Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bob Dylan 28: Real Live

Recorded on his 1984 European tour—accompanied by the likes of Mick Taylor, Carlos Santana and Joan Baez—Real Live looks okay on paper, but not a lot stands out. Despite contributions from a talented band, the album suffers from muddy sound (surprising from someone with the reputation of Glyn Johns) and Bob’s by-now omnipresent whine taking the place of the melodies.
To be fair, the band is tight, and we’ll credit Ian McLagan in the corner on keyboard for holding things together. But it’s still Bob’s show, so songs rumble into gear with intros that sound different from what ends up being played, to the point where our attention wavers. “I And I” and “License To Kill” are decent versions of tunes from the new album. But keep an ear open on “Masters Of War”: it’s virtually the same arrangement lambasted as “unidentifiable” at the 1991 Grammy Awards.
The big news here is the third-person rewrite of “Tangled Up In Blue” that had folks marveling at the implications. He’d been tinkering with the lyrics for years, of course, but this version isn’t the best (despite his own protests) and his pauses for effect don’t help either. The other acoustic performances—“It Ain’t Me Babe” and “Girl From The North Country”—are nearly drowned out by audiences singing along or whooping it up for any harmonica solo. “Ballad Of A Thin Man” is raced through to come out half the length of the studio original, and good luck finding Carlos Santana amidst the murk of “Tombstone Blues”.
On his fourth try, Bob still hadn’t put out a decent live album. At least there were two songs from Infidels to keep it from being too much of an oldies revue, but this was hardly a fair representation of the best parts of this particular tour—and that, after all, is the point of a live album, isn’t it?

Bob Dylan Real Live (1984)—


  1. Man, I don't agree. Tangled Up In Blue is my favorite version of the song. The album also has a great version of Tombstone Blues. As mentioned, the band is awesome. Very underrated album. I enjoy it immensely more than Hard Rain. But then again, I love Street Legal -- so what do I know. :)

  2. I am down with anonymous, on all points.

  3. One theory I have: Dylan now fucks over people who would like to sing along with him (and thus ruin the performance act as art).

  4. He was fucking over people then - I was at the London concert - age 13 - that most of this album consists of, and he was purposefully singing against the crowd. This was the first version I heard - literally - of Tangled Up In Blue, and the first album version I had, and it's always been my favourite too. The album is disappointing in a similar way to Before The Flood, in that there are many recordings available from other shows that have more care put into them, but Tangled Up In Blue is so good it almost saves the album. By the way, if you don't think Hard Rain is a decent album, try listening to the second half of it again - you might change your mind.

  5. its actually a favorite of mine.Maybe because it has some superb acoustic tracks on it .Sadly Dylan hasnt done hardly any solo acoustic work since.It was also the year of my first dylan show. I agree that Tangled up in blue is superb a track ive played 100s of times

  6. The version of I and I has the perfect Dylan voice captured.

    I used that track to fine tune my stereo choice - a tube preamplifer is perfect - with very warm cables.

    I crave hearing just that sound now. If only his Bobness would try to sing again. it is so few and far between now.

  7. For a good reactiona gainst the "Dylan-fucks-up-intentionally" argument, try and get hold of Bob Dylan at the Barrowlands, Glasgow 2004, in particular Just Like a Woman (where he has to stop himself from giggling, and then sings along WITH the crowd), and Like A Rolling Stone, after which he exclaims "You're the best singin' audience we've ever heard! We musta played that song a thousand times, and NO ONE could sing with us!"
    Not that I disagree with the fact that Bob plays a bit with what he expects the crowd to sing, but it's an interesting moment...

  8. Album is so-so capture of what were actually some very good shows. He could have added an exceptional Simple Twist Of Fate which alongside Tangled made a great pairing. This tour was my first gig - Newcastle - and I had the bootleg tape and video (very poor quality - those were the days) which loved to listen to and watch. I was at Barrowlands 2004 - best ever. He couldn't beat the crowd so he joined them and ended up pointing to us when we had to come in and sing. Special.

  9. "He couldn't beat the crowd" is an astonishingly repulsive triumphalist take on beating down the artist till he (apparently) does what you want.

    I recall a Replacements show I once attended. The (drunken fratboy) audience insisted on clapping along to "Skyway." halfway through, Paul Westerberg--a cranky Minnesota artist--put his guitar aside and said, "Sorry, my timing was a bit off there. You guys' timing was fucking impeccable." It was what he did in his punky days. I'd like to imagine that Dylan's "pointing to [the crowd] when [they] had to come in and sing" was his way of making light of a whole crowd of Judases.