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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Bob Dylan Revisited

Every couple of weeks I bring a short stack of CDs from home into work, rip them into MP3 format and cull the best tracks from the haul. This is my method for bringing my CD collection into the 21st century. It would be excruciating to try to do it all at once and ridiculous to pay for these tracks all over again. Besides, this way I get to do some focused listening to a single artist. Right now, for example, I have five Luna albums on my desk awaiting the treatment.

Last week I listened to four classic Bob Dylan records:
Blonde on Blonde
Blood on the Tracks
Bringing it all Back Home
and Highway 61 Revisited

These were my observations:
I like A LOT of the tracks on these discs... I'm keeping more files than I expected. I don't think Dylan added much "filler" to his records.

I tend to like Bob's longer songs (6-8 minute ramblers) more than the short tunes (with the single exception of Jack of Hearts which I find irritating.)

Many people dislike Dylan's voice. People always talk about his grating nasal twang, but it really never bothers me.

I don't really like Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat all that much, but I can't bring myself to delete it... maybe because of fond memories of Matt Woodin putting that tune on a mix tape in Bombay.
Idiot Wind is a great tune... in fact the whole first half (the A side to you LP owners) of Blood on the Tracks is perfection.

When I was a child, I loved the tune Maggie's Farm. It's still a great song. In fact, Bringing It All Back Home probably scores the most nostalgia points with me. I find myself liking marginal tracks like Outlaw Blues or On the Road Again (not the Willy Nelson song) because the melody takes me back to when I was 7 years old. Subterranean Homesick Blues and It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) push this album into brilliance regardless of how I felt about it 27 years ago.

It's Alright Ma (I'm only Bleeding) conditioned me to appreciate lyrical dexterity... the kind later demonstrated by MCs like The Gift of Gab of Blackalicious.

Dylan had more fun with his poetry/lyrics than Paul Simon did.

Highway 61 is the least impressive of these discs, although Ballad of a Thin Man is still great. I guess this is a later release (after the pivotal motorcycle crash that many people feel ruined Dylan's career.) (Fact checking reveals that Highway 61 was released as part of the classic Dylan trilogy, including Blonde on Blonde and Bringing it All Back Home. These all came out between 64 and 66 before Dylan's accident in the late summer of 1966. I guess I assumed that it was after because it sounds so different to my ears. Also, Blood on the Tracks, called by many a "return to form", was released in 1974, after Dylan went through a post-accident spiritual phase when he alienated many fans.)

There are a few overplayed songs (e.g. Like a Rolling Stone, Hey Mister Tambourine Man) that are still worth listening to even if you've heard them thousands of times.

And lastly...
Adam Sandler is sure trying hard to look just like Bob Dylan in his recent film Reign Over Me.

Labels:

11 Comments:

At 10/24/2007 02:17:00 PM, Blogger Jon said...

From memory, post-crash Dylan was the folk period of 'John Welsey Harding' and 'Nashville Skyline' while Highway 61 was part of the electricification period that pissed off his original listeners so much.

No time for Desolation Row or It Takes a Lot to Laugh or Like a Rolling Stone?

 
At 10/24/2007 03:24:00 PM, Blogger John said...

Thanks for the correction. I've edited the original post.

I did give Like a Rolling Stone a backhanded compliment (along with Tambourine Man.) And I kept Desolation Row among my selections. I'm guessing it will grow on me (along with Sad-eyed Lady of the Lowlands) It Takes a Lot to Laugh (and a train to cry) didn't survive however.

My favorite tunes are probably Idiot Wind, Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again, and Tangled Up in Blue.

 
At 10/24/2007 04:49:00 PM, Blogger Yojimbo_5 said...

Love Bobby Z.

I was listening to a "thing" on NPR coming back up from Portland about how speech can very quickly turn into song, and it immediately brought to mind Paul Simon, who, once the drugs kicked in, started doing more stream-of-unconsciousness writing, but as opposed to Dylan was more in the "John Lennon" mode where rhythm, cadence and melody played a more important part than content.

