by David Chiu
When it comes to the wealth of of Bob Dylan archival recordings in the last couple of years, the fervently and rabidly loyal fans of the bard have been greatly rewarded. They have seen the vaults open to Dylan’s most historic and important music during key moments of his career, such as The Basement Tapes Complete (with the Band) and The Cutting Edge (focusing on the years of 1964-1966). Now another key period from Dylan’s life in music has been spotlighted on Legacy’s latest reissue project, The 1966 Live Recordings, which features 23 concerts from his controversial 1966 tour of the U.S., U.K., and Australia – in which Dylan went’ electric, sparking the ire of folk purists who did not like the direction he was taking his music. It was on this tour that a heckler at Dylan’s Manchester show on May 17, 1966, famously shouted “Judas!”–that moment as well as that concert is featured here on this mammoth 36 -CD set, purported to contain every known recording from the tour featuring Dylan and the future members of the Band—nearly all of the music on the box is previously unreleased. It provides an important snapshot of Dylan’s transition from New York City folk hero to counter-cultural worldwide pop star. The sound quality of the shows vary depending on how they were taped—the concerts off the soundboard (i.e. the Sheffield, Paris, Dublin gigs), and CBS Records recordings (i.e. the London shows that are the ‘real’ Royal Albert Hall concerts) range from good to high quality while the last remaining recordings came from audience tapes are a rough listen to at times (and some of the performances were incomplete), so they’re mostly for die-hards. Imagine having to be at those shows during the tour and hear Dylan and the band perform what were then relatively-new but soon-to-be iconic and beloved songs as part of the regular set list: “Just Like a Woman,” “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Desolation Row,” “Visions of Johanna,” “Ballad of a Thin Man,” “It’s All Over Now,” “Tell Me, Momma” and of course “Like a Rolling Stone.” Whether it’s in an acoustic or electric setting, as these recordings demonstrate, Dylan sounded phenomenal and captivating all the way through with each show on the set, which makes the complaints of the folk purists seem so pointless and mute in retrospect. If 36 CDs seem too much, there’s the 2-CD The Real Royal Albert Show that is excerpted from the box—but for the most part, The 1966 Live Recordings is an important and wide-encompassing snapshot of a tour that has since gone down into myth.