Sunday, January 3, 2016

Roadhouse Hymns: Unreleased Live Recordings, 1996

Bob Dylan
Roadhouse Hymns: Live 1996

Drifter's Escape - Live - Berlin - June 17, 1996
Shake Sugaree - Live - Berlin - June 17, 1996
Watching The River Flow - Live - Liverpool - June 26, 1996
She Belongs To Me - Live - Cleveland - May 17, 1996
Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I Go Mine) - Live - Burgettstown - May 18, 1996
Love Minus Zero/No Limit - Live - Orono - April 23, 1996
Ballad Of Hollis Brown - Live - Mannheim - July 2, 1996
Visions Of Johanna - Live - Differdange - June 24, 1996
Tombstone Blues - Live - Copenhagen - July 23, 1996
Seven Days - Live - Burgettstown - May 18, 1996
Disease Of Conceit - Live - Buffalo - May 11, 1996
Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 - Live - Konstanz - July 3, 1996
The Times They Are A-Changin' - Live - Konstanz - July 3, 1996

Welcome back to the first Thousand Highways compilation of 2016!

1996 was not an especially noteworthy year of performances for Bob Dylan, though it would be the last full year of touring before Dylan shifted towards performing new and traditional material with his 1997 release of Time Out Of Mind. In the interim, he and his band stuck to the sound they had established over the past two years.

One significant difference was a country sound beginning to creep in, replacing some of the hard rock sound of the previous year. The first electric set on Roadhouse Hymns emphasizes this aspect of the band, particularly in the early My Morning Jacket/Johnny Cash fusion of "Watching The River Flow" (my favorite rendition of the song) and a version of "She Belongs To Me" that sounds like it could have been played by Buck Owens.

The acoustic set is a bit different, with "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" and "Visions Of Johanna" getting across the mystical presence of Dylan's 1966 style, albeit in a more precise fashion. "Ballad Of Hollis Brown" is as good a performance of this harrowing song as you're ever likely to hear, with Dylan improvising a new line or two in the middle of the recording. It is in some ways reminiscent of the version he'd recorded with Mike Seeger that saw release on Seeger's Third Annual Farewell Reunion LP, though the song would have to wait until the following decade to have a banjo arrangement played live.

The second electric set is less countrified. "Tombstone Blues" and "Seven Days" rock hard, and wouldn't have been out of place in the previous year's tours. "Disease Of Conceit," as ever, brings out some of Dylan's most committed vocals. It's interesting that this song regularly inspires its singer to some breathtaking performances, though it is one of the least impressive recordings from its original studio release.

I would like to draw special attention to the final two tracks, which feature members of the Dave Matthews Band on saxophone and violin. Andrew Muir's definitive telling of the Never-Ending Tour, One More Night, discusses this Konstanz show in some detail, leading me to seek out the performances. They do not disappoint! "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" is raucous, and "The Times They Are A-Changin'" is as moving as ever, perhaps moreso given the dramatic violin and harmonica duet at the end of the song.

As an important production note, "She Belongs To Me" is slightly shortened here; the edit is not intrusive. I hope you don't mind, and I suggest seeking out the original tape if you'd like to hear the full track.

1996 has not generally been high on my list of Never-Ending Tour years, but compiling this CD gave me a new perspective. If you've not previously enjoyed the year's recordings, I encourage you to listen to this with an open mind. You might find something you hadn't heard before.

Next month brings us a compilation of the best recordings from 1997. This is an extremely fascinating and impressive year for Bob Dylan's performance art, so don't you dare miss it.

Until then, keep yourself healthy and listen to some good tunes.



  1. Be interesting to re-visit this year .. I dont remember it much, save for some overly long versions of short songs ... but you have made me reconsider before, so, Ill stand in line :)

  2. Looking forward to this - thank you!

  3. Again....many thanks for the kind actions and the great music.

  4. Nico26
    I loved this collection. I also had no powerful memories of '96 but there is some wonderful, careful, thoughtful and emotional singing and playing going on here.Thanks.......

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