That fact that the CD Bob Dylan in Concert: Brandeis University 1963 (Columbia/Legacy) exists at all is something of a miracle. Dylan's brief but energetic seven-song set as a low-billed performer at the school's folk festival came to light only recently via a battered tape box found in the archives of late music critic Ralph J. Gleason.
Of particular interest to Dylanologists is that the May show was a scant two weeks before the release of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. He only previews one track here - but since it's "Masters of War," one wonders how spellbound he kept his audience.
The murder saga "Ballad of Hollis Brown," which would not see the light of record until the next year's The Times They Are A-Changin', comes across here as strident and powerful, with each chorus bringing impending doom closer until the grisly end.
But it's Dylan's sense of humor that surprisingly comes through loudest on absurdist situations in the "Talkin' Blues" tracks like "John Birch Paranoid Blues" (where the narrator looks for Commies in his toilet bowl), "World War III Blues," and "Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues" - the latter involving oversold tickets, a sinking ship, and family food that is never consumed.
So much for relaxing outdoor dining.
Shortly after this show and the release of Freewheelin', Bob Dylan would become "Bob Dylan," a performer with influence and listeners far beyond the insular folk world.
Brandeis University 1963 catches the Bard of Hibbing, alone with harmonica and acoustic guitar, on the edge of something far greater.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.