The most famous bootleg in rock history, with the possible exception of Dylan's own Basement Tapes, finally makes its official appearance 32 years after the event, and nearly 30 years after it started circulating in the underground. Although often identified as a Royal Albert Hall show, this May 17, 1966, concert, in which Dylan played electric material in front of a British audience, was actually recorded in Manchester (hence the unwieldy title with quotes around "Royal Albert Hall"). Even those who've owned this recording for many a year might be tempted by this official package, as it has been expanded into a two-CD set that not only includes the eight electric rock songs from the original bootleg, but also the seven solo acoustic performances that comprised the first half of the show. It's all in very good fidelity, about as good as any copies you could find through unofficial sources. More importantly, the electric half in particular is an important document of rock history. It captures the point at which Dylan was at his most controversial and hard rocking as he blazes through mid-'60s classics such as "Like a Rolling Stone" and "Ballad of a Thin Man," radical electric arrangements of songs that had originally been recorded acoustically ("One Too Many Mornings," "I Don't Believe You"), and the hard rocker "Tell Me, Momma," which Dylan never recorded in the studio. The acoustic disc is not as epochal, but on par with the electric half in the quality of material and performance. On top of everything else there's a 56-page booklet with a fine essay by Dylan's friend Tony Glover (a notable folk musician in his own right). It's not just an interesting adjunct to Dylan's '60s discography; it's as worthy of attention as anything else he recorded during that decade.
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AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2