Skip to main content

Return to Budokan

Another Bob Dylan "official bootleg" set has been released. This time it's a trip back to Tokyo's Nippon Budokan arena for the 1978 concert recordings. The Complete Budokan expands on the original double live album with two complete shows and sixteen unreleased songs.

I'm pretty sure this is the 18th edition of the Bootleg series, each of them expanding on a period of Dylan's musical career. And with his wildly eclectic career, that's a lot of music. Too much really. Some of the albums are pure gold, with interesting song variations and live performances. Others (especially the Blood on the Tracks set) can get tedious. I'm a huge fan, but even I can't handle five takes of the same song, back to back.

Album cover of Bob Dylan's The Complete Budokan

The Complete Budokan is something else entirely. First, it's live, so there are no outtakes. Second, it's just plain weird. This is the "Las Vegas Revue" version of Dylan's greatest hits (up to that point.) He had the same band as appear in Street Legal, including a chorus, saxophones and even a flute. If someone claimed he wore a sequinned suit, I would believe them. The songs are reworked so extensively that I had to check the song title a few times to figure out what I was listening to.

And yet, there are parts of the album that are lodged deep, deep in my brain. I'm pretty sure this was the first Dylan CD I ever bought (used, circa 1986) and I listened to it a lot. I mean A LOT. So much that when I later heard the original recordings, it was the originals that sounded strange.

I have no idea why I bought this as my first foray into The Great Man's catalogue. I suspect it was because it was a double album and I recognized the song titles printed on the back. What was in the package was far different than what I expected.

But having paid cash money, I listened, and listened, and listened. I listened so much that, listening to the new release, I'm anticipating every note. But only for some of the songs. I must have made cassette copies from the CD and cut out some of the tracks because the albums ran longer than a tape could manage. I have no memory of the Budokanized versions of "To Ramona" or "Girl from the North Country".

Since we're in the Streaming Age, I say go ahead and give this a listen. It's a wild ride. I won't be buying the box set however, and this doesn't pass the Cindy test, so I'll be wearing headphones while I stream this one.

PS - if you're curious, my favourite Bootleg set is #8: Tell Tale Signs, which covers No Mercy, the blues cover albums, Time Out of Mind and Modern Times. It's stellar and the live tracks are pure gold. I listen to this from start to finish every other month, at least.