Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue didn’t last long. From its conception to its dissolution, it spanned just under a year, not long for a career that’s about to enter its seventh decade. Maybe that’s why Dylan professes ignorance about the inspiration for his roving carnival in Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese, a lengthily titled documentary that recently premiered on Netflix. In one of the new interviews for the film, the singer-songwriter claims, “I’m trying to get to the core of what this Rolling Thunder thing is all about, and I don’t have a clue because it’s about nothing! It’s just something that happened 40 years [ago]-and that’s the truth of it.”
Other people remember a lot about Rolling Thunder, though. Since the waning months of 1975-when Dylan roamed New England with a ragged band of musicians, playing small venues at the drop of a hat-the revue has been the thing of legend among Dylan conoscenti. Much of its mystique lies in the way the superior first incarnation of the tour only lasted about as long as a torrid summer squall. A second leg followed in 1976, but by all accounts Dylan was ornery and withdrawn-a contention supported by Hard Rain, a ’76 live set that was the only official document of Rolling Thunder until selections from the 1975 shows were compiled, in 2002, as the fifth volume of Dylan’s ongoing Bootleg Series.
Certainly, The Bootleg Series, Vol. 5 is easier to digest than The Rolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Live Recordings, a 14-CD box released to accompany the Scorsese film. Containing Dylan’s sets from the five professionally recorded Rolling Thunder concerts, along with three discs of rehearsals and a disc of oddities taken from the tour, the box assumes a high level of interest from the listener: A set that runs for ten and a half hours is not for dabblers. This ungainly sprawl suits the Rolling Thunder Revue, which was meant not as a mere evening of entertainment but rather an immersive theatrical experience.
Much of that heightened sense of drama diminishes on record, but it can still be felt, and the big box occasionally does an excellent job of suggesting the circus taking place both on and off stage. All those rehearsals help build the atmosphere. Here, Dylan and his band of old folkies, new rockers, and unknowns get acquainted, playing folk chestnuts and songs he’d just cut for Desire, which wouldn’t be released until after the first leg of the tour wrapped up. Harmonies are ragged and tempos tentative, but the bonhomie is palpable. What’s also evident is the nature of Dylan’s singing: open-hearted, bold, and clear, qualities decidedly lacking on Before the Flood, a double-album souvenir of his 1974 return to the stage.
The concerts excerpted on Before the Flood were intended to be a spectacle. Dylan hadn’t played live since his motorcycle accident in 1966, and he was supported by the Band, who had made the transition from his backing band to stars in …read more
Source:: Daily times