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Dylan - the 1975 live collection

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NY Times review - https://nyti.ms/2IDYNeb

‘Rolling Thunder’ Review: A New Ballad of Bob, Sung by Marty

In his new documentary, Martin Scorsese revisits a famous Bob Dylan tour that included Joan Baez and Allen Ginsberg.

By Manohla Dargis

June 11, 2019

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese - NYT Critic's Pick

Step right up, ladies and gentlemen and cine-revelers of every type, to the mesmerizing motion picture and humbly titled extravaganza, “Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese.” Thrill to Dylan, a troubadour with a white-smeared face and a peacock feather in his wide-brimmed hat, as he electrifies and sometimes confuses audiences with his melodious musings. Rejoice as Joan Baez sings and laughs and testifies about her old pal Bob. Gasp as Joni Mitchell warbles and strums her song “Coyote” in Gordon Lightfoot’s pad as Dylan plays along.

A lollapalooza of a tour, the Rolling Thunder Revue was divided into two parts across two years and began in 1975, the year after Dylan had returned to touring, headlining with the Band. (The Band’s farewell concert, with Dylan as a guest, is immortalized in Scorsese’s documentary “The Last Waltz.”) The idea for the revue (without the Band), explains the poet Allen Ginsberg while sitting beatifically in a lotus position on a beach — he’s called the Oracle of Delphi here — was to “showcase how beautiful” Dylan is through song and whatnot. In another scene, when Baez speaks about Ginsberg’s “yearning for Bob,” the poet’s optimistic take on the tour takes on a melancholic cast.

The idea behind Scorsese’s “Rolling Thunder Revue” feels equally diffuse. It’s at once a celebration and a rescue mission (it draws heavily on restored film footage), as well as another chapter in Scorsese’s decades-long chronicling of Dylan. The most recent entry in this enterprise was the 2005 documentary “No Direction Home,” a gorgeous ramble through the first half of the 1960s. By 1975, Dylan was back at Columbia Records, which released “Blood on the Tracks” that January. Only one of its songs, “A Simple Twist of Fate,” is in “Rolling Thunder Revue,” which includes many more from “Desire,” the album he finished before the tour started in Plymouth, Mass.

The story of the revue — and of “Renaldo and Clara,” the film Dylan was making during the tour — has been told before in journalistic bits and biographical pieces. In her memoir, Baez described what happened on stage as “a mad circus” (approvingly, it seems) but called Dylan’s film a “monumentally silly project.”She had a role in it as the Woman in White, who falls in love with a character played by Harry Dean Stanton. Baez didn’t know who was directing (“Bob would stand in the back of the camera and chuckle to himself”). But she understood the part she played perfectly: “Naturally, I was playing a Mexican whore — the Rolling Thunder women all played whores.”

That line (or thought) isn’t “Rolling Thunder Revue,” though certainly women assume various on- and offscreen roles, including Scarlet Rivera, who played violin in the revue and is billed as the Queen of Swords. There’s a nice scene of her riding in the back of a Rolls-Royce, a regal figure with flowing hair. Also woven in is a mythmaking account of how Dylan found her, but it’s her charisma that remains the undeniable fact about her, even if the chauffeur steals the scene when he describes how the revue’s audiences and players charge each other like batteries.

You see that charge now and then in the footage of applauding crowds, though it’s seen most poignantly in the post-concert tears on a young woman’s face. She’s blown away, and you know how she feels, particularly when Scorsese lets a song play in full, keeping the focus on Dylan, alone or with his band. Dylan doesn’t talk much in the offstage scenes, just here and there, hmm-mming and yeah-yeahing, like when Patti Smith talks about Rimbaud and Superman. You can tell from Smith’s look that Dylan is her superhero, one with flowers on his hat, his eyes bright and blazing in a face that is by turns open, guarded, painted white or obscured by a creepy translucent mask.

Dylan’s protean identity seems to have inspired Scorsese to fold fictional characters in “Rolling Thunder Revue,” including a supercilious director. Also onboard is Jim Gianopulos, the chairman and chief executive of Paramount Pictures, as a music promoter who fills in details (real or imagined) and calls the tour a disaster. Dylan, in a contemporary interview, says it was a disaster only if you care about money. There’s no indication who’s right or wrong, what’s true or false, though by the time Sharon Stone (“Casino”) starts reminiscing about Dylan and the band Kiss, you smell a rat.

