Oh, you didn’t think I’d fall for that. I saw a headline yesterday, never read the article, nor can I remember the publication in which it appeared but the essence was this: Who, at this point in the life and career of Bob Dylan can any longer review his music? Certainly not me, that’s for sure. I’ve been a Dylan fan forever, own probably thirty of his thirty-five lps, have seen him a dozen times or so live, but how could I review his newest work? It would be as impossible as reviewing a Bob Dylan concert. Sure, there's critics but in my view, nobody should review Bob Dylan at this point other than Dylan himself.
I’m not dead yet … my bells still rings ...
If you haven’t heard, this week, Bob Dylan released his thirty-fifth studio album, Tempest. A brilliant way to build it up, of course, Columbia Records began streaming it a week before it hit the record stores. And, yea, I said record stores. In Bob Dylan-fashion he is releasing this record on vinyl just as he’s done thirty-four times before. Two weeks prior to releasing the record, he broke out the supporting video for the first track on the record, "Duquesne Whistle." “Duquesne Whistle,” was co-written by my two absolutely favorite lyricists, Bob Dylan and Robert Hunter. The video is quite compelling, and to some of us not from the video-game generation, quite shocking; just another useful tool to get some well-deserved buzz about your new record.
There certainly is buzz about this record; everyone’s talking about it. Here’s some of the facts: It is produced by Dylan himself, who goes under the pseudonym of Jack Frost. It has ten tracks and runs over sixty-eight minutes; his second-longest record yet. A bit more than twenty-three minutes of this record are the title track, The Tempest, and Tin Angel, a graphic, yet historical song about the doomed voyage of the Titanic. The last track on the record is a tribute to John Lennon, Roll On John.
Now here’s my take on it: I love it; why wouldn’t I? I dig Bob Dylan. In a New York Times article I read last week it said, and I’m paraphrasing: he’s not out to attract a new audience. Yup. As cliché’ as it sounds, it’s classic Bob Dylan. His voice is the voice of a seventy-one year old Bob Dylan. The writing is the finest around. The first half of the record reminds me of a Traveling Wilburys record. Pay In Blood is like the separating track, it works to divide this record in two, and is my favorite one. This is timeless Bob Dylan, with remarkable, yet quotable lyrics. All I can say, if you’re a Bob Dylan fan, chances are you’ll be like me, and welcome this with open arms. If you’ve never been a Dylan fan, this one most likely won’t change that stand. You can check it at: BobDylan.com
Tracks: (1) Duquesne Whistle 2) Soon After Midnight 3) Narrow Way 4) Long and Wasted Years 5) Pay in Blood 6) Scarlet Town 7) Early Roman Kings 8) Tin Angel 9) Tempest 10) Roll on John
And speaking of Bob Dylan, I got a chance last weekend to see the man, the myth, the legend himself. He’s continuing the tour he set out to do in 1988, and is still calling: The Never Ending Tour … (how Bob Dylan is that?) One of the last times I saw Dylan, I told my friends and family to remind me how much I didn’t enjoy his last show. But, I’m a sucker for live music, not to mention, of course, I love Bob Dylan.
As much as I don’t like the venues at the local casinos, I chose that show over the other local show which was at an outdoor venue. You’d think Dylan was touring to support his new album, and maybe he was, but he didn’t play a single song from the new record, and as far as I know, he hadn’t the entire tour. I say I don’t like the venues at the local casinos because I’m not a huge fan of the rigid security of these venues. My guess, the average age of the concert-go’ers was 55+. I just find it difficult to justify such strict security, and like I said, rigid tactics.
Though it wasn’t a sold out show, it was pretty close to it. The 8:00 p.m. show started slightly late; no opening act. He opened with You Ain’t Going Nowhere, definitely a favorite of mine, and went into Tom Thumbs Blues. I had forgotten my glasses (somewhere) so I wrote down the third song but I can’t read my writing, so your guess is as good as mine as to what was played. (I could google it, but that’s no fun.) Right when I thought, how can this get any better, he breaks out the next song, my all-time favorite Dylan tune: Tangled Up In Blue. He offered up a completely different arrangement of this song, but, it’s Bob Dylan, and it’s his song … he can do what he wants. I’ve heard so many covers of this tune, I think he covered a cover of his own song, or that’s what it sounded like. He went into a sort of swing version of Summer Days; then brought out his harmonica briefly for another of my top-ten Dylan tunes, Not Dark Yet. He went back to the piano for a bluesy rendition of Joline, and stayed on the keys for Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll. He also played favorites: Visions of Johanna, Highway 61, Simple Twist of Fate, and Ballad of A Tin Man.You knew the end was coming when he treated us to Like A Rolling Stone and All Along The Watch Tower, and did an encore of Blowin’ In The Wind.
It was a Greatest-Hits-Of-Bob-Dylan kinda show; just what I think at this stage of the game what people would expect. But, of course, Bob Dylan rarely gives you what you expect. The show lasted about an hour and fifty minutes. Musically it was not perfect, sort of a blend of sounds. It is pretty cool though to see him play the acoustic piano, and although he had a keyboard on stage, I don’t recall seeing him play it even once. There was very little animated stage presence: Dylan always keeps his stage darkened and lights dimmed…sort of ominous. He played a lot of piano (acoustic), a little bit of electric guitar, and even less harmonica. It was very methodical and mechanical, in fact if someone told me that it was a holographic Bob Dylan performing, it wouldn’t surprise me. Maybe I paid too much attention. Apparently, Dylan has very strict No Photography rule and pretty much everybody adhered to that rule. I’m use to watching events through a camera lens so to actually watch a concert with just my eyes gave me a completely different view or perspective on the show.
Overall it was enjoyable and worthwhile. It helped balance my Bob Dylan concert outlook. I just wish he played longer.
Set List ~ 8 Sept 2012
Song ~ Record it comes from:
You Ain't Goin' Nowhere ~ (Originally released on) Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. 2
Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues ~ on Highway 61 Revisited
Tangled Up In Blue ~ on Blood On The Tracks
Summer Days ~ on Love and Theft
Not Dark Yet ~ on Time Out of Mind
Jolene ~ on Together Through Life
The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll ~ on The Times They Are A-Changin’
High Water (For Charley Patton) ~ on Love & Theft
Visions Of Johanna ~ on Blonde On Blonde
Highway 61 Revisited ~ on Highway 61 Revisited
Simple Twist Of Fate ~ on Blood On The Tracks
Thunder On The Mountain ~ on Modern Times
Ballad Of A Thin Man ~ on Highway 61 Revisited
Like A Rolling Stone ~ on Highway 61 Revisited
All Along The Watchtower ~ John Wesley Harding
Blowin' In The Wind ~ The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan