What Good Am I?: 70 Reasons Why Bob Dylan is Awesome

Originally posted 2011-05-24 20:00:03. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

(or, Writing 70 Reasons is a Long Time)

By Chris Moore & Nicole Fekete:

Unlike just about every other Dylan article in existence (some of mine included), we’re going to resist the urge to rattle off some witty Dylan-themed puns and cut directly to the point.

Bob Dylan is 70 today!

It’s a bit odd for me to accept that my all-time rock music icon is a septuagenarian, but, even at seventy, Dylan is still making headlines, unpeeling yet more layers of the so-called Never-Ending Tour with a top notch band, and releasing new material at a surprising rate.

Tonight, in no particular order, we celebrate Bob Dylan — holder of the record for most songs by a single artist covered at the Laptop Sessions (63) — for being awesome, for…

1) Coining the phrase, “Keep a good head and carry a light bulb,” after carrying an over-sized light bulb to a press conference.

2) “Going electric” and doing so at maximum volume.

3) Sneaking marijuana innuendo into the major radio hit, “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.”

4) Getting arrested for looking like a hobo.

5) Spawning co-founding Wallflower and outstanding lyricist Jakob Dylan.

6) Inspiring, in his words, a gazillion books.

7) Remembering words when high, yet forgetting when sober.

8 ) Assembling what is perhaps the first creative, true music video in “Subterranean Homesick Blues” in the opening credits of Don’t Look Back.

9) And for including Allen Ginsberg in it!

10) Having the bitchin’-est background singers around.

11) And for becoming romantically involved with each of them.

12) Coming out with a self-proclaimed terrible album to shirk attention and shed devotees (Self Portrait).

13) Being (one of?) the most covered artists of all time.

14) Having a song called “The Cough Song” (“Suze”).

15) Punning off stoned while being stoned.

16) Dropping my favorite f-bomb of all time (“Play effin loud!” live in 1966).

17) Recording the only country album by someone other than Johnny Cash that I enjoy (Nashville Skyline).

18) Being friends and dueting with Johnny Cash.

19) Being friends and dueting with George Harrison.

20) Making the first Traveling Wilburys session possible.

21) Taking the lead role on Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 3.

22) Writing popular rock songs that feature lumberjacks, sword swallowers, and one-eyed midgets.

23) Inspiring a song about his beard (Wilco’s “Bob Dylan’s Beard”).

24) Busting out a song like “Billy 1” from the Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid for the first time live in concert… nearly four decades after it was released.

25) Inspiring that National Lampoon parody song about the “spangled dwarf in his bowtie.”  (And the infantry don’t ask why!)

26) Walking off the Ed Sullivan Show when he was prohibited from playing “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues.”

27) Writing Chronicles, Volume 1.

28) Giving us hope that there’ll be a volume two!

29) Rearranging any song from his catalog as though it were the year 1942.

30) Giving the Byrds the boost they needed to truly hit it big.

31) Conceptualizing the Rolling Thunder Revue.

32) Composing some of the most notable protest songs in American history.

33) Avoiding titles like “voice of a generation.”

34) Playing “Oh Sister” at the Hard Rain (1976) concert in response to a request that he play a protest song.

35) Continuing to write subversive protest songs throughout every period of his career (“Gonna Change My Way of Thinking,” “Neighborhood Bully,” etc.).

36) Recording what is perhaps one of his best albums at the age of 59.

37) Being in the midst of a Never-Ending Tour.

38) Playing with the Band, which is best when working with Dylan.

39) Still knowing how to rock out. (see: the version of “High Water” on Tell Tale Signs)

40) “Oh, Mama, can this really be the end? / To be stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues again…”

41) For recording “Spirit of America” with Brian Wilson!

42) Surprising everyone with Christmas in the Heart, the creepy, raspy-voiced curmudgeon’s guide to yuletide tunes.

43) Inspiring a fairly uninspired collection of covers titled Tangled Up in Blues.

44) Inspiring that most ridiculous of cover collections titled Tangled Up in Bluegrass.

45) Sporting a mullet during the only decade that it was even remotely forgivable to do so.

46) Not being ashamed to wear that sequined jacket in the seventies.

47) Developing an aura that led to wild rumors regarding subjects like his legs (amputated in the motorcycle accident?) or the motorcycle accident itself (did it ever even happen?).

48) Recording and writing with the Band (heard of the Basement Tapes, anyone?).

49) Rarely swearing, then dropping just about every swear and slur of his catalog in “Hurricane.”

50) For inspiring controversy over his first performance in China (see: Maureen Dowd’s editorial, Ron Rosenbaum’s reaction on Slate.com, etc.).

51) For becoming deathly ill… right after releasing an album that was all about death… and shortly after saying that the album wasn’t necessarily about death.

52) Writing “All Along the Watchtower” and admitting to the superiority of Jimi Hendrix’s version.

53) Writing “New Pony,” and enabling Jack White and the Dead Weather to create the rare arrangement that, by far, surpasses Dylan’s own.

54) Having one of the wildest rock star heads of hair ever.

