Hard Rain (1976)


 
1. Maggie's Farm 2. One Too Many Mornings 3. Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again 4. Oh, Sister 5. Lay Lady Lay 6. Shelter From the Storm 7. You're a Big Girl Now 8. I Threw it All Away 9. Idiot Wind

 

By the mid 1970's, it became apparent that when Bob Dylan would play live, not only would his performances not replicate his original recordings, but that he would radically change things up even, from tour to tour. This became obvious on his first live record, Before the Flood, and that trend continues on this record, released only three years later.

Like that first live album, Dylan doesn't really seem that concerned with putting on any type of immaculate show. No, that simply wasn't the style back then. Rock concerts were apparently an excuse to kick back and have fun. It should therefore not be fair to blame the artist when things sound very jumbled and hodge-podged. His band this time became known as The Rolling Thunder Review, and they were significantly different than The Band, which not only were featured on his last live album, but his back-up band that he would be associated with for close to a decade.

Although not regarded by most as anything terribly significant, this record, along with its companion piece Live 1975 ranks as one of my favorites. He never embarrasses himself, and the music stays true to how it was intended to sound, which depending how you see it, could have been decided fifteen minutes before the band took the stage. Some songs, no matter how they're tweaked, just can't sound as good as the originals. Lay Lady Lay for example, from Nashville Skyline was such an eclectic piece that it would probably sound horrible if he did try to match it perfectly. So, yes, it was pleasurable to hear it in the set (it's also on Before the Flood), yet repeated listens prove it's not as good as the original.

Then there are other songs, such as Maggie's Farm and I Threw It All Away (also, ironically from Nashville Skyline) that sound much more refreshed and, dare I say, better than the originals. When I hear those titles first pop into my head, it's these versions that I first hear. Safe to say, the whole album is just a matter of personal taste. Yes, it could be argued as inconsequential, and even though it might not be as good as the later released representation of performances from roughly the same period, Live 1975, it's still nice to have a nugget from a period that Dylan was making a lot of headlines for good reasons.

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