Sure, it’s the number of completion. Charlie Poole, too, and even Joan Baez. Let’s start with his band. So cheer up, folks – get this album (especially since it’s a double LP on one CD) and dig it as Bob’s ‘groove’ album.
bob dylan tour 2019 reviews – Q&A With Bill Flanagan
In an alchemic mix of fact and fantasy, Martin Scorsese looks back at Bob Dylan’s 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue tour and a country ripe for reinvention. Track listing: 1) Rainy Day Women #12 & #35; 2) Pledging My Time; 3) Visions Of Johanna; 4) One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later); 5) I Want You; 6) Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again; 7) Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat; 8) Just Like A Woman; 9) Most Likely You Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine; 10) Temporarily Like Achilles; 11) Absolutely Sweet Marie; 12) 4th Time Around; 13) Obviously Five Believers; 14) Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands.
Pretty ballads like ‘In The Summertime’ and ‘Every Grain Of Sand’ are very much listenable; ‘In The Summertime’, in particular, borrows a bit of its melodicity from John Wesley Harding (or Selfportrait? Lord knows I’m the only one not to be offended at that thought), and lets us recapture the humble little Zimmerman of old. As for ‘Every Grain Of Sand’, it is often considered a Dylan classic, but I find the song a bit too slow and plodding, if ultimately convincing. Not to mention that the main melody is just a re-write of the far superior ‘Shelter From The Storm’. Still, I’d take this song over the entirety of Saved – here we have the real Dylan, the man that I’ve always loved and respected, not a fake papier-mache gospelish clown.
Kidding aside, Dylan’s music these days is, more than ever, an acquired taste: It’s less voice of a generation” than voice of the Cryptkeeper,” with his larynx emitting sounds somewhere between Tom Waits and the undead. Ever since 2001’s Love and Theft, his songwriting has changed too, becoming more direct and accessible; some may even say boring. His latest album Tempest, however, is a remarkable breath of fresh air from an artist intent on staying relevant. The paint-by-numbers ragtime-and-bluesman that Dylan has become in the Aughts has given us his most inspired album in more than a decade, with a handful of epic, poetic story-songs recalling his endless lyrical fantasias of yore. I for one can’t wait to hear tunes like Early Roman Kings” and the title track played alongside classics from his extraordinary back catalog.
When the song reached its climax, the band dropped out to let Gordon sing about the band’s African-American band director staring past the white-robed intruders: Looking straight ahead like there was somewhere better he was going, but this was the only goddamned way to get there.” As Gordon kept chanting, Straight ahead, straight ahead,” the band welled up around him, bolstering the momentum of both the determined director and the song itself, climaxing in a glorious guitar freak-out from Jackson that meant so much more thanks to his prior understatement.
Of course, I would be just a dirty liar if I said that everything on here is equally boring. Where the songs actually involve serious effort on Bob’s part, the results are, as usual, admirable. For one thing, my complaints do not refer to the title track – one of Dylan’s most well-known and respected anthems. The lyrics for ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’ are excellent and certainly capture the essence of the Sixties’ cultural revolution like nothing else. Whether they’re actual or not nowadays is a different question – probably depends on whether you have or don’t have a generation conflict in your neighbourhood. The vocal melody is fabulous, too: that majestic “humbly Old Testament-ish” intonation was only maybe recaptured by Bob a couple of times since (most notably on ‘Gates Of Eden’). But let’s not forget he takes a huge gamble here – the song is so big, so pretentious, so ambitious, that it’s either win all or lose all. Win all, I say. And then go on to lose it with the rest.
