Monday, October 26, 2009

Dylan Different: jazz singer Ben Sidran's new covers album

I’m not over-fond of Dylan cover albums, but when a favourite singer – Bryan Ferry, most recently – interprets Bobsongs, I usually buy and enjoy.

So I’m looking forward to Dylan Different, an album of covers by jazz singer/pianist Ben Sidran.

Sidran crossed my radar with his contribution on the grossly under-rated Van Morrison album, Tell Me Something (1996), a collection of Mose Allison covers which also featured Georgie Fame and Mose himself.

I searched out Sidran and saw him play a tiny London gig. He was outstanding – laconic, droll and a beautifully lyrical musician. Very similar to Mose Allison, in fact. Watching him perform at close quarters for a couple of hours a was sheer delight.

Ben Sidran’s Dylan Different, due 16 November, is a must-buy in these parts.


Everything Is Broken
Highway 61 Revisited
Tangled Up In Blue
Gotta Serve Somebody
Rainy Day Woman
Ballad of a Thin Man
Maggie's Farm
Knockin' On Heaven's Door
Subterranean Homesick Blues
On The Road Again
All I Really Want To Do
Blowin' in the Wind

Gerry Smith

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Limited edition Dylan photographs at London gallery

Thanks to Sophie Kaila, Gallery Manager:

“The Proud Galleries would like to bring your attention to our beautiful collection of limited edition Bob Dylan prints by a selection of world-renowned and celebrated photographers from Jerry Schatzberg and Mark Makin to John Cohen and Elliott Landy.

“With prices starting from £250 ex VAT your fan members could be part of the elite group of people who own some of the world’s most exciting photography.

“In response to outstanding interest we couldn’t resist exhibiting a few special images of Bob Dylan in our Best of Proud collection. Please pop down to Proud Camden to take your first look whilst enjoying our outstanding venue adorned by rock royalty throughout.

“We have a favourite Dylan print shot by Jerry Schatzberg. It is available from our Proud Camden Gallery for £2000 ex VAT.

“As one of the most popular privately-owned photographic galleries in the UK, Proud always endeavours to offer an efficient, personalised service for photography fans who care as much as we do about preserving and sharing history’s greatest photographic images.

“If you have any questions about our prints, enquiries about forthcoming exhibitions or are simply trying to track down a special image or photographer in the run up to Christmas, please do give me a call and I will be happy to help.”

Proud Camden
(Proud Publishing Ltd)
The Horse Hospital
Stables Market
Chalk Farm Road
London NW1 8AH

T: +44 (0) 207 482 3867

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bob Dylan in LA: very enjoyable

Thanks to Rob Schultz:

“Bob in LA: not a lifetime highlight show (my 41st) but very enjoyable.

“Highlight has to be the return of the great guitarist Charlie Sexton, news which will cheer every Bobcat.

“Recent setlists are the usual ever-changing mix – standards for the casuals, recent highlights for product promo, and a lucky dip for those knowledgeable enough to recognise rarity and great art when they hear it.

“Setlist (though I’m not 100% sure of the order towards the finale):

I’m Gonna Change My Way of Thinking
Shooting Star
Beyond Here Lies Nothin’
Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right
Cold Irons Bound
Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine)
My Wife’s Home Town
Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again
High Water (for Charlie Patton)
Highway 61 Revisited
I Feel a Change Comin’ On
Thunder on the Mountain
Nettie Moore
Ballad of a Thin Man
Like a Rolling Stone
All Along the Watchtower.

“Keep up the good work – I call into Dylan Daily regularly and admire your unique take on all things Bob.”

Monday, October 12, 2009

Christmas In The Heart – reviewed by Matthew Zuckerman

Well, Christmas In The Heart arrived in the post today -- nice efficient service from Isis. They always manage to get the new releases on the doormat the day before official release. Many thanks to Derek and Tracy (& great to see you at the Mott the Hoople reunion show!)

The deluxe version is just the regular jewel case in a cardboard sleeve, with five cards -- blank inside -- all with the album cover and envelope.

As for the album, I downloaded it on to my iPod and listened to it as I walked the dog around the local cemetery. What immediately struck me -- well, not immediately, but what started to dawn on me by the second or third song and was clear by the fourth -- was that this is not just a little dashed off side project.

Like it or not, the emotional commitment that Dylan has given to these songs makes Christmas In The Heart very much the new Bob
Dylan album.

For many people, certain albums -- Bringing It All Back Home,
Highway 61, Nashville Skyline, Self Portrait, Slow Train Coming, Saved, Shot of Love -- were too associated with something they hated (rock & roll, country, schmaltz, Christianity) for them to want or be able to appreciate the albums for themselves.

You can add Christmas In The Heart to that list.

Those who cannot accept the fact that Bob might want to have such an album in his catalogue -- as Bing Crosby, Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Dinah Washington and many other of his favourite singers have done -- will find the album a closed door.

But for anyone else, it could be a small delight.

