Search - Bob Dylan - 1975-1981 Rolling Thunder and The Gospel Years on DVD

Bob Dylan - 1975-1981 Rolling Thunder and The Gospel Years
Bob Dylan - 1975-1981 Rolling Thunder and The Gospel Years
Actors: Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Scarlet Rivera, Jerry Wexler, Regina McCrary
Genres: Music Video & Concerts
NR     2006     4hr 0min

Director & Producer Joel Gilbert (Bob Dylan 1966 World Tour The Home Movies, 2003 and Bob Dylan World Tours 1966-1974Through the Camera of Barry Feinstein, 2005) weaves the story of this monumental period of Dylans life an...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Scarlet Rivera, Jerry Wexler, Regina McCrary
Genres: Music Video & Concerts
Sub-Genres: Pop, Rock & Roll, Dylan, Bob, Classic Rock, Other Music
Studio: Mvd Visual
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 04/04/2006
Original Release Date: 01/01/2006
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2006
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 4hr 0min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Only Diehard Dylan Fanatics Will Sit Through This
Lightman | New York | 04/09/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)

I'm one so I did...

This thing is four hours long and some of it is pretty hard to take.

We see Dylan impersonator Joel Gilbert traipsing about the country apparently also attempting to impersonate a journalist. Unfortunately, it doesn't work.

The use of primitive and amateurish graphic effects during the interviews is unbelievably annoying. A yellow rubber ducky swims across the screen quacking to illuminate Reuben Carter's comment that he took to boxing "like a duck takes to water". When he mentions that boxing was a profession for which he was paid, hundred dollar bills flash before our eyes. As Gilbert asks Carter the deep question "what percentage of boxing is psychology?" the image of Sigmund Freud appears and disappears.

Enough already! And at this point we are only a few minutes into this four hour marathon.

Those true diehards who are able to keep on keeping on are eventually rewarded with some interesting perspectives. Claudia Levy describes theatrical aspects and the staging of the Rolling Thunder concerts. Scarlet Rivera shares in her own words the oft repeated story of Dylan discovering her as she was walking down a Manhattan street with nothing to distinguish her but her violin case and her exotic appearance. Rob Stoner talks about his role maintaining order in the recording studio and on tour...

But it is the interviews from the period of Dylan's conversion to Christianity and its aftermath that are most interesting. Vineyard Christian Fellowship pastor Bill Dwyer describes Dylan as a student in his Bible study class. San Francisco Chronicle writer Joel Selvin characterizes the betrayal felt by many fans blindsided by the Christian content of the 1979 tour. Legendary producer Jerry Wexler speaks to the musical excellence of Slow Train Coming. And back up singer Regina McCrary resonates as she gives glory to the presence of the Holy Spirit in the middle of it all.

Too bad that at the end we must put up with the blather of self proclaimed Dylanologist AJ Weberman. The inclusion of the opinions of Weberman, who made it his business to sift through Dylan's garbage in the Village in the early 70's, adds nothing of value and certainly underscores that this is, in fact, a "totally unauthorized documentary".
Dylan's Rolling Thunder and "Jesus Years"; The questions are
Glen G. Boyd | Seattle, WA USA | 04/29/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)

"DVD Review: Bob Dylan: Rolling Thunder and The Gospel Years 1975-1981

So let's talk about Mr. Bob Dylan for a minute.

I have always found Dylan's so called "Jesus Years"...the period from 1979 to 1981 when he did his so-called "Born Again" album be one of the most fascinating of his career. And I could never figure out just exactly why it upset so many people at the time.

Well at least apart from the obvious anyway.

Dylan was (and of course still is) Jewish. His audience was largely made up of hippies and other counter culture types who had come up with Dylan through the sixties as pretty much the poster boy for everything "anti-establishment" during those turbulent years. These we're folks who weren't necessarily ready for a new "700 Club" model Bob Dylan...particularly at a time coinciding with the dawn of the Reagan era.

Fine. I can accept that.

But what always bothered me about that was that Dylan at the time was simply doing what Dylan as an artist had always done. He was speaking what he saw to be the truth at the time, and doing so in a particularly forceful fashion.

Once you get past the actual subject matter, how least in terms of the something like say, "When You Gonna Wake Up?" from Slow Train Coming, from something like "Idiot Wind" from Blood On The Tracks or "Ballad of a Thin Man" from Highway 61 Revisited?

How different was "The Gospel Show" Dylan toured in 1979, from the way he horrified the folkie purists at Newport in 1965 by strapping on an electric guitar?

