Music Review: Bob Dylan - The Real Royal Albert Hall 1966 Concert

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Is there any major artist doing as much for their fans as Bob Dylan? Maybe so, but it's hard to imagine anyone is surpassing Dylan's output of quality archival releases. Ever since the 1991 inception of The Bootleg Series (which reached Vol. 12 in 2015), there has been a wealth of previously unavailable studio and live material. Sometimes a more economically-priced smaller edition accompanies the big box sets. Though not part of The Bootleg Series, we've already covered the massive 36-disc The 1966 Live Recordings here on TMR. That behemoth is comprised of "every known recording from the artist's groundbreaking 1966 concert tours of the U.S., U.K., Europe, and Australia." The set was sourced from soundboard recordings, CBS Records mobile recordings, and audience tapes. But at more than a hundred bucks, the box set is out of many people's budget.

That's where The Real Royal Albert Hall 1966 Concert comes into play, currently available as a two-disc set from Sony Legacy. These serve as discs 28 and 29 in the big box, but here they allow a more cost effective way to acquire a full concert from this classic tour. Backed by Robbie Robertson (guitar), Rick Danko (bass, backing vocals), Richard Manuel (piano), Garth Hudson (organ) and Mickey Jones (drums), the aggressive electric set found on disc two is powerfully raucous. The first disc features a breathtakingly gorgeous acoustic set, performed by Dylan alone on guitar and harmonica. The result is a study in contrast and extremes, juxtaposing Dylan at his most starkly simple against Dylan in the midst of his controversial early electric period.

The reason behind the Real in the title is that for many years a different concert had been referred to as the "Royal Albert Hall" concert. So much so that the concert in question was officially released in 1998 as The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Live 1966, The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert. That release actually featured the May 17 Manchester performance, whereas this newly-released Real Royal Albert Hall album contains the performance taped at London's Royal Albert Hall. It was at the Manchester show that an angry folk aficionado shouted "Judas!" at Dylan. But here we have, at long last, the "Real" Albert Hall show as a standalone release, mixed by Grammy-winning engineer Chris Shaw. There is also a vinyl edition available as well.

As pointed out here in TMR contributor Jeff Burger's coverage of The 1966 Live Recordings, the big 36-disc box has close to 300 tracks but only 18 unique songs repeated over and over again. While that's seriously for completists only, the The Real Royal Albert Hall 1966 Concert is the way to go for those desiring a concise representation of Dylan's '66 tour (presumably to go with their copy of The Bootleg Series Vol. 4).

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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