Archive for the ‘Bob Dylan’ Category

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Bob Dylan at the State Theatre of New South Wales

5 September 2014

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Tonight was my seventh time seeing Bob Dylan play live. I continued my lucky streak of never seeing Bob on a really bad night. 

The man is a legend. He’s 73 years old, still writing great albums, and is reinventing old songs all the time.

Anyone hoping for greatest hits would be disappointed. He played for over 2 hours but until the encore produced only 3 songs written before 1997 (“She Belongs To Me”, “Tangled Up In Blue”, and “Simple Twist of Fate”). That’s OK, I’ve seen plenty of the classics before.

Songs like “Things Have Changed”, “Beyond Here Lies Nothin'”, and “Love Sick” pack a lot of punch with me. I was amazed that even recent songs like “Duquesne Whistle” have already been reworked into nearly unrecognizable versions. 

The band is perfect. There are, as always, no frills. It’s an otherworldly combination of loose and laser-sharp, of legendary music and classics that are only a year old. It’s every bit of blues, jazz, rock, country, and folk Americana music on one stage.

Highlights? Bob playing at a grand piano instead of the little keyboard he’s used in the past, and “High Water (For Charley Patton)”. The full setlist is here.

Thanks Bob.

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Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series Vol. 9 – The Witmark Demos

21 November 2010

Wow. Bob Dylan’s Bootleg Series keeps on delivering.

I got The Witmark Demos earlier this week and have listened to it a few times. It is phenomenal.

These 47 songs are staggering in their raw power. They’re demos, recorded by Dylan and friends to show the record companies what he wanted to do. They’re so potent, so full of words and wit, it seems impossible that a man not yet 24 years old could have written them all.

A lot of these songs can be found in a more polished form on the first CD in the Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3. That set still reigns supreme for me because it covers so much of Dylan’s career.

But Vol. 9 is shocking because of its focus, because it’s the sound of a genius first trying to tell the world what he had to say.

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The Chronic Ills of Robert Zimmerman

5 November 2010

I wrote about it on my other blog because it was primarily a theatrical experience, but the musical elements make it worth mentioning here: I saw this awesome Dylan play.

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New Dylan albums: The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964 and Mono Recordings

8 September 2010

Bob Dylan’s excellent ongoing campaign of releasing live and rare recordings continues with the October 19 release of The Bootleg Series Volume 9 – The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964.

What are they?

The Witmark Demos features 47 Bob Dylan songs recorded by the artist accompanied only by his acoustic guitar, harmonica and occasionally piano on 2 CD or 4 LP 180-gram vinyl. All of these songs were written – and their subsequent demos recorded – before Bob Dylan turned 24 years old.

Among the many gems are 15 Bob Dylan songs that were recorded by the artist only for these sessions, and which have never been officially released to the public until now. These include the plaintive “Ballad For A Friend,” the civil rights era-inspired “Long Ago, Far Away” and “The Death Of Emmett Till,” and the poignant “Guess I’m Doing Fine.”

Right, I’ll have that, then.

There’s also a massive release set of the first eight Dylan albums, all released – on CD and vinyl – in their original monaural recordings. Okay, I’m a big fan, but that’s just for crazy completists.

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The Maladies

12 February 2010

I heard “This Wood & This Wire”, a song by Sydney act The Maladies, on FBi radio the other morning, and I was intrigued. It was rock, but with some country roots, stoner jam sounds, and frequent Bob Dylan references.

I liked it, and I sought out their MySpace. That song and a few others are there, and they’re all good. They’re not playing it safe. They’re gutsy and intelligent and soulful and rough. This review of their first album – With You Right By My Side Baby, The Deal Just Can’t Go Down – spells it out pretty well. I’m going to get it, right now.

I know that bands often name-drop cool influences, but their list is a pretty good one:

Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Don Walker, Hank Williams, Paul Kelly, The Triffids, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Johnny Cash, Dr Nina Simone, Patsy Cline, The Drones, Dan Kelly, Sam Cooke, The Soul Stirrers, The Louvin Brothers, Karen Dalton, The Black Eyed Susans, Elvis, Dirty Three, Leadbelly, The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, X (Australia), Dean Martin, Louis Prima, The White Stripes, Bluebottle Kiss, Suicide, The Supremes, Django Reinhardt, Bo Diddley, Amy Winehouse, Patti Smith, Professor Ratbaggy, Gillian Welch, Edith Piaf, King Curly, Chuck Berry, Nirvana, The Stanley Brothers, Jonathan Richman, Louis Armstrong, Roy Orbisson, The Ronettes, The Birthday Party…

They’re playing next week at the Annandale Hotel, with some other bands, for only a tenner.

The Maladies. Photo by niina.amniisia

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Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour Christmas Special

20 December 2009

Excellent! It looks like ABC Radio – like BBC 6 – is carrying some of Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour shows from XM.

