by Richard Lewis


I usually spend an hour or so each Saturday browsing through Virgin, HMV and Waterstones. The two record stores often have music playing but it is a long time since Iíve heard any Bob Dylan. Imagine my delight last Monday when as I entered the Virgin megastore I could hear Mr Tambourine Man playing loudly over their system. It was of course the version from Live 1975 and its release that day was the reason Iíd rushed into town on a Monday to buy it.

The package itself is a delight. Not only a double CD but a bonus DVD (with all three discs a different colour to avoid mixed up confusion) and a beautiful colour booklet. The booklet is a 50-page gem featuring 40 photographs (some at least are new to me) and a wonderful, simple, direct, approachable essay that captures something of the affection we all feel for Dylan. And neither Ratso nor Dylan lets us down.

The first thing I did was play the DVD. Superb quality, what a pleasure to watch. The close up of Dylan white-faced singing Tangled Up In Blue is simply mesmerising. It is impossible to look away. Those blue eyes! Then comes the astonishing version of Isis with Dylan wearing even more white make up, no guitar but clutching a harmonica. Keep your eyes on Dylanís hands as they take on a life of their own and nearly get bitten off by a demented Bobby Neuwirth. The band are on fire and Dylan rises to the occasion. The audio lets us know that he was singing this especially for Leonard Cohen whom Ratso has fetched at Dylanís request.

Back to the actual double CD. No, I donít know why they left off When I Paint My Masterpiece but I canít think of a better opener than this recharged version of Tonight Iíll Be Staying Here With You. It just grabs you, shakes you up and puts you back down in your seat ready for the concert of your life. The sound throughout is superb. The electric versions of A Hard Rainís A Gonna Fall and The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll are amazing with the latter song making you so angry you would throttle the next judge you met.

One thing to keep in mind is that apart from the single of Hurricane which came out in the middle of this short 1975 tour no one in the audience had ever heard Romance In Durango, Isis, Oh Sister, One More Cup of Coffee or Sara. Imagine being there. Well now you can be. Iím playing the CDs as I write this and I keep stopping as I hear something else that takes my breath away.

As compensation for not having Masterpiece we do get five Dylan solo performances whereas the actual audience rarely got more than two. The Mr Tambourine Man that I heard as I walked into Virgin records is a fine example of how Dylan can continually find something new for himself and us in a familiar song. I have a confession to make. I enjoy Joan Baez. I collect her albums. For this reason I particularly welcome the four duets we get here, especially The Water Is Wide. In fact I remember thinking, as the tapes started to emerge back in the 70s, that a Dylan/Baez duet album would have been a good idea. They should have put Never Let Me Go on this album

What must Sara have thought as she heard the version of Sara on this record. One of my favourite tracks is the ďautobiographicalĒ It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry with its prophetic last verse. This is a wonderful record and although it was foolish to leave off the usual opening (Masterpiece) and closing (This Land Is Your Land) songs it is more than redeemed by the joys that we have.

Iíve deliberately tried to avoid reviews in other magazines and papers so Iím not sure what everyone else thinks but I hope you are enjoying it as much as I am. I did see one review on the web taken from David Means in the New York Observer. This is a part of what he said.

With his usual talent for impeccable re-emergence, Mr Dylan has released a masterwork. Itís like one of those Hubbell photographs of deep-space nebulas: light arriving after 9,000 years, unmarred by all that distance. And wondrously beautiful.


Bob Dylan Live 1975