Real Live is a live album by Bob Dylan recorded in 1984 with a star backing band including ex Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor and Ian McLagen from The Faces at concerts in England and Ireland.
It was Taylor’s involvement that persuaded me to buy this Dylan album because I loved his guitar playing with the Stones (listen to it on Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out and Brussels Affair).
And I’m glad I did.
It’s not a classic but it’s well worth hearing.
Bob Dylan Real Live Overall Rating – 24/30
- Highway 61 Revisited – 5:07 (from the album Highway 61 Revisited)
- Maggie’s Farm – 4:54 (Bringing It All Back Home)
- I & I – 6:00 (Infidels)
- License to Kill – 3:26 (Infidels)
- It Ain’t Me, Babe – 5:17 (Another Side Of Bob Dylan)
- Tangled Up in Blue – 6:54 (Blood On The Tracks)
- Masters of War – 6:35 (The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan)
- Ballad of a Thin Man – 4:17 (Highway 61 Revisited)
- Girl from the North Country – 4:25 (The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan)
- Tombstone Blues – 4:32 (Highway 61 Revisited)
Whilst the set list is short, it’s stuffed with oldies including three from Highway 61 Revisited and a reworking of Tangled Up In Blue plus two from the Infidels album he was promoting on the tour.
I give the set list 7/10. I do hope the powers that be revisit the tapes and release the rest of the songs from the concerts.
Performance Rating – 9/10
Even before the essential Live 1966 and Live 1975 recordings were released, did the world need another live Dylan album after Before The Flood, Hard Rain and At Budokan?
Probably not but for those horrified at the Las Vegas review style of At Budokan, this represents Dylan returning to front a small rock band.
You don’t ask Mick Taylor to join your group unless you want a guitar heavy sound and that’s exactly what you get with Real Live with plenty of Taylor’s liquid guitar leads between Dylan’s verses.
I’m biased. I love the way Taylor plays his guitar and this album even has Carlos Santana on Tombstone Blues.
But it’s not all rockers. It Ain’t Me, Babe, Tangled Up in Blue, and Girl From the North Country are acoustic and well played. The audience is very active in It Ain’t Me Babe.
I didn’t know either of the two songs from Infidels and I’d be surprised if either made many people’s top 50 Dylan’s songs lists but they aren’t bad and give you more chance to hear Taylor’s guitar.
It sounds like Dylan was excited to be playing in front of this band and that the band was thrilled to be playing with Dylan.
There’s plenty of energy and enthusiasm in these recordings.
Tangled Up In Blue is contentious as Dylan has re-written the lyrics. You’ll either love it or wish that he hadn’t messed around with one of his greatest songs. Sadly I prefer the origin.
All the songs from Highway 61 Revisited rock hard and Masters of War hits hard musically and lyrically.
On a downside, his voice sounds strained but it’s not as if anybody buys a Dylan album for his beautiful, clear, pure voice is it?
Atmosphere & Authenticity Rating – 8/10
The audience are very involved in this album which I live to see although I realise it’s one of the things that puts some off live albums.
One of the ways I judge a live album is to ask myself, with the benefit of hindsight, do I wish I’d been there?
And yes I do.
Dylan doesn’t come to the UK that often and I’ve never seen him live and I’d rather have seen him 25 or 35 years ago than now.
Is it authentic?
Well I like the balance between acoustic and electric – very 1966!
This backing band is tight and Taylor’s guitar playing is great but in the ideal world, you want Dylan backed by The Band. That’s the big advantage of Before The Flood.
Total Rating For Real Live – 24/30
Bob Dylan plus Mick Taylor = A Dynamic Live Album
What Do Others Say About Real Life?
It hasn’t been included in any of the greatest live albums lists.
I think part of the reason why this album isn’t highly regarded is because in 1984, Dylan had gone out of fashion.
Since his mid-seventies revival with Blood On The Tracks and Desire, the world had discovered punk and then the dreadful electronic music phase started.
Whilst Dylan wasn’t forgotten, he was largely ignored and I can’t blame others because I’d stopped following his every mood too. I remember him coming to Britain in 1978 and not having the money for a ticket but I’ve no recollection of being aware he returned in 1984, when I was a newly qualified chartered accountant and had more money.
Reaction on Amazon.com is very favourable.
If you only want one or two Dylan live albums, then unless you’re a Mick Taylor addict, you’re probably better elsewhere.
If you want to hear Dylan live in all his various guises, then Real Live and At Budokan are both well worth getting although they show two extremes.
Buying Real Life By Bob Dylan
To help you to find the album quickly and easily, I’ve given you the following links::
- Amazon.com as a CD or mp3
- Amazon.co.uk as a CD or mp3
- iTunes as a digital download
- eBay as a CD
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