On December 24 and 25 they’ll be playing his special Christmas show. Check out this playlist:

‘Swinging For Christmas (Boppin’ For Santa)’ – Tom Archia (1948)
‘Christmas Is A-Coming (Chicken Crowns At Midnight)’ – Leadbelly (194?)
‘A Party For Santa’ – Lord Nelson (1963)
‘Sock It To Me Santa’ – Bob Seger & The Last Heard (1966)
‘Who Took The Merry Out Of Christmas’ – The Staple Singers (1970)
‘Please Come Home For Christmas’ – Charles Brown (1960)
‘Jingle Bells’ – Johnny Paycheck (1967)
‘It Must Be Christmas’ – Gerry Mulligan & Judy Holliday (1980)
‘Christmas Morning’ – Titus Turner (1952)
‘Poor Old Rudolph’ – The BellRays (2001)
‘Blue Xmas’ – Bob Dorough & Miles Davis (1962)
‘Far Away Christmas Blues’ – Little Esther with Johnny Otis Orchestra (1950)
‘Beatnik’s Wish’ – Patsy Raye & The Beatniks (1959)
‘Don’t Believe In Christmas’ – The Sonics (1965)
‘Christmas Tree’ – King Stitt (1969)
‘Silent Night’ – Huey ‘Piano’ Smith & the Clowns (1962)
‘Must Be Santa’ – Brave Combo (1991)
‘Mambo Santa Mambo’ – The Enchanters (1957)
‘Fiesta De Navidad’ – Celia Cruz Y La Sonora Matancera (1961)
‘Merry Christmas Darling’ – Hop Wilson & His Buddies (1960)
‘Merry Merry Christmas’ – Alton Ellis & The Lipsticks (1972)
‘The Merriest’ – June Christy (1961)
‘Truckin’ Trees For Christmas’ – Red Simpson (1973)
‘Christmas In Jail’ – The Youngsters (1956)
‘I Want A Casting Couch For Christmas’ – Kay Martin & Her Body Guards (1962)
‘Santa Claus’ – Sonny Boy Williamson II (1960)
‘Hello Mr New Year’ – Cool Breezers ( ?)
‘Happy Christmas, Happy New Year’ – Mabel Mafuya (1958)
‘Christmas To New Years’ – The Larks (1951)
‘What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve’ – Nancy Wilson (1965)
‘Auld Lang Syne’ – traditional

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Bob Dylan’s Christmas album out now

14 October 2009

Christmas in the Heart is, indeed, a Christmas album from Bob Dylan. None of the 15 songs on it are written by him. They’re well-known standards from the ’40s and ’50s, including “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, “Here Comes Santa Claus”, “Winter Wonderland”, and proper hymns like “The First Noel”, “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing”, “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem”.

It sounds bizarre. Aren’t Christmas albums typically made by the washed-up as desperate cash grabs?

In fact, he’s doing this for a good cause. All the royalties from record sales will go to various hunger charities worldwide. Here in the UK proceeds will support Crisis. In the US, the money will go to Feeding America. From bobdylan.com:

During this holiday season, Bob Dylan’s immediate donations from the Christmas In The Heart proceeds will provide 500,000 meals to school children in the developing world through the World Food Programme, 15,000 meals to homeless people in the United Kingdom through Crisis and more than 4 million meals to 1.4 million families in America through Feeding America.

It’s a bit wacky, but it’s doing something good. And – as any listener of Bob’s radio show will know – he’s always been a fan of the niches of traditional popular music that the more cynical sometimes label cheesy.

Have a little preview.

EDIT: I’ve just noticed that the embedded YouTube of the song previews just above this may not show up properly in some versions Internet Explorer. If that’s the case: get a real browser.

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Something for the weekend

16 August 2009

A few science and music links I found on BoingBoing today:

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Bob Dylan: The Best of His Rolling Stone Interviews

8 May 2009

Click here for snippets of Dylan’s interviews in RS over the years. Like these gems.

Everything is computerized now, it’s all computers. I see that as the beginning of the end. You can see everything going global. There’s no nationality anymore, no I’m this or I’m that: ‘We’re all the ‘same, all workin’ for one peaceful world, blah, blah, blah.’ Somebody’s gonna have to come along and figure out what’s happening with the United States. Is this just an island that’s going to be blown out of the ocean, or does it really figure into things? I really don’t know. At this point right now, it seems that it figures into things. But later on, it will have to be a country that’s self-sufficient, that can make it by itself without that many imports. Right now, it seems like in the States, and most other countries, too, there’s a big push on to make a big global country — one big country — where you can get all the materials from one place and assemble them someplace else and sell ’em in another place, and the whole world is just all one, controlled by the same people, you know? And if it’s not there already, that’s the point it’s tryin’ to get to.

[From Issue 424 – June 21, 1984]

Everybody makes a big deal about the Sixties. The Sixties, it’s like the Civil War days. But, I mean, you’re talking to a person who owns the Sixties. Did I ever want to acquire the Sixties? No. But I own the Sixties — who’s going to argue with me? I’ll give ’em to you if you want ’em. You can have ’em. … My old songs, they’ve got something — I agree, they’ve got something! I think my songs have been covered — maybe not as much as ‘White Christmas’ or ‘Stardust,’ but there’s a list of over 5,000 recordings. That’s a lot of people covering your songs, they must have something. If I was me, I’d cover my songs too. A lot of these songs I wrote in 1961 and ’62 and ’64, and 1973, and 1985, I can still play a lot of those songs — well, how many other artists made songs during that time? How many do you hear today? I love Marvin Gaye, I love all that stuff. But how often are you gonna hear ‘What’s Going On’? I mean, who sings it? Who sings ‘Tracks of My Tears’? Where is that being sung tonight?

