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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Bob Dylan

In Concert: Brandeis University 1963 (Columbia)

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Recorded on May 10, 1963, as part of a college folk festival, Bob Dylan performed what would become his finest recorded version of “Ballad of Hollis Brown.” We hear the passion that comes from merging a mythic story that should be true with a sermon on justice that never comes. There is an unintended religiosity in this track, and on “Masters of War,” another uniquely impassioned version of a well-known Dylan song.

The Brandeis University album sways back and forth between outrageous humor, rife with satire and irony on “Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues” and the stellar “Talking Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues,” and devastating poignancy and poetry on “Bob Dylan's Dream” (performed with an entirely different, beautiful lilt than on the officially released version) and the album's masterpiece, “Masters of War,” done more slowly and with deeper indignation than on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan.

1963 was a seminal year for Dylan. He was to appear on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on May 12, two days after this concert, to perform the “John Birch” song; censors rejected it and he refused to perform a different song, missing an opportunity for television. It is not hard to understand his brave move upon hearing this heretofore unreleased concert, for even in the fragment of “Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance,” we are in the presence of a young artist who is sure of himself and knows exactly where he is going—and it is not into the acceptable, limp entertainment business. On this recording, forging his own, arcane definition of what is entertaining, Dylan is so far ahead of what's new that he needs no opportunity but what he chooses with masterful control. These seven tracks, all very well recorded in a little gymnasium, represent the huge sound of the future.
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