Friday, November 30, 2007

Dylan CDs at staggeringly low prices

With CD prices on a relentless downward spiral, Dylan fans can now fill gaps in their collection for a tiny outlay.

Leading online retailer, for example, has DYLAN, the new 3CD Deluxe Digipak at £18 – half price! It also currently has the following staggering offers (prices include delivery):

* The Basement Tapes 2CD, £7
* Bootleg Series v1-3 3CD, £14
* Biograph 3CD, £14
* Tripack – BIABH/H61R/BOB 3CD, £8
* Tripack – Infidels/OM/TOOM 3CD, £8

as well as innumerable single albums at £4.

These prices almost make me wish I hadn’t bought all this great product/art on release. Almost … .

Gerry Smith

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Modern Times track-by-track: When The Deal Goes Down, part 2

Chris Gregory, who has just finished writing an engaging, thoughtful track-by-track analysis of Modern Times, has kindly consented to The Dylan Daily publishing a sample of his writing, on two of the album’s ten songs.

The first article, in two parts, analyses When The Deal Goes Down. A second two-part article, on Workingman’s Blues #2, will follow next week.


(Part 1 was published on The Dylan Daily yesterday)

By Chris Gregory

The third verse depicts the singer in a twilight, moonlit world – as if he is the ‘pale ghost’ from Spirit On The Water. The mood of reconciliation continues. …We learn to live… he tell us …and then we forgive/ o’er the road we’re bound to go… The anachronistic expression give the lines a kind of timeless quality, with the reference to the ‘road’ of life echoing the ‘street’ on which we ‘stray’ from the first verse.

Perhaps Dylan was recalling Robert Frost’s famous poem The Road Not Taken with its final declaration that …I shall be telling this with a sigh/Somewhere ages and ages hence/Two road diverged in a wood and I/Took the one less travelled by/And that one has made all the difference… The tone of resigned acceptance of fate and the idea that the choices we make that determine our lives are not always thought through parallels Dylan’s position here. The next lines, partly ‘sampled’ from Timrod, focus again on the fragility of life: …more frailer than the flowers/these precious hours… Dylan adds the remarkable …that keep us so tightly bound… suggesting that we often keep the ‘flower’ of our lives, and of our creativity, ‘tightly bound’ like pressed flowers in an old book. The implication seems to be that life is infinitely precious and that it should not be wasted in futile struggle. Following this, the final lines are now triumphant, with the singer greeting his muse like a revelation, a …vision from the skies…

The final verse sees the spiritual seeker reaffirming his newfound acceptance of life’s turbulent path. Instead of following a 'road 'he follows a more natural ‘winding stream’. He tells us that picks up a rose, the Blakean symbol of love, life and death and that, rather comically … it poked through my clothes… as if he does not feel it pricking him now. He is immune to its effects. Although he lives in …this earthly domain/full of disappointment and pain… he now fully accepts his place in the scheme of things. Despite the ‘deafening noise’ of life’s mad confusion, he accepts the ‘transient joys’ of life, even though … I know they’re not what they seem… He confesses that he ‘owes his heart’ to his muse. He fully accepts the hand that life has dealt him. And he implies that when death comes - when his ‘deal’ finally ‘goes down’ he will be reunited with the spirit of creativity that he now places his faith in.

Thus When The Deal Goes Down is a kind of summation of the journey through spiritual confusion symbolised in Every Grain of Sand’s heartaching line …the bitter dance of loneliness, fading into space… It rejects the dark visions of much of what follows, such as the terrifying final line of 1985’s apocalyptic Dark Eyes : …a million faces at my feet/and all I see are dark eyes… and the jaded, resigned millenialist moralism of 1989’s Ring Them Bells : …Ring Them Bells/For the chosen few/Who will judge the many/When the game is through ….

Since the late ‘80s Dylan has pursued, through his Never Ending Tour, a thorough exploration of the sources of his inspiration. Caught in the grip of spiritual despair and artistic desperation he declared himself …determined to stand… whether or not he could still retain his faith. Now, with Modern Times he triumphantly reasserts his ‘conversion’ to a new kind of faith – faith in himself and humanity.

When The Deal Goes Down dramatises the struggle he has been through to reach this point. Now freed from the shackles of dogmatic thinking that have plagued him for so many years, he has produced a fundamentally humanistic collection of songs which confronts mortality and the vicissitudes of life itself with heartfelt compassion and great courage.

All lyrics quoted are used for the purpose of criticism or review. All lyrics quoted are by Bob Dylan.
EVERY GRAIN OF SAND Copyright © 1981 Special Rider Music.
WHEN THE DEAL GOES DOWN Copyright © 2006 Special Rider Music.
DARK EYES Copyright © 1985 Special Rider Music
RING THEM BELLS Copyright © 1989 Special Rider Music

(A second two-part article, on Workingman’s Blues #2, will follow on The Dylan Daily next week.)

