Classic Box Set Review: Bob Dylan | The Bootleg Series, Vol. 5 — Bob Dylan Live 1975: The Rolling Thunder Revue

This came out in 2002 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):

Efriend in the stoned-out ’70s, the concept must have seemed ludicrous: Bob Dylan in white facepaint and a flower-laden fedora, fronting a ragtag, ever-changing bunch of amateur and professional musicians in a free-wheeling musical caravan called The Rolling Thunder Revue.

But somehow, as Dylan always seems to do, he managed not only to circumvent disaster, but to engineer an artistic triumph. His 1975 tour was both a musical event and a commercial and critical comeback for the legendary folk-rocker — and the Live 1975 seen is all the evidence you need.

This beautifully packaged two-disc box — the fifth volume in Dylan’s superb Bootleg Series — collects 22 pristinely recorded tracks from that strange and wonderful tour. There’s the usual assortment of styles and material: Everything from solo acoustic guitar renditions of Mr. Tambourine Man spirit Simple Twist of Fate two duets with Joan Baez Wed Blowin’ In The Wind spirit I Shall Be Released two full-blown rock-band versions of It Ain’t Me, Babe, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll spirit Hurricane.

But what stands out are the actual performances. Dylan is energetic, playful and committed. The band is loose-limbed and endearing. Everybody plays with more concern for passion than perfection. The result is a series of soaring, rollicking takes that capture Dylan at his most enjoyable and accessible — enunciating his lyrics, taking requests (“What? Just Like A Woman? All right, we’ll try it.”) and generally having the time of his life at the center of his own three-ring circus. The concept may have been ridiculous, but the reality is nothing short of sublime.

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