Perhaps the greatest oddity of this record is in that older (and more classic) songs sound worse than newer ones. My favourite numbers on here are two songs off Slow Train Coming, arranged with slightly more bombast and verve than in the studio, but that doesn’t worsen them none. ‘Slow Train’ is delivered as if Bob’s life depended on it – he seems to deliver every new line with a start, as if being possessed – a blasphemous kind of delivery, isn’t it, but it works, and I couldn’t care less about the rest. ‘Gotta Serve Somebody’, with (so it seems) a bit of improvisation in the lyrics and shrill guitar blasts from Mr Garcia, is quite a nice treat as well. Hey, I know what you wanna ask me – no, no, relax, Bob hasn’t at all reverted back to the “born again” status. What do we have against these two songs, anyway? Two of the best songs from inarguably Bob’s best “Christian” album. Let’s honour good songwriting when we see some.
Bingham is one of a select group of people (along with Bob Dylan) to win a Grammy, Golden Globe and an Oscar. Bingham’s was for the track The Weary Kind” produced by T Bone Burnett for the acclaimed film Crazy Heart”. As it is an excellent piece of work I might as well add it here.
The rest of the songs is just generic recycled filler. I mean, I liked ‘Let’s Stick Together’ when Bryan Ferry was performing it on the same-titled album – with a creative brass arrangement and a wonderful vocal delivery. Dylan just takes the bare bones, throws on a completely meaningless guitar arrangement and sings the song with so much detachment that it’s obvious: just about any kind of cover could have taken this song’s place, and Bob still wouldn’t give a damn. And what’s with the ugly synth-backed whining on ‘When Did You Leave Heaven?’ Miserable.
Not letting the negativity stop him, Dylan launched into his new amplified single, Like A Rolling Stone”. Following an unpopular opener with an unfamiliar tune further angered the nay-sayers in the audience. Not only was Dylan playing electric, he was apparently going to be playing songs they hadn’t even heard yet. Managing only one more song, Dylan and the band left the stage to growing hostility, as even those cheering him began to turn against him for leaving the stage so soon. Yarrow implored Dylan to return, and after a few minutes, the singer-songwriter returned to the stage—alone, with an acoustic guitar.
Oh, but you might actually ask of me why the heck are you supposed to enjoy it. “Surely”, you’ll say, “back in 1964, still fettered by the guitar-harmonica handcuffs, Bobbie had about as much free choice to vary his catalog as a Christian has to worship the crescent?” Well, yes. The songs you’re gonna be a-hearin’ do not differ much from their studio counterparts. In fact, they’re hardly different at all; mostly they can just go off at a slower pace, especially the newly-written ones, probably because Bob was afraid of forgetting the lyrics – or because he was so intent on getting his lyrics loud and clear in front of the audience. (Yep, big difference here from those later times when he was so certain every member of the audience knew every lyric by heart already, it gave him that great chance of cramming fifty words into five seconds to beat the Morse code). ‘It’s Alright Ma’, for instance, takes all of ten minutes to reach the end (the studio version is slightly over seven).
The best thing, however, is Bob himself. Like on Before The Flood, most of the time he “shouts” out his lyrics – but never really “overshouts” them out. Instead, he just delivers each and every song with a classy punch, excluding the smaller acoustic subsets of the show, where he laudably quiets down to give stuff like ‘Simple Twist Of Fate’ a more personal touch. But even when he does a serious vocal reinterpretation of a song, it works: thus, ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ is turned into something resembling a war march rather than a solemn folksy epic, and in this context Bob yelling out the lyrics simply conveys a different impression – there’s a blunt, straightforward, brave-sounding menace and swagger here that’s obviously less subtle than in the original but has an independent charm of its own, and don’t forget the magnificent guitarwork in addition.
Well, here goes. Seeing that, like you know, everybody who really mattered – which, in Bob’s opinion, sort of excluded Pete Seeger, I guess – was playing plugged at the time, and seeing no bright future in pure folkish delight, and being by nature that sort of nasty guy who likes to wreck boundaries rather than worship them, Bob makes a quick shift, grabs himself a Fender or a Gibson and records a complete album side of fully electrified compositions. Still a treading of water, of course, since Side B is completely acoustic; nevertheless, it was a huge gamble, as it nearly cost Bob his fame at that particular moment, and up to this time remains as one of the bravest, most radical decisions in rock music – perhaps Dylan’s funny self-comparison with Columbus on ‘Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream’ is not as unmotivated as you would have thought the other day.
