Another Side Of Budokan (no label)
When Bob Dylan resumed touring after the Rolling Thunder Revue and his traumatic divorce, he chose to play his very first concerts in Japan early in 1978. The eleven concerts were scheduled for only Tokyo and Osaka. A live album, At Budokan, was issued initially for the Japanese market only but eventually worldwide based upon recordings from the February 28 and March 1 shows, the two directly preceding this collection.
The historic importance of these tapes is important because this is the beginning of one of Dylan’s most radical changes in his stage persona. In contrast to the spontaneity and country textures of the previous tours, this is characterized by a highly polished and rehearsed, slick presentation of the reworking of the classics. Since the sessions for Street Legal would not begin for some months, the only new song in these sets is “Is Your Love In Vain?”
The touring band consisted of Billy Cross (guitar), Alan Pasqua (keyboards), Steven Soles (guitar), David Mansfield (violin and mandolin), Steve Douglas (horns), RTR holdover Rob Stoner (bass), Bobbye Hall (percussion), the late Ian Wallace (drums), Helena Springs, Jo Ann Harris, and Debbie Dye (background vocals).
Another Side Of Budokan presents the final three shows from the tour in their entirety from recently surfaced, never circulated audience tapes. Although other tape sources exist for these concerts, they have never been pressed before thus making this six disc set their debut. In general, the sound quality of the tapes range from fair to good and seem to come from the same taper.
Dylan was very experimental in the mid seventies and loved to play with different sounds and combinations of instruments and all of the songs are given radical makeovers. Given the nature of the band and the tight arrangements, there is very little room for improvisation or radical changes in the number chosen for inclusion and the sequence in which they’re played. In fact the first nine songs are identical for each night.
Budokan, Tokyo, Japan – March 2nd, 1978
Disc 1: A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall (instrumental), Love Her With A Feeling, Mr. Tambourine Man, I Threw It All Away, Shelter From The Storm, Love Minus Zero, Girl Of The North Country, Ballad Of A Thin Man, Maggie’s Farm, To Ramona, Like A Rolling Stone, I Shall Be Released, Is Your Love In Vain, Going Going Gone
Disc 2: One Of Us Must Know, Blowin’ In The Wind, Just Like A Woman, Oh Sister, Simple Twist Of Fate, You’re A Big Girl Now, All Along The Watchtower, The Man In Me, Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright, It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding), Forever Young, The Times They Are A-Changin’
The March 2nd show on the first two discs is a fair to good but distant and muffled mono audience recording. There is a meaningless cut between “Love Her With A Feeling” and “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and a small cut after “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” cutting off the very beginning of the band introduction. Despite these small cuts, it is more complete than the other two audience recordings circulating for this concert.
All three shows open with an instrumental version of “A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall” set to a four-to-the-floor high hat disco beat with the guitar, Hammond organ and violin taking the melody in turn before Dylan comes out on stage. The Red Tampa tune “Love Her With A Feeling” opens all of these shows and is followed by a hard driving version of “Mr. Tambourine Man.” The Japan concerts are the debut for the new reworking of Blood On The Tracks “Shelter From The Storm” recast as a stomping litany.
Some of the arrangements reveal the seeds for his born-again experience later in the year and can be seen in arrangements such as this. “To Ramona,” which appears in a majority of the Japanese shows, is played in March 2nd for the final time on this tour and makes it only appearance in this set. “Is Your Love In Vain?” is introduced as a new song that has never been played before.
Some of the arrangements don’t really work like the “Blowin’ In The Wind” with a bit too much schmaltz. The rearranged version of “Oh Sister,” on the other hand, is very daring and would unfortunately be dropped after the European tour that summer. “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” is another song with a heavy disco beat, and the set ends with “Forever Young.” Before the encore Dylan says, “Here’s a song I wrote in 1963. It still means a lot to me” before “The Times They Are A-Changin'”.
