Craving the live recordings of a favourite artist is expected, but there is a whole new level to those featuring Bob Dylan. The Complete Budokan offers a real treat to listeners spending their days scraping away at the internet, trying to piece together what they can of legendary performances. No more shall they suffer, as the collected works of Dylan in Japan are here for the taking, all four hours of it. Four discs worth of adapted songs, live performances and extra pieces to extend the Bootleg tape of old. Those saxophone additions to A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall, now an instrumentally charged piece, showcase a Dylan of today, the big band appeal of his live presentations is not lost on this piece from over four decades ago.
Although a deflated Mr. Tambourine Man filters through, there is much to love about The Complete Budokan 1978. An album of this length and setting brings with it a supreme and well-nurtured calmness. Dylan is a defiant titan when it comes to setting a tone – and this saxophone-heavy creation is a real treat. It allows the deeper cuts to stand tall on their own. The likes of I Threw It All Away are essential though are paired with twee and sloppy feelings on Love Minus Zero / No Limit. Tonal whiplash is a surprise though does weigh in on The Complete Budokan 1978, which begins suffering under the weight of its quality from time to time. But those flickers of harmonica work from Dylan hark back to the perceived glory days of the 1960s and stare down the barrel of what is to come. Religious records and sloppy 1980s pieces are not far off after this recording spectacle.
Sporadic bits of brilliance filter through – from the ghostly Ballad of a Thin Man to the saxophone spectacle of I Shall Be Released. Parts of You’re A Big Girl Now sound as though they are headed somewhere exciting, but the moody tone taken, the bluesy style which dominates Dylan’s concerts now, is featured fluently and with great pride throughout this release. Deep, deep cuts from the early 1960s feature throughout and little nods from Dylan, thanking those in attendance for humouring his trip down memory lane, are as touching as they are humanising. All I Really Want To Do and Tomorrow Is A Long Time are neatly placed in this compendium of quality songs. A smooth beat on Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right picks it all up and brings it back together – a consistency which had been lacking in the bulk of this bootleg.
It is never too late to turn the tide though and for Dylan, this comes in the additional tracks sprinkled neatly throughout the latter half. The Complete Budokan is a certain favourite for those desperate to hear the late-70s appearances of Dylan. It turns out they are somewhat similar to that of his current tour. A fascinating turn for those listening in intently, and a thoroughly enjoyable experience for those with a few hours to kill. What The Complete Budokan gains in depth and length it loses in variety. Shelter from the Storm repeated twice and identical. Recordings from separate nights of the show are all well and good but the consistency Dylan displays gives little variation to the performances at the heart of this piece. Enjoy listening to the same concert back to back? Enjoy The Complete Budokan then.