However it couldn’t have been. Feel like it was a guy who looked, and sounded like bob dylan. However he played his own songs. You think people pay good money to go see a concert to listen to some of the hits. At least one or two. The songs that put a person or band on the map. No you can apparently go to a show of a classic rock god, and hear 100% songs you’ve never heard before. I understand an artist getting their new stuff out. Also playing things on albums not normally heard. Tho you’ve got to finish with something good. Something the crowd went to see. Something that gets everyone singing along. Kept expecting that last encore. Where he’d come out and play at least one hit. Nope he walked off, the lights went up, and he left nearly everyone disappointed.
Song-wise, standouts include “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” from 1973’s film soundtrack Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid; Planet Waves’ “Forever Young”; and 1975’s “Hurricane,” a return to activism form inspired by boxer Rubin Carter’s incarceration. 1975’s Blood On The Tracks also ranks among his best records, while 1978’s contemporary-sounding, (almost) straightforward Street-Legal incorporated prominent female backing vocals and saxophone.
For Hale — known for supplying string arrangements to diverse pop recordings by the likes of Jamiroquai, Charlotte Church, Kylie Minogue and Susan Boyle, as well as theatrical productions of Tootsie,” Strictly Ballroom” and Guys and Dolls” and the Fifty Shades Darker” soundtrack — being given carte blanche regarding what they would with the source material was both liberating and terrifying.
Dylan’s penchant for tweaking and reinvention would continue in the ’70s, leading to hit-or-miss (and, much later, significantly diminished) commercial and critical returns. Still, this chameleonic approach mythologized his raconteur-like persona and exemplified his literary bent, as he produced some of his densest, most interesting material.
But the rest – well, the rest just sends all kinds of possible shivers down my spine. I really don’t know why, but these melodies are good – not as great as those on Desire, but not really worse and maybe even better than on Street Legal. They have some real hooks, they are tight and snappy, and they all just rule. Perhaps it’s because Bob is aided by Mark Knopfler (who actually makes at least one song, ‘Precious Angel’, sound like vintage Dire Straits? Who knows? Or maybe he is aided by Jesus in person? Rather by Mark, I think; there’s really quite a bit of Dire Straits musical influence throughout, and I’d bet you anything that if only Mark had hanged out with Bob a little longer, perhaps Saved wouldn’t have turned out to be such an awful disaster.
Bob Dylan – The Day I Was There contains over 400 eyewitness accounts from fans who saw Dylan live in concert and worked with the great man. Available in print and all digital formats. This new series of 12 carefully curated graphics features some of Dylan’s most sought-after images, revealing an honest picture of America as seen through the songwriter’s eyes.
Only my girlfriend. I strummed my guitar and we’d make up new lyrics to other songs. I was playing in rock and roll bands around town too, but somewhere along the way I had had an epiphany. I had heard Lead Belly and Josh White and that changed everything.
The set-closing Gotta Serve Somebody” was recast as a full-tilt rocker. The encore included the classic Ballad of a Thin Man,” but rather than end the night with another obvious choice, Dylan opted for a bluesy version of It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry.” The vocal bray that is often imitated and mocked by nonfans was in full effect for that one. But Dylan, old master that he is, can make that work for him as well.
And yet, even this newly-found straightforwardness has its limits: Dylan immediately throws us into the illogical, absurd world of ‘As I Went Out One Morning’, a song in which the protagonist goes to visit Tom Paine, gets caught by a seductive girl and is only rescued from her clutches by Mr Paine himself at the very last moment. And hoopla, suddenly the mystery is right there in the air, and even Bob’s voice descends from a happy whiny tone into a deeper, grumblier, prophetic tone as he tells the story of his misery: ‘I offered her my hand – She took me by the arm – I knew that very instant – She meant to do me harm’. Notice the utmost care that Bob inserts into every single word, especially at the end of each line – the magic is stunning. Till this very day, the song remains a complete mystery to me, as I don’t really get the message, nor do I get any particular mood or general idea from it; but hey, we all need a little mystery in our lives.
