Release Date: Nov 11, 2016
Record label: Columbia
Genre(s): Folk, Singer/Songwriter, Folk-Rock, Pop/Rock, Contemporary Pop/Rock, Blues-Rock, Rock & Roll, Psychedelic/Garage, Political Folk
Put on nearly any of the 36 discs in Bob Dylan’s The 1966 Live Recordings box set and it will probably be perfect. Capturing the songwriter at the crest of his magical ’60s peak and culminating with a series of exhilarating performances in Manchester, Paris, and London, the imposing block of music documents Dylan facing down confrontational audiences while making some of the most ambitious creative leaps of his career. Causing controversy in some quarters by playing electric guitar in front of a rock band and seemingly abandoning his topical political songwriting, the shows depict an ongoing battle between Dylan and self-righteously betrayed folkies.
All those nights are gathered on The 1966 Live Recordings, a 36-disc box set that's not an installment in The Bootleg Series. That decision makes sense: The Bootleg Series is curated but this is a clearinghouse of every known recording from that year, a move that is quite clearly driven by Sony's need to release this material in order to preserve the copyright. This winds up being a blessing for the hardcore Dylan fan because The 1966 Live Recordings simply winds up offering an enormous amount of a very good thing.
The question comes from somewhere out in the audience, amid booing and turmoil. “What happened to Woody Guthrie, Bob?” When Bob Dylan answers, his voice is all exhaustion, sarcasm, and barely concealed disgust. “These are all protest songs, now c’mon.” A few moments later his band crashes into “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” a tale of Mexican misadventure that is anything but a “protest song.” It is May 26, 1966, at the Royal Albert Hall in London, the penultimate night of a tour that has taken Dylan and his band, the Hawks, through North America, Australia, Europe, and the United Kingdom.
Hecklers couldn’t deter Bob Dylan’s artistic conviction on his 1966 tour, when his concerts included a solo set and then — folk-music heresy! — an electric set backed by the Hawks, who later, with a different drummer, became the Band. This collection archives every surviving recorded note, including a few lo-fi audience tapes, from the whirlwind five months when Mr. Dylan toured from suburban New York to Sydney to London.