Monday, January 31, 2005

Bob Dylan Unplugged, the DVD, 1995

-incredible musicianship and sound fidelity.

For all of the songs, Bob's vocals are emotionally on point. Despite his objectively poor singing voice, the subtleties of emotion in Bob's voice are masterfull.

Bob's band is dressed pretty sharp too!

I must have listened to this one 50 times. At first, I kept waiting for the old songs, but after many listenings, I began to appreciate Shooting Star and Dignity.
And finally, Shooting Star was the only song I wanted to listen to. Interestingly, Bob talks about both of these songs in his recently released autobiography, Chronicles, Volume 1. He considers them outstanding lyrics, as I do.

The Songs:

Tomb Stone Blues
- a good number to start off a set with.
- wonderful folk, old-timey & bluegrass pickin' & rhythm, clear as a bell

Shooting Star - I love it. Emotionally on point. Dylan was always
consistent with the love songs. This version is far superior than the one on Oh Mercy.

All Along the Watchtower -- what.

The Times They Are a Changing - decent.

John Brown
- very, very Cold Mountain. It put me there.
- OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE. I would have said it was the best cut on the DVD until I was seduced by Shooting Star.
- a good story and an outstanding anti-war song.

Desolation Road
- played different than the original recording
- done with bright, almost carribean music, but with jaded
vocals -- very subtle contrast between the music and voice
that makes for a very fresh sounding song.

Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 -- I can't stand this song

Love Minus Zero / No limit - and no comments.

Dignity - nice! Is this another love song?

Knockin' on Heavens Door - good version

Like A Rolling Stone -- ho-hum. It's been overplayed.

With God on Our Side
- It sounds a lot less abstract than it did 20 years ago. Scary.
- another anti-war song

I would like to thank Brain Banho for loaning me the DVD to listen to.

Hippie Nostolgia

Over New Year's weekend I watched the documentary film, The Last Waltz on T.V. It is a film of the last concert given by the rock group called, The Band. They had been Bob Dylan's backup band for many years before playing independently. They were the only only rock band that I was truly a fan of. What grabbed me was how deep they were into American roots music and culture. That, and there music was more sophisticated than most other rock bands.

I am currently watching/listening to Woodstock, the directors cut.

There are several great performances on the Woodstock film, but the best
is the song done by Ten Years After. What surprised me was that
the song (I'm Going Home) is Rockabilly, just played very hard, loud, fast and intense, a long, totally blowout performance. Other than recognizing their name
as a legendary rock group, I know nothing about them. The lead singer
has superstar lady-killer charisma and looks written all over him.

Richie Havens was the perfect opening act. Can you believe
that Sha-Na-Na played at Woodstock? Their stage act in the film was
dorkville. Crosby, Stills, and Nash were perfect. Country Joe & the Fish, like all fish left out in the sun, stunk. Janice was Janice. She just about jumps right out of the T.V. screen into your living room. Joe Cocker was classic Joe Cocker. I always liked Canned Heat.

I was 13 when Woodstock went off. I lived about an hour and half from Woodstock/Bethel/Yasgur's farm. Had I ever gone, my parents would have disowned me, called the police and made an appointment with the parish priest to try and find out where they went wrong! All that probably in addition to getting whipped to hell with a leather belt.

I've been to the town of Woodstock two or three times. It's an affluent artsy-fartsy country town set in the Catskills, right off a Thruway exit. It's a nice place to stop in and have lunch.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Time Out of Mind - Bob Dylan, 1997

There must be other musicians who have listened to such a broad spectrum of American music as Bob Dylan has, but I don't think there is anyone who has absorbed and adapted as much of it into his own style as he. Indeed, I don't feel I appreciated the distinctness of some of the sounds from the American taproot, until I heard them in Bob Dylan's music. And that, my friends, is the mark of an artist.

In Time Out of Mind, Bob Dylan has used some sound styles from the 1950's. The recording was produced by the same person who produced Oh Mercy, but I lik ethe latter better. One critic has noted that the one constant throughout Bob Dylan's career has been his love songs, and most of the songs on Time Out of Mind are love songs. And on this recording, they one thing they all have in common is the theme of love gone sour.

Of the eleven tunes, Love Sick is the pick of the litter. In mood, message, and sound, the monotonically dark Love Sick is pure Screaming Jay Hawkins, just not quite as severe in the vocals. If you've ever heard the latter (I Put A Spell on Me), you might appreciate this one. I do. I'm not sure that Screaming Jay Hawkins' style has been played with much, by later artists.

Dirt Road Blues is a solid rockabilly number. Million Miles has an understated but crisp jazzy drum beat, some jazz guitar strums and organ that give it an interesting backdrop. Standing in the Doorway is a little reminiscent of Ring Them Bells on Oh Mercy, but sadder.

I'd like to thank Brian Banho for loaning me the CD to listen to.

Time Out of Mind songlist:

1. Love Sick
2. Dirt Road Blues
3. Standing in the Doorway
4. Million Miles
5. Tryin' to get to Heaven
6. 'Till I Fell In Love With You
7. Not Dark Yet
8. Cold Irons Bound
9. Make You Feel My Love
10. Can't Wait
11. Highlands

Oh Mercy - Bob Dylan, 1989

Oh Mercy was recorded by Bob Dylan during a time of midlife career and personal issues of the sort that you must have experienced yourself to understand. It was released in 1989 to critical raves.

I only recently listened to it for the first time ever. One critic described Oh Mercy as an expression of a lonely man of faith (a reference to the book, The Lonely Man of Faith, by Joseph B. Soloveitchik). That may or may not be the case. But rather than being about a man going it heroically alone in life, I find it has more of the feel of a jaded man who accepts that we live in an imperfect world.

I didn’t find all the music itself all that exciting or interesting though, just commonplace. The introductions to most of the songs all sound the same. The lyrics, of course, are several cuts above the music. In contrast to his early recordings, Bob relies on prosaic images, sometimes to the point of cliché, and this is evidenced on many songs from Oh Mercy. Even with the mundane images, however, he’s still the best lyricist around, and sometimes he still shows flashes of his old lyrical genius, as he shows here, on the song, Shooting Star.

I love Ring Them Bells. It is the standout song on the recording. Where Teardrops Fall is not bad. Man In The Long Black Coat is pretty good. This may seem fanciful, but it reminds me of the short story, "The Preacher With the Black Veil,” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. As a matter of fact, several, if not most, of the songs on Oh Mercy have a very Calvinist, depraved sinner, fallen view of the world. Consider What Good Am I, Disease of Conceit, Political World and Everything is Broken. Shooting Star is an outstanding song, but the version of it on Bob Dylan Unplugged is superior. Political World and Most of the Time are monotonous. What Was It You Wanted is a repetitious drone.

I ‘d like to thank Brian Banho for loaning it to me, to listen to!

Oh Mercy Song list:

1. Political World
2. Where Teardrops Fall
3. Everything is Broken
4. Ring Them Bells
5. Man in the Long Black Coat
6. Most of The Time
7. What Good Am I?
8. Disease of Conceit
9. What Was It You Wanted?
10. Shooting Star