Like the clip from the George Méliès’s 1896 film “The Vanishing Lady” that opens the “Rolling Thunder Revue,” these more-or-less amusing and distracting fictionalizations dovetail with Dylan’s myriad facades and associative thinking. The fictional character of Jack Tanner, the title subject of “Tanner ’88,” Robert Altman’s mock-doc mini-series, pops up here talking about Dylan and Jimmy Carter. Altman also directed “Nashville,” the 1975 film in which Ronee Blakley had a starring role. She was part of Dylan’s Revue, too, and shows up in the documentary as the Ingénue — and so it goes.

If you don’t hop on the documentary’s signifying train, it doesn’t really matter. Meaning gathers anyway in “Rolling Thunder Revue,” which picks up ideas with each stop and song. At one point, Dylan and Ginsberg take a break to visit the grave of Jack Kerouacin Lowell, Mass. There, they reminisce, and Ginsberg reads from Kerouac’s “Mexico City Blues,” which includes the following swirl:

Once I went to a movie
At midnight, 1940, Mice
and Men, the name of it,
The Red Block Boxcars
Rolling by (on the Screen)
Yessir
life
finally
gets
tired
of
living

Everything is in this scene: movies, life, death, friendship, the passing of trains, the passage of time.

“What attracts you, as a poet, to movies?” Ginsberg once asked Dylan. “To shift my consciousness somewhere,” Dylan said, “hopefully to a place that applies to my own personal experience.” It’s stirring how Dylan keeps coming back to film, with its beautiful masks and lies, and it is a gift that Scorsese has been there ready to meet him. Dylan was interested in how movies stop time, but he also told Ginsberg that he wanted “to be entertained,” adding, “If I see a movie that really moves me around I’m totally astounded.” To watch “Rolling Thunder Revue” is to understand what he meant.

 

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and The New Yorker - https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/the-chaotic-magic-of-bob-dylans-rolling-thunder-revue

The Chaotic Magic of Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue

By David Remnick

June 10, 2019

I may be wrong about this, but I don’t think so: music, particularly pop music, will never reach you in a more visceral way than it does when you’re very young. Something about the hunger and plasticity you have at that time of your life as you encounter an art form that is so raw, joyful, erotic, and pure. If I had to choose the concert of my life, the one that hit me most directly and never seems to recede in its force, it would be Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue, which I saw in Waltham, Massachusetts.

November 22, 1975. So long ago—a historical nanosecond after Watergate and the fall of Saigon. I was still in high school at the time, and what’s helping me remember it all clearly now, what I’m crazy grateful for, is the release of Martin Scorsese’s new documentary, “Rolling Thunder Revue,” which is coming, on Wednesday, to Netflix and to some big screens around the country. Dylan, Inc., led by the producers Jeff Rosen and Steve Berkowitz, has also issued a fourteen-disk set of the tour’s 1975 live recordings—a completist’s heaven—including rarities such as Dylan playing Peter La Farge’s “The Ballad of Ira Hayes” at the Tuscarora Reservation, in Niagara County, New York.

Scorsese, like Dylan, was in his early thirties at the time of the Rolling Thunder tour. (In an interview for the film, Dylan says he can barely remember the tour, as he wasn’t “even born yet.”) Scorsese was filming “Taxi Driver.” He didn’t see any of the shows. But, as he has proved so many times—in “The Last Waltz,” in “No Direction Home,” in “Shine a Light,” and on countless soundtracks—his feel for the music of that era is without parallel.

The Rolling Thunder Revue was conceived as an anti-corporate return to the days of travelling tricksters, medicine shows, and carnivals. Starting in 1966, Dylan took eight years away from touring. He’d been badly injured in a motorcycle accident and was hiding from countless fans who insisted on seeing him not as the descendant of the Carter Family and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, of Johnny Ace and Little Richard, but as a prophet, a political tribune, “the voice of his generation.”

“I think that was just a term that can create problems for somebody, especially if someone just wants to keep it simple and write songs and play them,” Dylan said, in 2004. “Having these colossal accolades and titles—they get in the way.”

