Music Review: “Together Through Life” by Bob Dylan

Originally posted 2009-05-04 23:29:25. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

RATING:  3.5 / 5 stars

By Chris Moore:

For many avid music listeners, it feels as though Bob Dylan has indeed been together with us through life.

He started out simple in the sixties — just an acoustic guitar, harmonica, and his aged-before-its-time voice.  By the end of the decade, he had gone electric, gone back to acoustic, and gone to Nashville to aid in the popularization of country rock.

Before the seventies were out, he recorded covers, rediscovered rock, discovered female background singers, and found God.  The next two decades were hit and miss — although any true Dylan fan will tell you that even Knocked Out Loaded has its charms…

Since 1997, Dylan has released what many refer to as his comeback trilogy (Time Out of Mind, Love & Theft, and Modern Times), although he has cryptically referred to Love & Theft as the first in a trilogy.

Now, less than a year away from a new decade and one more than that from his 50th anniversary in the recording business, Dylan has released his most fun and accessible album in years.  “Together Through Life” may have the nostalgic sound and rusted, creaky voice that has been characteristic of Dylan’s recent work, but the subject matter and the tone of the songs is refreshingly light…

…for Dylan, that is.

Upon first glance, the title of the third track – “My Wife’s Home Town” – suggests a song of fond recollection about a spouse’s origins.  And yet that is not the case at all.  As Dylan repeats in the chorus, “I just want to say that hell is my wife’s home town…”

The song concludes with a chuckling sound from Dylan that is reminiscent of the gutteral laugh in Elvis Presley’s Christmas classic “Santa Claus is Back in Town.”  This song is a prime example of the alteration in tone on this most recent Dylan release.  As the cover would suggest, love is a recurring topic that is approached with directness and a sense of humor that wasn’t evident on Modern Times.

For many reasons, Modern Times is a technically superior album — lyrically, instrumentally, and in terms of overall progression.  That being said, Together Through Life is perhaps the most accessible of Dylan’s post-millenium recordings.  The songs are short — most are in the 3-4 minute range — and the album only gets better as you listen, track after track.

“Beyond Here Lies Nothin’,” the album starter, is a nice opening that lyrically toys with the listener, seeming at its face to be a song about a dedicated relationship.  Dylan sings, “As long as you stay with me, the whole world is my throne.”

“Beyond here lies nothin’,” he continues, “Nothin’ we can call our own.”

By the end of the song, you are left to wonder whether the narrator is staying in his relationship for love — the kind of love that reduces all outside elements to “nothin'” — or because there is simply nowhere else, nowhere better, to go.

The true highlights come during the second half of the album (side B, for those of you who purchased the vinyl edition).

“Jolene” fits firmly into my long list of favorite songs with a girl’s first name for a title — BnL’s “Maybe Katie,” the Beach Boys’ “Wendy,” and Fountains of Wayne’s “Hey Julie” to name a few.

Likewise, “Shake Shake Mama” is perhaps the most rockin’ number on the album, although it is a fairly standard blues progression.

Finally, “I Feel a Change Comin’ On” is the best song on the album.  Lyrically, instrumentally, and compositionally (a middle AND a solo!), this song has a catchy chorus and comes as a bit of a surprise as the ninth and penultimate track.

“Life is Hard” and “It’s All Good” act as bookends of sorts to the album as a whole, the former setting the theme early on and the latter bringing it all to a conclusion.  As is typical of the album, Dylan plants his tongue at least lightly in his cheek and turns a cliched phrase into the perfect chorus.

At the end of the day, Together Through Life will not be remembered as one of his best albums.  In a sense, though, it was never intended to be.  It came on quickly, surprising even me when its existence was announced a month before its release in Rolling Stone.  Apparently, Dylan hit upon inspiration after co-writing “Life is Hard” with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter for the Olivier Dahan film My Own Love Song.

Dylan’s spacing between album releases has been 4-5 years for as long as I can recall, and this one came a mere three years after its predecessor.

While the time between releases is a unexpectedly brief and the fact that he collaborated on all but one song (“This Dream of You”) is surprising, it was perhaps not a shock that Hunter is the collaborator.  After all, Dylan and the Dead have a longstanding relationship and mutual respect.  Truly, according to Dylan, his tour with the Dead in the eighties revitalized his passion for performing at a time when he was losing that particular spark.

Now, like an all-star pitcher who is starting on fewer days’ rest than usual, Dylan’s performance on Together Through Life may not be epic, but it is still amazing.

“It Ain’t Me Babe” (Turtles & Bob Dylan Cover)

Originally posted 2009-08-26 00:06:37. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jim Fusco:

Hey hey, everyone!  Time for another Laptop Session acoustic cover song music video from yours truly, Jim Fusco!

Tonight, I bring you a song that I’ve known for a very long time- “It Ain’t Me Babe” by the Turtles.  Of course, it took until Chris became interested in Bob Dylan (sometime around 2000) for me to realize that he actually wrote this song.  So, why did I come back to it tonight?

