Together Through Life: A Look Back at Ten (Officially Released) Bob Dylan Rarities – PART ONE

Originally posted 2009-03-21 11:57:53. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Ironically, three months after the latest Bruce Springsteen release, we have the “New Dylan” to look forward to…

No, this isn’t a nickname for some new artist on the scene that sounds like Dylan; this is literally a new release from the man himself.  Not a bootleg, not a concert, not a single track soundtrack offering–

–a brand-new Bob Dylan studio album!

Set for an official release date of April 28th, 2009, Together Through Life is comprised of ten tracks that interviewer Bill Flanagan has compared to the sound of early 1950s Chess records.  When asked if he likes that sound, Dylan replied, “Oh yeah, very much so. . . the old Chess records, the Sun records. . . I think that’s my favorite sound for a record.”

Needless to say, the album is reportedly nothing like his 2006 number one album Modern Times.  That makes this new record all the more exciting, sparking many questions regarding what the album will sound like, what the lyrics will be, and how the songs will hold up to others in his impressive catalog.

Some may be content to wait (I mean, after all, the first rumors of the album only broke a few weeks ago, less than two months before the release).  On the other hand, I needed to hear Dylan and lots of him.  Which album did I choose?  Which songs?

All of them.

For the past two weeks, I have been playing my 622 Dylan tracks as a randomly ordered playlist on my iPod.  Currently, I’m listening to “Highlands” — I’m halfway through the song with only eight minutes to go! — which is the 447th song out of 622.  The rules of this game?  You are not allowed to skip a track for any reason, even if the track is from Down in the Groove or it’s the thirteenth version of “Mr. Tambourine Man” that you’ve heard.

It’s been great fun, and so I’d like to share my favorite ten songs that I had either forgotten about or haven’t heard in a long time.  In no particular order, here goes…

Ten (Officially Released) Bob Dylan Rarities

1)  “Last Thoughts On Woody Guthrie” – Both the first and the last time that Dylan would recite one of his poems on stage, this 1963 recitation is among my favorite tracks of all time.  If I close my eyes as I listen, I can picture a young Dylan on a sparse stage, pouring out words upon words at a rapid pace, and all the while, perhaps unbeknownst even to himself, he was about to descend into the crazy blur of groundbreaking songwriting, electricity, and the motorcycle accident that was 1964-1966.  What a poem.  When this came up on my iPod last week, I was about to get out of my car to pump gas.  Instead, I stayed in the car, head bowed and eyes closed to simply listen.  (Passersby must have wondered…)

2) “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry” (Live, Concert for Bangladesh) -While it can’t hold a candle to the driving beat and electric energy of the Highway 61 Revisited studio version, there is something refreshing here.  Perhaps it has to do with the performance being one of Dylan’s first post-sixties live performances and seeing him dust off a track that was, at the time, six years old and five albums in the past.  As later songs — like “Dark Eyes” from 1985’s Empire Burlesque or his performance of “Girl From the North Country” at the 30th Anniversary Concert — have continued to prove, there is still something special about giving Dylan center stage with only an acoustic guitar and harmonica.  (In this case, it doesn’t hurt to have the likes of George Harrison and Ringo Starr for accompaniment!)

3)  “Up To Me” – Easily the best track from the Biograph boxset, “Up To Me” is a refugee from the September 1974 Blood on the Tracks sessions.  Early in college, the lyrics to this song were taped to the inside of my door above a mirror, and for a long time, I would read them as I combed my hair in the morning.  It has a very similar sound to “Shelter from the Storm,” so I can understand how it ultimately wasn’t a good fit for the album.  Tracks like this make boxsets like Biograph worthwhile.

4)  “Tomorrow Night” – I’ve really never been a fan of the early 90s return to acoustic, traditional songs.  Still, when this song from 1992’s Good As I Been To You — easily my least favorite of the two acoustic releases — came up, I had to stop and take notice.  There is a quality about the sound and flow of the song that is distinct and struck me as unusual for Dylan.  It made me consider giving the album another try…

5)  “If You Gotta Go, Go Now (Or Else You Got To Stay All Night)” – This is Dylan at his peak as a solo performer.  He makes the crowd burst into laughter at just the right times, laying into lines brimming with subtext and a sort of straightforwardness that is refreshing in a set filled with the poetic landscapes of “Gates of Eden” and “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” as well as the political undertones of “Who Killed Davey Moore” and “With God On Our Side.”

