Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Bob Dylan at 74--the AARP Interview

Bob Dylan: The Uncut Interview

Apart from his talent, the secret to Bob Dylan's success and longevity is his humility and that he never rested on his laurels, never thought of himself or acted as anything other than a working singer/songwriter. Moreover, in every interview, it is clear that he is a musician's musician.  Having read a few Dylan interviews over the years, one thing that consistently jumps out at me is the scope and depth of his knowledge of the entire history of popular music in America, of all genres. Of note in this interview, Dylan is the second artist who I've heard say that no one can get inside a song like Frank Sinatra--meaning no one can match Frank in understanding the exact perspective, nuances, and dramatic potential of a song, and sing it thusly, masterfully, while making it his own.  And how many people can authoritatively get that about Frank Sinatra?

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Bob Dylan's Secret Archive

Bob Dylan's Secret Archive, by Ben Sisario, March 2, 2016.  The New York Times.

"Mr. Dylan said in a statement that he was glad his archives had found a home 'and are to be included with the works of Woody Guthrie and especially alongside all the valuable artifacts from the Native American nations.'"

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Fire On Flaming Roads -- My Back Pages, by Bob Dylan

Playwright Daniel Hainsworth took the title of his play, Fire on Flaming Roads, from the third line of Bob Dylan's, "My Back Pages."  The play was performed in Manhattan in December of 2015. My review of the play is here.

Video of, "My Back Pages," performance from the 30th Anniversary Concert: My Back Pages

My Back Pages

Crimson flames tied through my ears
Rollin' high and mighty traps
Pounced with fire on flaming roads
Using ideas as my maps
"We'll meet on edges, soon," said I
Proud 'neath heated brow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I'm younger than that now.

Half-cracked prejudice leaped forth
"Rip down all hate," I screamed
Lies that life is black and white
Spoke from my skull, I dreamed
Romantic facts of musketeers
Foundationed deep, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I'm younger than that now.

Girls' faces formed the forward path
From phony jealousy
To memorizing politics
Of ancient history
Flung down by corpse evangelists
Unthought of, thought, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I'm younger than that now.

A self-ordained professor's tongue
Too serious to fool
Spouted out that liberty
Is just equality in school
"Equality," I spoke the word
As if a wedding vow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I'm younger than that now.

In a soldier's stance, I aimed my hand
At the mongrel dogs who teach
Fearing not that I'd become my enemy
In the instant that I preach
My existence led by confusion boats
Mutiny from stern to bow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I'm younger than that now.

Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats
Too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect
Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I'm younger than that now.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Grammy 2015: Transcript of Bob Dylan's MusicCares Person of the Year Speech

From the Los Angeles Times, by Randall Roberts, posted February 7, 2015:

Grammy 2015: Transcript of Bob Dylan's MusicCares Person of the Year Speech

In the above Bob talks about how he developed as a songwriter, and I love the respect that he gives to those that came before him.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Eric Clapton and the Binding of Isaac?

See Eric Clapton, In the Presence of the Lord, by John Powell, Christianity Today, 4/9/2008.

In religion class, the Biblical story of The Binding of Issac, in Genesis 22, was always presented to us as a standard of obedience. This is blind obedience at its most extreme. It is hard to see how such an extremely anti-human command, which is so irrational and obviously opposed to the natural (moral) law, could possibly encourage obedience. But while I was listening to this story on CD in my car, it occurred to me that there might be a higher understanding. Abraham had such a deep sense of complete dependence on God, I wonder if the choice of obeying/disobeying God even entered his conscious mind. Perhaps the real purpose of the story is to show Abraham's sense of dependence on God. Certainly it shows the strength of Abraham's faith.

Eric Clapton struggled with alcohol and drug addiction throughout most of his adult life.  After his son Conor was born and after failing at yet another attempt at rehab, Clapton surrendered his life to God and dedicated his sobriety to Conor.  Tragically, four years later, Conor fell to his death from their apartment window.  Clapton said, "There was a moment when I did lose faith." Still, he found the strength to present a session to his Alcoholics Anonymous meeting on "handing your will over to the care of God."  Afterward, a woman confessed that he had taken away her "last excuse" for drinking, a confirmation to Clapton that "staying sober and helping others to achieve sobriety" is "the single most important proposition" in his life.

Influence of Bertolt Brecht on Bob Dylan

Recently, I've been learning bits and pieces about the playwright and poet, Bertolt Brecht, and I've just started reading his play, Mother Courage and Her Children. I found this interesting article in, The New York Times.

When Bobby Met Bertolt, Times Changed, by Jason Zinoman, October 8, 2006.

Dylan says that Bercht had an enormous influence on his song writing. On 1963, Dylan saw a musical review on Broadway called, Brecht on Brecht.  He only saw the play because his girl friend, Suze Rotolo was on the production staff.  It included a song called, "Song of the Moldau," which was written by Brecht which included the words, “Times are a-changing. The last shall be the first/The last shall be the first.”

And noting:

"Ms. Harcourt [a Dylan/Brecht researcher] argues that the influence of Brecht is the missing piece of the answer to the much-debated question of why Mr. Dylan moved away from the folk and protest scenes in the early 60’s. His songs took on a more personal, surreal and often ambiguous style that, like the work of Brecht, often complicated the audience’s relationship with the hero of a song."

Bob Dylan said, “My little shack in the universe was about to expand into some glorious cathedral, at least in songwriting terms,” he writes, describing his reaction to the music. “They were like folk songs in nature, but unlike folk songs, too, because they were sophisticated.”

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Bruce Springsteen: The Stations of the Boss

The magazine Christianity Today, published this article about Bruce Springsteen:

Bruce Springsteen: The Stations of the Boss, subtitled, The Singer, the Sinner's Prayer, and My Spiritual Journey, by Andy Whitman, on 3/6/2012.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

A Review of Springsteen's Wrecking Ball, from Christianity Today

I started to lose enthusiasm for Springsteen years ago, since he went political.  Now in his 60's, with earrings,  Botox, and a decline in songwriting talent, he is now a poor imitation of himself,  but I like the spirit of this review.