The answer is it wasn't any different at all.

Dylan was simply doing what he always has done. Dylan was simply following his heart through his art. He was being consistent. And, bottom line, he was being Dylan...which meant, once again, pretty much putting his career on the line at the time. Despite the suspicions and generally prevailing anti-Christian biases (and lets call a spade a spade here) of the day, Dylan chose to put his personal and artistic integrity considerable risk.

That, at least to me, is one of the things that makes Bob Dylan such a special artist. It is what makes Dylan...well, Dylan. And personally, I find those so-called "Jesus Years" to be one of the most fascinating periods of his career.

And there is now finally a DVD out which chronicles this most fascinating period...along with the equally interesting "Rolling Thunder" period which immediately preceded it.

So lets get the flaws out of the way first. Bob Dylan: Rolling Thunder and the Gospel Years, clocking in at some four hours in just way too long to hold the interest of anyone but the most ardent, hardcore "Dylanologist".

Being an unauthorized documentary which includes absolutely no Dylan music doesn't help matters either.

It does however offer fascinating new insights into this most fascinating phase of Dylan's career.

The filmaker is a guy named Joel Gilbert who, in his day job, fronts a Dylan tribute band called Highway 61 Revisited. The guy is an obvious fan...which makes for some borderline humorous moments as he goes from Dylan's hometown in Hibbing, Minnesota to Muscle Shoals to New York and California dressed and couiffed as pretty much a late seventies Dylan clone to get his interviews with the people who were actually there.

But the interviews themselves are quite revealing. Rubin "Hurricane" Carter talks about his prison visits with Dylan and the legendary song Dylan recorded on the Desire album which eventually helped him earn his freedom from a bogus murder conviction.

Pastor Bill Dwyer from the Vineyard Christian Church in California speaks candidly for the first time about Dylan's Christian conversion. Legendary record producer Jerry Wexler talks about the recording sessions for both the Slow Train Coming and Saved albums.

And San Francisco critic Joel Selvin talks openly about the "God Awful Gospel" review he gave Dylan's shows at The Warfield Theatre on the infamous "Gospel Tour" ("I gave him "short shrift", he now admits in retrospect).

For the hardcore Dylan fan, much is revealed here. Rambling Jack Elliott talks about the "carnival atmosphere" of the Rolling Thunder Tour...and later reveals his hurt at not being asked out again for the tours second leg. Violinist Scarlett Rivera talks about her chance meeting with Dylan on a New York Street and how it led to her being invited to be on the sessions for Desire, and eventually to be part of his touring band for "Rolling Thunder".

And then there's the clips from that "Born Again" tour. When a fan yells "rock and roll", Dylan replies "if you want rock and roll you can go see Kiss...and let them carry you down into the pit".


In retrospect, Dylan's so called Gospel period produced one classic album, Slow Train Coming. It's followup, Saved...which was basioally a recording of the fire and brimstone material he had been doing on the "Slow Train", sadly, a largely forgotten album that still has at least one side of great songs. Shot of Love, the final album of the "Gospel Trilogy" is remembered mainly for one great song...the lovely "Every Grain Of Sand".

This DVD is not for everybody. But for the hardcore Dylan fan looking to gain new insights into one of the strangest periods of his career, it answers a ton of questions.

Why does Joel have to be so silly?
Robert H. TAYLOR | Charlotte, NC USA | 08/02/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)

"This documentary is mostly fascinating, yet is peppered with moments of silliness. For the die-hardenest of Dylan fans, especially his mid-70's transformation(s), you will absolutely love how the director/interviewer (and "star") delves deep into this interesting yet elusive period by asking all the questions that fans like myself have always wanted to ask. Fortunately, he is able to interview a few key former Dylan associates, asking very interesting questions.

It's not a hugely star-studded list of interviewees that most everyday music fans would recognize, but to the Dylan devotees, Joel Gilbert (the filmmaker) couldn't have asked for anyone better, especially the heart-and-soul of the Rolling Thunder Revue, Rob Stoner and Scarlet Rivera. They both were incredibly forthright and insightful and revealed much about the behind-the-scenes goings-on during the infamous Rolling Thunder Revue. Stoner especially was very articulate and generous with his recollection of those whirlwind events.

