Two of my cents into the ring: Bob and pals were set upon by some portion of their audience. He was already trackin’ with backin’ on vinyl, but I figure these diehards wanted to challenge him face to face. Seems they were actually feeling betrayed, which is kind of cute considering that I wouldn’t define folk as music that’s overwhelmingly personality based. Anyway, my theory is that the university smarties were of the mind that rock and roll was pop music—shmaltzy, ephemeral, dance music for dopey teens. So electricity represented the vernacular, commercial, déclassé and unwashed. Of course what the fellas on stage knew was that the music they grew up with (including blues, country, rockabilly, whatevah) was all that and more. Under the spell of the Beats and other printed words, it was probably just Bob’s inclination and genius to make it all rock. What happens when your favorite artist continually proves that he’s just that, and not Jack to put back in the box until an audience cranks the lever again? Tracking the New York free weeklies for timely opinion, seems the dull goof in the New York Press believes the opening solo acoustic set to be revelatory: saturated with vocal technique and tomfoolery. Funny enough, a few weeks later Christgau in the Voice dismissed that set as a throwaway: Bob’s bored with his role, bored with the limitations and chompin’ at the bit. I’d say it’s somewhere in between. Sure he’s probably bored and pissed off, but Dylan in ’66 reinterpreting three-year-old material is still startlingly potent and primal. And since when does an artist have such an objective view on their own performance? The electric stuff is, of course, all killer. Robbie Robertson is formulating a hybrid of textural and spatial dimension only hinted at by Ike Turner. His Stratocaster was making indelibly modern music. And what church did these kooky Canucks steal a piano and an organ from? Where’s that precedent? Nobody’s told me nuthin’ yet. All I ever read was that prior to Dylan, the band backed Canadian Rockabilly cat Ronnie Hawkins. How do you go from that to this? Add the increasingly addicted Bob, his acoustic guitar or piano derived tunes rev up, rock out, and find the ears that wanna dance. This was and will remain music pre- and post-art for an eternal now. This package features evocative photos and text, and perfect sound forever, from the original CBS tapes. Live 1966 is one of pop music’s best live albums and a pre-eminent document of a furiously evolving artist that has shaped the soul and tone of twentieth century music more than we may know. [Columbia/Legacy]
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