Looking For Heaven
My Back Pages - Live - Jackson - November 28, 1978
I’m Ready - Live - New York City - September 30, 1978
Shelter From The Storm - Live - Charlotte - December 10, 1978
Tangled Up In Blue - Live - Seattle - November 10, 1978
Ballad Of A Thin Man - Live - Charlotte - December 10, 1978
Maggie’s Farm - Live - Charlotte - December 10, 1978
Going, Going, Gone - Live - New York City - September 30, 1978
One More Cup Of Coffee - Live - Carbondale - October 28, 1978
Where Are You Tonight - Live - Columbia - December 9, 1978
I Want You - Live - New York City - September 30, 1978
Masters Of War - Live - Seattle - November 10, 1978
To Ramona - Live - Columbia - December 9, 1978
All Along The Watchtower - Live - Carbondale - October 28, 1978
All I Really Want To Do - Live - Jackson - November 28, 1978
Band Introduction - Live - Seattle - November 10, 1978
It’s Alright Ma - Live - Seattle - November 10, 1978
Forever Young - Live - Columbia - December 9, 1978
Alright, friends: I got too excited about this tour and just had to publish this as a bonus release.
Welcome to the bizarre road trip that is Bob Dylan’s 1978 Fall Tour. While portions of the tour have appeared on the earlier 1978 Thousand Highways compilation, The Road Is Long, it struck me that the tour is notable enough to have a full disc dedicated to it. The earlier compilation focused on songs that were unrepresented on the official At Budokan album; for this new set, any song was fair game. Let’s walk through them, one-by-one.
The instrumental “My Back Pages” was too excellent an opener to omit from the CD. While the final chorus proclamation was either inaudible or not present on other recordings, this version from Jackson presents it clearly.
“I’m Ready” is a swinging Willie Dixon cover. Prior to finding this clean tape from New York, I had not heard a high quality recording and it does not disappoint. It sounds surprisingly like Dylan’s later original composition, “Beyond Here Lies Nothin’.” It's also hard not to hear significance in the lines "I been looking for heaven / Ain't found it in this world at all" in light of later recordings from 1979 to 1981.
By the time that Bob Dylan’s 1978 “big band” tour had moved from Japan to the United States by way of Europe, the arrangements had developed significantly. “Shelter From The Storm” was the most changed - it has lost the operatic chorus overture and has instead been given a vocal chorus by the back-up singers.
“Tangled Up In Blue” is yet another beautiful performance of this classic song, introduced as a ballad about three people in love with each other all at the same time. This vocal is the sound of a man telling the truth.
The fifth song, “Ballad Of A Thin Man,” sounds like it was written for this tour. The horns and back-up singers raise the bombastic qualities of this menacing narrative. Plus Dylan’s bizarre introduction about the circus geek is just delightful.
“Maggie’s Farm,” the third and final song from December’s noteworthy Charlotte concert, is a truly rollicking version. The drum interlude seems unique to this night’s performance.
“Going, Going, Gone” is another track that had changed significantly since its appearance on the Spring Japanese tour. The tempo changes and altered lyrics have gotten much more precise.
Track eight, “One More Cup Of Coffee,” is sadly not one that includes this tour’s peculiar introduction. I recommend seeking it out, but the performance on this version was worth the loss. In particular, the rambling conga and piano duet during the song is clearer and stronger here than when it was played at later dates.
“Where Are You Tonight” is played following a self-deprecating remark concerning the sales of Street Legal. Though the track was not consistently performed throughout the year, it is on fire on this recording. The blaring organ is reminiscent of Dylan’s finest 1960s material.
On the other hand, “I Want You” is both a song that was consistently performed in 1978, and one that doesn’t sound a bit like Bob Dylan’s 1960s recordings. The song is performed here as a vocally centered ballad. The singer’s brief improvisation on the final chorus is reminiscent of his beautiful renditions of “Nobody ‘Cept You” from 1974.
“Masters Of War” is the prototype for how the song would be played until 1994’s acoustic revision, and is a scathing performance. The guitar work is so powerful that the band picks the song back up for a brief encore.
This iteration of “To Ramona” sounds like what the song could have been like on Dylan’s 1966 tour. The lyrics are spat out with gusto and swelling instruments fill in between verses.
“All Along The Watchtower,” which is often performed with driving guitar, is instead propelled here by a fiery violin. David Mansfield, as ever, is ready to rise to the occasion.
The rarely played “All I Really Want To Do,” is one of the greatest successes of Bob Dylan’s 1978 World Tour. Played from the beginning of the year to the end, it is pushed along by a buoyant saxophone and largely improvised lyrics. From night to night, they vary, but are generally along a pretty whimsical central line of being… ‘friends’ and nothing more.
I don’t tend to include band introductions, but this is an exception. Among the other wacky intros, Dylan introduces his back-up singers as his ex-girlfriend, current girlfriend, and fiancee. David Mansfield is described as knowing nothing about smoking dope, drinking whiskey, or chasing women. The singer sums up the more decadent aspects of the tour by following up this comment with the off-hand remark, “he’s learning, though.”
“It’s Alright Ma” is fascinating, in that it bears a striking resemblance to the arrangement played in 2007. Besides that, the song is quite a firecracker in its own right, sounding shockingly like you could be hearing a lost tape from 1976.
Finally, the set wraps up with a beautiful performance of “Forever Young.” As Paul Williams wrote, this song can sometimes sound a bit too anthemic, but comes straight from the heart on this night.
A note about the concerts: 1978 offers one of the more varied and eccentric sets of recordings, as far as sound profile is concerned. The setlist changed little from night-to-night, but the recordings sound radically different. My preference is for December 9’s Columbia show, as the sound is compressed into utter immediacy. The Carbondale show from October 28 is probably the clearest tape. November 28 would be better represented here, but is a bit quieter than the other nights and did not fit well between the other songs on this compilation.
For the avid collector, I strongly recommend seeking out complete tapes from the concerts represented in this compilation. It was a tight run between nightly performances, so the track was generally chosen from two to three worthy alternatives. It’s a pretty entertaining tour overall, descending into some pretty outrageously over-the-edge nights, before Dylan converted that energy into his powerful gospel shows the following year.