dubbed with the long spoken intro & sounds of the band testing their equipment that just sounds messy but disheveled & almost quite fun.

the band slip in to a rolling, bar room version of “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” that seems to chug restlessly along. sometimes the band take a little while to get themselves in the mood but theses certainly no warm up required tonight. Dylan is his usual modern day self though & growls, spits out & twists his words to dramatic effect. “Senor ( Tales Of Yankee Power)” follows & is quicker paced than the album version if not just as heartfelt & raw. “Tangled Up In Blue” is played just as Dylan & The Dead played it in the 1980’s – it’s certainly an interesting arrangement none the less & the rhythm seems to image a nursery rhyme kind of style with a four note chord progression. The bones of the song are still audible as certain chords, breaks & nuances are heard but the new arrangement certainly stands out further. 

“Rollin’ & Tumblin'” is roughly the same as ever as it hops & jumps around with a spirited drive & features a couple of deft guitar solos throughout this is followed by another track from Modern Times “Spirit on the Water”. In the gap that follows there’s a brief glimpse in to the workings of Bob’s machinations as he gruffly barks ‘High Water’ to the members in his band – it’s no surprise to anyone who’s followed Bobby that several songs are usually rehearsed & the band are kept on their toes by Dylan’s moods & his taste for what should follow but that this is picked up by the tape for the listeners to hear is almost an additional bonus to the magic. “High Water ( For Charley Patton )”, following the water theme, then. This song flows almost like a conversation, Dylan’s tricksy little asides to himself or to the audience are a smart little move. 

“Till I Fell In Love With You” finds Dylan bemoaning the woman who took his heart & how things were easier previously. A few stinging guitar licks complete the pains, punctuated by a nice line in keyboard stabs. “Po’ Boy” finds Dylan in a more languid mood, a dash of pleading harp & a delicate melody. All is calm until the band roar back to the fore with a blistering “Highway ’61” a surefire crowd pleaser & staple of the set list for many a year. The band fire on all cylinders for this song but George Recile really plays for kicks by launching an all out assault on the drums that doesn’t let up for the 7 minute duration. reports are that Dylan is so pleased with this performance that he gives  ‘knock’ to Denny Freeman for keeping up the pace.

never let it be said that Dylan  Another classic from a couple more years in to Dylan’s career “Ballad Of A Thin Man” keeps a ringing, rhythmic sequence going not too far removed from the earlier airing of ‘Tangled Up .. ‘ while Dylan plays with the phrasing of the lyrics & sometimes the lyrics themselves in a spectacular, jocular, fashion. It’s obvious he’s having a little more fun now & starts to throw out funny little curve balls through stabbing at chords on the keyboard & whisking out a couple of blasts on the harp. “Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again” follows but doesn’t really hit any agenda or blow anything else out of the water and Dylan’s phrasing around the 5 minute mark doesn’t bear repeat listening. Despite the song itself now would have been a good time to go grab a beer .. 

Disk Two picks up with “Nettie Moore” from the ‘Modern Times’ album. A tour favorite tune & judging from the crowd reaction a favorite tonight too. One can see why, the song fairly flows & would be the perfect accompaniment to a setting sun & a herbal cigarette. A song for swinging lovers. “Thunder On The Mountain” reaps the benefit of it’s multiple start beginning & it’s perfect boogie – woogie rhythm & sounds beatific, exciting, a joy. Denny again spits out a wonderful solo & Dylan really grooves with a whirling dervish of an organ solo that would impress his hero Little Richard. We land straight in to a calmer but no less potent “Like A Rolling Stone”. it certainly hasn’t lost it’s teeth in it’s 44 years but Dylan will sometimes croon the song rather than snap out the lyrics as he once would.

Dylan then plays the only song from the album that he should be promoting ( but as is his want then it’s just like him to do this .. ) “Jolene” seems to be his pick this time round – it’s a great song too with pithy lyrics & a good ole’ bar room stomp that’s almost brings the set full circle were it not for the following two songs .. “All Along The Watchtower” is the atypical Hendrix styled blast with angry, snarling guitars & rambunctious drum fills. Bobby inserts full stops in between every other word & once again plays with the phrasing to his hearts content. The much covered & coveted “Blowin’ In The Wind” closes the set Donnie Herron plays through on electric mandolin while Bobby flows on with an authentic country styled harp line. it is, in someways, the perfect way to close the show & going by the best part of the other shows on this part of the NET the only way. The tape then fades quickly spoiling the atmosphere a little as it would have been nice to hear a little more of the audience before we exit but it’s a small niggle on an other wise excellent set. 

The Festival Records aesthetics are a little crushed surrounding Dylan with a vertical & also horizontal typeface & an ever so slightly fuzzy picture on the cover slip – it’s not noticeable at first but does become a little more apparent on closer inspection. The back cover is predominately a sunflower yellow colour with a clear black typeface & four small portraits of Dylan & his band. 

This release is another cornerstone in any Dylan release but feel free to choose from any of the available versions of this show. I’m sure there’s more reviews to come .. 

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  1. I was waiting with excitement for this to arrive in my mailbox and after listening to it several times today have really enjoyed it. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting however this release has Dylan upfront in the mix and band in the back. This is a SB and not a multi track which is probably what my ears were expecting to hear. After saying all this, it’s still worth seeking out and a exciting addition to the tour.

    • Yes this is an excellent recording of a magical night for Bob and his band. Despite copious wrong notes on the electric organ – they seem to be an integral part of his style! – Bob is in fine form vocally, and the song arrangements keep you on your toes. I particularly like the heavy chugging blues groove of ‘Til I fell in Love with You’. It gives the song a totally different feel from the studio version, and I think it is better for it. Also, the recording captures well the soundstage and feel of being at an open air festival like Rothbury. I almost feel like I am standing with a beer in the crowd as I listen!


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