Rolling Thunder Hurricane (Vintage Masters Premium VM007A/B)
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – December 8, 1975
Disc 1: Good Love Is Hard To Find, introduction, Sleazy, Hula Hoop, Too Good To Be Wasted, Laissez-Faire, Life On Mars?, band introduction, Alabama Dark (Hank Williams), Need A New Sun Rising, Cindy (When I Get Home), Mercedes Benz, Shadows And Light, Coyote
Disc 2: Edith And The Kingpin, Don’t Interrupt The Sorrow, Muhammad Ali and Others, Ramblin’ Jack, Mule Skinner Blues, Pretty Boy Floyd, Salt Pork West Virginia, I’m a Ramblin’ Boy, Diamonds And Rust, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, Billy Rose, Joe Hill
Some have argued that Bob Dylan’s 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue is among the very top of his artistic achievements. Gathering a band with many well-known musicians dubbed “Guam”, he had a multifaceted pallet of sounds and instruments by which he could create his vision. Beginning in small theaters in New England, the tour inevitably ended up in bigger venues like Toronto’s Maple Leaf Garden and Montreal’s Forum. The final night at Madison Square Garden in New York is one of the best known and best recorded (from the audience) concerts. This was billed as Night Of The Hurricane since it served as a fundraiser for the boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, whom Dylan and many others believed was unfairly convicted of murder and who is the topic of Desire‘s “Hurricane”. There have been many releases of Dylan’s two sets, most recently on the three disc set Night Of The Hurricane 1 & 2 (Real Boot RBT-01A/B/02), containing the audience recording from this show on the first two discs and a poor sounding recording from the second benefit for Carter at the Astrodome in Houston. Rolling Thunder Hurricane is another download from Wolfgang’s Vault and contains, in pristine soundboard quality, about two-thirds of the non-Dylan portion of the show.
The tape begins with the first song by Bob Neuwirth singing “Good Love Is Hard To Find” followed by his opening words, “New York. Civilization. Welcome to the Rolling Thunder Revue. Welcome to our living room. This show was conceived during a garbage strike and there is the last show and there is still a garbage strike so we’re doing something right.”Neuwirth continues with “Sleazy” dedicated to “anyone who wants it.” T-Bone Burnett steps up to perform “Hula Hoop” followed by the RTR’s de facto band leader Rob Stoner singing “Too Good To Be Wasted” by Rob Stoner. “Over here singing guitar and singing high harmony, another New York City friend of ours.Stevie Soles. And he’s trying to make up his mind what song he wants to sing for us.” “I want to dedicate this song to Jack Elliot’s mother who passed away, and my mother who’s here tonight” before singing a beautiful version of the David Ackles tune “Laissez-Faire”.
Mick Ronson is introduced as a “kidnap victim” and plays the Roscoe West tune “Is There Life Mars?” which includes a heavy metal style guitar solo in the middle. After the band introductions Neuwirth sings “Alabama Dark” as a duet with Ronee Blakley. Blakley, who would be nominated for an Academy Award that year for her performance in Robert Altman’s film Nashville, switches to piano to deliver a dramatic version of “Need A New Sun Rising”. Neuwirth sings the next two songs beginning with the country and western trucker song “Cindy”. Afterwards he says, “I’ll trade guitars because the lady who gave me this guitar is the one I wrote this song for between sets at the Capitol Theater. She can’t be here to drink with us so we’re gonna sing it for her anyway. You’ll recognize it. We dedicate it to everybody who is here from San Francisco.” What followed is a country version of “Mercedes Benz”, which Neuwirth and poet Mike McClure wrote for Janis Joplin for her final album Pearl.
What follows is one of the longest consecutive sets in the first part of the show with four songs by Joni Mitchell. She originally wasn’t on the RTR but, the story goes, enjoyed the vibes so much when she visited that she stayed for the final shows. Of the four the final two songs, “Edith And The Kingpin” and “Don’t Interrupt The Sorrow” and the best. What follows is a seven-minute speech by boxer Muhammad Ali. He speaks about the injustice done to Carter and how short Bob Dylan is. During this part Carter himself phones in from prison thanking everybody for their support. Neuwirth sings “Ramblin’ Jack Elliott” as an introduction to the singer who sings “Muleskinner Blues”, “Pretty Boy Floyd”, “Salt Pork, West Virginia”, and “I’m A Rich And Ramblin’ Boy”.
At this point in the show Bob Dylan played his first set beginning with “When I Paint My Masterpiece” and plays thirteen songs ending with “I Shall Be Released”. Rolling Thunder Hurricane continues with the first four songs of the second Guam, Joan Baez singing “Diamonds And Rust”, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”, “Prison Trilogy” and “Joe Hill”. Missing is the rest of Baez’s set “Long Black Veil” and “Please Come To Boston”. Also absent is Roberta Flack’s set “25th Of Last December” and “Why Don’t You Move In With Me”, Roger McGuinn singing “Eight Miles High”, “Chestnut Mare” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” with Joan Baez and the whole of Dylan’s second set. This is a good release with excellent sound quality and makes one hope the rest of the show, including the Dylan, will surface from the Wolfgang’s Vault.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)