1974 Tour Live is a pretty self-explanatory title, but if you’re still curious for anything else other than the obvious, it is a three disc set, covering two shows from January ’74 (Boston and New York) from Bob Dylan and The Band, recorded during their mid-70s comeback tour. The first thing that is worth noting about the set is that the sound is excellent, particularly on the Boston show. The second thing, is that at first glance, the track list looks remarkably similar to the officially-released document of this tour, recorded in Los Angeles, Before The Flood…the operative part of that being “at first glance”.
While there are Band-styled arrangements of Dylan standards which are common to both releases, (‘Like A Rolling Stone’, ‘Lay Lady Lay’, ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’, All Along the Watchtower’ etc.) there are a good number of equally worthy selections, which did not appear on the Flood record. An almost honkytonk styled ‘Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues’ and Hammond organ soaked version of ‘I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)’ are among the openers of the Boston disc. The same rock’n’roll, tour de force makes its presence felt on the New York recordings, with a hard-hitting version of Dylan’s 1963 ‘protest-era’ number ‘The Ballad Of Hollis Brown’ and in an amped up rendition of ‘Forever Young’. The Band themselves contribute some unused gems; ‘This Wheel’s On Fire’ and the effortlessly cool ‘King Harvest (Has Surely Come)’. However, it is not just electric numbers to behold on this recording; acoustic guitar and harmonica-racked versions of ‘The Times They Are A-Changing’ (where Dylan alternates between jangling guitar patterns and solo vocal) and an energetic performance of ‘Gates Of Eden’, in which his voice sounds remarkably good.
Of course, the deciding factor regarding the appeal of this album is basically a case of what you want to get out of it. For Dylan completists, it will, I’m sure, have its own appeal. For those familiar with the aforementioned Before The Flood this may feel like an extension of that record, and in a lot of ways it should; but with the added incentive of omitted tracks and alternative performances of the Flood recording.
In the current climate of the Dylan vaults being continually raided to comprise impressive, but impossibly overpriced Columbia-issued box sets (next installment earmarked for November 2018) this smaller set fits right in with the trend, a huge difference being, however, that this one won’t break the bank.
Christopher James Sheridan
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‘Ballad Of Hollis Brown’: