Bob Dylan plans massive box set chronicling 1974 tour with The Band

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Christmas came early for Bob Dylan fans this week after the legendary singer-songwriter unveiled plans to release a massive box set chronicling his 1974 concert tour with The Band.

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Announced Tuesday, the 27-disc collection will feature 431 tracks and include full recordings of 27 of the 40 shows on that tour, including a gig at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens. Columbia Records/Legacy Recordings revealed the set will be released on Sept. 20.

Dylan’s 1974 tour marked his first outing in eight years and reunited him with The Band – who were formed in Toronto and backed the musician nearly a decade earlier. In the intervening years, The Band had become notable in their own right, playing Woodstock and releasing their own albums.

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Booked into arenas for the first time ever, Dylan and The Band performed 30 dates in 42 days (often playing two shows per day) before an average audience of 18,500. In front of those crowds, they brought an energy that Rolling Stone’s Ben Fong-Torres described as “searing and soaring, unified and precise…excellent in itself.” Music critic Robert Christgau compared the sound to Dylan “running over his old songs like a truck.”

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Fans looking for a less cumbersome package can opt for a three-album vinyl edition that will be pressed by Jack White’s Third Man Records as part of the company’s Vault subscription service.

But the release is strictly for Dylan completists. The 1974 Live Recordings will contain 21 different versions of Lay Lady Lay alone.

And even though it might seem staggering, at 27 discs The 1974 Live Recordings pales comparison to two other past releases. In 2013, Dylan unveiled a 47-CD complete album collection, and in 2016 the music great dropped a 36-CD set his 1966 tour with The Band.

According to a press release, the tour “kicked off on Jan. 3, 1974, at Chicago Stadium – the largest indoor arena in the world at the time it was built – with a tense and combative rip through ultimate deep-cut Hero Blues, an acoustic-gone-electric outtake from The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan sessions, that he had scarcely performed before – or since. Additional rarities – like a wildly-reinvented Ballad Of Hollis Brown, Song to Woody (not performed since 1962) and Planet Waves outtake Nobody ‘Cept You – would be well received in the tour’s first nights.”

“We were booed off of every stage in Europe,” The Band’s Robbie Robertson recalled to Newsweek of their previous run together. “What happened (on opening night) in Chicago is so reassuring for us.”

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