2CD bootleg from the legendary Dylan/Hawks concert at the
Free Trade Hall, May 17, 1966.
With Dylan, Danko, Hudson, Manuel, Robertson, and Mickey Jones on drums.
There is also a Yugoslavian bootleg with the same title and content, but different artwork, out there (DPP 1996).
by Bill Glahn, Live! Music Review, February '96
How long can collectors and fans be expected to wait? After releasing The
Official Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3, a stripped down version of what was once
planned as a five-CD box, Columbia/Sony began promising to release the
complete Manchester Free Trade Hall show from May 17, 1966 as Volumes 4
and 5. Several years later there is still no official release or even a scheduled
release date. No doubt someone in the upper echelons of Sony was asking
themselves the same question and in a fit of frustration made the masters
available to a well connected bootlegger. At least that is the rumour.
This two-CD set arrived anonymously with a computer printout that said
simply: "The masters were reviewed by a pair of guitar techs who both
pronounced them to be a quarter-note sharp - so the pitch was adjusted for this
release. Other than that adjustment, this is a precise representation of what
Columbia has been promising for the last couple of years."
So - does this live up to the hype? Absolutely! Much of this show has been
around for years and has made numerous appearances on bootleg before, most
often being referred to as Royal Albert Hall. Prior to this set, the best version
appeared on a pair of Swingin' Pig CD's a number of years ago, a release
which proved to be a revelation at the time. It approached official quality, but
didn't quite make it in terms of completeness or fidelity.
Guitars Kissing finally gives fans the best documentation possible of this
legendary and controversial tour in which Dylan moved firmly away from
pure folk and into the disdained (at the time) area of electric rock 'n' roll. Of
course, Dylan was right to make the move. Elitism had no place in a music
which embraced the downtrodden and took up the fight against racism,
poverty, and segregation as folk did in the '50s and '60s. The so-called folk
intelligensia howled at Dylan's "abandonment" of that music as the only true
music of the working man. This condescending attitude seems so magnificently
hypocritical 30 years later.
In fact, Dylan couldn't have picked a more "honest" group of musicians to
back him. The Hawks were no rookies in the world of music and touring.
They were the backing band of Ronnie Hawkins, a rock-a-billy figure of some
note, who made his living playing an endless stream of road houses and
honky-tonks throughout the south. If Hollis Brown were to go out for an
evening's worth of music there is little doubt that he would venture down to a
neighbouring road house to see a band like the Hawks than to travel to the big
city coffee houses where college-aged beatniks would gather around to stroke
each other and revel in their own perceived importance.
Shouts of disapproval can be heard throughout the electric portion of this
show, an indication of just how important the hard-core folkies perceived
themselves to be. After Ballad Of A Thin Man someone yells out "Judas" and
the audience applauds the detractor. Dylan proceeds, telling his band to play
louder, a flip of the finger to arrogance and hypocrisy if ever there was one.
The level of importance of this tour cannot be underestimated. Ten years later
Dylan would take a full contingent of amplified folkies along for the ride on
the Rolling Thunder Review. Nobody was complaining by then.
As a secondary point, this double-CD set bears witness to what a great band
The Hawks (who later became The Band) were. Although Levon Helm was not
present for this tour (Mickey Jones substituted), the double keyboards of
Garth Hudson and Richard Manual drive the music while Robbie Robertson
weaves in an out with amazing grace (How's that for back-dooring a folk
anthem into a rock 'n' roll review?).
Sound quality is superb with the warmth of a full-bodied analog master tape
and virtually no hiss (noticeable only in headphones). Columbia/Sony can get
back to the drawing board to plan something different for their official
bootleg series. The Manchester show has now been done to perfection.
--Bill Glahn, Live! Music Review, February '96
The sound samples of the Dylan/Hawks tunes, availabe from the track list below, contain whole songs and will take a long time to
Bob Dylan - Guitars Kissing & The Contemporary Fix - 1996 - Scorpio SIAE 51766A/E