Dylan to me is free-range poetry set to ryhthm, but Lennon and Simon are restricted by melody.

Just a thought.

 
At 10/25/2007 12:11:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, this took me back. So I ran to get the double CD you gave me to listen. How about Love Minus Zero, No Limit, or Visions of Johanna, or Just Like a Woman. He is indeed a poet. No one listens to Dylan for his voice. smile

~Pam

 
At 10/26/2007 11:43:00 AM, Blogger John said...

Pam, those are girl songs.

I relate more to:
Johnny's in the basement
mixing up the medicine
I'm on the pavement
thinkin' about the government
The man in the trenchcoat
badge out, laid off,
says he's got a bad cough
wants to get it paid off
Lookout kid
it's something you did
God knows when
but you're doing it again
You better duck down the alleyway looking for a new friend
A man in a coonskin cap
in the big pen
wants 11 dollar bills
and you only got 10

Maggie comes fleet foot
Face full of black soot
Talkin' that the heat put
Plants in the bed but
The phone's tapped anyway
Maggie says that many say
They must bust in early May
Orders from the D. A.
Look out kid
Don't matter what you did
Walk on your tip toes
Don't try "No Doz"
Better stay away from those
That carry around a fire hose
Keep a clean nose
Watch the plain clothes
You don't need a weather man
To know which way the wind blows

Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin' to sell
Try hard, get barred
Get back, write braille
Get jailed, jump bail
Join the army, if you fail
Look out kid
You're gonna get hit
But users, cheaters
Six-time losers
Hang around the theaters
Girl by the whirlpool
Lookin' for a new fool
Don't follow leaders
Watch the parkin' meters

Ah get born, keep warm
Short pants, romance, learn to dance
Get dressed, get blessed
Try to be a success
Please her, please him, buy gifts
Don't steal, don't lift
Twenty years of schoolin'
And they put you on the day shift
Look out kid
They keep it all hid
Better jump down a manhole
Light yourself a candle
Don't wear sandals
Can't afford the scandals
Don't wanna be a bum
You better chew gum
The pump don't work
'Cause the vandals took the handles

 
At 10/27/2007 12:32:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those are NOT girl songs John. Those are LOVE songs. I like all the other ones you mentioned of course.

It is interesting to compare Dylan to Lennon and Simon, but I think he is closer to Lenny Cohen in ability and maybe even philosophy. By the way, I once saw Dylan and Simon in a dual concert. They both ran a fell show. It was fantastic!! ~p

 
At 10/27/2007 12:33:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops, that was supposed to say "full" show. haha ~p

 
At 10/28/2007 01:01:00 AM, Blogger Scotty Tuxedo said...

I don't know much about music, really. But I like Dylan a lot and I like his voice. Isn't the Ballad of a Thin Man on one of those albums? Because I love that song as I recall.

 
At 10/28/2007 10:00:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

those songs are all nazis!!!

 
At 10/29/2007 01:16:00 PM, Blogger John said...

Responses:
Pam... I thought you were using the adjective "fell" defined as "fierce; cruel; dreadful; savage." No?

Scotty... Ballad of a Thin Man is referenced in my post... it's on Highway 61 Revisited.

And thanks for the fascist shout outs Clay. You anonymous lurker you.

 
At 9/10/2008 12:09:00 PM, Blogger shams said...

all this love for Blood on the Tracks and nobody calls out "You're a Big Girl Now"?? Brilliant song.

Desire is also a great album. A sentimental favorite of mine is Good As I Been to You, I think from 1993...definitely not a classic album but it stands out from a lot of his later stuff. Plus you have to love sixty verses of "Froggy Went a Courtin'."

Nashville Skyline, if you like folky stuff, is brilliant. And all four Bootleg Series discs are gold.

 

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