Greatest hits: album reviews


PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 January, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 January, 2003, 12:00am

Bob Dylan

The Bootleg Series, Volume 5: Bob Dylan Live 1975, The Rolling Thunder Revue


This is live rock as sheer theatre. The 22 tracks spanning two discs bristle with atmosphere and energy and will be considered essential for Dylan devotees.

Recorded during what was arguably the Minnesota bard's most fecund period, it lifts six tracks from the then-already-completed Desire (1976) and two from 1975's masterpiece Blood On The Tracks, as well as a marvellous rendering of the folk standard The Water Is Wide (a duet with Joan Baez). The rest are taken from earlier Dylan albums and suffer slightly in comparison to the 'fresher' material.

These recordings have appeared in various states of disrepair over the years and were overdue the digital remastering afforded here.

Dylan is at his idiosyncratic best and among the many highlights are a breakneck reading of A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall and a passionate, haunting eight-minute meditation on Hurricane.

His choice of personnel is, as always, impeccable - former David Bowie sideman Mick Ronson adds muscle on guitar along with T-Bone Burnett and Bobby Neuwirth, while Scarlet Rivera soars on violin - but it is Dylan's voice that proves the greatest revelation.

He is looser and wilder than ever and the band - who had toured the material extensively in the lead-up to these recordings - seem to instinctively follow wherever his frenzied mood takes them.

Passing fans will find plenty to enjoy here (Mr Tambourine Man, Blowin' In The Wind, Knockin' On Heaven's Door, Just Like A Woman) but for the ultimate live starter kit it's hard to go past the fourth volume in this series on which the newly electrified Dylan answers cries of 'Judas!' from incensed folkies by instructing his band to 'Play ****ing loud!'.

Roll on Volume Six.