Home / Music / Album Reviews / More Retrospective Releases by Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Bette Midler

More Retrospective Releases by Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Bette Midler

Album Sets as Holiday Gifts for Music Lovers

Dec. 12, 2016
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Bob Dylan fans with lots of time and money might want to invest in The 1966 Live Recordings (Columbia/Legacy). The 36-CD box set finds material that escaped the grasp of the most determined bootleggers and will probably stand as the complete collection of every known scrap of audio from his much acclaimed 1966 tour of the U.S., UK, Continental Europe and Australia. The rest of us will be content with the two-CD The Royal Albert Hall 1966 Concert. This particular show looms high in Dylan lore for catching him at his peak. 

The 1966 Concert is divided into an acoustic set occupying disc one and an electric set that fills disc two. On the acoustic songs, Dylan projected intimacy into the large hall, singing almost conversationally at points in unhurried recitations of verses that kept on coming. His performances were not identical to the familiar studio versions of songs such as “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” and “Desolation Row.” On disc two, The Band minus Levon Helm accompanied him. Robbie Robertson’s sharp-dagger guitar solos are remarkable; the raw, energetic power of The Band pushed Dylan in new directions. One number, “Tell Me, Momma,” was never granted a studio recording. 

In 1966 and 1967 Miles Davis led his great Quintet—featuring Wayne Shorter (saxophone), Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Carter (bass) and Tony Williams (drums)—in a series of recording sessions that resulted in a fine trio of LPs, Miles Smiles, Nefertiti and Water Babies. Freedom Jazz Dance: The Bootleg Series Vol. 5 (Columbia/Legacy) presents the complete tapes from those sessions, the master versions as well as the numerous false starts and first tries. Driven by the modernist quest for finding new ways to make art, Davis was determined to push the borders of post-cool, post-bop jazz. The previously unheard tracks find him and his collaborators testing the whispery melody lines for their resilience.

Had he lived, John Coltrane would be 90 this year and might still be capable of making music. What he would have done had he lived past 1967 is anyone’s guess. Trane 90 (Acrobat) is a four-CD summary of a prolific recording career, including work from multiple labels as bandleader and sideman. Missing from the collection are the edgy explorations from the years preceding his death, yet, Trane 90 gives a full account of Coltrane from the mid-1950s through 1962. He is heard here playing alongside such great jazz musicians as Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Cecil Taylor and Cannonball Adderley. 

Bette Midler has long since become an entertainment industry jill-of-all-trades, but when she first popped into the Top-40 with The Divine Miss M (1972), she was barely a couple years away from her tenure as the featured act at New York City’s Continental Baths, a gay establishment on Broadway. The Divine Miss M Deluxe (Rhino) includes the original disc, which played on camp nostalgia for the pre-‘60s era with covers of the Andrews Sisters’ “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and The Dixie Cups’ “Chapel of Love,” while also taking a contemporary nightclub direction with The Carpenters’ “Superstar.” Deluxe includes a second disc of demos, alternate takes and single mixes.


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