See all Chris’s writing at:

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Modern Times track-by-track: When The Deal Goes Down

Chris Gregory, who has just finished writing an engaging, thoughtful track-by-track analysis of Modern Times, has kindly consented to The Dylan Daily publishing a sample of his writing, on two of the album’s ten songs.

The first article, in two parts, analyses When The Deal Goes Down. A second two-part article, on Workingman’s Blues #2, will follow next week.


By Chris Gregory

…We all wear the same thorny crown…

Perhaps the most striking aspect of Modern Times is its lyrical and emotional clarity. The lyrics of 2001’s Love And Theft, like so many Dylan albums before it, featured often wildly allusive patterns of reference. But here the songs are carefully constructed to convey specific emotions and themes in a way that we may not generally think of as ‘Dylanesque’. When The Deal Goes Down is perhaps the most precisely written and the least ambiguous piece on the album. It deals with mortality and the fragility of existence ‘in this earthly domain’ with great humility and dignity. As ever with Dylan, we are presented with a number of apparently very different reference points. Its rich fusion of natural imagery and restrained ‘plain speak’ is reminiscent of the poetry of Robert Frost. It is delivered in a breathy, almost whispered Willie Nelson-style croon which befits its bittersweet nature, in a tune based on an old Bing Crosby number. There is a sparing use of archaic language, including some lines lifted from the work of Civil War poet Henry Timrod. The song is also infused with the spirit, and some of the imagery, of the blues. Yet these disparate elements are quite seamlessly combined in a transcendent, sometimes almost heartbreaking, performance. The song is a kind of open confession, in which the singer lays forth his spiritual confusion in what becomes a kind of conversation with his audience, the rest of the world and himself.

When The Deal Goes Down is especially reminiscent of two earlier Dylan songs, both of which wrestle with loss of faith, mortality and the mysteries of the cosmos. Every Grain of Sand (1981) was written at the end of his most overtly religious period, following his dramatic conversion to Born Again Christianity in 1979. But here the moral certainty of the songs of two years before is replaced by profound self-doubt. Although he declares that he can …see the Master’s hand…. in every aspect of creation, he finally confesses that …sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other times it’s only me… as if his whole experience of God has been merely one of his own projections. By the time of Not Dark Yet (1997) the singer faces a complete loss of faith, feeling that his …soul has turned into steel…. and telling us that …sometimes my burden is more than I can bear… When The Deal Goes Down attempts to provide a resolution to this ongoing spiritual crisis. What makes the song so moving is the way it depicts a struggle for, and perhaps a final attainment of, a kind of grace, or spiritual enlightenment, achieved not through any conventionally ‘religious’ path but through making a personal ‘deal’ with the spirit of creativity. Dylan has stated that he now places his faith not in any deity but in the old songs he constantly revisits and refers to in his art, many of them (such as Hank Williams’ manic gospel number I Saw The Light) rather turbulent expressions of faith. As with Spirit On The Water and Rolling And Tumbling, Dylan makes the spirit of creativity his touchstone, his ‘God’, his ‘Tambourine Man’.

The song begins like a slow country waltz, with some mournful steel guitar and tense percussive brush strokes. In the first verse Dylan describes the state of spiritual confusion he has found himself in, confessing that he is ‘bewildered’ and that …we live and we die/We know not why… Any prayers that may be offered up are like invisible clouds, floating away unnoticed. The ‘pathways of life’ are dark and the singer stands in the symbolic landscape of …the world’s ancient light/Where wisdom grows up in strife… The declaration of …But I’ll be with you when the deal goes down… is the first statement of defiant faith, apparently contradicting what has gone before. Although the song sounds nothing like the blues, it has begun in the typical manner of a blues lament – by stating the singer’s troubles. The phrase ‘when the deal goes down’ is used in a number of blues songs, including Honey Babe Let The Deal Go Down by Dylan’s particular favourites The Mississippi Sheiks and Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down, originally recorded by Charlie Poole and The North Carolina Ramblers in 1925 (and covered by Dylan on several occasions). The ‘deal’ in these songs is a gambling metaphor which the singers extend to life in general, the idea being that you have to face life with whatever ‘hand’ you are dealt. Here, despite what the singer identifies as the apparent purposelessness of life, he is determined to hold onto the ‘cards’ he has been given.

