T for Tom

Day 19 – Hard Rain – 1976

Posted in A Dylan A Day by johnsontoms on July 12, 2016



We’re only two years removed from Dylan’s first true live record when we’re hit with Hard Rain, the audio version out of a trilogy of documentaries of sorts on Bob Dylan. In a belatedly put-together attempt to document Dylan during his famous Rolling Thunder Revue tour, it was set out to make a film, a fictional film, a live broadcast of an entire concert, and this record. And as the reviews at the time put it, it does come off as unnecessary.

For the perspective of listening to it just three days after the previous, I’m inclined to agree. I do appreciate the overall glam of the entire setlist, and its obvious early on that everything will be played as loudly and rockingly as possible. But what’s missing, and something I feel today just as then, is the overall testament of what made that particular tour such a hit while it was happening.

The Rolling Thunder Revue was a circus event from the outset, a duel headlining gig for Dylan alongside Joan Baez for the first time in 10 years, complete with carnival games and curtains and ringleaders and the whole effect. It was rightly lauded as one of the greatest shows ever in rock’n’roll.

But we don’t get that on the record. There is no presence of Baez playing her own music, and though we get Emmylou Harris in the background throughout, she too doesn’t make the cut for a feature track even after extending what was only supposed to be a single day’s visit to the tour into a week.

I’m thankful that it exists, to put the same live perspective on his newest and greatest tracks from Blood On The Tracks. And even if it comes from my having just listened thru so quickly, I didn’t hear anything that stood out.

The cuts were recorded at the end of the tour, on the second leg that was never originally planned. In between the legs saw the release of Desire, and yet nothing from that highly-acclaimed album made this either.

Hard Rain is good – don’t get it twisted. It’s worth a listening just to see that fantastic cover photo of Dylan’s face. But I didn’t feel like I needed to, and I have a feeling Dylan didn’t either.

Song: “Shelter From The Storm”

The best version of any different version on this album, one that preserved the feeling of the original while still coming off as cool.


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