Dylan returned to the stage in 1974, backed by the Band. That was the first time I saw him—a show at the Nassau Coliseum. The resulting live album, “Before the Flood,” captures its roaring energy, but that’s precisely what disillusioned Dylan. “It was all sort of mindless,” he said, ten years later. “The only thing people talked about was energy this, energy that.” The largeness of the enterprise, too, the publicity machine, the immensity of the arenas—particularly after all those years playing at leisure with the Band in basements around Woodstock, New York—seemed bloated. “I wasn’t comfortable and I wasn’t happy,” Dylan said afterward. “I wanted to do something different.”

In the fall and winter of 1974, he recorded “Blood on the Tracks,” a dark and painful masterpiece that reflected the fractures in his marriage. (His son Jakob once said the album sounded like “my parents talking.”) He didn’t tour behind it. Instead, he went on to write (with Jacques Levy) a batch of mystical, gypsy-inflected songs, which appeared on “Desire,” and “Hurricane,” a protest song about the wrongly imprisoned boxer Rubin Carter. He started recording them with a small band featuring Scarlet Rivera, a violinist he had met on the street on the Lower East Side.

In the summer of 1975, Dylan cooked up the idea of putting together a kind of roving carnival, in which he would be the central, but hardly the only, act under the tent. They’d travel by bus, stay in cheap hotels, show up at venues with minimal fanfare. A recipe for chaos, perhaps, but the opposite of the 1974 tour with the Band.

Joan Baez, who had helped to introduce Dylan to larger audiences, in the early sixties; Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, a surgeon’s kid from Brooklyn who ran off, as a teen-ager, to perform in a rodeo; Roger McGuinn, of the Byrds; and Joni Mitchell in her “Hejira” period were among the musicians who joined for all or part of the tour. (Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen passed.) Allen Ginsberg, who would play finger cymbals on the last song of the night, “This Land Is Your Land,” came along as a kind of accompanying shaman. A bass player named Rob Stoner directed a backing band for Dylan and called it Guam. And Lou Kemp, a childhood buddy of Dylan’s who ran a salmon fishery in Alaska, was the main organizer. The first leg of the tour, the fall of 1975, had thirty-one shows, nearly all of them in small venues in the Northeast. (A second leg, in the spring, would take on bigger venues and had little of the magic of the first. For years, the best extended video of Rolling Thunder was of a rain-sodden and cranky second-leg performance in Fort Collins, Colorado.)

Dylan wanted to make a movie along the way, something influenced, he said, by François Truffaut’s “Shoot the Piano Player” and Marcel Carné’s “Children of Paradise.” He enlisted Sam Shepard to help write a script. (The resulting film, “Renaldo and Clara,” is a four-hour, fanatics-only matter. I’ve seen it three times. I will not see it a fourth.)

Shepard kept a “logbook” on the tour, which he eventually published as a book. In it, he says that the 1976 tour coincided with a moment of disorienting patriotic celebration. “New England is festering with Bicentennial madness, as though desperately trying to resurrect the past to reassure ourselves that we sprang from somewhere,” Shepard writes. “A feeling that in the past at least there was some form or structure and that our present state of madness could be healed somehow by ghosts.”

Dylan also enlisted a journalist named Larry (Ratso) Sloman to come along, and though Sloman seemed to irritate nearly everyone on the tour with his comically pestering presence, he filed a number of diaristic behind-the-scenes dispatches to Rolling Stone and ended up writing a book, “On the Road with Bob Dylan,” which Dylan blurbed as “The ‘War and Peace’ of rock and roll.”

The Rolling Thunder concerts were nearly as long as that novel. They started out with warm-up songs from various band members: T-Bone Burnett, Mick Ronson, Ronee Blakley. Dylan came onstage after an hour or so, usually with “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” and other songs from his earlier days. But these old songs were made new, thanks to Dylan’s obvious passion for them and an odd brew of musical voices in the band: Ronson’s spacey glam-rock guitar licks, Dave Mansfield’s folky pedal steel, and Rivera’s gypsy violin lines.

The song that ended that first set—and I remember it well from Waltham and from bootlegs that followed—was “Isis.” “This is a song about marriage,” Dylan would say before the first crashing chord. And it was: it was a story told in mythological terms, about the odyssey of a man who marries, leaves his wife, encounters strangers, has adventures, fails in his hunt for treasure, and returns, beseechingly, to his wife. To perform “Isis,” Dylan stripped off his guitar and belted the song with incredible fury. These days, when Dylan steps out from behind his piano at a performance (he has all but abandoned the guitar), he does so with a wry, hand-on-hip crooner air about him; he is not just singing Sinatra songs; he occasionally embodies the Sinatra presence. But, in 1975, on songs like “Isis,” he took on a punk bravado, the veins in his neck bulging, his eyes unblinking, sweat dripping through the white face paint, nothing held back.