55) Introducing the Beatles to drugs.  Imagine how the sixties would have been different without that…

56) Transforming and altering the public perception and memory of the Newport Folk Festival.

57) Having more talent in his left jowl than the sum total of most popular contemporary artists.

58) “Mississippi.”

59) Hardly acknowledging the stage invader during the SOY BOMB incident (1998).

60) Writing “Masters of War” (1963), a song that would eventually (2004) cause the Boulder, CO high school band Coalition for the Willing to be investigated by the Secret Service for allegedly threatening President Bush when alarmists overreacted to the final lines of the song.

61) Releasing an album on September 11, 2001 with an eerily timely amount of twin imagery.

62) Imagining and filming the incredibly lengthy and as-yet unavailable on DVD Renaldo and Clara, yet another artifact from the Rolling Thunder Revue era (the Bootleg Series live album being the premier artifact).

63) Inspiring terms like Dylanologist, Bobolator, and more.

64) Adding sound and voice to a Victoria’s Secret commercial and releasing a limited edition compilation CD via store locations.

65) Writing and recording what is arguably the best “break-up album” of all time.  Twice. (see: Blood on the Tracks)

66) Playing lead and soloing during the 1995 MTV Unplugged concert.

67) Inspiring tales such as those told by Highway 61 Revisited-era electric guitarist Mike Bloomfield, the best of which are inappropriate for a family-friendly blog.

68) Accumulating such an impressive vault of alternate versions (most recently, beautiful versions of “Mississippi,” “Most of the Time,” and others have emerged), live tracks, and more.

69) Having the guts to leave his hometown, travel east, change his name, and reinvent himself as an authentic performer and, eventually, songwriter.

70) Living a life that is more the stuff of legends and rock star biographies than any of us will ever experience or even be able to imagine.

This is, admittedly, a limited list.  It was developed and written on a whim in one draft, so we encourage you to add reasons via the comment box below.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this, and until next May 24th, a happy Bobby’s B-day to one and all!

P.S. I almost forgot! 

71)  Inspiring an outstanding website such as Expecting Rain, which enabled my two installments of “Together Through Life: A Look Back at Ten (Officially Released) Bob Dylan Rarities” to earn the record for first and second most views in a single day of any post at LaptopSessions.com!

The Weekend Review: June 2011 Report

Originally posted 2011-12-29 20:40:55. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

June was a quiet month, and I didn’t initially appreciate some of the great work that is represented below.  This is one of the only benefits to posting these reviews so belatedly this year: that my criticism has had months to percolate and develop.  I think that is revealed below…

 

Suck It And See (Arctic Monkeys)

Producer: James Ford

Released: June 6, 2011

Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “She’s Thunderstorms” & “Piledriver Waltz”

With so many individually excellent songs – the opening electric barrage of “She’s Thunderstorms” and the gorgeously  Suck It And See should be an instant classic.  There’s something lacking, though: predominantly, a sense of momentum.  Individual songs achieve momentum relative to themselves, but there just isn’t a sense of ever-mounting energy as the tracks continue.  Still, the retro-rock/punk groove of tracks like “The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala” is undeniably catchy, and the Arctic Monkeys certainly haven’t lost their range, one which runs from the mean distortion of “Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair” to the placid ballad “Love is a Laserquest.”


Alpocalypse (“Weird Al” Yankovic)

Producer: “Weird Al” Yankovic

Released: June 21, 2011

Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “CNR” & “Skipper Dan”

With Poodle Hat (2003) and Straight Outta Lynwood (2006), Weird Al raised the bar considerably, and it would seem to be a setup for failure to compare all future work by the watermark of discs like these.  Still, Alpocalypse rises to the occasion: there’s the dual-layered parody of “Born This Way” and Lady Gaga in the opener “Perform This Way,” style parodies of Weezer (“Skipper Dan”) and the White Stripes (“CNR”) that will stand up to his best work, and of course, a wittily titled polka medley (“Polka Face”).  Weird Al even manages to make the catchiness of that celebratory, patriotic Miley Cyrus tune accessible to the rest of us in “Party in the CIA.”  With Alpocalypse, Yankovic has also caught up on a few items that, in retrospect, I’m surprised haven’t fallen under his radar previously:  “Craigslist,” performed in perfect Doors/Jim Morrison fashion, and the appropriately faux-epic “Stop Forwarding that Crap to Me.”

 

Is For Karaoke EP (Relient K)

Released: June 28, 2011

Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Surf Wax America” (originally performed by Weezer) & “Baby” (originally performed by Justin Bieber)

While I usually cannot condone an album of covers, much less an EP, and especially from a band that has only recently put out some of the most mature and masterful original material of their career, Relient K’s Is For Karaoke EP is actually quite good.  In seven brief songs, they span the decades, from as recent as last year and stretching all the way back to April 1980 with an impressively spot-on take of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Here Comes My Girl,” not forgetting the nineties in between, particularly with their not to Weezer in “Surf Wax America,” an excellent choice of band as well as song.  Frontman Matt Thiessen shows off his vocal range on Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” and Relient K renders another annoying track listenable in their cover of Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” a resuscitation of a cover that can only be compared with Fountains of Wayne’s version of Britney Spear’s “Baby… One More Time.”  Overall, a masterful little EP, and not bad at all to tide us over until their follow-up to 2009’s outstanding Forget and Not Slow Down, my pick for number one album of that year.

