Here's welcome proof that Bob Dylan has returned to his performing senses. Fronting his crackerjack touring combo for an appearance on MTV's Unplugged, which aired last December, he abandons the cantankerous vocals and crabbed energy that have plagued his concerts in recent years and delivers a powerhouse set of mostly classic originals.
As at Woodstock '94, Dylan's relaxed singing and his group's expert swirl of folk, rockabilly and country create a soulful intensity reminiscent of his 1975 masterpiece Blood on the Tracks. Not surprisingly the glories of Dylan's timeless compositions shine through, from standards like "All Along the Watchtower" to less-heard vintage gems such as "Tombstone Blues."
Two songs from the 1989 Oh Mercy sessions are also showcased: "Shooting Star," which features a lilting pedal steel, and the bouncy outtake "Dignity," a typical Dylan gloss on the human condition that includes the lines, "Wise man lookin' in a blade of grass/ Young man lookin' in the shadows that pass/ Poor man lookin' through painted glass...for dignity." When Dylan approaches his own material with dignity, everybody's to the good. (Columbia)