Bruce Springsteen: Stations of the Boss, by Andy Whitman.  3/6/2012

Here are some Youtube recordings from Wrecking Ball, at the Sandy Relief Concert:

Land of Hope & Dreams

Wrecking Ball

Friday, August 03, 2012

Freewheelin’: Bob Dylan, Jonah Lehrer and the Truth, by David Kinney

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Patti Smith, Follower of St. Francis of Assissi

Friday, July 13, 2012

Used 'Ta Could

Listen to, "Used 'Ta Could

I am a fan of the double bass, and I find this performance by Christopher McBride to be warm and lyrical. Unfortunately, with jazz these days, this is about as good as it gets. One of the fascinating things about jazz and the blues is how it reflects the cultural history of African Americans. The problem with contemporary jazz music is that it no longer speaks from the heart or the experiences of the community from which it originated.  Like classical music, it has become a dead art form. Jazz has become nothing more than a vehicle for musicians to demonstrate technical master of the form. It has nothing to say. But this performance by Christopher McBride is as good as it gets.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Catholic Influences in Bruce Springsteen's Music

I am Catholic and not so impressed by Catholicism's influence on Springsteen, but apparently some others are. Perhaps I take it for granted.

Bruce Springsteen: The Stations of the Boss, by Andy Whitman, Christianity Today, 3/6/2012

The Rising of Bruce Springsteen, by Patrick Kelly, 2/10, 2010

The Catholic Imagination of Bruce Springsteen, by Ft. Andrew Greeley, America Magazine, 2/6/1988

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Critical Essays on Jim Morrison and The Doors

"Listening Again to Rock's Wild Child and Finding Grandeur and Dread," is a review, by Dwight Garner, of the book, A Lifetime of Listening to Five Mean Years, by Greil Marcus.  It was posted in The New York Times on 11/15/2011.

Embedded in the book review are links to other favorable reviews of other books about rock that were written by Greil Marcus.

I consider this an exciting find.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Door's Jim Morrison as Poet

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bob Dylan Breathes Life into Hank Williams Lost Notebook

See the September 23, 2011 New York Times, Arts Beat column titled, "Popcast: Opening the 'Lost Notebooks' of Hank Williams."

Apparently, Bob Dylan is a huge fan of Hank Williams.  He is running a project to use contemporary pop musicians to write melodies and perform songs for which Hank Williams had written the lyrics but had not yet written the melody. 

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Why Prez Gave up on Dylan - The New York Post 7/16/09

- the ironies and paradoxes of our culture

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Suzanne's Encounter with the Music of Bob Dylan

Suzanne is a fellow member of the Communion and Liberation Movement.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Cat is Back!

The dream would be if the Islamic Cat Stevens and the Jewish Bob Dylan were to do a world tour together, for the purpose of promoting peace between peoples. (And I can't think of any Christian artists of their caliber.)

In the article at the URL, I completely relate to Cat' s statement that the biggest problem that he had to deal with as a superstar pop/rock musician was his own ego. Though not a celebrity, at my age, I am acutely aware of the problems posed by my ego. And like him, I think I now have it more under control than not.

Cat also speaks of the burden of being a sex symbol. Now that's something I have not had to contend with!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The New Yorker publishes two poems by Bob Dylan

The New Yorker published two recently discovered poems by Bob Dylan. They were written in the 1960's as a collaboration with the photographer Barry Feinstein. They appear in the September 22, 2008 print edition of the New Yorker, accompanied by a single photograph.

Of the two poems, it should come as no surprise that Dylan's use of imagery is good, but he doesn't blend the images together very well. The poem, "21," falls short in terms of yielding a final sensory image or emotional impression for the reader. In the poem, "17," the narrative is overly jagged, a sort of drug or alcohol-like induced paranoia and resultant non sequiturs, reminiscent of some of the beat literature. It goes nowhere. Don't quit your day job, Bob!


by Bob Dylan


by Bob Dylan

For background on the discovery of the entire set of poems, see The New York Times article, " Dylan’s Poetic Pause in Hollywood on the Way to Folk Music Fame," by Julie Bosman, Aug. 15, 2008:

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Serious Dylanology

In the above URL, the author makes the argument that the song, "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands," from the album, Blond on Blond, is about the Catholic Church. The author cites many of the other songs on the album as containing references to Catholicism. Blond on Blond was released in 1966, almost 15 years before Saved, in 1980.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bob Dylan, Musicologist

Move your cursor over the above blog entry title and click on it. This is why I wish I had satellite radio.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Little Bit of the History of Punk Rock

I completely missed the punk rock scene, though of course, though I heard the stuff that made it to radio (The Talking Heads and Blondie). To put this in time perspective, I graduated from college in 1977. America was still bummed out from the Vietnam War, Civil Rights, drugs, the assassinations, Watergate, and a few other things. I was still listening to The Band, Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, Credence Clearwater Revival, Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Emerson Lake and Palmer; Steppenwolf, Steely Dan, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Springsteen, and the rest of classic rock.

But punk was not my style, and most punk stunk! However, there were exceptions, like The Clash. I was also a fan of Patti Smith. I had bought her very first album Horses (1975) when it came out. She is also the co-author of the song, “Because the Night,” with Bruce Springsteen. The Rock and Roll era ended with the last Clash album, in 1986. Check out some of their songs: London Calling, The Magnificent Seven, This is Radio Clash, Straight to Hell, Armigideon Time, London's Burning.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Book Review: Chronicles, Volume I, by Bob Dylan

I read Chronicles, Volume I over two years ago. I didn't have the energy to consolidate all my thoughts and reactions into a coherent book review. Here are my major impressions, as I recall them.

