I've been listening to a lot of 1978 Bob lately. One of my new discoveries is his only rendition on the '78 world tour of "Something There Is About You." It came during the very first show, in Tokyo on February 20. Why he dropped it is a mystery: the flowery orchestration works a lot better for this song than for a lot of others that stayed in the setlist all year.
It's one of his most delicate lyrics to begin with, a gentle nostalgic look at youth and love - he even mentions "old Duluth" - and on Planet Waves it's cast into a magnificent tide that seemingly only the Band could create. It sounds improvised, a spontaneous outpouring of music.
But the '78 arrangement manages to more than hold its own, flute trills and gospel choruses and mandolin flourishes combining with a stately beat and very Robertsonian guitar lines to create a contemplative lake stillness off of which Dylan can skip his vocal stones. It doesn't sound improvised - it's very carefully arranged and it sounds it - but it's a great arrangement, perfectly serving the lyric. And Dylan delivers a committed vocal, easily capturing the mood of the poetry, not erasing the Planet Waves version, but not letting you miss it either.
If I ran the zoo, this would certainly be on my multidisc representation of Dylan's work in 1978.