The Master’s Hand & A Cowboy Band (Tambourine Man Records TMR 146/147)
Hartwall Arena, Helsinki, Finland – June 1st, 2008
Disc 1: Intro., Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat, Lay Lady Lay, Rollin’ And Tumblin’, Visions Of Johanna, Things Have Changed, The Levee’s Gonna Break, Tangled Up In Blue, Watching The River Flow, Every Grain Of Sand
Disc 2: It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding), Nettie Moore, Highway 61 Revisited, Spirit On The Water, Summer Days, Ballad Of A Thin Man, Thunder On The Mountain, Like A Rolling Stone
The Master’s Hand & A Cowboy Band is the imaginative title for Bob Dylan’s June 1st show in Helsinki Finland. The sound quality of the audience recording very clear with tremendous presence, capturing the atmosphere of the performance perfectly. With several tape sources to choose from TMR wisely chose the best of the lot and one of the better ones from the European tour. It is unfortunate then that there are digital “bumps” between most of the tracks on both discs, sounding as if they used a faulty master disc for the production. They are not too loud but very obvious and are somewhat distracting from the overall enjoyment of the show. This is an issue TMR might want to consider fixing this problem in for future release because the quality of both the sound and the performance are excellent making this a very solid title.
Dylan chooses older songs for the set with only four Modern Times tracks appearing. The set begins with the blues “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” as the opener. It isn’t as orthodox as in the past, but the blues chords are still there buried deep in the mix until the song charges with intensity by the end causing someone by the taper to shout “wow!!” A dreamy version of “Lay, Lady, Lay” follows which, as one review states, “went into a dark groove…due to Bob’s way of dropping his voice an octave or so at the end of each line. Great performance.” After “Rollin’ And Tumblin’,” the first rocking song, they play “Visions Of Johanna.” This was played only eighteen times the past three years and four on the Europan tour this summer.
“Tangled Up In Blue” lacks the intensity of past versions and sounds straight out of a Nashville recording studio and after “Watching The River Flow” they play the sublime “Every Grain Of Sand.” The main set ends with an interesting version of “Ballad Of A Thin Man.” In this arrangement Dylan plays an incongruous, happy sounding circus like organ around Freeman’s rather strange guitar soloing. “Thunder On The Mountain” is the first encore and is followed by Dylan’s band introdction. Stu Kimball receives a loud ovation prompting Bob to say, “looks like he has a friend out there. It’s been a long time since anybody screamed for him. How long ago was that? He’s gonna give you one of his scarfs.” George Recile receives another loud ovation and Dylan says, “oh know, that’s the same girl!” “Like A Rolling Stone” is the appropriate closer for a great show filled with classic tunes. This is packaged in a double slimline jewel case with photos from the tour on TMR’s classy looking inserts. Except for the digital bumps between the tracks, this is a very good release.