I have only listened to the album once, and do not have time to write more than the most fleeting impressions. All I would say is listen to the musicians (Bob's road crew plus David Hidalgo and a few others -- and a startlingly fine piece of harmonica playing on one track); the really very fine melodies; the instrumental and vocal harmony arrangements that both recapture the slick 1940s/50s studio sounds that Bob grew up with and breathe life into them, humanizing them; the battered and beaten voice sometimes flaring and phlegming up but still hitting all the notes – and singing with the same intense intimacy that he invested in A Simple Twist of Fate.

And then there's Must Be Santa. Bob Has often talked about his love for polka. And with this manic -- yet always controlled -- performance you can see why. I wonder what the world would have done if Bob had mixed his folk lyrics and surreal verse with a polka outfit like the one backing him here instead of a rock & roll band. Would we have booed?

And would we all -- supporters and booers alike -- follow him down his various roads, as we have done in this layer of the multiverse?

I digress, and I must end. I have much to do and time is short.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Bob Dylan explorations

Thanks to Martin Cowan and Andrew Robertson (from Adelaide):

* Martin:

“I am envious of someone who has only just got into Bob Dylan and has that wealth of music to discover! A few recommendations:

“Best compilations: Biograph/Bootleg Series 1-3/Tell Tale Signs: 8 cds worth of famous greats and unreleased gems, from 1962 to 2006.

“Best album - Street Legal: a pivotal album, mixing poetic lyrics and great tunes with a hard rocking sound.

“Best book - Heylin's "Behind The Shades" and Nigel Williamson’s "Rough Guide" are both highly recommended.”

* Andrew:

“To which I would add two important bookends from Dylan’s (official) discography: Live 1964 and Tell Tale Signs.

“Live 1964 because it is Bob Dylan live as you’ve never heard him. He is young and vibrant, ebullient and irrepressible, confident and so, so commanding.

“Singing solo acoustic, other than a few songs beautifully accompanied by Joan Baez, his vocals have a power and clarity that I think is unmatched. Any debate about his voice and his ability to sing ends instantly upon listening to this concert – he is nothing less than masterful.

“Perhaps it’s because the songs are still relatively new that he imbues them with such power and passion. Indeed, some of them were being performed for the first or second time – songs that were to become legend, like Gates of Eden and It’s Alright Ma.

“You almost get the sense that Dylan was hearing them for the first or second time too, there was a real sense of newness and discovery – as if he was being as delighted as the audiences by his lyrical wizardry!

“But even more than the performance power, was the power of the person – Dylan was more engaged with the audience than I’ve ever heard him, talking and laughing, joking and teasing. Spellbinding stuff!

“And between the deeper meanings of his masterpieces like Hard Rain, was the playfulness and irreverence of If You Gotta Go, Go Now, surely one of the wittiest songs of its time.

“Live 1964 is a fantastic – no, essential – introduction to Dylan, both lyrically and as a performance artist.

“Tell Tale Signs is my second recommendation, because it is the other side of the gold coin that is Bob Dylan – more recent works that showcase the mature artist that the young Dylan of 1964 evolved into.

“The voice has changed, the instrumentation has become more sophisticated, and the lyrics reflect the wisdom of his years. They are no less powerful and if anything, perhaps they carry greater meaning through being more nuanced, but they still portray the same unique talent. It is a more personal view than the worldview of the one-time “voice of a generation” but no less relevant for that.

“Again, in terms of an introduction to Dylan, Tell Tale Signs is essential listening.

“Then, depending which of the two resonated more, our friend could explore the canon from the start moving forward, or from the present moving back – either would be a journey to be savoured!”

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

How do I start to explore Dylan? New fan seeks advice

Thanks to Pierre L:

“I’ve just seen the light! After avoiding Dylan for many years, I finally get it.

“But Dylan’s work is so vast. Where do I start? Best studio album? Is there a recommended compilation? Best book to guide me – there seem to be dozens? Any good DVDs? Is it worth going to live shows? Does he play France?

“Suggestions from the expert readers of Dylan Daily will be gratefully received.”

Friday, October 02, 2009

Striking new Dylan drawings by Feliks Topolski

A couple of months ago, I stumbled across an engrossing new art gallery on London’s South Bank, near Waterloo Station.

Topolski Century showcases the work – drawings, cartoons, paintings - of Feliks Topolski, a Polish expat well-known in London creative circles in the 1960s/70s/80s. He documented major events of the twentieth century.

Two of his 1960s images are pencil drawings of Bob Dylan. Strikingly evocative pieces, they’re available to buy as postcards (and, I think, posters).

This is little known, but important artwork. Highly recommended.

Gerry Smith

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Christmas In The Heart: revealing a supreme vocal stylist

Thanks to Jane Swann:

“Listening to Christmas In The Heart on You Tube tonight strengthened my view that that the songs themselves are simply not worth listening to.

“But, less expected, it confirmed that Dylan is a supreme vocal stylist – I’d hesitate to call him a singer any more – his vocals express real emotion, he seems to have plenty in reserve and he makes the carols his own. Great voice: who cares if the range is so narrow?

“And the album is surely an important statement about Dylan’s religious beliefs these days.

“I’ll be buying!”