Bob Dylan – Determined To Stand: Field Recordings, Autumn 1987

Bob Dylan
Determined To Stand: Field Recordings, Autumn 1987

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Tangled Up In Blue – September 12
Joey – September 12
Shelter From The Storm – September 15
Shot of Love – September 13
I’ll Remember You – October 11
John Brown – October 11
Wicked Messenger – September 13
To Ramona – October 16
House Of The Rising Sun – October 7
When I Paint My Masterpiece – September 10
Seeing The Real You At Last – October 3
Tomorrow Is A Long Time – October 12
Pledging My Time – September 12
When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky – September 10
I Dreamed I Saw Saint Augustine – October 4

Right here, hidden amongst these ones and zeroes, is one of the best-kept secrets of Bob Dylan’s performing career. The Fall Tour of Europe, 1987, was one for the ages.

Now, be aware – there was a lot that did not work on this tour. While the backing band, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, provided reasonably consistent accompaniment, Dylan’s vocals were not always up to the task. What was constant, though, was a sense of experimentation. From night to night, arrangements could vary radically. It took until the third night of the tour for a song to appear a second time!

And that experimentation, that push and pull between singer and band, and within the singer himself, is undoubtedly what generated the exquisite recordings found here. Just listen to the airy nature of “Tangled Up In Blue” and “Shelter From The Storm,” the majesty of “I Dreamed I Saw Saint Augustine,” the honesty of “To Ramona,” the intimacy of “Tomorrow Is A Long Time,” the anger of “John Brown,” or the mystery in “When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky.” Whatever strange quality imbues these performances, you can’t find it anywhere else.

Part of the strength of these recordings, as noted above, is the interplay between Dylan and the band, especially keyboardist Benmont Tench. His piano-playing is the centerpiece of many songs, particularly “Shelter From The Storm,” “John Brown,” and “Tomorrow Is A Long Time.” So too is the passion evident in the singing. “Joey” really presents what Dylan has called a Homeric quality in this definitive reading, and “Tomorrow is A Long Time,” always a fine song, is truly confessional here. In some ways, it is a shame that these performers would never share a stage again after the Fall of 1987; one wonders if lightning could strike twice.

The title is taken from Bob Dylan’s own words to describe the challenges he was facing during this period, and how he overcame them. Many of the concerts from this tour reflect a struggle to connect to the music, but every so often, the results of this struggle created something truly special. The inspiration from this revelation would lead to the Never-Ending Tour, which began the following year.

At times delicate, like “Shelter from the Storm,” and at times absolutely outrageous, like Shot of Love, the passion for music comes through in every note. If you haven’t listened to any shows from this tour, give this CD a chance. And if you have listened before, and not been impressed, give another listen. You never know when this will be just what you needed to hear.

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