As the band sticks to the minimal backdrop, Dylan continues with his understated delivery. The song continues to shift between the personal to the universal. The first lines of the second verse ...We eat and we drink, we feel and we think/far down the street we stray… suggests, in a philosophical tone, that we are all fallible creatures who will inevitably ‘stray’ from the path of virtue. The singer is ‘haunted’ by regret for ….things I never meant or wished to say… The second half of the verse moves from plainspeak into more imagistic expression. …The midnight rain follows the train… is the song’s most ‘Dylanesque’ line, itself derived from blues imagery. ‘Rain’ is a frequent image in Dylan’s work, frequently symbolising chaotic confusion and spiritual desolation. …I’m out in the rain/And you are on dry land… Dylan cries in 1975’s You’re A Big Girl Now, expressing his exclusion and desolation. ..Everybody’s making love… he sings in Desolation Row (1965) …or else expecting rain… In A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall lies and confusion threaten to flood the entire world. Here the ‘midnight rain’ stands as a metaphor for life’s troubles, following the train which symbolises the progress of a human life. The next line …we all wear the same thorny crown… delivered with a kind of light, sighing compassion, is perhaps the song’s most resonant image, suggesting that the burden of sin is carried by us all. Despite the obvious reference to Jesus, this is decidedly not a line he would have used on Slow Train Coming or Saved. Dylan’s work has always been steeped in Biblical imagery and a concern with what he once called ‘the politics of sin’ has always been one of his central themes. The delivery of the line here is so moving because of the sense of dignity he imparts to what amounts to an almost tearfully world-weary acceptance of the inevitability of the burden we must all bear. Whereas in Not Dark Yet the burden seems to be too much for him, here he is able to bear it lightly. The next line, the exquisite ...soul to soul, our shadows roll… further emphasises the idea that ultimately we are all equally mortal, our ‘shadows’ merging together in the spiritual world. Dylan caresses the words, with their neat internal rhyme suggesting his acceptance of a kind of universal harmony. The title line at the end of the verse now begins with ‘and’ rather than ‘but’. The contradictions of the first verse have clearly, to some extent, been resolved.

… continued on The Dylan Daily tomorrow …

All lyrics quoted are used for the purpose of criticism or review. All lyrics quoted are by Bob Dylan.
DESOLATION ROW Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros Inc; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music.
YOU’RE A BIG GIRL NOW Copyright © 1974 Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2002 by Ram’s Horn Music.
EVERY GRAIN OF SAND Copyright © 1981 Special Rider Music.
NOT DARK YET Copyright © 1997 Special Rider Music.
WHEN THE DEAL GOES DOWN Copyright © 2006 Special Rider Music.

See all Chris’s writing at:

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I'm Not There – soundtrack/film reviews

Thanks to Mike Ollier, regular contributor on The Dylan Daily’s companion site,

“I just got I'm Not There this weekend and listened to disc one on my way to work this morning. Some of it is great, some not so (as expected).


* Sonic Youth (suprisingly),
* Dark Eyes,
* McGuinn,
* Los Lobos (can do no wrong, as ever!) and
* Willie.

“Not so great:

*Cat Power (what's the point of a slavish re-hash? Though I have to admit that I like the horns on here),
* Eddie Vedder (again, too much like the Hendrix or Band version),
* Jeff Tweedy (very disappointing from one of my fave singer/songwriters, again, too close to Dylan's version).”

And thanks to Martin Cowan for his link to a long feature article (aka “plug”) on the film in Saturday’s Daily Telegraph Magazine:

I don’t know about you, dear Dylan Daily reader, but this film is failing to engage my attention. It’s on at the Barbican, in London over Xmas, if you’re keen to see it.

Gerry Smith

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Dylan/Jack White/Hank Williams project

PASTE magazine caters for followers of grown-up rock and Americana, so it’s no surprise that its scoop of last week that Dylan and Jack White have been working together on a collection of unfinished Hank Williams songs is currently its “Most Read” News article.

According to PASTE, Dylan has acquired the lyrics that Williams was working on when he died and has involved White in a project to complete them. The first fruit is apparently a recording of a song entitled You Know That I Know.

What a mouth-watering prospect – Dylan working with the best younger rocker of all, on songs by one of the greatest popular musicians of the first half of the last century … watch The Dylan Daily for progress reports.

Gerry Smith

Friday, November 23, 2007

Dylan records new version of Hard Rain

Thanks to Christian Gerritzen in Germany for his link to Dylan’s new recording of Hard Rain for Expo Zaragoza 2008 in Spain:

“Just in case you haven't seen this yet ... . Nice video with sequences from all over Bob's career. The page is in the Loving Tounge, but the song, of course, isn’t :-)

There’s also an English-language article here:

Gerry Smith

Don’t Look Back – now available as a video download

Apple iTunes have just teamed up with distributor New Video to make available Don’t Look Back as a video download, priced at $9.99.

