REVIEW

 

BOB DYLAN & ROLLING THUNDER REVIEW
Mobile, Alabama 1976 [LB61 3CD Torrent: 147323]
Live at Expo Hall, Municipal Auditorium, Mobile, Alabama, April 29, 1976, Evening show. This is concert #11 of the 2nd tour in 1976. "LB-61 from Bob Meyer's audience master collection, complete show, very good sound." Olav66. Lineup: Bob Dylan (guitar & vocal), Scarlet Rivera (violin), T-bone J. Henry Burnette (guitar & piano), Steven Soles (guitar), Mick Ronson (guitar), Bobby Neuwirth (guitar & vocal), Roger McGuinn (guitar & vocal), David Mansfield (steel guitar, mandolin, violin & dobro), Rob Stoner (bass), Howie Wyeth (drums), Gary Burke (congas). This has been released on the bootleg Acoustic Thunder [Wild Wolf]. But this version is from the audience master tape. VG+ to Ex- AUD mono.

Generally excellent sound quality and (a few unexpected drop-outs notwithstanding) a solid reproduction of the show, Mobile Alabama captures Rolling Thunder as it rolled, indeed, towards its conclusion. There would be just 14 more shows before the plug was pulled, and who could imagine today a Dylan tour being halted due to low ticket sales?

Few Dylan purists rank this among the best recordings available from the tour, just as few would ever prefer one of the 1976 Rolling Thunder gigs to those that launched the outing the previous fall. The mad spontaneity that characterized the 1975 shows had long since been subsumed by familiarity and over-rehearsal, although the band's disc-long series of solo spots still impresses, even if it's only because of the sheer craziness of the concept. Besides, who can resist Bobby Neuwirth's introduction for Kinky Friedman?

But the entire package is not without its virtues. Roger McGuinn serves up an excellent "Cardiff Rose," and a seething "Eight Miles High," while Joan Baez is positively incandescent, turning in one of the most haunting "Diamonds And Rust"s of the entire tour. And Dylan, for whom most ears are probably waiting, doesn't disappoint either. Emerging for the first time towards the end of the first disc, ragged solos through "Mr Tambourine Man" and the comparatively rare (on this tour, at least) "It's Alright Ma" preface the gradual return of the full group, and a meaty reinvention of "I'll be Your Baby Tonight" reminds us of the true potential of the Guam band.

It's a fairly standard set-list - "Silver Mantis" is the least familiar song on display, "Going Going Gone" is the most alluring performance, and "Lay Lady Lay" remains one of the most irritating things Dylan has ever written. But then we're into the final straight, through "Mozambique" and "Idiot Wind," "Heaven's Door" and onto the farewell "Gotta Travel On" - and three discs have whizzed by in a lot less time than you might ever have expected.

So, this isn't the best Rolling Thunder disc out there, but it's certainly up there with the most enjoyable. Have fun! - Dave Thompson

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November 16, 2007