The beginning was a little dull, and I feared that the rest of the book was going to be just another formulaic narrative about a small town boy from the Midwest who comes to the big city and climbs his way to the top. The biography of Madonna that I had read was just like that. But by the end of the first chapter, Dylan reaches liftoff. It is a great read.

Unlike so many people in our therapeutic culture that feel the need to vent nearly every thought and feeling, Dylan always has an old-fashioned, taciturn personality. And he has written this autobiography, I sense that he has been very circumspect about what he has chosen to say about himself. Throughout the book, I kept thinking that there must have been many interesting anecdotes and characters in the background that he wasn’t telling us about, that could have made for a fuller, more colorful story. But it is clear from the book that Dylan doesn’t see why such details are important. I don’t think he has any underlying mystery, complexity, or secrets. What you see is what you get. He is simply a stark personality, like a character in a Nathanial Hawthorne short story.

Dylan comes across as essentially a regular guy with old-fashioned values. He is a hard worker and a family man. The public tried to draft him as the prophet of the movements and counterculture of the 60’s. However, he rejected that role, virulently. He actually was not political minded at all. I think he was very realistic and knew his limitations. The one thing that can be said with certainty about him is that he was a genius at taking whatever topic was in the air at the time and making a great song out of it.

As Dylan was a Jewish boy who grew up in the Protestant Midwest, I am interested in his religious and cultural influences. It was fascinating to hear Dylan talk about what a memorable occasion it was for him to play the role of a Roman Soldier in a Christian passion play. He doesn’t say much about his conversion to Christianity or his later, resurgent Judaism.

As a member of the Woodstock Generation and as someone who likes the arts and cultural things, I thoroughly enjoyed the portrayal of the Greenwich Village and the folk music scene in the 1960’s. I’ve always liked folk music. I was very pleased to see that from his earliest years, Dylan was a serious folk musicologist. I admire him for that as much as anything.

I am very sympathetic to the fact that he was depressed for while, later in his life, and for the same reasons that anybody else gets depressed. It should show people that it can happen to anybody. I am disappointed in myself that after listening to his album, Oh Mercy, that I didn’t recognize that so many of the songs were a reflection of depression.

Dylan uses a certain, interesting narrative pattern in several places in the book. He will cite an event and his reaction to it. He will then go off on a tangent for many paragraphs or pages explaining his reaction. Then, after the reader has almost forgotten the original event, he returns to his jumping off point. It makes me wonder if he hasn’t spent many years in psychotherapy.

I can’t wait for Volume II.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Bob Dylan and the Pope

Bob remains ever countercultural, ever the pop-prophet. In the 60's he sang about social justice. He has continued to sing about the nihilism, relativism, materialism, hedonism, and me-ism of today. I only wish he had as much success inspiring the hearts and minds of young people today as he did in the 60's.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

CD: Brasileiro (1999)

Last Friday, it being Friday and especially being Spring, I was feeling especially good but feeling famished for music. Deborah sits next to me, and I ask if she had anything I could listen to.

This is only Deborah's day job. She's an opera singer, and she's got a pretty good collection of music. One of the CDs she loaned me was called Brasileiro (1999), a sample of contemporary Brazilian songs from 13 different artists.

The Brazilian Portuguese voice is very pretty, and the songs are romantic, hopeful, mournful, and full of life, all at the same time.

My favorite artists on the CD are Clara Nunes, Silvia Torres, Nazare Pereira, and Beth Carvallo. I confess that I have a thing for good female voices, and these women definitely do it for me. But I also dig Chico Cesar's Mama Africa.

You can read reviews and sample the sounds on the above URL at Amazon.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

John Lennon - Remember

This is a recently released collection of songs by John Lennon, as a solo artist. The CD is currently being sold in Starbucks.

While listening, I got the distinct impression that John thought of himself as an “Artiste.” A critic once said of Billie Holiday that, career-wise, she was at her best as a nightclub entertainer but that after the success of her song, “Strange Fruit,” she began thinking of herself as an Artiste, and as a result, went into decline. I suspect that for John, his equivalent of Strange Fruit was getting involved with Yoko Ono.

I do find the combination of Lennon’s writing and singing voice to be refreshing. As a solo song-writer, he was damn good at times, but he was no Bob Dylan. Of course, we do not know what he might have written had his life not been cut short.

Many of the songs here bore me, but there are a few goodies. I absolutely love, “Instant Karma! (We All Shine On).” It is an exuberant affirmation of personhood, purpose, and self-esteem. I never tire of it. If you have problems with the concept of Karma, just think of it as Grace instead.

Lyrically, most of the songs are good, with a few select exceptions. I recall some hipster-type critic years ago, maybe it was in the Village Voice, praising the artistic merits of, “Working Class Hero.” It may be from the gut and full of rage, but that doesn’t make it a good song. I would also put, “Mother,” in the same category, a from-the-gut, courageous confrontation with his demons but not a great song. “Remember,” is another attempt at reckoning with upbringing, and I keep skipping over it. The liner notes claim that several songs in the collection are deeply philosophical. I am not so sure about that but they are a deep, hard look at himself and his relationship with the world.

“Sean’s Little Help,” is a loving cutie. Sean at age four tries singing, from memory, his father’s, “A Little Help from My Friends.” The dialogue from John shows him as such a wonderful, loving father.

Bob Dylan was one of the few popular musicians that John Lennon could consider a peer, and John was still alive when Dylan went through the three albums of his born-again phase. Accordingly to Yoko Ono, his song, “God,” was intended as a dialogue with Dylan. Apparently, the bottom line with Lennon was that he did not believe in any absolute truths. Anyway, the song is fairly provocative, if self-centered.

“Imagine,” is simply a great song. I don’t need to say anything more about it.

“Going Down On Love (Instructions Only),” is not a song but instructions being given by Lennon to musicians in the studio, while trying to record the song. It is very interesting to hear his voice and observe his personality. He knew exactly what he wanted.

