Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Tiny Tunes

By Michael Henningsen

NOVEMBER 2, 1998: 

Alibi Rating Scale:
!!!!!= Love
!!!!= Infatuation
!!!= Apathy
!!= Disdain
!= Hate



Bob Dylan Live 1966: "The Royal Albert Hall Concert" (Columbia)

Finally seeing its first authorized release, this legendary May 1966 concert in Manchester, England (the first bootlegs placed the show at London's Royal Albert Hall, and the misinformation has stuck ever since), documents a performer's near-total contempt for his audience, which is paid back with interest. The previous July, Dylan had performed a badly received electric set with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band at the Newport Folk Festival. Revisionist history claims Dylan was booed off the stage because of a bad mix, but at the time, the gospel was "Bob has betrayed his folk audience by selling out to rock and roll."

Dylan's concerts quickly became routine: Dylan would play a reverently received solo acoustic set, as documented on the first of these two CDs. After the intermission, he'd appear with The Hawks (who later became The Band), and the audience, apparently believing that this was what was expected of them, would boo their entire set. By the time of this show--near the end of the tour--the band was feeding off of this negativity. This concert's electric opener, "Tell Me Mama," is as violent and scary as anything the punks did a decade later, and also as funny.

Dylan's vocals throughout the set drip sarcasm and seething anger, exaggerating his every stylistic tic into savage self-parody. The band, powered by Garth Hudson's slashing organ work, is young, loud and snotty, as is appropriate for songs as lacerating as "Leopardskin Pillbox Hat" or "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues." The sound is startlingly clear, having been remastered from original three-track source tapes that put the literally dozens of bootlegs to shame. The set is so cathartic that by the infamous climax--an audience member cries "Judas!," to which Dylan can only respond with a withering "I don't believe you" and a snarled command for the band to "play fucking loud!" as they tear into an incendiary "Like A Rolling Stone"--Dylan's point has already been made. How an audience of assumably intelligent and passionate people could be so completely wrong about music so unalterably right is one of the great mysteries of pop. !!!!!



Rufus Wainwright Rufus Wainwright (Dreamworks)

Like Richard Buckner without that really irritating tendency to oversing, or like Elliot Smith without the whiny solipsism and with a much grander melodic sense, Rufus Wainwright makes ironic but deceptively sweet singer- songwriter pop. Wainwright's music begins with the confessional starkness of his father, Loudon Wainwright III, and the assured but ethereal beauty of his mother, Anna McGarrigle. But his obvious hero is Van Dyke Parks, the eccentric Mississippi-born genius who co-produced the album's two near-orchestral centerpieces, "Millbrook" and "Baby." Wainwright has obviously paid close attention to Parks' cracked masterpiece, 1968's Song Cycle (as well as his work on the Beach Boys' legendary Smile); the songs combine oblique yet arresting lyrics with Broadway influenced melodies given lush and often rather odd settings by producer/multi-instrumentalist Jon Brion. The whole thing teeters close to Too Precious For Words at times, but to his credit, Wainwright never topples over that edge. !!!!



Scott 4 Recorded In State LP (Satellite)

Big coolness points: Naming your band after Scott Walker's 1969 cabaret-pop masterwork. Huge coolness points: Not sounding a bit like that album. London's Scott 4 (a trio, naturally) instead sound like Woody Guthrie, Beck and Nick Drake swapping Neu! albums. Strains of folk and blues, both raucous and delicate, blend with lulling electronics and hypnotic rhythms. Sound confusing? Yeah, but damned if the peculiar combination doesn't work more often than not. There's no telling where they can go from here, if anywhere. But for now, Scott 4 is a weird and wonderful find. !!! 1/2


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