989 - Bob Dylan 'Bootleg Series, Vol.4: The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert' (1966)

My Rating: 2.00 out of 5
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die:
Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums: X
The Mojo Collection: X

Chart Peak (UK/US): 19/31

Favourite Tracks: Ballad Of A Thin Man, Baby Let Me Follow You Down
Least-Favourite Track: Visions Of Johanna

Dylan's got thirteen albums in the top 1000 & I have to confess that I've never listened to any of them. I could never quite equate the nasal'ey droning voice & one-man band style with the god-like status heaped on him by every music critic, so I was hoping that listening to this album would finally show me what I've been missing.

The first half of this live album (i.e., the opening set of the gig) delivered exactly what I expected - stereotypical Bob & his acoustic guitar & harmonica. Now, I like melodic acoustic songs but I found the music here very uninspiring; basic open guitar chords repeated at length with little or no variation (we're talking 11 minutes of Desolation Row & a 9 min rendition of Mr Tambourine Man) with a bit of harmonica ubiquitously lumped on the end. One thing I never realised before was that he's such a terrible harmonica player - his solos didn't seem to have any pattern or direction, or indeed purpose. To me, the music just seemed to be a conduit for his words (in much the same way as John Cooper Clarke used to recite his poetry over backing tracks). The lyrics were very impressive - intelligent & poetic - but I must admit I didn't have clue what the songs were about. Listening to them at face value, without knowledge of the metaphorical meaning, it often just felt like a collection of pretty rhymes.

Halfway through the album I was beginning to regret my pledge to listen to every LP all the way through but then he kicks off the second set & suddenly he's transformed himself from folk troubadour into The Doors. This was the moment when he came back on with an explosive rock band & drove the folkies away in disgust. This is more like it; the band are rocking out & the songs really come alive. Someone in the crowd shouts "Judas!" but listening to this half of the album it's pretty obvious why Dylan went 'electric' - he was probably just bored to death of doing the same old routine. An interesting historical document, but not an album that I will be returning to in a hurry.


Anonymous said...

I agree the acoustic set is horrible and uninspired. But the electric set! Jesus, its amazing. Every electric song betters the original (already classic) version. Do yourself a favor and re-listen to the last two songs on the album. You won't regret it.


Post a Comment