In this media-soaked age, when every move a pop star makes is an "event," it's easy to overlook the genuine article. Nowadays, Bob Dylan tours more than constantly. But in 1975, his live appearances were rare, and news of "The Rolling Thunder Review," as that year's tour was called, was tremorous.
The big deal was this: Dylan was promoting his forthcoming record Desire at low-key venues across the Northeast. He would arrive with little warning, deliver the goods and then disappear into the twilight. In tow was an eclectic band of performers, old folkie friends, rockers, writers and other hippie-era casualties. It made for a carnival with Dylan as ringmaster and it triggered myth-making buzz, on which Dylan used to thrive.
A quarter of a century later -- with the hocus-pocus neutralized by time -- Legacy makes a strong case that the fuss was justified with its latest Dylan "bootleg" entry. Thunder will dazzle fans that have relied on substandard underground recordings and one sloppy and unsatisfying live disc, 1976's Hard Rain, to document the tour.
The collection mostly is marked by an excitement that has long been absent -- in spite of what the Grammy folks say -- from Dylan's work. He sings with gusto on "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry," "Tangled Up in Blue" and "Romance in Durango." He and the band sound like crazy shamans on "Isis." And his solo delivery of "Mr. Tambourine Man" is stunning -- he reminds listeners that although this 1965 tune has been covered dozens of times, it remains most moving in a near-whisper against an acoustic backdrop.
After the Northeast shows, the tours got bigger, but not the myth. A few years later, Dylan found Jesus, and nothing has been the same since. Rolling Thunder marked perhaps the last real surprise in a career that was once full of them. Listen for yourself.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.
More Music News
- 9 Best Concerts in Phoenix This Weekend
Fri., Dec. 4, 8:00pm
Sat., Dec. 5, 8:00pm
Sun., Dec. 6, 3:00pm
Sun., Dec. 6, 7:30pm
- Cave Creek's Legendary Buffalo Chip Saloon Destroyed by "Suspicious" Fire
- 16 Places to Drink on Thanksgiving in Phoenix