Another live album? This is Dylan's third in five years, which seems excessive for someone who is almost exclusively thought-of as a studio musician.
However, this is startlingly different from the previous two I've heard. Those albums showed Dylan in a rough and tired state, where he seemed to be rattling songs off the top of his lungs and encouraging his bandmates to be sloppy as possible.
On this album, it's quite the contrary - it's like show-biz ... I mean, if Dylan decided to establish himself as a Vegas attraction in the late 1970's, he wouldn't have had to make his sound much different from this (don't worry, he doesn't do a Tom Jones version of “The Times They Are A-Changin'” or anything ... these songs are just given lusher and more deliberate arrangements).
I like this version of “Love Minus Zero/No Limit” just for that six-note refrain played with flutes. I suppose that proves it doesn't take a whole lot to amuse me, but why can't more bands put things like oboes and flutes and xylophones in their songs to make them sparkle a little more? Plus, I like that very faint violin I hear playing in the background, and I also like the piano which twinkles - that, plus the happy drumbeat and bouncy, melodic bass makes this one of the most gleeful experiences I've ever had with Bob Dylan.
I would say that “Ballad of a Thin Man” and “It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)” lose quite a bit of their bite from their show-bizzy orchestration (they don't have the sneering, soul-piercing quality of the originals), but they're still entertaining to hear. Even the saxophone solo in the former song, though it reeks of that Saturday Night Live
vibe, entertains me.
by Reviewer: Don Ignacio
(blogging at Don Ignacio's Album Reviews