"Hard Rain" was Bob Dylan
's second officially released live recording
. It is taken from two 1976 concerts with the Rolling Thunder Revue
. There are nine songs on the record, four of them are taken from the 5-16-76 show in Fort Worth
, and the remainder are from the 5-23-76 show in Fort Collins
. The record seems to be cut-and-pasted back and forth between the two shows.
"Hard Rain" is one of Dylan's overlooked masterpieces. It was recorded at the tail end of his 1970s career renaissance, when his singing voice was at its sharpest and most expressive. Many of the selections come from "Blood on the Tracks" (1975), and the rest are radical re-arrangements of some of his more obscure 1960s work. Dylan is backed by a large band that includes former David Bowie lead guitarist Mick Ronson. The sound is best described as ramshackle. Dylan has a tendency to simply begin songs without warning, leaving the rest of the band to fall in behind him. The record is an emotionally draining experience, due to the song selection and the extreme rancor and bitterness that comes through in every note sung by Dylan, who was in the process of being divorced from his wife Sara at the time. Even a song such as "Lay Lady Lay", originally recorded as an innocuous little love song, is given a strange, lurching arrangement, and a scenery chewing vocal. In short, this record is the sound of Dylan at the height of his improvisational powers.
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
Bob Dylan--Vocals and Guitar
Mick Ronson--Lead Guitar on some songs
T-Bone Burnett--Guitar and Piano
Steven Soles--Guitar and Backing Vocals
Rob Stoner--Bass and Backing Vocals
Howie Wyeth--Drums and Piano
The Rolling Thunder Revue also featured performances, both solo and in duets with Dylan, by Joan Baez, Roger McGuinn, and Bobby Neuwirth, though none of them appear on the official recording. Bootlegs from this tour, which began in November of 1975 and ran until May of 1976, are not difficult to come by, and contain more complete versions of the concerts, with the expected loss in sound quality. One exceptional show was the 12-8-75 benefit for Hurricane Carter, at Madison Square Garden, which featured appearances by Baez, Neuwirth, Joni Mitchell, and Robbie Robertson of The Band. The 1975 shows tend to be more light-hearted than the '76 shows, though the drunkenly ferocious 1975 version of "Just Like a Woman" must be heard to be believed.