I used to like the song, “Nobody Told Me.” I am not sure if this recording is the same one that was played on the radio. It doesn’t seem to move me as much.

Maybe I'll go back and give more of a listen to the songs I've been skipping over, like "Remember." Or maybe I've just outgrown any interest in deconstructing childhood.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Yusef Islam

The New York Times just published an interview of Yusef Islam, the pop music star formerly known as Cat Stevens (He is on MySpace, by the way.).

I am still a HUGE Cat Stevens fan. I know that many people chose to despised or hate him, and his music, because his conversion to Islam. It did not dampen my enthusiasm. His dropping out of the music scene following his conversion thirty years ago was far more disappointing to me than the conversion itself.

Sometime after 9/11, they found some old film footage of a Cat Stevens concert tour, and they packaged it together under the name Magicat (a copy of which was graciously loaned to me by my friend Brian Banho). In my opinion, the sound quality and performances are not outstanding. However, in the “extras” on the DVD, there is a lengthy interview of Yusef, done post 9/11, which I found utterly fascinating. He looks and speaks like the epitome of a perfect British Gentleman.

In terms of his dropping out of the business, near the end of his career as a pop star, he was burned out and hated what he was doing, and I understand that. You can even see it evidenced on the Magicat DVD in one place where he sarcastically berates a member of his own sound crew for positioning a microphone too low. He sounded like a very bitter soul.

With respect to his statements and actions following his conversion to Islam, I think they have been VERY naïve. As with so many artists in the public eye, he has lofty and flowery emotions that apparently supercede any critical thinking. Over the years he has said and done some incredibly irresponsible things relating to Islam. His Wikipedia entry mentions them briefly. As someone who was a celebrity in the public eye for so many years, I would have expected him to understand the impact of public statments. In the West after all, especially in the U.K., he is looked upon as the public persona of civilized Islam. He bears a great responsibility whether he likes it or not. In particular, I don’t see how anyone can justify donating money to Hamas, even if the money supposedly was going to an orphanage, given Hamas’ history of violence and terrorism.

But how do you like these apples: he is still raking in royalties from his music to the tune of over 1.5 million dollars a year!!! Nice work if you can get it!!!

Some other Cat Stevens Websites (among hundreds/thousands):

Chris Gregory on Modern Times

Chris Gregory has written a series of very literate, musicological and philosophical reviews of Dylan’s latest album, Modern Times. I’ve been listening to the album in my car for a while now, but to tell you the truth, I haven’t the time to listen carefully, much less write a review. I appreciate the quality time that Chris has put into this. His knowledge and understanding of Dylan’s body of work greatly surpasses my own.

I appreciate Chris letting me know about his blog. He’s also the author of some pretty good poems that he posts on his blog as well.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Chronicles, Volume I - a review

- just putting up a URL to another review of Dylan's autobiography.

I read Chronicles some time ago, but haven't been motivated enough to put my thoughts together to write my own review.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

John Lennon's Born-Again Phase

From the magazine Christianity Today: John Lennon's aborted dalliance with Christianity, with mention of his conflict with Bob Dylan, over Dylan's conversion.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Album: In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (1968), from Iron Butterfly

I picked up the CD version of this rock classic at a flee market on Saturday, for four bucks. You’ve probably heard the title song on the radio, but you may not be aware that the original is 17 minutes long and occupied the entire B side of the album. (Side A has 5 very forgettable, hippie rock ditties.)

I guess I didn’t get enough of psychedelic rock, way back then. This phase of Rock and Roll occurred when I was in grammar-school and junior-high, and I didn’t have money for records, record players, or going to concerts. My parents forbid us to watch Elvis or the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show: do you honestly think they’d let me get involved in something like this? So now, when we are adults, we relive the youth we regretted missing!

Iron Butterfly’s official website says:
“The Los Angeles music climate of the late sixties and seventies was characterized by the heavy sounds and sentiments that reflected the revolutionary attitudes of the generation. Bursting onto that scene was a new group whose sound not only epitomized the hard attitudes of the youth with its heavy drumming and bass lines, but also embraced more delicate aspirations through its intricate guitar and keyboard overlays.”
These guys came from a very creative time in Rock and Roll. Many of the top rock musicians at the time had serious classical music training. New bands became popular in the first year of their existence or with their first recording. Classic rock albums were being released every month. Iron Butterfly was no exception. Their first album, Heavy, came out in 1967 and was on the record charts for a year. In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida became the first Platinum record ever, in the music business. The album after it went Gold, and the two albums after that broke the Top 20.

Mythology surrounds In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. The song, which was written by Iron Butterfly founder Doug Ingle, was meant to be, “In the Garden of Eden,” but, depending on what source you read, it came out the way it did from either alcohol slurred speech, LSD, or because the vocalist couldn’t hear the words properly through the faulty headset he was wearing. The three minute drum solo, performed by Ron Bushy, became one of the most influential and imitated forms in rock drumming. The song is credited with starting the genre of Acid Rock. Some describe the band as Heavy Metal, which in my opinion is incorrect, but Iron Butterfly, Blue Cheer, and Steppenwolf did form the basis upon which the first Heavy Metal was based. The direct influence of Iron Butterfly can be heard in Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, Traffic, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, The Grateful Dead, Blue Cheer, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Group 1850, and David Bowie.

In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida has been quoted, covered, sampled and alluded to in everyday conversations, songs, movies, and television. It is in an episode of The Simpsons, in 1995, called, Bart Sells His Soul where Bart replaces the hymn books in church with the sheet music for "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida." The entire church starts into a 17-minute version of "In the Garden of Eden" (by "I. Ron Butterfly").

Monday, July 17, 2006

Jake Shimabukuro - virtuoso Ukelele player!

