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2-disc 'Live 1975' captures Dylan's mercurial


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By Jim Abbott | Sentinel Pop Music Writer

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Bob Dylan, Live 1975 (The Bootleg Series, Vol. 5) (Columbia-Legacy): Nobody shouts "Judas!" at Bob Dylan in the latest installment of the exquisitely produced Bootleg Series, which last chronicled the singer's historic 1966 Royal Albert Hall concert.

Although that show was a cultural atomic bomb, with Dylan's plugged-in performance sparking derisive shouts, this two-disc snapshot of the 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue captivates with more subtle touches. The music sounds remarkably organic, unfolding with such looseness that songs occasionally seem one wrong-turn away from falling apart.

"All right, we'll try it," Dylan responds with mock skepticism to a shouted request for "Just Like a Woman." Framed by David Mansfield's pedal steel guitar, the result is a shimmering collision between a country weeper and a rock ballad.

Like the other songs here, it's not a definitive version as much as a freewheeling reinvention, Dylan's connection to and extension of his folk heritage. On that level, it's an exceptional achievement.

Unlike the Albert Hall album, Live 1975 isn't culled from a solitary show. Instead, these 22 songs are cherry-picked from five concerts during several weeks in Boston, Quebec and Worcester, Mass., then sequenced in keeping with original set lists.

The main reason for that approach was to deliver consistent sound quality, and that's a significant triumph on Live 1975. The clarity and the immediacy of the music rival anything produced in the digital age.

Even better, Dylan's singing is expressive and inspired as he tears through a generous portion of Blood on the Tracks and previews the intricate, narrative songs that would surface on Desire. Though he has a reputation for confounding with unintelligible mumbling, the enunciation is impeccable here.

So is the band, which showcases the spirited fiddling of Scarlet Rivera on a faithful rendition of "Hurricane," Dylan's journalistic account of the arrest and trial of boxer Rubin Carter. Rivera also contributes the twisting, haunted solos on Desire's "One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below)," which intersect almost unconsciously with Rob Stoner's sinister bass.

Stoner acquits himself equally well on the harder rocking songs, anchoring the rhythm section against a hailstorm of careening guitars by Bobby Neuwirth, T-Bone Burnett and Steven Soles.

And even if Dylan's musical experiments don't always hit the mark, they skillfully reflect his notion of the Rolling Thunder Revue as an updated vaudeville show.

In that spirit, Dylan graciously shares the spotlight with his accompanists and guests Roger McGuinn and Joan Baez. McGuinn's gentle picking lends additional wistfulness to "Knocking on Heaven's Door" while Baez does an admirable job of matching Dylan's mercurial phrasing on "Blowin' in the Wind."

Yet Dylan always commands attention through the sheer force of his presence. Whether it's the blistering "Tonight, I'll Be Staying Here With You" or the melancholy "Simple Twist of Fate," Live 1975 is a rollicking reminder that he deserves his reputation as a peerless troubadour.

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Reserve your "Live 1975" Limited Edition

Orders are now being taken for the Limited Edition of Bob Dylan's "The Bootleg Series, vol. 5-Live 1975: The Rolling Thunder Revue".

This two-CD set, to be released on November 26, is comprised of selections from the best of the multitrack recordings of the Revue's celebrated performances in Worcester, Cambridge, Boston, and Montreal. A bonus DVD packaged with the Limited Edition will include two songs from Bob Dylan's film "Renaldo and Clara," remixed for 5.1 surround sound.

As an added inducement, all pre-orders will come with an adaptation of the original Rolling Thunder Revue handbill.

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Order @ www.bobdylan.com

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