It’s an intriguing development.

Who, exactly, would buy Don’t Look Back as a download when they can buy the beautifully designed 2dvd/2book de luxe package - praised highly on release just a few months ago here on The Dylan Daily?

Maybe it’s a defensive move by Sony/BMG to counter bootlegging of their breathtakingly good DVD release?

Gerry Smith

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Sony’s official Dylan podcasts, introduced by Patti Smith

Don’t miss hip priestess Patti Smith introducing a series of official Sony Dylan podcasts.

The six programmes in the series so far, running for about six minutes each, include Dylan recordings and interview snippets, Smith’s links and contributions from musicians (eg John Hiatt) and critics (eg Greil Marcus).

The series is covering Dylan’s career chronologically. Number 6 has only reached the late 1960s, so it looks as if the series could eventually run to a couple of hours of prime Dylan documentary - all legally downloadable, of course, as MP3 files.

Highly recommended.

Gerry Smith

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Dylan interview – Dublin, 1984

U2 singer Bono interviewed Dylan (alongside Van Morrison) before Dylan’s gig at Slane Castle, Dublin in July 1984, for Irish music paper Hot Press.

The published interview has snippets of insight into Dylan’s thinking, but the highlight for me is Dylan singing Dominic Behan’s Royal Canal.

Van Morrison News, a blog run by John Gilligan, has the text of this rock summit meeting here:

Gerry Smith

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Revolutions and record deals - copious Dylan content in two new books

There’s lots of Dylan content (including a Bob caricature on both covers) in two new books I’ve been browsing:

* There's a Riot Going On: Revolutionaries, Rock Stars and The Rise and Fall of '60s Counter-Culture, by Peter Doggett (Canongate, 2007, 598pp, £25), a hefty door-stopper, documents Dylan’s on-off-very off relationship with the swirl of the 1960/70s weekend revolution.

While the Dylan content is a come-on, I can’t yet face the prospect of this minutely detailed blow-by-blow account of the collision of the rest of this cast, tawdry rockers and dubious politicos. If you’ve read it, The Dylan Daily is keen to publish your reaction.

* The Producer: John Hammond and the Soul of American Music, By Dunstan Prial (Picador paperback, 2007, 368pp, £7.14 from had strong reviews on first publication last year in the USA. Available in the UK since May in paperback, it’s a compelling tale of Hammond’s role as a talent-spotter/enabler at Columbia – it has 20-odd pages of detail discussing Hammond’s interaction with Dylan.

Apart from Dylan, Hammond played a major role in the careers of two generations of great musicians, including Billie Holiday and Count Basie, and Aretha Franklin and Springsteen. His major legacy, though, according to writer Dunstan Prial, was to single-handedly racially integrate the US music biz.

Once again, if you’ve read it, The Dylan Daily is keen to publish your reaction.

Gerry Smith

Monday, November 19, 2007

Biograph – “hear it before you die”, recommends The Guardian

Thanks to Martin Cowan:

“Dylan's Biograph is featured in today's Guardian, under their round-up of 1000 albums to hear before you die”:,,2212301,00.html

Dylan “bores” ridiculed: encore, encore …

Thanks to Martin Cowan:

“Further to your Dylan bores thread, the fact that Todd Haynes chose to name his Dylan film after a, let's face it, relatively obscure Dylan song says rather a lot about him, don't you think?”

Dylan – credible painter or celebrity dabbler?

Dylan’s artwork, currently on display in Chemnitz, Germany, raises the question: is he a credible painter or merely a celebrity dabbler? With a formidable 140 paintings on show, there’s plenty of evidence to assess Bob the visual artist.

Of course, if you’ve spent half a lifetime admiring Zim’s super-abundant creativity - as a songwriter, musician, performer, cultural agenda-setter and, recently, chronicler and radio DJ - it’s difficult to view his paintings objectively, without letting your enthusiasm for his genius in other forms spill over and affect your judgment.

Thanks to the sample of nine paintings now on The Guardian newspaper web site, you can now judge for yourself.

Me? I’m impressed. Perhaps he could walk on water, after all?

Gerry Smith

Friday, November 16, 2007

Dylan “bores” ridiculed: encore …

Thanks to John Carvill:

“Dylan bores, eh? The ironies came thick and fast in that Observer piece. A few of the more immediately striking ones:

“1. Is that 'Dylan bores' as in 'people who like Dylan's music and therefore know something about Dylan, including the fact that the androgynous/bitchy/camp side of Don't Look Back era Bob have been duly noted long ago', as opposed to people who just get paid to write desultory articles in crappy Sunday supplements?