Often at his best when seemingly being most capricious, this is a man who swum against the tide in the mid-60s when he insisted on his right to work with musicians such as Mike Bloomfield, The Band and the Nashville A-team, as well as side trips with his old friends Grateful Dead, Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers, and George Harrison in The Traveling Wilburys His Never Ending Tour means that while he’s seldom available to the media, he is often within touching distance of his fans. Among his many accolades are 12 Grammy Awards, one Academy Award and the 2016 Nobel Prize In Literature. Though he refused to accept in person, Dylan sent a gracious speech stating, I too am often occupied with the pursuit of my creative endeavours.” Amen to that.
mostly lyrics left over when we were recording all those Basement Tapes songs. Track listing: 1) Wiggle Wiggle; 2) Under The Red Sky; 3) Unbelievable; 4) Born In Time; 5) T.V. Talkin’ Song; 6) 10,000 Men; 7) 2 X 2; 8) God Knows; 9) Handy Dandy; 10) Cat’s In The Well.
I have to warn you, though: At Budokan got perhaps the biggest lambast from critics since the unhappy days of Selfportrait, and it still remains one of the most universally despised records that Dylan ever put out. And once again, as in the case of Selfportrait, words fail me. Definitely, this is not what the fans would be expecting from Dylan; where in 1970 they were offended with the man being too lightweight and ‘corny’, here they are offended by the fact that he dares to ‘suck the life out’ of his classics, reducing them to Las Vegas-type schlock and eliminating that genial spontaneity and freshness that made his earlier live performances and albums so inspirational. If you’re necessarily demanding spontaneity, improvisation and ‘band freedom’, this is not your bet. But I say: “SWELL!” We’ve already heard ‘unconventional’ Dylan before; let us now turn around with the man and see how well does ‘conventional’ Dylan work.
His vast influence on music is matched only by Elvis Presley and The Beatles , (and even the Beatles’ shift toward introspective songwriting wouldn’t have happened without his towering influence). Dylan’s gift was to marry poetic lyrics with catchy tunes, and as a vocalist, he broke the notion that a singer must have a conventionally good voice in order to perform, redefining the vocalist’s role in popular music in the process.
Born Robert Allen Zimmerman, on 24 May 1941, in Duluth, Minnesota, the young Bob was a rock’n’roll fanatic who moved into folk in order to mine deeper, darker moods. After becoming a hit on the coffee house circuit in Minneapolis, he moved to New York City in 1961 and made contact with his idol and early muse Woody Guthrie. Tapping into a scene popularised by Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Dylan played the clubs in Greenwich Village and shared digs and stages with Dave Van Ronk, Fred Neil, Karen Dalton, Odetta and the Irish musicians The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem.
Over the years he’s made albums that were praised as the greatest albums of all time (sometimes unjustly, but who can tell?); albums that were trampled over as the most horrible trash in the world (sometimes unjustly, but who can tell?); and albums that were both. He’s had so many ‘peak periods’ and ‘down periods’ throughout his career that it is not even possible to discuss him in terms of peaks and downs. The truth is that Bob Dylan is a genius. And an absolute genius at that; a talent of such a stature it’s bound to shine through even in his least inspired oeuvres. He never really thought too much, nor too carefully, about the making of his songs. He just simply wrote down things that flew through his head.
Plus, on a couple of tracks Bob even dares to rock out! No, I mean really rock out, not the feeble pseudo-rockin’ jello of Saved, but some real edgy rock, like in ‘The Groom’s Still Waiting At The Altar’ (generic, but credible and impressive blues workout), and on the jazzier rocker ‘Trouble’, which is so minimalistic I could have sworn he’d called in Mark Knopfler to produce it again, but turns out that he didn’t. And ‘Dead Man Dead Man’ actually is in a reggae tempo, which means the diversity factor is back as well.