This oft-bootlegged set, recorded on Halloween, 1964, captures Bob Dylan at a pivotal -- and still fascinating -- period in his career. Established as the Young Turk of the folk scene, he'd proven himself a master of both protest tunes and tender love songs -- but that was already growing old, and just a few months later, he'd generate long-lasting sparks by "going electric" at the Newport Folk Festival. At this gig, however, Dylan played stripped-down, but hardly close to the vest, tearing through powerful renditions of then-unreleased mind-benders such as "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)," both of which delved deeply into the surreal wordplay he'd soon be known for. He rips through his topical material with a ferocity rarely matched in the era's acoustic music, hitting dangerous territory on the controversial "Talking John Birch Society Blues" and waxing poignant on "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll." The four-song cameo by then-paramour Joan Baez
provides a nice counterpoint to the solo material; Baez's ethereal vocals add an elegiac quality to "With God on Our Side," and the unmistakable sensual tension between the two smolders throughout "It Ain't Me Babe." And while the album is probably -- in some unofficial form or another -- in the library of just about every Dylan aficionado, this above-board release handily proves its mettle. In addition to pristine sound, the package offers a surfeit of rare photos, discographic information, and liner notes sure to give pause to even the most devoted Bob-phile.