Patti Smith has said that she talked to him about putting those songs over without a guitar: “I said, ‘I’ll give you one tip. Use your fists.’ He sort of hung his hands when he was singing, when he was standing there without a guitar, he didn’t know what to do with his hands.” She says she told him, “ ‘You’re a great mover—what’re you standing there like a dead fish for? Move!’ And he says, ‘Aw, I can’t hit the air with my fists or nothing. People will think I’m copying you!’ I said ‘Well, I’ve imitated you for twelve years, you can spare a little imitation.’ ”

“Isis” was usually followed by an intermission. When the audience reassembled for the next act, the curtain, covered with old-timey circus illustrations, remained closed, but you heard two voices and acoustic guitars strumming. Often, the song was “Blowin’ in the Wind.” In Waltham—the venue was the gym at Brandeis—it was “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” Obviously, one voice was Dylan, and then it became clear, as you made out the purity of the tone, that the other was Joan Baez. The curtain came up only after the first full verse.

“Baez looks perfect,” Shepard wrote in his logbook. “She seems completely with Dylan in a way that no one else who sings with him can ever be. It’s as though she knows his every move just from having been there before. She doesn’t have to stare at his mouth in order not to be caught off guard by his changes in phrasing. She knows it in the bones somewhere.”

Their second duet was usually a standard, “The Water Is Wide” or “Dark as a Dungeon.” And Shepard is right: even as Dylan roams the lyrics, shifting emphases, playing with the line, Baez is always right there with him. In Scorsese’s new film, Dylan remarks on the naturalness of their collaboration. He says they could have sung together “in our sleep.”

The Scorsese film, of course, gets to where even the most fortunate ticket-holders for the Rolling Thunder Revue could not. Joni Mitchell playing with Dylan and McGuinn in Gordon Lightfoot’s house as they try to keep up with her unique guitar tunings and chord changes. Rehearsals. Frantic business calls. Dylan and Ginsberg talking about Shakespeare’s sonnets at Jack Kerouac’s grave, in Lowell, Massachusetts. Scorsese plays with the real-or-unreal flavor of the tour, inserting mockumentary elements amid the period footage.

My favorite scene comes when the tour alights on the Seacrest Hotel, in Falmouth, Massachusetts, where hundreds of women are engaged in a furiously contested, multi-table mah-jongg tournament. To the surprise of the players, who are intent on their game, someone gets up and announces that “one of America’s foremost poets, Mr. Allen Ginsberg,” will read. Ginsberg reads from “Kaddish,” his great elegy to his mother, Naomi Ginsberg. The women seem cheerful enough for a while, but, when the poem reaches Naomi’s fatal decline, with all the gruesome particulars, it is all too close to the bone. The women wince almost as one. It’s only when Dylan gets up to play a solo version of “Simple Twist of Fate” on the piano, his fingers mashing the chords, his heel whacking the stage to keep time, that the mah-jongg ladies come alive.

If you’re lucky, at some point in your life you get to witness some flashing fraction of what music has to offer. Accidents of fate and the moment. I was too young to see Dylan’s early acoustic performances, his electric breakthrough at Newport, or the 1966 British tour with the Band. And there’s no time machine, only tape, to get me to the Regal for B. B. King, in 1964, to the Apollo for James Brown, in 1962, much less to one of Billie Holiday’s final concerts at Carnegie Hall, in 1956. Your luck and your time come when they come. My lucky moment was the Rolling Thunder Revue at a college gym forty-five years ago in New England; for those who missed it, your time has come.

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Just watching the film now and I'm bound to say the performances are just sensational.  I'm not too excited by what I've heard of the CDs, but seeing it performed is another matter.  The rest of it is good too, with some interesting insights and anecdotes - definitely something I'll be watching again I reckon. 

Also, Scarlet Rivera: not sure I knew that much about her before but she comes across as quite a character! 

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I was originally blown away how open Bob is in his interviews. Then discovered that big chunks of the documentary are fake. Don’t get it? Why? 

Literally everything i’ve seen on Bob’s career that’s been released on video is a bit weird and goes over my head. 

 

All the live stuff is fucking great. Hope they release a live dvd.