In the above U-tube URL, Jakes play an outstanding and amazing version of George Harrison's, While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

Also check out an interview of Jake:

And here is a CD from Jake:

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Seeing through Maroon-Tinted Glasses

Maroon 5 is a band that rose quickly to popularity when they first came out with "She Will Be Loved" four years ago. I remember hearing it everywhere - in shopping centres, out of car windows, on the radio, and having my cousin tell me about it online. Their sound is a very pleasing blend of funk, soul, and rock with a lounge feel that is mellow in a way that won't put you to sleep. There are so many fans of their music, people who can sing the lyrics to every song on every album in order, but I have to wonder how much they really know about the band and how much attention they really pay to its message.

The comment from my cousin was that "She Will Be Loved" is "such a beautiful song." A friend said that it reminded him of his ex-girlfriend at the time, with whom he was still in love, because he met her when she was 18, and she completely blew him away. A sister from my college Christian fellowship puts it as the background music to her webpage celebrating the close friendship, through all ups and downs, of a group of girls. A closer examination of the ballad's lyrics, however, reveals that the speaker is, in fact, describing how he wants to pick up a "girl with a broken smile," a young woman who has made the wrong choices, perhaps a prostitute or at least a woman who seeks the comfort of many men to hide her insecurity: "He was always there to help her/She always belonged to someone else." Though the nature of their relationship is unclear, we know that they have been intimate, but he wants something more: "I've had you so many times but somehow/I want more." The chorus and bridge, however, are still the most beautiful parts of the song that perhaps help so many people relate to it:
I don't mind spending every day
Out on your corner in the pouring rain
Look for the girl with the broken smile
Ask her if she wants to stay awhile
And she will be loved
She will be loved

Tap on my window knock on my door
I want to make you feel beautiful
I know I tend to get insecure
It doesn't matter anymore
Other songs are much more explicit and sexual, such as in "This Love," the second song on their debut album, "Songs About Jane." A brief scouring of the Internet reveals the reactions of many listeners, from junior high and even in their early thirties, commenting "I love this song!" "it has such a great sound," "it makes me happy," "this is the best breakup song ever!" and "I can really relate to this song." But is it a happy song? Is it even a breakup song? The first verse has the speaker describing how she "whispered goodbye and she got on a plane, never to return again," and the first three lines of the last verse say, "I'll fix these broken things, repair your broken wings, and make sure everything's all right." That's about where all tameness ends. The rest of the song describes a turbulent relationship, sexual appetite, obsession, possession, denial, and fatigue over this sick cycle:
I tried my best to feed her appetite
Keep her coming every night
So hard to keep her satisfied
Kept playing love like it was just a game
Pretending to feel the same
Then turn around and leave again
Even in the last lines of the song, he mentions, after promising to "make sure everything's all right":
My pressure on her hips
Sinking my fingertips
Into every inch of you
Cause I know that's what you want me to do
Love song? Breakup song? Happy song? What do you think?

In "Harder to Breathe," the first song of the album, the speaker describes the frustration from his lover's criticisms driving him to violence. Because she's "unncessarily critical," he has "the tendency of getting very physical/So watch your step cause if I do you'll need a miracle." And as the song progresses, he seems to be gaining power, realising that he doesn't need her, but because she wants to stay while he wants her gone, he can do anything he want with her. He sees her as scum, "not fit to funkin' tread the ground I'm walking on," and he describes the way she's trapped in the relationship as "like a little girl cries in the face of a monster that lives in her dreams/Is there anyone out there cause it's getting harder and harder to breathe." The frightening thing about this song is that the girl is unable to leave when it becomes violent, and the speaker knows that as well. He taunts her with the fact that he has gained control and, with the threat of leaving her, he ends:
Does it thrill
Does it sting
When you feel what I bring
And you wish that you had me to hold
Through a lot of very controversial topics, however, I do have to say that they're very musically talented and very skilled songwriters. Though the lack of attention to detail may be a comment on society in general, it does take some talent to turn these themes into songs that everybody seems to be singing and humming without question.

- Elizabeth Lynn Rakphongphairoj

Friday, February 17, 2006

Bruce Springsteen - BootLeg City (CD)

"Some guys they just give up living
And start dying little by little, piece by piece
Some guys come home from work and wash up
And go racin' in the street"

- Racing In the Street, Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen's early, classic songs captured the feelings of the generation that straddled the hippies and the yuppies. It was a generation caught between the self-less idealism of the 1960's and the selfish materialism of the 80's. Vietnam Veterans and flower children alike had turned their heads from the shame of their murdered ideals. Life had turned into a malaise of Watergate, factory closings, double-digit inflation, and apathy. Music turned inward. Introspective singer-songwriters became popular, while many young people turned to the nihilism of punk or the fantasy of disco. But then, from the restlessness of a small town in New Jersey, these four-barreled street-rod ballads of desperate hope came roaring across the land.

This week I've been listening to the above CD as I drive to and from work. Springsteen's songs describe a New Jersey that no longer exists in time or space. It's all over and gone now, and I don't expect these rock songs could possibly resonate with the youth of today.

The best cuts on the disk are three extended, exuberant-with-life, anthem-like live performances on of Racing in the Street, Because the Night, and Back Streets. The songs are a thematic continuum of failure, hope, guilt, redemption, and just plain-old, adolescent, busting loose. "Running for our lives at night on them backstreets." Thunder Road fits in perfectly, but it's performed more as a good time crowd pleaser than the engine-roaring escape from small town despair denoted by the lyrics.

James Taylor shares the vocals with Bruce on The River. It must have been a great live performance, but on the recording both men sound like they are singing with their heads inside a garbage can. It is a bootleg, after all. The other cuts on the CD are not worth the price of air. The Promise is a somber downer, although the lyrics standout. Empty Sky is lousy, but the lyrics hold up there as well.

