Bob Dylan – Avignon Revisité (Mercury Den Music MDM-001/002)

Avignon Revisité (Mercury Den Music MDM-001/002)

Palace des Sports, Avignon, France – July 25th, 1981

Disc 1 (59:05):  Saved, I Believe In You, Like A Rolling Stone, ‘Till I Get It Right [Regina Havis], Man Gave Names To All The Animals, Maggie’s Farm, Girl From The North Country, Ballad Of A Thin Man, In The Summertime, Shot Of Love, Walk Around Heaven All Day [Carolyn Dennis], The Times They Are A-Changin’, Let’s Begin, Lenny Bruce

Disc 2 (67:57):  Slow Train, Solid Rock, Just Like A Woman, Saved By The Grace Of Your Love [Willie Smith], Watered Down Love, Jesus Is The One, Heart Of Mine, When You Gonna Wake Up, Forever Young, In The Garden, Blowin’ In The Wind, It Ain’t Me Babe, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.  Bonus track:  Mr. Tambourine Man (from audience tape)

Avignon Revisité is the premier release on the Bob Dylan dedicated Mercury Den Music label.  They chose to release the Avignon show, one of the unique recordings of Dylan available.  Avignon is the final show from the 1981 tour of Europe.  It is a very clear and power soundboard recording that was previously released on True Stories (Meteor Front Row FM 2107) in 1994 and on Avignon (Moonlight 9517/18) the following year.  Part of “Shot Of Love” was released officially on John Hammond:  From Bessie Smith To Bruce Springsteen in 1990.

The sound quality is the same as the older releases.  MDM’s mission is to repackage this noteworthy show for contemporary collectors.  The packing is nice with a booklet containing many photos from the tour.  Plus, MDM included “Mr. Tambourine Man” from an excellent audience recording from this show as a bonus track.

Unlike the other stops, Avignon didn’t begin with the gospel tunes.  “Gotta Serve Somebody” served s the opening number for the gospel shows starting in 1979, but Dylan experimented with other opening numbers during this month including “She Belongs To Me” and “The Times They Are A-Changing.” 

But the final two weeks settled upon “Saved,” an appropriate opening song in both lyrical content and it it’s energetic, up-tempo arrangement.  It was interrupted when a fan fell into the power grid and died.  Dylan and the band jammed while waiting for the power to return and started with “Saved” again.  Unfortunately that is all missing from the soundboard tape and isn’t included.  Rather, it starts with the second attempt at “Saved.”

What follows is a focused, blistering performance.  Dylan especially, after being on the road for several weeks, experiences hoarseness in his voice that adds to the poignancy in the performances.  The opening set works well with the segue into “I Believe In You” and “Like A Rolling Stone” before Havis has her song “‘Til I Get It Right.” 

“Girl From The North Country” is a bit of a mess, however.  The band behind Dylan sound out of tune and don’t know exactly what to play.  Before “Shot Of Love” Dylan says:  “we just made a new record before coming over here called ‘Shot Of Love.’ Oh, by the way, I’d like to thank, what’s their name? Edward, Edwin and Shirley Trucking. Nice young couple, they been following us all the way from Toulouse, France I think. Anyway we want to salute them and thank them a whole lot.  Well anyway, this is called ‘Shot Of Love.’ It’s the main title song. I hope they release it as a single, I’m not sure, but they might and they might not.”

Afterwards Carolyn Dennis has her number “Walking Around Heaven All Day” and is followed by Dylan singing “Time They Are A-Changin” solo.  While playing “Slow Train” the power goes out again (and since the tape deck was fed by the venue’s power supply the song cuts out abruptly).  “Mr. Tambourine Man” is played while waiting for the power to come back on and is captured on in the audience tape.

More Shot Of Lovesongs make up the latter part of the show before ending with “In The Garden.”  The encore set contains a nice “It Ain’t Be Babe” and a sped up reggae version of “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” with a blistering harp solo in the middle.

Avignon Revisité is certainly an interesting release that is worth having alone for the great show.  Having it in his sound quality is another plus.  It would have been nice if MDM edited in “Mr. Tambourine Man” into its proper position in the setlist instead of taking it on as a bonus.  That is an effective way some labels use to preserved he continuity of a performance.  Nevertheless this is a great debut on this new label. 

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