“2. Is that 'Dylan bores' as opposed to someone who is currently to be found all across the media publicising his new film about, er, Dylan?

“3. Is that 'Dylan bores' who like olde worlde minstrels such as Bob Dylan, as opposed to Girls Aloud who the Observer Music Monthly proclaim on the cover as superior to 'boring old rock bands'?

“I'm reserving judgement until I see the film, and keeping a reasonably open mind - although if absolutely forced to bet money on my eventual verdict then I would have to opt for 'shite' - but Haynes's attitude, if accurately depicted in this article, is not encouraging.”

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Top 10: Dylan on DVD/VHS - encore

Thanks to Larry Banks:

“Thanks for the welcome prod to revisit the many excellent Dylan videos. I share most of your picks, except those towards the bottom of your Top 10.

“I think your numbers 9 (Unplugged) and 10 (Sydney, with Tom Petty) are both less engaging than two of the four you rejected. Bob Dylan American Troubador (Biography Channel, 60th) and Renaldo & Clara (short version) always get a more positive reaction in my house."



The sheer quality of The Other Side Of The Mirror: Dylan at Newport 1963-65, the new DVD release, has forced it straight to the top of my official/semi-official Dylan DVD/VHS recordings list.

Here’s my new Top 10:

1. The Other Side Of The Mirror (2007)
2. Hard Rain
3. No Direction Home (2005)
4. Don’t Look Back De Luxe reissue (2007)
5. Masked And Anonymous (2003)
6. Eat the Document (1966)
7. Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid
8. The Last Waltz
9. Unplugged (1995)
10.Sydney, with Tom Petty (1986)

A Concert for Bangladesh and Bob Dylan - American Troubador (Biography Channel, 60th) almost made the list. I’ve seen, but haven’t bothered to collect, Renaldo & Clara and Hearts Of Fire – which speaks for itself, really.

How does your Top 10 Dylan on DVD/VHS compare? Has The Other Side Of The Mirror gone straight to the top of your list, too?

Gerry Smith

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Top 10: Dylan on DVD/VHS

The sheer quality of The Other Side Of The Mirror: Dylan at Newport 1963-65, the new DVD release, has forced it straight to the top of my official/semi-official Dylan DVD/VHS recordings list.

Here’s my new Top 10:

1. The Other Side Of The Mirror (2007)
2. Hard Rain
3. No Direction Home (2005)
4. Don’t Look Back De Luxe reissue (2007)
5. Masked And Anonymous (2003)
6. Eat the Document (1966)
7. Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid
8. The Last Waltz
9. Unplugged (1995)
10.Sydney, with Tom Petty (1986)

A Concert for Bangladesh and Bob Dylan - American Troubador (Biography Channel, 60th) almost made the list. I’ve seen, but haven’t bothered to collect, Renaldo & Clara and Hearts Of Fire – which speaks for itself, really.

How does your Top 10 Dylan on DVD/VHS compare? Has The Other Side Of The Mirror gone straight to the top of your list, too?

Gerry Smith

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dylan “bores” ridiculed

Thanks to Pete Short:

“A friend who knows of my Dylan interest sent me an article from Sunday’s Observer Music Magazine and challenged me to respond to the sneer, below.


‘Who does Bob think he is?

‘There are six - or is it seven? - 'Dylans' in Todd Haynes's I'm Not There. The director talks exclusively to Sean O'Hagan about the weirdest rock biopic ever

… blah … blah … blah …

‘Haynes's wilful blurring of fact, fiction and myth will probably annoy the crap out of the Bob bores, the very people who possess the deep knowledge of Dylan lore to be able to pick up on, and decode, all the in-jokes and references.

'Oh, they'll be panicking, I suspect,' grins Haynes, 'but it'll do them good. To me, it's like the ultimate misunderstanding of Dylan to try and pin him down by collecting and endlessly analysing everything he does. The one thing you have to acknowledge about Dylan right off is that he's never there when you reach out to claim him. He's already gone, three steps down the road.'

“My response to my friend:

1. I’m not interested in Todd Haynes. His film is of no interest, either – I’d far rather watch some proper Dylan DVDs instead.

2. I don’t buy The Observer; it’s a waste of trees.

3. I don’t read feature articles in glossy magazines plugging new product: who needs them?”

Monday, November 12, 2007

Major artists, according to WH Auden

Thanks to Martin Cowan:

“I came across this in last Sunday's Observer compilation from its archives. WH Auden was writing in 1971 about Stravinsky after his death, but his words seem rather apt for someone else we know:

“ ‘The minor artist, that is to say, once he has reached maturity and found himself, ceases to have a history. A major artist, on the other hand, is always re-finding himself, so that the history of his works recapitulates or mirrors the history of art.

