Here is one of the most famous Dylan live performances, his concert on May 17, 1966 at the Manchester Free Trade Hall in England; finally preserved intact on two discs -- one for the seldom-heard acoustic set, the other for the tumultuous electric turn with the Hawks -- the fidelity is absolutely astounding. The acoustic set finds Dylan totally changing his folkie set list, eschewing "The Times They Are A-Changin'" and better-known protest songs for material no further back than "She Belongs to Me" and "Mr. Tambourine Man" with acoustic versions of tunes like "Fourth Time Around," "Visions of Johanna," "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," "Desolation Row," and "Just Like a Woman" that would later surface on record in full-band versions. But it is the second disc -- the electric stuff with a newly-recruited Hawks -- that's the big ticket here. Everything from the furor surrounding Dylan's so called defection from folk to the sinful sellout of wedding his music to rock & roll is on open-wound display in the eight-song set. Opening with the unreleased "Tell Me Mama," the Hawks are brash, confident, brutal, and unrelenting as Dylan asserts his position as only he can, storming through ominous versions of "Baby, Let Me Follow You Down," "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" (an even more drugged-out version of which would be recorded on this same tour and deposited on the B-side of "I Want You") and "Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat." The show reaches its apogee with "Like a Rolling Stone," a version chock full of all the venom inherent in the song, splashed out all over the crowd. A landmark document of Dylan at the absolute height of his powers; bootleg or no, this is one album no true fan can afford to be without.
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