Mapleleaf Gardens 1975 (Heart Breakers HB924-1, 2)
Maple Leaf Garden, Toronto, ON, Canada – December 2nd, 1975
Disc 1 (53:25): When I Paint My Masterpiece, It Ain’t Me Babe, The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carrol, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, Romance In Durango, Isis, Blowin’ In The Wind, Wild Mountain Thyme, Mama You’ve Been On My Mind, Dark As A Dungeon, I Shall Be Released
Disc 2 (50:29): Mr. Tambourine Man, Tangled Up In Blue, Oh Sister, Hurricane, One More Cup Of Coffee, Sara, Just Like A Woman, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, This Land Is Your Land
The Rolling Thunder Review started as a tour of universities and mid-sized theaters in New England. But by the end they were playing in arenas to accommodate the interest. The final four concerts were booked at the Maple Leaf Garden in Toronto, the Forum in Montreal and the first Night Of The Hurricane at Madison Square Garden in New York. Both of the Toronto shows were taped and the first, on December 1st, has received more attention than the second. “Wild Mountain Thyme” is included on the vinyl Together 1975-76 (Reunion Records), a 1985 German release with Bob Dylan/ Joan Baez duets. On CD, “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” “Wild Mountain Thyme,” “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and “Hurricane” appear on Get Ready! Tonight Bob’s Staying Here With You (Great Dane 9010 A/B) along with material from the first Toronto show and the Boston evening show on November 21st and A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” “Blowin’ In The Wind,” “Wild Mountain Thyme,” “Mama You Been On My Mind,” “Mr Tambourine Man,” and “Tangled Up In Blue” are included on Flagging Down Double E’s (Razor’s Edge RAZ 014/15) along with material from the December 1st show and other rarities.
Heart Breakers released Mapleleaf Gardens 1975 in 1999 and this is the first silver pressed edition of the entire Dylan section portion of the show. The entire 195 show exists on tape, but the label is playing it safe by omitting the non-Dylan numbers which is a shame because Rob Stoner played the Desire outtake “Catfish” earlier in the set. The sound quality is a bit muffled but excellent and very enjoyable. There are minor cuts between some of the numbers. The front cover is an interesting photo of Dylan sacked out on the couch backstage, a photo Dylan and Baez on stage on the inside and a full band shot on the back. The label incorrectly labeled “Wild Mountain Thyme” as “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine” (which wasn’t played in this show).
“When I Paint My Masterpiece” to “Isis” comprises Dylan’s first set. “This next one’s for everybody” Bob Neuwirth says as they begin a very lazy and loose rendition of “When I Paint My Masterpiece.” They play “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” as a 12-bar blues and Dylan adds a line to the second verse, singing “I met Ronnie Hawkins and Gordon Lightfoot.” Afterwards violinist Scarlet Riviera comes on stage and Dylan introduces her by saying, “this is kind of a new tune. We want to bring out an extra special violin player now, Miss Scarlet Rivera. Hold on to your socks! Gonna dedicate this to Pancho Villa and of course Sam Peckinpah … Romance In Durango!” This and the following song from Desire “Isis” (dedicated to Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones) form the finale of Dylan’s first set, and both are played very light in Toronto, losing much of the intensity of other performances. The definitive live versions will come two days later in Montreal.
The next five songs form the Dylan/Baez duet portion of the revue. “Blowin’ In The Wind” sees them accompanied only by acoustic guitar, but the other four have the band playing behind them. The traditional Scottish folk tune “Wild Mountain Thyme” is performed for the fourth and final time on the 75 RTR and is dedicated to “Ian and Sylvia.” Dylan’s final set begins with two solo acoustic numbers, “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Tangled Up In Blue” sung in the same arrangement as in Montreal. “It’s nice to be in Toronto. It really is. It’s different up here to living in the United States for some reason, it’s God’s country” he says before “Oh, Sister.”
The lethargy from the early part of the show continues through this number and continues into the beginning of “Hurricane,” which he says should have been called “Eye Of The Hurricane.” Dylan cracks the whip three minutes into the song: “And though this man could hardly see / They told him that he could identify the guilty men….HIT IT” he shouts off mic. They band pick up the pace more but begin to lag again in the following song “One More Cup Of Coffee,” which is introduced as “the only underground song I know.” “Sara” is delivered with sincerity and conviction and after the song he commends the audience for sitting for five hours, “must be some kind of record.”
“Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” has the special Rubin Carter lyrics: “Mama wipe the tears out of my eye / I can’t see through them anymore / One of these days I got to see the sun rise / Feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door…Mama I can hear that thunder road / It’s going down to God’s distant shore / I can hear him calling to my soul / I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door” and the show ends with a rousing version of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” with McGuinn and Joni Mitchell taking verses. Overall this is a good but rather slow performance, but it is great having such an excellent recording from the Rolling Thunder Review pressed on silver. Heart Breaker could have improved this by issuing the entire concert which exists on tape, but having the Dylan performances make it worth having.