The best cut of the CD is Racing in the Street. Bruce sings it with such passionate conviction that it becomes more than just about racing cars. It's about wanting a life and everything you ever wanted to do in your life. "Desire and hunger is the fire I breathe."

Springsteen has captured what it feels like to be an adolescent crossing the transom into adulthood. It's about getting a little money, a car, a girlfriend, the escape to the freedom of the road, and the excitement of all the unknown, pregnant possibilities of life ahead. "Hey I know it's late we can make it if we run. It's town full of losers, and I'm pulling out of here to win."

The Song List:

1. Empty Sky (Guitar acoustic)
2. The River (w/ James Taylor)
3. The Promise
4. Hearts of Stone
5. Sad Eyes
6. Racing in the Street *
7. Thunder Road *
8. Because the Night *
9. Backstreets (Extended arrangement) *
10. Chimes of Freedom ^
11. Can't Help Falling in Love with You ^

* Winterland '78
^ Europe '88

I'd like to thank my friend  BB for making a copy of the CD for me about two years ago.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Dylan to Host Satellite Radio Program

Monday, December 12, 2005

Looking For Some Christmas Music?

"Performance has true integrity when the heart
of the artist is conveyed in the music. Such is
the case with Kathleen and Christopher for whom
the spirituals, in particular, reflect their faith."
- John MacArthur, pastor of the Grace Community
Church, Panorama City, California

I own the following CD's which I appreciate greatly.

A Christmas Celebration. Kathleen Battle

Pleasures of Their Company. Kathleen Battle & Christopher Parkening.

You will not find a finer piece of music than the above. If you were to purchase one CD of Kathleen Battle, or Kathleen Battle and Christopher Parkening together, this is it! I am a fan of beautiful female voices and of the classical guitar, and this CD is one of my most prized posessions. While this is not Christmas music, six of the twenty songs are spirituals.

FYI, I also own: Handel - Arias. Kathleen Battle.

I'd like to own the following, which is all Christmas music: Angel's Glory. Kathleen Battle & Christopher Parkening

This one is, which I do not own, is also all Christian music: Grace

Some consider the beautiful Kathleen Battle one of the finest, if not the finest lyric coloratura soprano in the world. They will get no argument from me. Christopher Parkening was a student of Andres Segovia who called him one of the most brilliant guitarists in the world. Without question, he is America's finest. Both performers are Christians and were brought together by their common manager, partly for that reason. And yes, I am aware that Kathleen has a reputation for being a notoriously difficult prima donna.

The 25th Anniversary of John Lennon's Death

Wriiten December 8, 2005

Today is the 25th anniversary of John Lennon's death (and the feast of the Immaculate Conception).

The N.Y. area radio stations are all talking about John Lennon today and playing his music, including his Christmas song. There is much activity at Strawberry Fields. Dick Cavett was on Q104.3 (the major classic rock station in NY). They are selling a DVD containing the three shows where John and Yoko appeared. The pair were the only guests for the full 90 minutes of each of the three shows, and they say that the conversations were very representative of the times.

I can remember watching the Monday night footballgame when Howard Cosell announced his death to the nation.

I feel moved and uplifted by all this commemoration. It has a very positive, magnanimous feeling, and it tends to bring out the better nature of people.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A Review of Chronicles, Volume I; from Beliefnet

Sunday, October 30, 2005

A Beautiful Bob Dylan Blog

Here is a Bob Dylan blog, from someone in Spain, with beautiful photos and accompanying poetry and prose. It is in Spanish by the way, but well worth perusing.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

I Hate Bob Dylan

I bought Live at the Gaslight 1962 as soon as it was available in Starbucks. Then I bought the No Direction Home soundtrack set as soon as it came out. I have been listening to nothing else in my car the whole time, except for the times when my wife insists on listening to one of her CD’s of Cantonese ballads. Last Sunday, the whole family was about to go somewhere. I got in the car before my wife and got Mr. Dylan on the CD player before my wife could ask for her Chinese music.

My oldest son Andrew, age 12, announced, “I hate Bob Dylan.”

My wife, who doesn’t necessarily like her age to be announced, shouted “I hate Bob Dylan too.”

My son Michael, age 10, chimed in, “Me too…”

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Sade Live

My wife and I have always liked the music of Sade.

When I do housework, I like to put some kind of music on. At my local Hollywood video, I had already rented and listened to most of the good but few music videos they have in stock. But then I found a Sade tape that I had overlooked—Sade Live (link above). The sight of her, and the sound of her music, blend together seamlessly into a broad, flowing non-stop rush of feminine energy and love. Everything about her is gorgeous. She wears a white sequined top, a full length skirt that is slit up the back, with a bare torso and belly. God, she is so beautiful to look at. From the looks of her I’d say she has had a baby or two, which kind of adds to her womanly image, if you ask me. She must most certainly works out.

I don’t even dance, but I keep finding myself dancing in the kitchen and living room.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

No Direction Home: Bob Dylan - the PBS/Martin Scorcese project

Why is this important?

Following the Great Depression and the end of World War II, America found itself the most wealthy, most politically powerful, and culturally influential country on Earth. By the mid-1950’s, America had an infrastructure for instantaneous, continuous, nationwide communication as well as a nationwide interstate highway system. A generation of youth, the so-called baby boomers, had grown-up in relative economic prosperity, had been educated to expect, felt entitled to, and had seen glimpses of the full promises of peace, democracy, freedom, opportunity, and civil rights. When that generation came of age, many, many of them looked around and saw injustice. The result was the social turmoil of the 1960’s. Bob Dylan was the reluctant voice of that generation.

Yes, I did see the Martin Scorcese documentary on PBS the last two nights, or most of it anyway. I missed the first 10 minutes of the first night and the first 40 minutes of the second. The rest I taped. I had to drop off my oldest son at basketball practice and pick him up. I watched what I was able to and then watched all of what I had taped, the next day. There is another public broadcasting station that will be broadcasting the whole thing in another few weeks or so, so I can see the parts I missed. I will write about it at length, later, but for right now just let me say this. What really impressed me was that, in polemical contrast to most stars, Bob was startlingly humble and unassuming throughout.