 

His acting has come on leaps and bounds though.

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Yeah, the mix of real and fake stuff totally caught me out at first.  I guess it is what it is ... the performances are still amazing and the 'behind-the-scenes' footage is very interesting in places too.  For sure I could have lived without the Sharon Stone/Kiss nonsense though. 
Few 'spoilers' here for those who want them:
https://www.rollingstone.com/movies/movie-news/rolling-thunder-revue-bob-dylan-story-doc-whats-fake-847231/

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Agree with you guys ^.  Stunning footage, but could do without the rest.

Have to surf the 'net know and find out what is bogus.

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On 6/13/2019 at 8:40 AM, Promise61 said:

Agree with you guys ^.  Stunning footage, but could do without the rest.

Have to surf the 'net know and find out what is bogus.

Yep I agree too, but did enjoy it.  

Some of the live stuff is truly astonishing , isis for example , he looks like a man possessed,  truly on fire that that point in time!  

Amazing for someone who wasn’t even born at that time! :D

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On 6/12/2019 at 6:15 AM, Jesus was the sheriff said:

 

Also, Scarlet Rivera: not sure I knew that much about her before but she comes across as quite a character! 

Irish-Sicilian heritage ;) 

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finally set aside the time to watch this - just f'ing brilliant.

at the end I was wishing that the '86 Dylan/Dead/Petty tour had the same archival material so that Scorsese could tell that tale as well

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On 6/12/2019 at 11:15 AM, Jesus was the sheriff said:

Also, Scarlet Rivera: not sure I knew that much about her before but she comes across as quite a character! 

I don't remember much about it, but I saw her playing with the Indigo Girls at Leeds Irish Centre in 1993.

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On 6/9/2019 at 8:36 AM, Born To Walk said:

One of Bob's "biggest ever fans" wondering why it doesn't include songs that weren't performed, including one which hadn't been written and one (s)he doesn't even know the title of. I hope it's a wind up and not for real.

Capture.JPG

Seems the answer is that he's a twat!

Capture.JPG

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17 hours ago, riverdude2 said:

Wow. Had this on VHS for years. Didn't know that this had snuck out on DVD.  Great show. 

Tnx.

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14 minutes ago, Promise61 said:

Wow. Had this on VHS for years. Didn't know that this had snuck out on DVD.  Great show. 

Tnx.

Get the £8.99 version. i posted a more expensive version above by mistake.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dylan-Heartbreakers-Australia-Handle-Region/dp/B07D4CWVFV/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=bob+dylan+tom+petty&qid=1560768379&s=dvd&sr=1-3

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On 6/16/2019 at 1:33 PM, riverdude2 said:

I saw the '86 show at the old Metrodome. Later caught Dylan and Petty at MSG. Funny story - everyone covers Dylan, from the G-Dead to Stevie Wonder. At the MSG show, who does Dylan cover? Ricky f'ing Nelson, Garden Party :D :D 

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Some devastating performances on disc 12.  Wow!

In other Bob related matters, RS reporting from a good source that the next instalment of the Bootleg Series will probably be Nashville Skyline / JWH with some Johnny Cash thrown in.

https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/bob-dylan-bootleg-series-update-nashville-849134/

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14 hours ago, Promise61 said:

Some devastating performances on disc 12.  Wow!

In other Bob related matters, RS reporting from a good source that the next instalment of the Bootleg Series will probably be Nashville Skyline / JWH with some Johnny Cash thrown in.

https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/bob-dylan-bootleg-series-update-nashville-849134/

Yeah I saw that!  Nice! 

I like the toom suggestion very much too! 

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16 minutes ago, TupacThePuma said:

Is this an official album, or a bootleg on cdr? Why is Black Diamond Bay not on it?

It's an official release.

Re Black Diamond Bay, Desire wasn't released until 1976 although Bob played some of the songs on the Rolling thunder tour in 1975. I'm not sure BDB has ever been played live see https://www.expectingrain.com/discussions/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=7574

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1 minute ago, riverdude2 said:

It's an official release.

Re Black Diamond Bay, Desire wasn't released until 1976 although Bob played some of the songs on the Rolling thunder tour in 1975. I'm not sure BDB has ever been played live see https://www.expectingrain.com/discussions/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=7574

Thanks mate, is it worth buying, Not a big Dylan fan but loved Desire & Blood On Tracks

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