Bob Dylan – The Endless Road (Thinman-155/156)

The Endless Road (Thinman-155/156)

Richfield Coliseum, Cleveland, OH – October 20th, 1978

Disc 1 (72:29):  My Back Pages (inst), I’m Ready, Mr. Tambourine Man, Shelter From The Storm, It’s All Over Now Baby Blue, Tangled Up In Blue, Ballad Of A Thin Man, Maggie’s Farm, I Don’t Believe You, Like A Rolling Stone, I Shall Be Released, Going Going Gone, Times They Are A-Changin’, It Ain’t Me Babe, One More Cup Of Coffee

Disc 1 (78:04):  Blowin’ In The Wind, Girl From The North Country, Where Are You Tonight?, Masters Of War, Just Like A Woman, Simple Twist Of Fate, All Along The Watchtower, All I Really Want To Do, It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding), Forever Young, Changing Of The Guards.  Bonus tracks, Universal Amphitheater, Los Angeles, CA – June 3rd, 1978:  Tangled Up In Blue, One Of Must Know (Sooner Or Later), Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power)

Bob Dylan’s touring in 1978 was the most extensive of his career up to that point, traveling to Japan, Europe, and playing the better part of four months in the United States beginning in September and ending two weeks before Christmas in Florida.  The setlist was well set with variations occurring in several songs and the amount of Street Legal material he felt like playing.  Only by the end did he begin to introduce brand new songs, one of which would appear on Slow Train Coming.

The big band jelled enough by mid to late October to deliver some scintillating shows.  The Endless Road documents the October 20th show at the massive Richfield Coliseum in Cleveland, Ohio, the first show after a two night stay in Chicago.  The taper, referred as “JoeMusic,” was situated on the floor back up 20 rows and produced an amazing three-dimensional stereo recording with a deep echo and fantastic atmosphere, truly capturing the weight Dylan was trying to achieve. 

The sound is very similar to the tape of the previous show in Chicago and pressed most recently on False Idols Fall (Godfather Records GR 358/359).  The only blemish on the recording is “Like A Rolling Stone” is cut after three minutes, omitting the second half of the song.  “JoeMusic” also recorded Eric Clapton in 1975 and 1979 and Fleetwood Mac in May, 1980. 

Not only is the sound quality almost identical, the performance and set are also virtual twins of the Chicago show.  Dylan gives the same caustic vocal delivery on many of the songs, and the only change in the set is “Simple Twist Of Fate” replacing “To Ramona” after “Just Like A Woman” late in the second half.

The tape starts with the instrumental introduction “My Back Pages” (complete with audience members trying to sing along).  Dylan walks onstage by the end of the piece, met with a tremendous roar. 

The Willie Dixon cover “I’m Ready” is the first song he sings, a call to arms (as it were), asking the massive crowd if they are prepared for the next two hours of music.  The song segues seamlessly into one of the best arrangements of “Mr. Tambourine Man” in Dylan’s repertoire.  The flute plays in a light counterpoint with the guitars and vocals much like the earlier arrangement of “Love Minus Zero / No Limit.”

Both “Shelter From The Storm” and “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” help the show retain its high peak of energy and excitement.  Things slow down a bit with “Tangled Up In Blue,” which Dylan introduces as “a ballad I wrote a few years back concerning three people who were in love with each other, all the time. ”  Referred to as the “torch song” arrangement, it certainly is sparse with only keyboard saxophone under Dylan’s narration.

The full band return for “Ballad Of A Thin Man,” which Dylan says “is a song I’ve been singing for quite some time. Funny how it means more to me now than it did when I wrote it.” 

“I Shall Be Released” sounds spectacular with help from the female singers echoing the vocalist’s sentiment.  “All right, we gonna take a break now, a break, a short break” Dylan says afterwards.  “Anyway, I recorded this song with The Band. Remember The Band? On an album we did called Planet Waves.  Sold six copies” he jokes.  Someone by the recorder doesn’t understand what he says and his friend has to repeat it to him. 

The second half of the show starts with “Times Are A-Changing” followed by Dylan singing “It Ain’t Me, Babe” alone with acoustic guitar, the only such arrangement of the night. 

After the gospel “Blowin’ In The Wind” and “Girl From The North Country” they play the “Where Are You Tonight?” from Street Legal.  It’s taken Dylan about an hour and a half to finally play something new.  During the summer Europe was given a big selection of new songs, such as the Blackbushe concert featuring all but two songs from the album.  The only other Street Legal song to be played is “Changing Of The Guards” as an encore, and one has to assume that Dylan either lost faith in the new material or was reacting to the cool reception it received from the press.

Following are scorching versions of “Masters Of War” and “All Along The Watchtower,” featuring great performances by Billy Cross on guitar in the former and David Mansfield on violin in the latter.

While the band plays the melody for “It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding” Dylan introduces the band and makes silly comments such as “on the rhythm guitar, a man who doesn’t speak very much English, from Bogota, Colombia, plays his heart out though. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Steven Soles. I’m sponsoring him in this country, ha!” and “on the mandolin, the violin, a young man who’s been with me now for five years. He’s only 15 years old. Give him a warm hand. Dave…David Mansfield.”

The set ends with “Forever Young” which Dylan says “I wrote this a few years ago for one of my babies when he was a baby. He’s not here now, but I wanna sing it anyway” and afterwards, as they’re leaving, he jokes “I hope we played something right.”

Thinman include three bonus tracks from the June 3rd show at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles.  This was the third of seven warm up gigs before heading off to Europe for his first visit in twelve years.  These are the first live shows after Street Legal was recorded in April and May at Rundown Studios, and afforded the band the opportunity to debut the new songs. 

We get to hear the torch arrangement of “Tangled Up In Blue,” “One Of Must Know (Sooner Or Later)” and a creepy version of “Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power)” from the new album.  It is a nice bonus.  This run of concerts are worth checking out but are very hard to find.  Parts of the June 2nd and June 7th shows were pressed onto silver disc in the mid nineties, but have been ignored since. 

The Endless Road is another great and worthy Thinman release pressed onto silver.  The label does a great job in releasing older performances that have never been available, and Cleveland 1978 is an outstanding show worth hearing.

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