Bob Dylan – Upon The Steps Of Time (Tambourine Man Records TMR 209/210)

Upon The Steps Of Time
(Tambourine Man Records TMR 209/210)

Messezentrum Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria – July 7th, 2012

Disc 1 (75:30): Watching The River Flow, Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right, Things Have Changed, Tangled Up In Blue, Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum, Every Grain Of Sand, Ballad Of Hollis Brown, The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll, High Water (For Charley Patton), Visions Of Johanna, Highway 61 Revisited, Can’t Wait

Disc 2 (77:39): Thunder On The Mountain, Ballad Of A Thin Man, Like A Rolling Stone, All Along The Watchtower, Blowin’ In The Wind. Bonus, Zitadelle Spandau, Berlin, Germany – July 2nd, 2012: It Ain’t Me Babe, Cry A While, She Belongs To Me, Love Sick, The Levee’s Gonna Break, High Water (For Charley Patton), Desolation Row

The night after playing in Bad Mergentheim he moved onto Salzburg, Vienna, his first show in Salzburg since 2008.  Upon The Steps Of Time documents the complete concert using a very good to excellent stereo audience recording   It’s one of the best tapes from the tour and certainly one of the best TMR releases this year.  

Christian Schachinger, reviewing the show for the Salzburg Standard (under the title “Die Zeit macht Wurst” (Time Makes Sausage)), states that “Bob Dylan played a magnificent concert in the Multipurpose Hall.  He played a lot of old hits and was in excellent form, Thank God.  There are people who follow Bob Dylan over the decades.  At least with his concerts in Austria the same four, five or fifteen people sit in the front row center.  These good people are called ‘Dylanologists.’

“You can not be angry because of the many beautiful Bob Dylan songs … People who listen to a lot of Dylan are less hard hearted and stubborn than people who don’t listen.  Maybe Dylan would like to see younger people or women in the front row, but he’s not here for pleasure.  The ‘Dylanologists’ sit in the front row with  an analytic eye and with burning hearts, year after year, analyzing the old songs on the front line….

“Maybe Dylan likes the grim surroundings [of the Arena].  He makes clear the wickedness and stupidity of the world with a slight and deep voice. … Dylan rarely plays guitar.  He has Charlie Sexton in his band.  Besides playing the piano and fiddling on the organ, he’s discovered with classics like ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ something close to dancing without actually moving.”

Dylan begins the show with “Watching The River Flow” for the second time this tour.  It has a softer arrangement than in the past, but it still retains its gorgeous, hard-hitting blues chords that propel the song along.  It remains one of Dylan’s best opening salvos from his catalog.  It’s followed by “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” played for the first time in Europe that summer.  

The fast country/western arrangement of “Things Have Changed” followed by the piano-based “Tangled Up In Blue” follow.  These two songs, played consecutively  have served as the backbone of the set for two years.  But Dylan follows with two more tour debuts.  “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum,” with a heavy grand piano arrangement, and the sublime “Every Grain Of Sand” sung with utmost sincerity.      

After returning to the early sixties with “Ballad Of Hollis Brown,” Dylan follows with “The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll” played for the first time on the tour.  “Visions Of Johanna” sounds just as hypnotic in this performance as the old, classic arrangements of the past.  

Salzburg is a very strong concert.  So much so that Dylan rewards the audience with “Blowin’ In The Wind.”  

The bonus tracks are taken from the Berlin concert earlier in the week.  The tape is very good but a bit further from the stage than the Vienna tape.  Only “High Water (For Charlie Patton)” is duplicated from the main show in the collection.  The others are all unique.

Berlin contains seldom played songs from the sixties like “She Belongs To Me” but the weight is upon the newer songs such as “Cry A While,” “Love Sick” and “The Levee’s Gonna Break.”  But the highlight is a cheery rendition of “Desolation Row” (met with a roar of approval from the Berliners there).  Not only the quick tempo, but the upbeat piano arrangement propel the performance.

Upon The Steps Of Time is a very good TMR release.  The label remains one of the classic Dylan labels.  It would be good if they were more active in following Dylan’s NET shows and producing more excellent titles.  But what they have released are all very good and worth having.     

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