Budokan, Tokyo, Japan – March 3rd, 1978
Disc 3: A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall (instrumental), Love Her With A Feeling, Mr. Tambourine Man, I Threw It All Away, Shelter From The Storm, Love Minus Zero, Girl Of The North Country, Ballad Of A Thin Man, Maggie’s Farm, The Man In Me, Like A Rolling Stone, I Shall Be Released
Disc 4: One Of Us Must Know, You’re A Big Girl Now, One More Cup Of Coffee (Valley Below), Blowin’ In The Wind, I Want You, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, Oh Sister, Just Like A Woman, I Don’t Believe You, All Along The Watchtower, Tomorrow Is A Long Time, It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding), Forever Young, The Times They Are A-Changin’
The tape for the March 3rd concert is good sounding and clearer than the others making it the best sounding of the three. The first half hour of the show is identical to the others, but “Is Your Love In Vain?” and “Going Going Gone” are dropped, “I Want You,” “I Don’t Believe You,” “Tomorrow Is A Long Time,” and “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” are all added with “The Man In Me” moved earlier in the set.
It sounds like Dylan is singing “I Threw It All Away” is the Nashville Skyline southern crooning style and sounds fantastic. This arrangement of “Love Minus Zero / No Limit,” with the instruments (especially the flute by the end) punctuating each verse, is an improvement in every way over all other interpretations and reinterpretations and is a definite of every show he played in Japan. It’s a shame this version was dropped soon after.
He calls “Like A Rolling Stone” the biggest hit he’s ever had and have the usual long band introductions before “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”: “Thank you very much, it’s awfully gracious of you. Playing the keyboards tonight, Mr. Alan Pasqua. On the tenor saxophone, Steve Douglas. Playing the violin and the mandolin is a young man, never been away from home before, this is his first trip anywhere. We’re gonna fix him up tonight, David Mansfield.
“The three beautiful young ladies at the back, on the right, young woman who’s got her own church down in Florida, Miss Debbie Dye. In the middle my ex-wife Jo Ann Harris. On my left my current girlfriend Helena Springs. On the congas drums, my manager, Bobbye Hall. On the drums, just behind me, a man who’s played with just about everybody. What was the last group you were in?…Ian Wallace.”
He apologizes for not playing everything before the set closer “Forever Young” and wishes he could take the audience back home with him before the final song.
Budokan, Tokyo, Japan – March 4th, 1978
Disc 5: A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall (instrumental), Love Her With A Feeling, Mr. Tambourine Man, I Threw It All Away, Shelter From The Storm, Love Minus Zero, Girl Of The North Country, Ballad Of A Thin Man, Maggie’s Farm, Is Your Love In Vain, Like A Rolling Stone, I Shall Be Released, Going Going Gone
Disc 6: One Of Us Must Know, You’re A Big Girl Now, One More Cup Of Coffee (Valley Below), Blowin’ In The Wind, I Want You, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, Just Like A Woman, Oh Sister, Tomorrow Is A Long Time, All Along The Watchtower, I Don’t Believe You, The Man In Me, It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding), Forever Young, The Times They Are A-Changin’
Of the three shows in this collection, the March 4th is the last show in Japan until 1986 when he would return with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. It is also the longest of the three with twenty-eight different songs being performed. The sound quality is similar to the March 2nd but a bit more muffled.
The tape contains many cuts between the songs but don’t eliminate much music or talking. The biggest is one that cuts off the very beginning of “I Don’t Believe You.” There are two other tape sources for this show, one is complete and the other is missing “Hard Rain,” “Forever Young,” and “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” The first part of the set is the same as the others, but each performance has its unique interpretation to it and this show is dominated by a melodramatic version of “Maggie’s Farm” with the horn section bouncing off of the walls of the auditorium. “Is Your Love In Vain?” returns to the set list and is introduced as a new song. Dylan blows his harp several times and the audience laugh before they launch into the song.
“One More Cup Of Coffee (Valley Below)” is played again in a daring faux-funk-reggae arrangement and a sultry, sluttish saxophone weaving around the verses. “I Want You” is retained from the previous evening’s set list and this version moves much slower than it appears on Blonde On Blonde and the 1976 RTR tours.
“Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” is given the whole reggae treatment as it would be all year. “All Along The Watchtower” is performed in a heavy arrangement with the scorching David Mansfield violin solo. Dylan introduces the band while they softly play “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” and Ian Wallace is into punk rock and Bob Stoner is steady rock bottom. Dylan throws out many “thank yous” during the ending of “The Times They Are A-Changin'” for what is a highly successful tour.
Another Side Of Budokan is packaged in a six disc fatboy jewel case with simple yet effective graphics. It is limited to one hundred copies and will appeal to hard core Dylan collectors, since this is the debut of both these concerts and these particular tape sources.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)