I confess that during the performances of his more classic songs, I cried. I love the version of Desolation Road that is in the documentary, including the alternate lyrics. It was so fresh and warm. Visions of Johanna was so authentically intimate. And that was a song I had never been into before. I don’t want to try and list all the performances I loved because I would leave some out by mistake.

While I’m at it, let me mention that I did read Chronicles when it came out. I do intend to post a review here; it just hasn’t fallen into place yet. I had purchased Live At the Gaslight, the week it came out, and today, I went down to Starbucks and bought No Direction Home CD.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Bob Dylan's Minnesota

The above link is to a travel article from the New York Times, titled, Highway 61, Visited.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Elliot Murphy - Ground Zero

Have you heard of this guy? My friend Brian Banho handed me a CD titled, Elliot Murphy – Ground Zero. I had never heard of the guy before. After hearing the first few songs, I laughed out loud. They sounded like they were written and sung by an amateur Bruce Springsteen imitator. Later on, however, I found out that he pre-dates Bruce. But I listened to the entire CD a few times, and found a few things I liked. According to Brian quite a few people like his stuff.

For one, Elliot Murphy is an good lyricist. Most of his imagery is very original, with only rare slips into hackneyed phrasing. Interestingly, in many of his songs, sections will sound very different from other sections—so much so that when you recall them, you think they were two different songs. Those of us that mostly listen to pop songs on the radio are not used to this kind of sophistication.

My initial negative reaction was due to his voice: He can be very nasal, as in Long Island nasal. And his voice tends to vary wildly in timbre. He’s a croaking frog. The music could have been improved dramatically by a good producer. The non-vocal portion of the music sounds like something from a bad hotel-lounge band. Who knows if a producer could have done something with his voice? He is also in serious need of an acting coach for delivering lines with the proper dramatic tone. Often, the expression and mood of his voice are completely at odds with what the lyrics want to convey. His voice and songs do sound similar to Bruce Springsteen. In fact, they sound so similar; I’d swear that Bruce sings some of the lines in one of the songs. Although Elliot Murphy does not have a great voice, on his love songs he does manage to get control over his voice, and these are his best performances.

I would still like to sample some more of this guy however. I find myself replaying the CD in my car, and I often have one of his songs playing in my head.

The song list, with my comments:

1. The Last of the Rock Stars - I don’t care for it.
2. Isadora’s Dancers - I don’t care for it.
3. Drive All Night - It’s O.K. .
4. Just a Story from America – I don’t care for it.
5. Rock Ballad – I can’t stand to listen to this one.
6. Anastasia – This is a very nice song except the girl’s name sounds like a hit man for the mob.

7. Everything I do – Not bad.

8. Is Fellini Really Dead? - I’m still trying to find out what this song is about!

9. Last Star of the Night

10. The Red Lights / Ground Zero - Ground Zero is an excellent song but very sad. I can’t dwell on it too long though. I don’t understand the concatenation of The Red Lights and Ground Zero either.

11. Navy Blue -Pretty good. But I was distracted by the fact that “Navy Blue,” sounds too much like Bob Dylan’s, “Baby Blue,” and has a similar rhythm as well.

12. On Elvis Presley’s Birthday - This is a very interesting piece with very original subject matter. I appreciate the lyrics about his father. But there is a line about driving through the black neighborhoods of the North Shore of Long Island with his father from Brooklyn—I have no idea what that has to do with the price of tea in China. It stands out like a hole in the head.

13. Diamonds By the Yard –excellent, my favorite song of the CD. I especially like the ending lines and music.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Jimi Plays Berkley - Live # 1, Jimi Hendrix, May 30 1970

"He was very self-effacing about his music but then when he picked up that guitar he was just a monster." - Paul McCartney

“Seattle-born Jimi Hendrix lived in Berkley as a small boy. On May 30, 1970, he returned as the reigning superstar of rock. Jim’s Memorial Day concerts in the 3,400-seat Berkley Community Theater came on the heels of fatal student uprisings against the Vietnam War. The inflamed intensity of his music reflects the most violent weeks in the history of American campuses and the most divisive in the land since the Civil War. This was Jimi’s Cry of Love tour…” - from the back of the box that held the tape.

The inclusion of film footage from events in Berkeley at the time makes the film very evocative. People are protesting outside of a movie theater that is showing the film Woodstock, because the film is not being shown for free. They are confronted by individuals who don’t like what they are doing. The language of some members of both sides is violent and hateful. A girl wears a button that says, “Today’s Pig is Tomorrow’s bacon.” In the Berkeley riots, children, who couldn’t have been more than 12, can be seen throwing rocks in the direction of the police. At the Berkeley Community Center Theater, fans have senselessly smashed windows.

I will give Jim credit; he wanted to be a reconciler. On, “Machine Gun,” a camera close-up shows him crying, and he’s not doing it for the crowd.

The cinematography is poor, but the songs are passionate, intense, and focused performances. I found, Johnny B. Goode to be uninspired. One critic says that back in those days first songs were just warmups.

The Song List from Live #1:
(the film has been broken into two tapes, of which this one is just the first hour)

1. Johnny B. Goode
2. Hear My Train A Comin’
3. Star Spangled Banner
4. Purple Haze
5. I Don’t Live Today
6. Hey Baby (Rising Sun)
7. Lover Man
8. Machine Gun
9. Voodoo Chile

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

John and Yoko

When John Lennon was alive, I confess I was one of those who despised his wife, Yoko Ono. For myself, I think it must have been because her image was so wildly contrary to John, the Beatles, the counterculture, and the My Generation thing. Of course, after John was assassinated, I had nothing but compassion for her and her children.

