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Bob Dylan
LIVE 1964: CONCERT At PHILHARMONIC HALL
(Columbia)
Stars graphics

Yes, you have these 19 songs on other CDs, and you even have them on the recently souped-up re-releases, but this is Dylan live at Philharmonic Hall, October 31, 1964. Heís 23 years old, two months after the release of his fourth Columbia LP, Another Side of Bob Dylan, and weeks away from going into the studio to record Bringing It All Back Home and, you know, going electric. Is it possible to separate the musical performances from the historical moment? Does it matter? You can hear the audience on the first track even before they start applauding, and when the applause does erupt and Dylan lays into "The Times They Are A-Changiní," thereís a go-for-broke edge to his voice, a fair trade-off for the intimacy of those studio recordings, an edge that cuts through every song here. So, yes, you can argue once again how great "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" is, and whether "Talkiní John Birch Paranoid Blues" has held up over time (in the era of the Patriot Act, whoís to say that it hasnít?). And yes, you get Dylan joking with a worshipful audience that maybe laughs too hard in response, Dylan being a little too giggly, and maybe a little high (ya think?).

Probably the best bonus on this two-CD set (though itís sure to be a topic of debate among Dylanologists) is the presence of Joan Baez, Dylanís paramour of the time, who joins him on four songs on the second set. Here they are, harmonizing brilliantly, screwing up, laughing, but plowing ahead, Baezís voice in full bloom, Dylan answering her solo performance of "Silver Dagger" with two eloquent harmonica solos, their duet on "Mama, You Been on My Mind" the sound of two young artists in love, holding nothing back. Sounds like history to me.

BY JON GARELICK


Issue Date: April 2 - 8, 2004
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