“ ‘Once he has done something to his satisfaction, he forgets it and seems to do something new which he has never done before. It is only when he is dead that we are able to see that his various creations, taken together, form one consistent oeuvre. Moreover, it is only in the light of his later works that we are able to properly understand his earlier.’ "

BOBMANIA #11: Dylan wannabe contest in Vermont

Thanks to Patrick Mullikin:

MONTPELIER – Hang up your Pilgrim hats, unearth your Ray-Bans, wipe the turkey grease off your fingers and grab your guitar! Round out your Thanksgiving festivities with a central Vermont tradition: The Fourth Annual Great Green Mountain Bob Dylan Wanna-Be Contest on Saturday, Nov. 24, beginning at 7 p.m. To accommodate its increasing fan base, we're told this year's show will be held at Lost Nation Theater in Montpelier City Hall.

Tickets will be sold for $10 each with proceeds to benefit the effort to start a YMCA in central Vermont.

That's only fitting, according to event organizer Michele Leno.

"The Dylan Wannabe contest is some of the best fun you'll find in central Vermont, and like the YMCA, it offers something for everyone," says Leno, who has adopted the event from its originator, Patrick Mullikin. However, Mullikin remains a guiding force behind the event and has agreed to serve as Master of Ceremonies this year.

Last year nearly 300 diehard Dylan fans overflowed the basement of Montpelier's Unitarian Universalist Church as 24 Dylan lookalikes/soundalikes performed material from the musician's five-decades-long career.

Who won?

A young Dylan look-alike named Ethan Gilbert claimed the 2006 crown with his version of "Girl from the North Country."

For more information/to register, e-mail:, or write: The Fourth Annual Great Green Mountain Bob Dylan Wanna-Be Contest, 960 Sanders Circle, Montpelier, VT 05602, USA.

Friday, November 09, 2007

I'm Not There gig, Don’t Look Back, and top 100 1970s albums

Thanks to Martin Cowan:

* I'm Not There gig

Great review of the "I'm Not There" live show from Pitchfork's website here:

* Don’t Look Back

“Just in case we were wondering why there was no Dylan-related stuff going on in the media, Tuesday 13 November sees BBC Radio 4 broadcasting Rockumentary Rollercoaster at 11.30am.

“‘Andrew Collins combines his love for music with his passion for films as he surveys the best documentaries made about rock bands. Fans of Dylan, Bowie, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and of course Spinal Tap are in for a treat’.

* Top 100 1970s albums

Something of interest for Dylan fans here:

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Basement Tapes 2008, and Live Dylan

Thanks to Wade Greiner:

“While I wholeheartedly agree that Columbia needs to do a re-release of the Basement Tapes as the next volume of the Bootleg Series, I fear that it is unlikely that it would include any covers other than traditional ones.

“Have you noticed that in the Bootleg Series and Legacy recordings as a whole they have avoided including songs that are written by anyone else who might claim copyright?

“For example, on the Gaslight Tapes there is no Hezekiah Jones. On Live 1975 there is The Water Is Wide (trad.) but no Dark as a Dungeon. The exception I can think to this is on Volume 7 - This Land is Your Land. Maybe Scorsese felt that one was just too important to leave off in documentary terms.

“But if there is a new Basement Tapes release, I am predicting only Dylan-written, Dylan co-written, and traditional tunes. (And for what it is worth, I also am of the opinion: NO OVERDUBS!)

Thanks to Sue Roney

“I was just reading the posts from October asking for recommendations for a live/studio set. I noticed one of my absolutely favourite live performances isn't listed, so my suggestion is: The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest - Cardiff, 2000.

“I'm still building my collection of live cds and as that is the only live version I've heard so far, I can't recommend a second one ... but this one is pretty hard to beat.”

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Bob Dylan Hoot Night in Austin, TX, this Thursday

Thanks to Chris Anderson, SONY BMG Music sales rep in Austin, TX:

"I'm throwing a big Bob Dylan event on Thursday night - please spread the word:

“I'm Not There - celebrating the releases of "Dylan", the "I'm Not There" soundtrack, and "The Other Side Of The Mirror: Bob Dylan Live At The Newport Folk Festival" DVD.

"Thursday, November 8th @ 9pm, Emo's Lounge, at the corner of 6th & Red River in Austin, TX

"A bunch o' bands will be playing a few Bob Dylan tunes each, w/ DJ Jester The Filipino Fist mixing up some Dylan in between sets, and we're showing BD's new Newport Folk Festival DVD throughout the night. SONY BMG be giving away a Bob Dylan CD catalog (40+ CDs!), and Waterloo Records will have T-shirts, 7" vinyl singles, and lithographs to give away too.

