|Released April 23, 1979|
Live at Budokan is a collection of songs Dylan played on his tour of Japan in February and March 1978. These concerts were famously known as Dylan's "lounge act" phase. Donning white jumpsuits and eye liner, it seemed his road show took inspiration from Neil Diamond and Dylan's recently departed hero, Elvis. Bill Murray could've been the opening act!
Dylan spent a good portion of 1978 touring, on what many cynically dubbed the "alimony tour." The grueling schedule took its toll on Dylan's voice and the shows varied in quality. With a full band and backup singers, the Dylan of 1978 favored grandiosity over spontaneity.
Budokan is strictly for Dylan completists. Once the novelty wears off these songs leave little impression. "Maggie's Farm" seems static and harmless. "All I Really Want to Do" sounds like a late 70s sitcom theme. "Oh Sister" is ersatz reggae. In fact most of the album are ersatz versions of Dylan's own songs.
Maybe I am missing the point and there is a brilliance I'm missing. Maybe.
Rock critic Robert Christgau pointed that beneath all the schmaltz and convoluted arrangements on the Budokan LP - the songs are still powerful. That is true.
But there are nice moments: "Forever Young" and "It's All Right Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)". The latter song sounds like a megachurch hymn (I doubt megachurches would ever play that one though).