To Be Continued…

The Weekend Review: April 2012 Report

Originally posted 2012-11-18 08:24:09. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

A Wasteland Companion (M. Ward)

Producer: M. Ward

Released: April 6, 2012

Rating:  3.5 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “I Get Ideas” & “Primitive Girl”

 

The “Him” half of nostalgia-rock act She & Him is the more veteran act of the two, and it shows on his most recent release.  A Wasteland Companion is unassuming at most times, but tends to manage that fine balance between simple and boring, leaning ever more towards “chill.”  The Zooey Deschanel – the “She” in She & Him – duet “Sweetheart” doesn’t leap out as much as you might expect it to, but I suppose what can you expect from a one-off non-She & Him album track?  As per usual, a little reverb goes a long way to making M. Ward’s vocals pop in all the right ways for his instrumental sound.  At times, he draws outside the box, as in the distortion on his electric guitar in the standout “I Get Ideas.”  Across the album, the acoustic guitar sparkles and the lyrics propel the sounds, working them into a cohesive yet artistic whole.  Most tracks fly by, many at under three minutes, but this helps to keep up the pace of the album.  When Ward drops the at-times-distracting ambient sounds and focuses on his songs for the words and music as directly as possible, the result is fantastic; and, thankfully, there are enough of those moments represented across this album.

 

 

 

What Kind of World (Brendan Benson)

Producer: Brendan Benson

Released: April 21, 2012

Rating:  2 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Bad for Me” & “The Light of Day”

 

It’s not so much that What Kind of World is bad so much as it is underwhelming.  Early on, the album suffers from songwriting that can’t sustain the length of the tracks (and the songs aren’t that long).  Later, as the tracks are shorter, they are not as well-constructed as it has already been established a Brendan Benson song can be.  Most of the time, the songs seem more interested in being recorded versions of what must have been fun to play in the studio and would even be fun to play out live, but the overall constructions don’t stand up.  To be certain, there are moments of transcendence, but these are lost in the slow drag that is the larger trend of the album.  Those interested in more of the brilliance hinted at here should revisit 2009’s My Old, Familiar Friend, one of the great works of that year.

 

 

 

Blunderbuss (Jack White)

Producer: Jack White

Released: April 23, 2012

Rating:  4 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Freedom at 21” & “Love Interruption”

 

There is probably no album that Jack White could have released for his solo debut that would have fully made good on all the considerable expectations that have been building now for years.  With his talents and various influences spread throughout longer works of collaboration over the years – most recently, the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather, not to mention more subtle appearances as producer/player with artists like Wanda Jackson – there has always been a diverse range of moments where White’s influence has made itself recognizable.  Here, it is Jack White all the time, and the songs do – understandably, as on any album – fall into patterns and larger trends which are, at first, unusual for White’s work.  This all being said, given the opportunity, Blunderbuss is the deep, dark, quirky work that we expect and desire from White; tracks like the standout “Freedom at 21” and “Love Interruption,” back to back on the album, show off two sonic extremes that White has mastered.  The following song, the title track, takes it down a notch further even.  All in all, for me at least, this album suffered from the evil of high expectations.  It’s taken me the better part of the year to come back to the album again after the initial listening party that was the week after its release; what I’ve found is an excellent collection of well-written lyrics and overall eclectic songwriting: a strong album that is suggestive of the great work that is still to come from Jack White in the years to come.

 

 

 

Little Broken Hearts (Norah Jones)

Producer: Danger Mouse

Released: April 25, 2012

Rating:  3 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Good Morning” & “4 Broken Hearts”

 

In the past, I haven’t followed the music or the career of Norah Jones all that closely.  When I learned that Danger Mouse would be producing the new album, I was intrigued.  The resulting album Little Broken Hearts is predictably subversive: slow and elusive at times but always with a strong, quirky sense of rhythm.  Of course, Norah Jones’ vocals – as they did in her appearance on the Danger Mouse-produced Rome – are a beautifully layered coat of paint applied to the dry bones of the instrumentation.  Some tracks stand apart from the rest, perhaps most notably in the opener “Good Morning.”  Much of the album requires patience, which is perhaps a way of admitting it lacks drive at times, or at best that it is artistically rendered in such a way as to make easy listening, quick enjoyment difficult.