"Cheap $3 cover, and there will be specials on Tito's drinks while they last. Doors @ 8, DJ Jester starts at 9, and bands start up at 10pm."

Basement Tapes 2008 – no to overdubs

Thanks to Martin Cowan:

“While not a huge fan of the official Basement Tapes LP and as someone who hasn't really heard all that many of the unofficially available tracks, I'd certainly welcome an official release along the lines you've suggested.

“BUT I would have to say "no" to overdubs. I would suggest that part of the magic of the Basement recordings is their "lo-fi" nature and that in fact this unique sonic atmosphere makes up for the shortcomings in the performances and songcraft.

“If some of the stuff is so lo-fi as to be not worth releasing in its raw form, I guess that’s an argument for not releasing it. I'm not a big fan of dubbing historical recordings.”

Basement Tapes 2008, Live Dylan, and Norfolk gig

Thanks to Gerald Bamford:

“Basement Tapes 2008: and then there's all those incredible versions of country favourites (well some of Bob's favourites anyway) - Rock, Salt and Nails, I Don't Hurt Anymore, One Single River, Baby Ain't That Fine, I Can't Make It Alone, All You Have To Do is Dream, Still in Town etc etc.

“It may be that using these would bring back the criticism afforded to the great country and folky covers recorded in Nashville for the Self Portrait album a few years later. It's time for a SP revisit anyway!

“And then the version of Under Control which could easily have come from the tour the year before and the version of On A Rainy Afternoon a song which probably did. And then the soul-influenced I'm Guilty of Loving You, I Can't Come in with a Broken Heart and People Get Ready.

“No doubt we must await the second volume of Chronicles and then who knows what might be released now that Bob is in a Look Back frame of mind

Live Bob: try the Columbia Promo (almost an official release) from the RTR tour of 1975. Songs are - It Ain't Me Babe, Isis, and a great duet with Joan Baez of the Johnny Ace song Never Let Me Go and a version of the Curtis Mayfield song People Get Ready. Actually all you need is the two live albums from the Bootleg series - 1966 and 1975 to appreciate what a great performer Bob has been - well maybe that’s a good place to start!

Oh, and Back Pages will be pickin' 'n' choosin' from the Bob Dylan songbook in mid-Norfolk on Friday 23 November at Tracks, The Railway Freehouse, North Elmham Nr East Dereham - last gig of the year I should think.”

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Million Dollar Bash: a must-buy new study of The Basement Tapes

The story of The Basement Tapes is well known: in 1967, in upstate New York, away from mounting pressures, Dylan and his allies, the Hawks/Band, recorded well over 100 songs, without access to a proper studio.

The best of the songs leaked out of the music biz and onto the first rock bootleg, Great White Wonder. By 1975, Columbia decided they needed a piece of the action and released The Basement Tapes as a 24-track double LP, interspersing 16 Dylan performances with eight by The Band.

The feelgood album was well received, by fans and critics alike. And it has stood the test of time. But, as subsequent bootlegs like The Genuine Basement Tapes demonstrate, the album could have been twice the length – the official release ignored many notable Dylan performances.

Sid Griffin’s new book, Million Dollar Bash: Bob Dylan, The Band, and The Basement Tapes, retells the story of this key period with the insights of professional musician and the style of an accomplished writer.

Million Dollar Bash is a lovingly researched, richly detailed, accessible piece of work. It mixes exhaustive lists (what was recorded, where; who later covered the songs … ) with informed musical judgement (why they do/don’t work … ). Interviews with some key players, notably Robbie Robertson (whose work on the 1975 album is often criticised), a graphic evocation of the ambience of a place and time, and some telling photos make Million Dollar Bash a fine book.

Whether you agree with the author’s soaring judgment of the importance in the Dylan story of these 1967 recordings is a matter of opinion, but it’s a pleasure to engage in the debate.

Griffin’s dissection of the contribution of each of the Hawks/Band members (especially Garth Hudson) shows how this was rather more than Dylan plus backing musicians – the three lots of sessions in Woodstock in 1967 were genuine collaborations. And Griffin’s location of the sessions in their historical context establishes that these strange recordings didn’t just spring from nowhere.

You can read Million Dollar Bash as an extended, closely argued memo to Sony to persuade them to re-release a proper, more complete, version of The Basement Tapes. It’s very persuasive; Columbia Legacy would be bonkers to ignore it.

Million Dollar Bash is an engaging, handsome volume which will grace your Dylan bookshelf. A must-buy, then? You bet.

