Bob Dylan

Bye Bye Johnny

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In 1986 radio syndication outlet Westwood One's In Concert series broadcast highlights from Bob Dylan's February 24 and 25 gigs at Sydney, Australia's Entertainment Centre. Given that the performances were recorded by a professional unit and issued to radio via CD, it's not surprising that the broadcast became a favorite among bootleggers, spawning at least half a dozen pirate releases. Bye Bye Johnny is one of the better black-market editions. As one would imagine, the sound quality is excellent, and the sleeve is tasteful, if rather bland. The music itself may be similarly summarized: good, but not necessarily great. In Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (who also step out front for a handful of numbers, most notably "Breakdown" and the title tune), Dylan boasts his most spirited and versatile backing unit in years, but he seems disengaged from warhorses like "Positively Fourth Street" and "Masters of War," as if he's exhausted all meaning and resonance from the lyrics. As Westwood One no doubt cherry-picked familiar hits instead of lesser-known compositions, it's impossible to judge the tour in question by Bye Bye Johnny alone, but there's little here to warrant further investigation.