Friday, July 17, 2009

Bob Dylan 23: Masterpieces and Budokan

Back before Street-Legal had been recorded, Bob and his new band embarked on a massive tour that took them through Australia and the Far East before hitting Europe and America. To promote the Down Under leg, Columbia in Australia put together a three-record set of hits, live alternates and rarities called Masterpieces. It’s not the best overview, particularly in such cases as the Isle Of Wight version of “Like A Rolling Stone” instead of the single, but collectors would have been happy to have such rare sides as “Mixed-Up Confusion” (Bob goes electric in 1962!), “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?” from 1965, the amazing “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” recorded live in Liverpool with the Hawks, the Desire outtake “Rita May”, the standalone single “George Jackson” and the solo piano version of “Spanish Is The Loving Tongue”.
The album has been reissued several times in the same countries, but has never been available as an official American release. Some, but not all, of the rarer tracks would be included on Biograph. (And like that set, the six sides were thematically arranged thusly: hits, live, rarities, protest, poetry and love songs.)

After the tour had moved on from Tokyo, Sony put together an official live album from the shows. Just as with happened around the same time with Cheap Trick, enough copies were sold as imports to compel Columbia into releasing it Stateside. Unfortunately, unlike Cheap Trick’s album of the same name, Bob’s At Budokan wasn’t very good. The band was slick, not unfairly derided as “Vegas”, and the retooling of the songs was ill-advised. Some tracks stand up, like the ferocious “It’s Alright Ma”, but you have to endure reggae versions of “Don’t Think Twice” and “Shelter From The Storm” to get to it. “Oh Sister” and “One More Cup Of Coffee”, two highlights from Desire, are bludgeoned here. At least he was smart enough not to screw with “Like A Rolling Stone”.
The LP did come with a poster—like all ‘70s double live albums should—and included, for the first time, lyrics on the inner sleeves. But these didn’t always match what was being sung, as in the drastically overhauled “Going, Going, Gone”. The audience claps politely throughout, but it’s still a sad waste of plastic.

Bob Dylan Masterpieces (1978)—
Bob Dylan Bob Dylan At Budokan (1978)—2

4 comments:

  1. a quick side question. i keep listening to dylan singing 'forever young' is it just me or is it really a scathing, biting song that's mocking someone? and if it is, can you tell me about it? and also, if it is, i cannot believe they made a children's book out of it.
    that is all. i thank you.

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  2. . . . funny how people vary. I think it's a great album !!!
    Timmo (UK)

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  3. 'I want you' is one the best of Dylan's recorded performances, impassioned, yearning and incredibly sophisticated in its phrasing of the metrical and rhyme scheme – the kind of structured, strategic performance of a whole song that is now relatively rare in Dylan's live performances. I like the sick, rancid reggae of 'Don't think twice'- the air of chaos and self-loathing conveyed in this version give it a different slant to other performances.

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  4. I like these 'slick' arrangements (especially this version of Blowin' in the Wind) but this is a bad rehearsal compared to the end of the tour. Find a copy of the bootleg "Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte" (it's on Expectingrain.com) and you'll know what I mean.

    @Anonymous #1: Dylan once said it was written somewhere in 1969/1970 for his son. Usually I mistrust anything he says about himself, but I tend to think that's true.

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