Bob Dylan

Phantoms of My Youth

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Although Bob Dylan officially documented his 1974 U.S. tour with the Band via the Asylum live release Before the Flood, that set captures little of the energy and character of the tour's highlights. Serious Dylan enthusiasts will find themselves far better served by the bootleg market, where ambitious releases like the three-disc Phantoms of My Youth better document the sheer scope of the lucrative but erratic trek. Assembling one version of every song performed during the 21-city, 40-date tour, the disc proves that the predictable and even tame set list of Before the Flood belies Dylan's true ambitions. Alongside warhorses like "All Along the Watchtower," "Like a Rolling Stone," and "Blowin' in the Wind," he regularly exhumed relative rarities like "As I Went Out One Morning," "Girl of the North Country," and "Song to Woody" as well. Moreover, the sheer irreverence and caustic wit of the music is gripping. Dylan grinds through his songbook with all the grace and respect of a buzzsaw, dead set on reinventing these canonical works for a new era and tossing out whatever fails to make the grade. Still, for all their shared history and combined brilliance, he and the Band never recapture the ferocity and kinetic excitement that characterizes their finest work both together and apart. With so much material to cover, Phantoms of My Youth contains as many clunkers as highlights, and may represent more music than your average listener needs to hear.