"Hardly likely to convert Dylan doubters, but it's an interesting curio all the same": Bob Dylan: The Complete Budokan 1978

Dylan's 1979 live album Bob Dylan At Budokan expanded, featuring two full shows from the famed Budokan arena in Tokyo

Bob Dylan: The Complete Budokan 1978 album art
(Image: © Sony Music)

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Bob Dylan At Budokan took a critical kicking when it was released in 1979. While a jaunty Mr Tambourine Man complete with Steve Douglas’s dancing flute is still disconcerting, perhaps the press were being a bit hard on Bob, although what those same writers would make of a previously unreleased supper-club instrumental of A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall is anyone’s guess. 

There’s a touch of Elvis In Vegas about these dense, big-band arrangements. Love Minus Zero/No Limit could be a distant cousin of Burning Love, but it’s then-new songs such as Is Your Love In Vain? from Street-Legal and groovy Dr John-ish updates of Oh, Sister and One More Cup Of Coffee (Valley Below) from Desire that come off best. 

While this expanded (two full shows from the famed Budokan arena in Tokyo) collection isn’t quite the revelation that the 1999 remix of Street-Legal was, the sound is much improved from the original, and, once you bypass a reggaed-up Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right that would test even the most devoted Dylanite, you’ll find nuggets worth panning for, such as a dripping-with-regret I Threw It All Away and a beautifully ragged Just Like A Woman. Why The Man In Me, on which Dylan delivers some real soul, wasn’t on the original album is a mystery. 

The Complete Budokan 1978 is hardly likely to convert Dylan doubters, but it’s an interesting curio all the same.

Pat Carty

Pat Carty is a writer for Irish monthly music and politics magazine Hot Press. You'll also find him at The Times, Irish Independent, Irish Times and Irish Examiner, and on radio wherever it's broadcast.