You know, usually, I just throw in that “rock” word in my post titles because it’s a good keyword for search engines. But, tonight, I’m proud to say that it rings true. And, on a new Bob Dylan song no-less!
Tonight, I bring you a cool tune from Bob Dylan’s new album, “Together Through Life”. Tonight’s post will be partially about this song and partially my review of the album.
“Forgetful Heart” is the first real “rock” song I’ve heard Dylan do for a long, long time. Not since “Love and Theft” have we heard Dylan rock out. Yes, he’s had some “rompin’ type” of tunes, but most of them are blues and are very, very long. This song is on the shorter side and doesn’t really have that “old standard” sound that we’re so used to hearing from Dylan lately. This is a pure rock song and for this tune at least, his gritty voice serves us well. The electric guitar, although subdued, is a great addition. I hope we get to hear a live version of this song someday with a little more kick and a lot more speed. I play my version about double the speed of Dylan’s original.
Of course, my bad luck continues tonight. You can see the microphone very clearly in the shot. I even recorded an original song for tomorrow. I made sure to get the microphone even closer to my mouth so I could sing these lower-register songs over the acoustic guitar. Turns out, I forgot to select the external microphone input and it recorded off of the built-in mic. Ugh.
Now, onto the album. Let me start off by saying that I’ve heard the album about 20 times so far. I’m really enjoying it. But, it certainly isn’t as good as “Modern Times”. That album is simply great. And, I’ve discovered the reasons why “Together Through Life” doesn’t match up.
The first time I heard “Together Through Life”, I felt like I knew the words and could even sorta sing along to the tunes. The tunes are very predictable and always follow the patterns you think they’re going to follow- especially Dylan’s middle-eights. But, then again, this ablum does have things like choruses (except for a couple songs) and middle-eights, which are pretty much non-existant on “Modern Times”. In fact, the song structure on “Together…” is very similar to “Nashville Skyline” in that the songs sound, well, normal.
But, that’s one of the problems! On “Modern Times”, I still can’t remember all the words and I must’ve heard it forty times. Chris knows I’m a whiz when it comes to lyrics. Dylan has such a way with words- in fact, it really is very poetic. But, you just can’t predict what he’s going to say next. He always switches it up and comes up with great ways of expressing simple sentiments, “When you’re near, I’m a thousand times happier than I could ever say.” What a great way to say, “I love you.”
But, on this album, and it may be because of his writing partner for the project, the lyrics are much simpler and there are only a few hints of Dylan word-greatness.
Dylan’s voice on the album has continued to deteriorate from previous efforts. Honestly- he almost sounds GOOD on “Modern Times”! But, I figured this one out, too- check the songs he sings softly. Those, he sounds fine. It’s the songs he sings louder (even if just in volume and not angrier or screaming) in that he sounds terrible. I don’t care if a gruff voice would contribute to some angry songs. That’s the argument I always hear. You want that? Get frickin’ John Stamos. There comes a point when it’s too much. “This Dream of You” is a classic song. It can become a standard of American songwriting. But, this song is just ruined by his faling voice. Listen to the way his voice just dies on the word “moment” and you’ll hear what I hear. That song would sound amazing coming from a 30 year old Dylan.
Anyway, again, I really like the album, but I did find myself going back and listening to great tracks on “Modern Times” like “Spirit on the Water”, “Workingman’s Blues”, and “Someday Baby”.
I can still do without all those blues songs, though. Talk about a cop-out!
Hopefully, someday, we’ll hear a real rock album from Bob Dylan again. But, until then, I’ll hold onto “Forgetful Heart” and dream of days past.
NICE CHOICE!!! Now, this is a Laptop Session that made me sit up in bed, crank the volume up, and read even more closely than usual. I like and very much agree with your comparisons to “Nashville Skyline.” I think it confused a couple people when I gave “Together Through Life” a positive review and yet a “Maybe So” rating instead of what would have been a more predictable “Yes” — the reason is that I like the album very much, but in that “It’s-very-simple” kind of “Nashville Skyline” sort of way.
I was really surprised you didn’t include a mention of “Feel a Change Comin’ On” — for my money, the album really starts in the second half, leading up to this one. “Jolene” and “Shake Shake Mama” are great, but you (as usual when it comes to this stuff) are right: they’re just blues. At least they’re upbeat.
And, of course, I don’t understand why you don’t love “If You Ever Go To Houston.” I mean, it’s got no chorus, repeats lines, and feels very repetitive in general. What’s not to like?
Seriously, though, I wish I had listened to the album entirely on my iPod so I knew how many times I had listened to it — I have 6 listens on the iPod, so it has to be pushing 30 by now including CD listens — and I am enjoying it, and I’m enjoying the fact that I agree with everything you’ve written! Great performance, too — as usual, you have a great ear for subtle chord changes and really making the song your own while keeping all the important inflections of the original.