It’s Great To Be Back In New York (Vintage Masters Premium Series VM-011A/B)
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – January 31, 1974 (evening and afternoon show)
Disc 1 (77:42): Most Likely You Go Your Way, Lay Lady Lay, Just Like Tom Thumbs Blues, Rainy Day Women #12&35, It Ain’t Me Babe, Ballad Of A Thin Man, Stage Fright, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, King Harvest, When You Awake, Up On Cripple Creek, All Along The Watchtower, Ballad Of Hollis Brown, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, The Times They Are A Changin’, Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right, Gates Of Eden, Just Like A Woman, It’s Alright Ma
Disc 2 (70:01): Rag Mama Rag, This Wheel’s On Fire, The Shape I’m In, The Weight, Forever Young, Highway 61 Revisited, Like A Rolling Stone, Most Likely You Go Your Way, Blowin’ In The Wind. Bonus tracks, Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – January 31, 1974 afternoon show: The Shape I’m In, The Weight, Forever Young, Highway 61 Revisited, Like A Rolling Stone, Maggie’s Farm, Blowin’ In The Wind
Bob Dylan and The Band’s soundboard recording of the evening show at Madison Square Garden on January 31 has been released before. Among the earliest releases is Before and After the Flood (Unbelievable UM 017/018) along with some 1965 material released in 1992. New York City ’74 (Red Sky 1001) contains fourteen songs from this show and is filled out with tracks from the Oakland soundboard from the same tour.
Forever Young (Cool Daddy 103323) contains a bulk of this show including from The Band, and finally the no label Poet And The Players also documents this tape. The soundboard recording on these releases comes from a high generation, muffled and hissy tape that is good for being a document of the show. It’s Great To Be Back In New York on Vintage Masters Premium comes from lower generation if not the master tape.
Vintage Masters Premium usually press on silver shows downloaded from Wolfgang’s Vault, but this tape comes from a post on Trader’s Den in late September. According to the poster, “Transfer: Top Notch equipment operated by those who really know what they are doing. Mastering: Done with a light touch to preserve the purity of the show.
Tracking and Lossless Compression CDwave -> flacfrontend L8 -> Checksums/shntool via. Traders Little Helper 16bit / 44.1KHz. Notes: Sorry for the lack of information. This is one of those ‘let your ears be happy and don’t ask, many questions’ kinda shows.’ I have been asked to keep this anonymous, and out of deep respect for those that involved, I am asking no questions and, therefore have no answers.”
The general consensus is this recording is a significant upgrade over all of the other titles that have been released with this tape. It is very clear, balanced and detailed and can be considered to be one of the best sounding soundboard recordings from Bob Dylan and The Band’s 1974 tour across North America. There are several imperfections on the tape. There is a cut after “Up On Cripple Creek” and the first couple lines of “All Along The Watchtower” are cut out.
There is also a cut after “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.” “The Shape I’m In” fades out and “The Weight” fades in just before the first chorus, and there is a tape crinkle sixteen seconds into “Forever Young” eliminating several lines. The bonus tracks come from the high generation soundboard recording from the January 31 afternoon show.
Vintage Masters Premium chose these specific tracks to compensate for the imperfections from the evening show, so there are complete versions of “The Shape I’m In,” “The Weight,” and “Forever Young.” They also include the closing number “Maggie’s Farm,” which was not played in the evening.
This show occurs about a month into the tour, and by this time the set list has pretty much been solidified. Rehearsed and slickly produced, this is a highly polished, professional show in what one author says was the already profitable sixties nostalgia movement. In contrast the tone of the production, Dylan barks, shouts, and snarls out the lyrics in a mixture of ferocity and irony. Concerts earlier on the tour began with the ultra obscure “Hero’s Blues,” but by New York they had settled on “Most Likely You’ll Go Your Own Way” as both opener and often as closer.
“It’s great to be back here in New York. It is a rare privilege to be here,” Dylan says before “Lay Lady Lay.” Hudson favors a modern sounding (at the time) synthesizer accompaniment on Dylan’s songs throughout the show. Of the first six songs, the more interesting is the arrangement of “It Ain’t Me Babe.” With The Band behind him, the song is transformed into a joyous honky tonk completely at odds with the meaning of the words themselves.
The Band play five songs including the classic “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” They bring their expected gravitas to the show. Dylan and The Band play three more songs together, “All Along The Watchtower,” a bouncing arrangement of “Ballad Of Hollis Brown,” and the previous year’s hit “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.” The following five songs are a real nostalgia trip with Dylan alone on stage with only his acoustic guitar and harp.
The Band follow with four more of their own songs before Dylan joins them again for the final three songs of the set and two encores. “Forever Young” is the only song from the Planet Waves album played in this show, the one they were ostensibly promoting. The final song of the set “Like A Rolling Stone” is of course a watershed track from the last time Dylan toured with The Band behind him.
“Most Likely You Go Your Own Way” receives a reprise as the first encore and the show ends with a full band version of “Blowin’ In The Wind.” This title is packaged in a double slimline jewel case with very basic artwork. The photos used on the front and back have been recycled many times, but the importance is in the sound quality of the tape. Wherever it came from and whatever generation it is, this is one of the best sounding soundboards to surface in a while and serves as a great document from this brief reunion tour.