One of my favorite sayings is, "Mother never told me there'd be days like this," which comes from the song, "Nobody Told Me." However, the published lyrics read, "Nobody told me there'd be days like this." I'm not sure why it is imprinted in my memory with "Mother" instead of "Nobody." There must be something Freudian there.

Yesterday, while driving home from work I heard the song "Instant Karma," on the radio, which, in fact, triggered this whole blog entry! I especially love exhuberently sung the refrain:

"We all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun"

If we look at a sample of John Lennon's songs, post-Beatles--the above two, plus Imagine, Give Peace a Chance--they all have a joyfull, hopefull, exuberent feel. They embrace life. Even his complaining songs have more of the feel of a happy blues than of depressed angst.

I think it can be said that Yoko made John happy, and who can complain about a person or a marriage like that?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Classic Rock

Heard, several times, on the radio this past week, while driving to work:

Margaritaville, by Jimmy Buffet
White Wedding, by Billy Idol
Money for Nothing, by Dire Straights

What does it mean?

I also heard the Sultans of Swing, by Dire Straights. And on the way home from work today, I heard Rebel Yell, and Dancing with Myself,both by Billy Idol.

I also heard on the radio that Eric Clapton and Cream are talking about a reunion concert in Madison Square Garden in October. But it's still a rumor. The rumor also said that Ginger Baker was the holdup. He was afraid of returning to New York because of drug possion charges from 30 years ago, but the Feds and City cops are telling him he's got nothng to worry about.

Spoonful, yeah!

Friday, June 24, 2005

Dylan’s Visions of Sin. By Christopher Ricks.

The above link is an excellent review of the book Dylan's Visions of Sin, by Christopher Ricks.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Bob Dylan's Religion

I find Bob Dylan’s religious persona and the religious elements in his songs fascinating. In Chronicles, he touches lightly on the influence of religion in his life, and his upbringing does not seem to have been very religious. But from very early in his career, Bob’s songs included extensive Biblical references, both Jewish and Christian. Bob was probably surrounded by Christian influences while growing up, but that shouldn’t be a surprise, being the Midwest in the 1950’s. In Chronicles, I felt touched by Bob’s description of how much he loved playing a Roman soldier in a Passion play when he was a teenager. Bob was also a student of American folk music, much of which is chock-full of Christian imagery, themes, and morals. Many doubt the sincerity of Bob’s religious expressions, but I don’t intend to get involved in that. I tend to take people at face value. However, I will say that I think Bob is a master at writing songs about whatever happens to be blowing in the wind.

The following is a fascinating article about Bob Dylan’s religion from a Jewish author: Radio Hazak

The following is a fascinating meditation on the song Desolation Row by a Trappist Monk: Father Matthew of Gethsemani Abbey

And check this out too: My Jewish Learning

And the following book review ends with something the late Pope John Paul II said to Bob Dylan: Christianity Today

Monday, February 28, 2005

Festival Express (DVD, 2003)

I found this in my local Hollywood Video store. It's
a documentary of a rock festival that was held
across Canada in 1970. The festival promoter
rented a train for the festival, and the musicians
travelled by train, in style, across Canada, from
gig to gig site.

Overall The DVD is so-so. If you love the artists
and/or music, I'd say it's a must see. The best
performances are from Janice Joplin and worth
watching. The Grateful Dead and The Band are very
so-so here. Most of the performances by the other
artists are forgettable. I'll say this: it is
interetsing to see such a young Gerry Garcia and
such a very young and very thin Rick Danko being
very much himself. I enjoyed seeing how much the
crowds enjoyed the music.

List of groups/artists on the film:

Janis Joplin
The Grateful Dead
Janis Joplin & The Full Tilt Boogie Band
The Band
Buddy Guy Blues Band
Delaney & Bonnie & Friends
The Flying Burrito Bros
Ian & Sylvia & The Great Speckled Bird

Some web sites about the film:

Friday, February 18, 2005

The Ballad of Rambling Jack, DVD of 2000

This is a documentary of the folk singer, Rambling Jack Elliot. It's long on documentary and short on music. If you've ever heard, or heard of, Rambling Jack Elliot, and want to know more, this is a good place to start.

Rambling Jack was a disciple of Woody Guthrie and travelled with him for years.
Whatever one thinks of Rambling Jack personally, he must be given credit for continuing the work of Woody Guthrie in keeping the spirit of American folk music alive and spreading its popularity. Rambling Jack has been a "culture bearer" and for this he should be appreciated.

I assume that most people reading this post already know something about Rambling Jack, and therefore I will not go into detail.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Don't Look Back, DVD of 1965

I found this DVD in my local Hollywood Video store, not under music but Special Interest. If only they moved it to the Music section, more people would rent it. I only found it by accident! Until then, I didn't even know they had a special interest section. By contrast, as a music fan, I scan the Music section like a hawk.

It is a documentary of his 1965 tour of England. It's shot in Black and White, 90% documentary and 10% music performance. Bob Dylan only came to New York in 1961. In ENgland, he's still in his early twenties and looks it. The persona shown is exactly the one described by himself in his autobiography, Chronicles, Volume 1. It is a characterization of someone who is very sure of himself, but lacking a supply of life experiences to draw wisdom and maturity from.

I found the DVD to be an interesting picture of England and the folk music scene in in 1965. The "Beatnik" influence is still around. We see Bob and a few people standing around him snapping their fingers melodramically to the sound of someone playing jazz piano. This is post Beatles, mind you. Donovan is a big star over there, and they talk about him alot. The interest in American music by people from other countries and cultures fascinates me.

I was most impressed by sequences of Bob Dylan trying to write songs, or at least transpose them from handwritten to typed pages, in the midst of a hotel room full of people kibitzing, playing guitars, and soaking up the aura. It showed Bob's single minded dedication and persistence in his craft. We should all be so driven.

Objectively, its a dull film, but for true Dylan fans, it is a must see. Go see it!

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