- The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 review
abbreviated review in one word, essential.
Dylan's album, Bootleg Series Volume 4 captures Bob
performing live on May 17, 1966, in Manchester, England in both an
acoustic and electric setting. A generous
book with historical information and photos is included.
career up to this point was primarily acoustic. At the Newport Folk
Festival on July 24, 1965, Dylan performed his first electric set.
This band was Paul Butterfield's Blues Band, who also performed at
the festival, and included; Mike Bloomfield (guitar), Jerome Arnold (bass), Sam
Lay (drums), Barry Goldberg (piano), and Al Kooper (organ). After
Newport, Dylan went in to finish recording Highway 61 Revisited
with Bloomfield, Kooper, and other musicians. To support a tour, a
quest for a backing band ensued. First,
there were two performances in the U.S., one in New York and one in
Los Angeles. The primary personnel from Highway 61 Revisited
weren't available so Dylan recruited two members of The Hawks,
guitarist Robbie Robertson and drummer Levon Helm, along with
keyboardist Al Kooper and bassist Harvey Brooks. Then for the tours
from September 1965 through May 1966, Kooper and Brooks weren't
available. To fill those shoes the rest of the The Hawks, later to
be named The Band, were recruited;
Richard Manuel (piano), Garth Hudson (organ), and Rick Danko (bass).
Though, drummer Levon Helms was replaced in the middle this tour.
This was the first of many musical collaborations between Bob Dylan
and The Band.
The first disc is a set of Bob Dylan's acoustic music performed at his peak.
His voice is incredibly strong and powerful throughout, and the
track selection is much to my liking with no weak song renditions. It
is no surprise that "Its All Over Now, Baby Blue" is
a highlight with great vocal phrasing and harmonica
playing. The following track, "Desolation Row," is quite
long, and just about the time you get tired of the verses Bob strums
some outstanding rhythm guitar intermixed with his harmonica to the
delight of his audience.
The electric set of the show featured on disc 2 of the Bootleg Series Volume
4 is one of Dylan's best electric performances,
certainly the most intense. The Band exceptionally set
the cornerstone and foundation with their tight rhythm section, and in
addition, they hit all the right accents, dynamics, and fills to
bring out the best in Bob.
Throughout the set, the vocals are very strong. Take for example
"Just Like Tom Thumb Blues" during the section "I
don't have the strength to take another shot" where Dylan
highlights the word shot, as he leaves the notes pour out of voice
with an uncanny balance of gentleness and strength. Robbie's guitar
solo and concluding riffs are excellent to bring more joy.
Robbie doesn't take the standard approach with his guitar playing of
strumming the chords till he has the opportunity to play a guitar
solo. Rather, he is continually throwing in riffs and fills, leaving
the rhythm section to the drums and bass, making these renditions of
this material essential. Another strength is Robbie's
approach of concluding songs with a combination of melody and
A few of the electric tracks Dylan plays harmonica. The second song "I Don't Believe You" showcases his ability to not only
play a solo, but to highlight and enhance others. As Robbie is
cranking out his guitar solo, Bob cues into his solo in perfect
Dylan's Bootleg Series Volume 4 captures Bob Dylan in top form.
Barry Small ©