Million Dollar Bash: Bob Dylan, The Band, and The Basement Tapes, by Sid Griffin, Jawbone Press, Sept 2007, 400pp, isbn 978-1-906002-05-3, £14.95/$19.95

Gerry Smith

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Basement Tapes 2008

Sony are sitting on the raw material for an outstanding Dylan release - The Basement Tapes 2008. The best of the 100+ tracks of this intermittently outstanding material, recorded in 1967, deserves a proper airing.

If I were in charge of the project, I’d:

* ditch the Band tracks;

* add three groups of Dylan performances – recordings which were subsequently released; the best of the unreleased Dylan compositions; and the best of the unreleased covers;

* tidy up the sound quality.

It would make a very fine Bootleg Series vol 8. Here’s a suggested track listing:

* Dylan vocals from the 1975 release (16)
Odds and Ends
Million Dollar Bash
Goin' to Acapulco
Lo and Behold!
Clothesline Saga
Apple Suckling Tree
Please, Mrs. Henry
Tears of Rage
Too Much of Nothing
Yea! Heavy and a Bottle of Bread
Crash on the Levee (Down in the Flood)
Tiny Montgomery
You Ain't Going Nowhere
Nothing Was Delivered
Open the Door, Homer
This Wheel's on Fire

* Dylan vocals subsequently released (4)
I Shall Be Released
The Mighty Quinn (Quinn The Eskimo)
Santa Fe
I’m Not There

* Unreleased Dylan compositions (4)
Get Your Rocks Off
Next Time On The Highway
Sign On The Cross
Silent Weekend

* Unreleased covers, Dylan vocals (14)
All American Boy
The Banks Of The Royal Canal
Bonnie Ship The Diamond
Cool Water
Four Strong Winds
The French Girl
I’m In the Mood
Joshua Gone Barbados
See That My Grave Is Kept Clean
Waltzing With Sin
Wild Wood Flower
Will The Circle Be Unbroken
You Win Again
Young But Daily Growing

Gerry Smith

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Basement Tapes – a new expanded compilation?

The new release of Dylan’s 1967 recording of the title track on the I’m Not There soundtrack album raises the prospect of an improved and expanded new Basement Tapes compilation.

You’ll remember that the rough and ready recordings were laid down by Dylan and The Band in Woodstock in 1967, with 24 of the 100+ recordings compiled on a double LP released in 1975. A total of 20 Dylan tracks have now been officially released; and there are many times that number on bootleg compilations, notably The Genuine Basement Tapes.

Warmy received on release, The Basement Tapes still splits aficionados: some number it among Dylan’s best work; others, somewhat less charitably, feel the tapes should have been left in the basement.

What do you think of The Basement Tapes? And what tracks would you include on an expanded Bootleg Series vol 8 – The Basement Tapes Revisited?

I’ll be proposing a 30+ track 2CD shortly, but will welcome your suggestions for inclusions, from all the recording sessions which took place in upstate New York in 1967.

Gerry Smith

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Never Ending Dylan bookshelf

The flood of new Dylan books shows absolutely no sign of abating. Amazon lists the following recent/forthcoming books:

* Million Dollar Bash: Bob Dylan, the Band, and the Basement Tapes by Sid Griffin (Paperback - 30 Sep 2007). A fine new title – my review to follow very soon here on The Dylan Daily.

* Bob Dylan: The Never Ending Star (Celebrities) by Lee Marshall (Hardcover/paperback - 1 Oct 2007). I ain’t seen it yet.

* Bob Dylan: Intimate Insights from Friends and Fellow Musicians by Kathleen MacKay (Hardcover - 30 May 2007). Looks like a collection of previously published interviews with music biz celebs. Handy if you want to know what Bobby Vee, for example, said about Dylan in a mag interview.

* Dylan on Dylan by Bob Dylan and Jonathan Cott (Paperback - 6 Sep 2007). English version of Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews by Jonathan Cott (Paperback - 15 May 2007). An essential purchase.

* Bob Dylan "Highway 61" Revisited (Legendary Sessions) by Colin Irwin and Paul Du Noyer (Paperback - 1 April 2007). Ain’t seen it yet, looks interesting.

Forthcoming Dylan books include:

* Bob Dylan (Icons of Pop Music) by Keith Negus (Paperback - 15 Dec 2007).

* Alias Bob Dylan (Rex Collections Series) by Jeff Bench and Ty Silkman (Hardcover - 31 Dec 2007).

* Bob Dylan: The Photographs of Barry Feinstein 1966 -1974 by Barry Feinstein (Paperback - 7 April 2008). Must-have.

* A Freewheelin' Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties by Suze Rotolo (Hardcover - 13 May 2008). The most attractive new Dylan book of all.

If you’ve bought/read/seen any of these new books, please get in touch - The Dylan Daily is keen to publish your impressions.

Gerry Smith