Well, I love the Turtles version- it’s a great rock song that has slow parts on the verses and faster rockin’ parts on the choruses.  Plus, it’s short and just has so much energy packed into it’s two minutes.

But, I also thought of covering it because I was just listening to “The Bob Dylan Show”, which is a radio show on our own WCJM Radio.  This really isn’t a great show in terms of execution- Chris and I did it on a whim and Chris just wasn’t on his “A-game” when it came to on-air chatter.  For the most part, the show seems forced and that’s probably why I kept it offline and in the archives since the summer of 2001 when it was recorded.

Actually, an interesting note- Chris talks about looking forward to when Dylan’s new album at the time, “Love and Theft”, would be released- he says he can’t wait for September 11th to get here.  Little did we all know…

But, I digress.

The show actually redeems itself because of the music (which is surprising when talking about a show with all Bob Dylan music).  The covers of his songs from Manfred Mann (“The Mighty Quinn”) and George Harrison (“I’d Have You Anytime” and the co-written “If Not For You”) are great additions.  I actually listened to the show twice this week (putting up with the really poor dialogue- I’ve had better conversations with myself!) because I wanted to hear those great cover versions of Dylan’s songs again from the likes of Eric Clapton (“Born In Time”), Jimi Hendrix (“All Along the Watchtower”) and, of course, the Byrds.

So, after you’re done watching my acoustic cover song music video here today, you should head on over to WCJM Internet Radio and listen to “The Bob Dylan Show” (or any other show there) absolutely free!  There’s nothing to sign up for or anything like that.  Just click “Play” and start listening.  Click HERE to visit the “Jammin’ With Jim Show” page and click on “The Bob Dylan Show”.

I hope you enjoy both forms of entertainment this Tuesday.  I’m very excited for the next few days, as they’re starting to frame our new home and all employees at work were given a surprise free “Appreciation Day” off, so I get to choose any day in the next two weeks and just not go to work!  I love my job. :-)

Have a great one, and to echo Chris’ sentiment yesterday- please make sure to come back for another great acoustic rock cover song music video from our very own Jeff Copperthite on his “Thumpin’ Thursday” post!  See you next week.



Bob Dylan Discography: 1961 – 1969

Originally posted 2008-06-25 22:40:31. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

A couple years ago, a friend at work asked me for some information about Bob Dylan and his work in the 1960s. Little did she know I would not only give her son as much verbal information as he required, but I would also type up a brief discography of his albums. I just came across it today, and I figured I would share it with you all!

Bob Dylan Discography

– The Sixties

1961 – January: Moves to New York

1962 – March: Bob Dylan

-Very folky album, mostly comprised of covers. His early original “Song to Woody” (for his hero, Woody Guthrie) is notable.

1963 – May: The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

-His first big success and one of his true classics! This is the album that made bands like the Beatles stand up and take notice of him.

1964 – January: The Times They Are A-Changin’

-Deep in the heart of his “protest song” era, this topical album solidified his standing with the folk artists of the 1960’s.

August: Another Side of Bob Dylan

-In this album, Dylan’s desire to break away from topical songs and write more personal material—“My Back Pages,” etc.—becomes evident.

1965 – March: Bringing It All Back Home

-Dylan begins to “go electric” with this half acoustic, half electric album.

August: Highway 61 Revisited

-This is where Dylan pulled out all the stops and made a sound that was all his own. Best known for its lead-off song, “Like A Rolling Stone.”

1966 – May: Blonde on Blonde

-Dylan pushes his sound a step further with this album; widely considered to be among the (if not THE) best album of his career.

1967 – December: John Wesley Harding

-Following his motorcycle accident in 1966 and the cancellation of his upcoming tour dates, fans were somewhat thrown by his return to a more folky sound.

1968 –

Records in a basement with the Band; those widely bootlegged takes were later
released as The Basement Tapes

1969 – April: Nashville Skyline

-Making the transformation complete, he released this country rock album with a new version of “Girl of the North Country” (originally from Freewheelin’) as a duet with Johnny Cash.

“Love Sick” (“Time Out of Mind” Cover)

Originally posted 2008-02-01 21:21:35. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Hello again, and thanks for tuning in for another all-new Laptop Session! I have the honor of presenting the first video of February, on the first day of our exciting, newly-designed LaptopSessions.com website design theme. Thanks to Jim for really bringing the site to the next level!

I’ve been pretty sick the past couple days, and I’ve barely been making it back and forth between work and sleep. So, when it came time to record today, I couldn’t think of any better song to do than “Love Sick,” the first track off of Bob Dylan’s 1997 album Time Out of Mind. Not only does it have “sick” in the title, but Dylan’s voice is particularly gruff on the album, so my voice is in prime condition. :-)

I’ll definitely be doing more from this album in the future. For now, you can look forward to another great song by Jeff tomorrow!