 

Rave On Buddy Holly (Various Artists)

Producer: Randall Poster & Gelya Robb

Released: June 28, 2011

Rating: 3/5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “(You’re So Square) Baby, I Don’t Care” (Cee Lo Green) & “Changing All Those Changes” (Nick Lowe)

As with all tribute albums, the quality is uneven throughout.  And, buyer beware, there are some real clunkers here (Lou Reed’s distortion-drowned “Peggy Sue,” to name only one of several).  However, there are also some gems, and some hail from surprising corners.  Cee Lo Green’s take on “(You’re So Square) Baby, I Don’t Care” is easily the best track on the record, followed quickly by a plethora of pleasing yet unsurprising covers by an admittedly impressive array of artists, from Paul McCartney to Modest Mouse and Fiona Apple to the Black Keys.  There are too many strong tracks here to write Rave On Buddy Holly off, yet there are too many forgettable (at best) flunkers to offer up too much praise too easily.

The Weekend Review: September 2011 Report

Originally posted 2012-01-01 16:00:17. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

September was, for me, the slowest new music month of the year thus far, but if the only music released in a thirty day span is a brand new Wilco studio album, you’ll find me a happy camper each time.  Jeff Tweedy and company have yet to disappoint me, and regarding The Whole Love specifically, Wilco has rarely impressed and entertained me so greatly (probably only once before; can you guess on which record?).  Read on…

The Whole Love (Wilco)

Producer: Jeff Tweedy, Pat Sansone, and Tom Schick

Released: September 27, 2011

Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Born Alone” & “Dawned on Me”

From start to finish, The Whole Love exemplifies the Wilco experience: traces of what you’ve come to love, unexpected turns (particularly, this time around, in “Capital City”), and a careful sequencing that unites twelve distinct songs along a single thread.  Bookended by relatively lengthy experimentation in the distortion-drenched, feedback-fueled romp “Art of Almost” and the pleasant acoustic twelve-minute narrative “One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend),” the majority of the tracks on The Whole Love are concise efforts, ranging from the retro-stomp of “I Might” to the lush acoustic production of “Black Moon.”  On most tracks, it becomes clear that it is not so much that Wilco is an experimental band so much that they are innovative in their arrangements, in their seemingly instinctive sense of how to blend movements in songs, which instruments to bring high in the mix when, and how best to (subtly) layer in beds of synthesized sound for atmosphere.  From start to finish, The Whole Love is a striking effort: one of those albums that yields up new revelations with successive listens, one that begs to be left alone when the twelfth minute of track twelve fades and cycles back into to the first tentative moments of “Art of Almost.”  If you hear only one new album this year, I would posit that Wilco’s latest disc is the most expansive, complete, fully rendered of them all; a true must-listen.

The Weekend Review: August 2011 Report

Originally posted 2012-01-01 12:41:46. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

 

Tripper (The Fruit Bats)

Released: August 2, 2011

Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Tangie and Ray” & “You’re Too Weird”

On Tripper, quirky, folksy retro rockers the Fruit Bats fall into a comfortable groove, kicking off with the drug-induced experiences of the alliterative “Tony the Tripper,” following up two tracks later with the tale of “Tangie and Ray,” and later adding “Dolly” into the mix.  The Fruit Bats spin a veritable world across the eleven tracks on Tripper, adding bird sounds and what could be a stream to “The Banishment Song,” laying down warm, (dare I say it?) trippy atmospherics throughout.  Thought the album falters a bit near the end, it is overall true to their form.  It doesn’t have the same concision or catchiness as 2009’s The Ruminant Band, but it is, all together, a strong fifth effort from the band.

 

I’m With You (Red Hot Chili Peppers)

Producer: Rick Rubin

Released: August 26, 2011

Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Factory of Faith” & “Police Station”

This was a good year for rock, in quality if not in quantity.  Earlier this year, I held up the Foo Fighters’ Wasting Light as one of the best rock albums in years.  I’m With You doesn’t quite ascend to that mark, but it is an outstanding rock album all the same: killer guitar, great bass, and all-around passionate performances.  From the well-arranged “Monarchy of Roses” at the start of the album to the standout tracks placed deep in the track listing, I’m With You delivers fourteen strong rock tracks, incorporating a range of sounds developed throughout the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ career.  “Factory of Faith” is catchy with punchy vocals, “Brendan’s Death Song” tempers a heartfelt lead vocal and guitar while caressing the eventual buildup beautifully, and even a less exceptional track like “Ethiopia” brandishes impressively expansive production qualities.  And this is only to comment on the first four tracks, never mind the true standouts: the gorgeous production and energy on “Police Station” and the epic quality of “Even You Brutus?,” to name only a couple.