Hurricane Carter is very engrossing and a just a wonderful interview, and many others are also wonderful interview subjects. Myself, I was always a closet fan of the "Hard Rain" album, even with the sub-par recording quality. I played that album just as much as any other. The passion and intensity Dylan was exuding during that tour was spine-tingling (just listen to that version of "Idiot Wind"). If I had the money or the resources, I also would have made a film like this. So, hats off to Joel for pulling it off and beating me to it!

However, as much as I loved the purpose of Joel's documentary, I had a hard time sitting through all the terribly distracting "clip art" images intertwined with the captivating interviews. I wish he would issue a "Director's Cut" or something where all of that garbage is edited out, like the cartoons of the rubber duckies and Christ and crucifixes, and just about every other silly image that he uses. It takes away from, and almost makes fun of, what I feel is a very serious subject. Dylan wasn't writing songs about partying or sex, or acting stupid, he was a serious artist during this period, and sang about turning his life over to Christ, the deep darkness of love lost, the struggle of the falsely imprisoned, or gunned-down gangsters seen as modern folk heroes. This is all deep subject matter, and doesn't deserve to sliced up with silly amateurish clip-art images. A good 30-45 minutes in total is devoted to these distractions, and displayed during intriguing interview segments. I would pay fifty bucks for a version that omits all this silliness and keeps the cameras rolling on the interview subjects instead. Again, more importantly, this is only my opinion, and I would still strongly encourage Dylan fans to buy this DVD. To all you casual Dylan fans, I would stay away from it.
More Revealing Than "No Direction Home"
Daniel Mackay | Eugene, Oregon | 01/25/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Please understand that I very much enjoyed Scorsese's documentary. However,
despite the wealth of footage it provided and the invaluable contribution of
Dylan on his first five years as a performing artist in New York and
stages across the world, what did it really contribute to our understanding of
the man and the artist?

Dylan's greatest period of onstage live performances is covered in this DVD. The Never Ending tour is incredible and the 1966 world tour sublime, but Dylan was clearly at his artistic and physical peak from 1975-1981. The strength of his vocal performances alone would support this assertion. Not to mention the steely eyed gaze and theatrical pacing of the Rolling Thunder Revue, or the fervor and anguish of the gospel shows. (I believe it was during the second tour in 1981 that the biographer Clinton Heylin claims Dylan permanently "blew out" his voice).

Yet what official record do we have of this period? The Rolling Thunder Revue is covered in print (two official books document it), and record (Bootleg Series volume 5 & "Hard Rain,"), but apart from his appearance in "Last Waltz," one will only find the film record of this period in bootleg copies of "Renaldo & Clara" and the "Hard Rain" television broadcast. The gospel years remain uncovered (at least until February's "Gotta Serve Somebody" DVD is released).

Enter "Bob Dylan: 1975-1981 Rolling Thunder & The Gospel Years." This is not a DVD to turn to listen to Dylan performance. As an "unauthorized documentary," Mr. Gilbert does not have the adequate licensing to feature Dylan's performances. Nevertheless, this DVD does fill a very important role: For the Dylan fan who is familiar with Dylan's material during this period, the interviews featured here add immeasurably to one's understanding of his art and life. In this sense, it adds to the record far more than Scorsese's documentary.

For those of you who have seen Mr. Gilbert's previous Dylan DVDs, his quirky sense of humor (which, I am pretty sure Dylan himself would appreciate) is intact. However, this DVD is head-and-shoulders above his previous work in terms of the deftness of his editing and the quality of the interviews. Concerning the interviews:

1)He has got some valuable subjects here:
Jerry Wexler, Rob Stoner, Scarlet Riviera, Ramblin' Jack, Regina
McCrary, and even Joel Selvin, the SF Chronicle writer who wrote the "Dylan's
Gospel God-Awful" review.
2)They are forthcoming with their insights into Dylan: Wexler reveals how
they recorded "Slow Train Coming" in the studio, Stoner talks at length
about how he put together the 1978 tour song arrangements, Scarlet
Riviera talks about her rehearsal, recording, and tour experience with
3)Kudos to Mr. Gilbert for the quality of his questions. No 60
Mins. Ed Bradley Interview syndrome here, his questions are intelligent and to the
point and, therefore, elict revealing answers.

In fact, the interviews lift up the whole project. They are of such worth, that I found
the cheezy cuts and cartoons more and more endearing so, by the end of
the four hour epic, I was really enjoying them! I'm left wondering what his
next project may be and how it will enrich our understanding of the most
important singer/songwriter of the 20th century. Mr. Gilbert has really taken his
filmmaking to a new level and, consequently, has left Dylan fans with a
great contribution to the record."