Bob Dylan's 1974 reunion tour with the Band found the conquering heroes making some of the loudest, most bombastic music of their careers. Dylan wanted something a little more off the cuff for this, the next go-round, and his ramshackle Rolling Thunder Revue was the result, a collection of famous cronies (Joan Baez, Roger McGuinn) and no-names touring the country gypsy-style in the fall of '75. Bob Dylan Live 1975 is a definitive twenty-two-song, two-CD document with DVD that captures the Fellini-esque splendor and chaos of the caravan. In contrast to the Band's murderously precise country soul, the Rolling Thunder crew at times sounds so loose it threatens to collapse, only to be kept on course by Rob Stoner's pliant bass lines. Scarlett Rivera's swooping, swooning violin was Rolling Thunder's signature instrument, and Dylan sounds liberated, free to attack the songs from almost any angle, his voice feral, his mood frisky. “A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall” is taken at a gallop, the guitars surging behind every verse, while “It Ain't Me, Babe” skips with calypso syncopation. “Sara” and “Just Like a Woman” provide an anguished climax. It's possible to read plenty into these performances, with the singer's marriage on the rocks, but what towers above is the singer's fiery commitment to an even more seductive muse: his music.
From The Archives Issue 910: November 28, 2002