Bob Dylan's 1975 tour, The Rolling Thunder Revue, drew largely from his most recent body of work - Blood on the Tracks
. However, all the songs have been reworked to fit his new band, and to fit the atmosphere of a variety show. Touring around mostly New England, the tour would one of Dylan's best, according to critics, fans, and friends alike.
He kicks off with a stellar version "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You," completely reworked from its album version. He does a few early-career songs here including "It Ain't Me, Babe" and "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" - one of the best versions I've heard to date. More upbeat and less apocolyptic than the original, it shows how Dylan reworks even his old material to fit his current mood and style. Then, he does a few numbers from Desire
- "Romance in Durango" and "Isis" - a more mystical sound to them, but if you enjoy the album (which is one of his best) than you'll definitely enjoy these.
Dylan's voice is more forceful than in other recordings. He is almost like a prophet warning of bad things to come, but at the same time, he's keeping you captivated to the story. Grabbing the audience's attention, he also wore paint and makeup to make the show more uplifting and entertaining.
At the end of disk one, Dylan reunites with former collaborter Joan Baez to do a few more early songs. Her voice, like Dylan's, is not the greatest you've ever heard, but together their performance is strong and enjoyable to listen to. A key duet would be "I Shall Be Released" - an uplifting version of one of Dylan's song.
Disc 2 kicks off with pretty much the same, including a lively version of "Tangled Up in Blue" (also available on DVD). One of my personal favorite Dylan songs, it certainly is interesting to hear, the lines coming out just one after another with a steady guitar backing. The lack of held notes at the end of lines gives this track an almost urgent feel, something Dylan employs many times during this tour.
Other key tracks on this disc would be "Hurricane" - the track Dylan wrote about Ruben "Hurricane" Carter, the boxer falsely imprisoned. He asks for help to free the man, and this version is as good as any you'll here. Brilliant song with a wonderful violin part. "Oh Sister" and "One More Cup of Coffee" are two more tracks for Desire
with superb renditions done here. Also, Dylan's love ballad for his wife, "Sara" is also here. A lovely song, with Dylan's voice dominated with solid guitar (and a touch of violin?) behind it.
Finally, the CD closes out with a superb rendition of "Knockin' On Heaven's Door." Beautiful guitar work, especially on the verses and intro. Dylan's reworked lyrics are prevailing voice dominance are present as well. This version is different from most I've heard, and it seems almost brighter and cherrier too.
Dylan's 1975 sounds a lot of change in his style from his mid-60s tours. His music has grown, it has diversified, and he has learned to control the feel and mood of the song using his voice. His mixture of old songs and new songs, all with a different feel to them make this an enjoyable record for anyone who likes the originals and wants to hear Dylan in one of his best tours. Definitely a treat.