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Bob Dylan

Live 1975: The Bootleg Series Volume 5 (Columbia)

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This series is not as revelatory as the 58 tracks on volumes 1-3, not as revolutionary as the 14 on volume 4, but more rewarding than its predecessors nonetheless -- because it marks the spot separating Essential Dylan and Disposable Zimmerman.

Before Bobby Z. hooked up with his Rolling Thunder Revue, an all-star and small-star hootenanny hodgepodge ranging from Joan Baez and Roger McGuinn to Mick Ronson and Scarlet Rivera, he was suffocated by self-made myth. The tours suffered -- especially a 1974 reunion with the Band -- and the artist suffered more; after he'd spilled his Blood on the Tracks, what was there left to sacrifice for an audience that craved martyr over musician? Nothing, which is how he ended up cobbling together this traveling band -- Rivera, the violinist, was invited to the limo after Dylan saw her walking the N.Y.C. streets with her fiddle in tow. Taking the new band into the studio and on the road, they'd bend some new stuff and break some old stuff, till all the legends lay shattered on the stage like Granny's porcelain dolls.

Those who prefer the studio calm of Desire (from which many of these songs were taken) miss the point of Live 1975. It isn't the best live Dylan (that's volume 4), but the most alive live Dylan. He got out of the way and let others play -- so willing was he to torch the history books and start all over again. He was rejuvenated and maybe entirely reborn: Soon after the '75 tour, Dylan would find God, get saved, and subsequently end up crucified.

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