Think I’ll Call It A Man (Thinman-058/59)
Earls Court, London, England – June 27th, 1981
Disc 2: Gotta Serve Somebody, I Believe In You, Like A Rolling Stone, Till I Get It Right, Man Gave Names To All The Animals, Maggie’s Farm, I Don’t Believe You, Dead Man Dead Man, Girl From The North Country, Ballad Of A Thinman, Slow Train, Walk Around Heaven All Day
Disc 2: Let’s Begin, Lenny Bruce, Mr. Tambourine Man, Solid Rock, Just Like A Woman, Watered-Down Love, Forever Young, When You Gonna Wake Up, In The Garden, Blowin’ In The Wind, It’s All Over Now Baby Blue, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
During the past couple year the Thinman label have provided a great service by focusing upon Bob Dylan’s gospel period. With tapes from Earls Court, Birmingham and Germany, this neglected period is available for reassessment by critics and fans. Think I’ll Call It A Man captures the fourth show in Europe in the summer of 1981 and the second of six shows at Earls Court in London and joins previous Thinman releases Walk Around Heaven All Day (Thinman-026/027) (June 26th) and Ways Of The Flesh (Thinman-048/49) (June 28th) in documenting the Earls Court run. “Let’s Begin” was included on the 81 tour compilation Footsteps ’81 (Waxworks ST 1313) and its clone Gospel Rock And More (White Wonder) on vinyl, but this is the first release of the complete tape and its debut on compact disc. The label use an excellent three dimensional stereo audience recording that is remarkable for its clarity and precision. That particular “Earls Court echo” is present, but on this tape enhances the listening experience rather than hampering it. The sound is similar to the June 28th show and probably comes from the same taper.
The first four non-Dylan songs, “Come On In This House,” “It’s Gonna Rain,” “Show Me The Way Lord,” and “Saved By The Grace Of Your Love” are not present. Thankfully Regina Harris singing “Till I Get It Right” and Carolyn Dennis singing “Walk Around Heaven” are. There are small cuts after “Maggie’s Farm,” “When You Gonna Wake Up?” but no music is lost. The tape picks up when Dylan hits the stage with “Gotta Serve Somebody.” He amends the chorus by singing “you’re gonna serve somebody” to “you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” The fourth verse is sung second with the second line changed to “maybe working in a coal mine…” The first six songs from “Gotta Serve Somebody” through to “Maggie’s Farm” are the most commonly played on this tour as an opening sequence with some exceptions. Dylan introduces the newest song by saying: “Here’s a song we just recently recorded called ‘Dead Man Dead Man When Will You Arise.'” “Girl From The North Country” is given a piano arrangement that sounds gorgeous in the cavernous arena.
Jim Webb’s “Let’s Begin” is sung as a duet between Dylan and Clydie King. “Mr. Tambourine Man” is given a breezy rock arrangement and is very effective. Afterwards Dylan is cryptic in his remarks when he says, “Last night there was a man sitting there in the third row staring at me all night with binoculars. He’s at the wrong end of the binoculars. I don’t see him down there tonight.” “Watered-Down Love” is another new song and Dylan points the finger by saying, “You don’t want a love that’s pure, you wanna drown love, you want a watered-down love.” The set closer is “In The Garden” which Dylan introduces by saying, “I called George Harrison, he’s an old friend of mine. He was out in his garden. So I wanna dedicate this to him.”
This night’s performance is very dramatic, and by the end of the song Dylan gives a long introduction to the band saying: “All right, I wanna introduce you to the lady on the far left. That’s Carolyn Dennis, who you heard earlier, Carolyn Dennis. Oh that’s really great. Standing next to her is Madelyn Quebec. Standing next to her is Regina McCreary. Standing next to her is Clydie King. Standing next to her is Tim Drummond. I think that’s all the band I’m gonna introduce tonight. Does anybody care who’s playing the keyboards? From Portsmouth, Virginia, Leon Russell! Actually that’s Willie Smith. On guitars, Fred Tackett and Steve Ripley. Another part on the keyboards, Willie Smith. On the drums tonight, a legend in his own time, played on a lot of hit records. I’m sure you’ve heard of him. What was that last hit record you played on? Woolly Bully! Anyway, from Tulsa, Oklahoma, Jim Lee Keltner. Well, we gotta get out of here now, pleased to see you. I hope that we played something that you came to hear. If not, we’re gonna be here tomorrow night, and the next night and the night after that. You’re bound to hear something that you know one of the nights. We’ll see you again.”
After the crowd goes nuts calling for an encore they oblige with an apocalyptic version of “Blowin’ In The Wind.” With the bombastic power chords and the backup singers singing like angels, this is a complete drama in five minutes. “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” is sung by Dylan alone on acoustic guitar just like the mid sixties. This is the one bit of pure nostalgia he offers the audience as they sing along. The show closes with an inspiring version of “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” which fits perfectly into the Christian context. It is played in the reggae style he adopted (along with Eric Clapton) in the late eighties. With tapes this good, it is surprising it has taken so long for them to be given a full release in any format (vinyl, CD or CDR). There is enough here to appeal to all Dylan collectors and these concerts are highly addictive and require compulsive listening. Think I’ll Call It A Man is packaged in a double slimline jewel case with many photographs from the Earls Court concerts and is definitely worth having.