THE COMPLETE BUDOKAN 1978
The original Bob Dylan At Budokan album came out in 1979, featuring 22 select tracks from the 56 he played on back-to-back nights in Tokyo, Japan during his year-long 1978 tour. Sandwiched between Street Legal in 1978 and Slow Train Coming later in 1979, it was generally panned by critics those many years ago, but with the passage of time and a fuller understanding of Bob Dylan’s fascinating trajectory as a musician, the new The Complete Budokan 1978 comes as a welcome addition to his vast discography for the most devoted fans, providing a more extensive glimpse into a period of transition for one of the most significant artists of our time.
Similar to Shadow Kingdom, released in June of 2023 but recorded in early 2021, The Complete Budokan 1978 demonstrates the fluidity of Dylan’s great art, which he has spent a lifetime tweaking, revising, and renovating, sometimes to the point of unrecognizability. For instance, with the addition of some steamy saxophone work, “You’re a Big Girl Now” from 1975’s Blood On The Tracks is transformed from a song of delicate longing into something more sultry, the narrator less wistful and more enchanted, a combination of horn and piano that seems to change the entire meaning of the song, as if Bob Dylan were being backed by the E-Street Band. When Street Legal was released in early 1978, the inclusion of gospel-style backing vocals and horns marked a noticeable shift in Dylan’s sound from 1976’s Desire album, abandoning the more anxious, violin-tinged style for something more sped up, brighter—closer to reggae—and much of that is carried over into the performances captured on this latest release.
In the end, The Complete Budokan 1978 is a comprehensive, unabridged picture of Dylan’s first great revisioning of his early catalogue (Shadow Kingdom being the second), and for that alone it is worthwhile and interesting, even if the original Bob Dylan At Budokan can provide a similar, less extensive glimpse into this same transitory period. While both compilations can be said to act as the semi-colon between Desire and the religious turn of 1979’s Slow Train Coming, the question is, really, how deep do you want to go?
SPILL ALBUM REVIEW: BOB DYLAN – THE COMPLETE BUDOKAN 1978