Thursday, May 21, 2009

Before The Flood: encore

Thanks to Jon Talbot in Seattle, Washington:

“I enjoyed reading your take on Before the Flood. I bought the re-mastered CD last month, but hadn't listened to it yet. Your comments encouraged me to play it last night. You are right - the sound is much better, even when comparing it to the original CD.

“But I wouldn't recommend it for the average Dylan fan. Despite what you called an impressive set-list, the songs for me are delivered in a rushed and robotic fashion that strips them of their integrity and potency. They come from his lips in a spitted-shouted-spoken flurry.

“Others have also noted how Dylan whizzed through them, deliberately in a hurry. The monks often say, "hurry is the death of prayer," and on Before the Flood, hurry is nearly the death of Dylan on this live performance.

“But I would recommend the CD for those serious about Dylan (and fans of the Band), for there are a few bright moments. Some aspects of "Just Like a Woman" become less rushed and hurriedly delivered to show its truthful intent, and you feel that Dylan's heart is in the singing.

“ "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" works very well for a number of reasons. First, its staccato-type format fits Dylan's need to hurry things along. Secondly, the crowd is following each stanza carefully (all the words are clearly articulated--no lyric sheet needed there) and they explode over the line about the President of the United States. Lastly, there's an audience member who ought to get royalties as he (maybe she, as the re-mastered CD gives this person a higher voice) cheers almost rhythmically in response to a number of the lines of the song. There's one place where it appears Dylan is a bit distracted, but immediately gets back on track.

“Of the final Dylan pieces on disc two, "Highway 61 Revisited" is my vote for the best performance. I also enjoyed the warm-up and introduction to "All Along the Watchtower," which could have been dynamic if Robbie Robertson did an extended guitar solo, but as soon as you get into their Hendrix-infused groove the song immediately ends.

“The Band glowed; my favorite moments are two: "The Shape I'm In," exceptionally sung by Richard Manuel, despite his hoarse voice, and played equally well by the top-notch musicians. And "When You Awake", with lead singing by Rick Danko--lovely.

“Ironically, it was my first Dylan concert. I attended the evening concert at The Forum (now the Staples Center) in Los Angeles, February 14--I think the year was 1973, my ticket doesn't show the year. The price of the concert was cheaper than the re-mastered CD: $8.50!

“I believe it was the last leg of the tour, and that most of the CD's tracks were taken from the afternoon concert of that same date. (Your faithful readers can verify and/or correct that.) I think Dylan and the Band also performed a track or two from Planet Waves, "Forever Young," sticks in my memory.

“The experience of the concert outmatched the CD, of course, but my lasting impression wasn't the music. It was the manner in which Bob Dylan left the stage and bowed: he held up his harmonica in one hand and the guitar in the other, as if to say, you could do this too...or maybe to say "you're right from your side, I'm right from mine; we're just one too many mornings and a thousand miles behind."

“Thanks Gerry, for encouraging these thoughts.”