[From Issue 1008 – September 7, 2006]

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New Dylan album improving with further listens

5 May 2009

Bob’s new album, Together Through Life, is improving in my ears as I listen to it more. It’s still not on par with most of his recent work, but it’s not as weak as I’d first thought. It’s subtler, perhaps, and deals more delicately with the early-20th-century American musical forms that Dylan’s into these days.

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Bob Dylan: Together Through Life

28 April 2009

The new Dylan album, Together Through Life, was released yesterday in the UK. I had my copy delivered, but didn’t get a chance to listen to it this morning.

My initial reaction after a single listen through: good, but not great. There are only a couple of songs that grabbed me right from the start: “Beyond Here Lies Nothin'” and “My Wife’s Home Town”. The latter is listenable from my song Box (just to the right of this, in the sidebar of my blog, if you’re looking at my blog page and not reading this via RSS). It reminds me of John Lee Hooker.

Interestingly, I’d call this Bob’s zydeco album. Most of the songs have a southern-fried feel, and many of them have an accordian and a washboard.

I obviously need to listen to it a few more times to get a proper assessment.

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Bob Dylan live at the O2

26 April 2009

Last night was the sixth time I’ve seen Bob Dylan perform live. If you’ve read this blog before you’ll know that I revere the man. I don’t hide the fact that I believe him to be a poet and the premiere musical genius of the last 100 years. And probably longer than that. There, my predilection laid bare.

The last two times I saw Bob were at the Brixton Academy; that was a super venue in which to see a legend. This time it was at the O2, and much less than ideal (there’s another show tonight at the Roundhouse but I’m not able to make that one). There was no opening act. Despite the Jubilee tube line being down this weekend, I made it in plenty of time.

Bob’s performances have taken the same format for some time: the band strolls out and plays and not much else happens. A few songs get some background projection imagery – stars or lines or what have you – and there are a couple of floodlights. But that’s it. They don’t show video (so if you’re in the top tier of the stadium you probably see nothing but dots). There’s no smoke or flame or lasers. There’s no opening or between-song banter.

All you get are the greatest songs ever written, performed live by a genius, in new and exciting presentations.

Last night’s setlist:

1. Maggie’s Farm
2. The Times They Are A-Changin’
3. Things Have Changed
4. Chimes Of Freedom
5. Rollin’ And Tumblin’
6. The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll
7. ‘Til I Fell In Love With You
8. Workingman’s Blues #2
9. Highway 61 Revisited
10. Ballad Of Hollis Brown
11. Po’ Boy
12. Honest With Me
13. When The Deal Goes Down
14. Thunder On The Mountain
15. Like A Rolling Stone

(encore)
16. All Along The Watchtower
17. Spirit On The Water
18. Blowin’ In The Wind

Commenting on that setlist is difficult. It’s obviously a brilliant set of songs. If you look at previous nights’ setlists you’ll see that – unsurprisingly – he changes it up a lot every night. Every night has something to be jealous of. There are a lot of recent songs, also understandable. I did overhear the couple next to me say that last night’s show was much better than the previous night’s in Sheffield.

Bob sounded good, though that is a relative term. I recognise that if this was the first time someone who didn’t know the songs by heart heard a live Dylan performance they’d be baffled at his vocals. C’mon: he was never velvet-throated, he’s lived quite a life, and he’s 67 now. Sure he’s rough and nasally and indecipherable in places, but you get used to it. And he still gives it passion and wicked humour. He’s an old blues showman, a country gentleman crooner, a winking Dixieland object of our worship. It’s okay for him to sound dusty and worn and wise.

All of the old songs are treated so differently live: they change tempo, get different rhythm sections, have compressed lyrical cadences. Songs are very often unidentifiable until you hear the words. I imagine this is as much a respite from tedium for Bob as it is to make them easier for him to sing. I like this: I rarely want record-duplicate performances.

I was glad to see Bob play quite a lot of harmonica (on “The Times They Are A-Changin'”, “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”, “‘Til I Fell In Love With You”,”Highway 61 Revisited”, “Spirit On The Water”, and “Blowin’ In The Wind”).

“‘Til I Fell In Love With You” swung so much it almost fell over. “Highway 61…” had a big sexy finish. I was pleased to hear “Ballad of Hollis Brown”, an early song I’d not heard him do live before.

Some of the newer slower songs aren’t so impressive. I could have done without “Po’ Boy”,”When The Deal Goes Down”, and “Spirit On The Water”, which all felt sluggish rather than pretty.

As a few years earlier, “Honest With Me” and “Highway 61…” absolutely rock. “…Watchtower” was amazing; it was like the soundtrack to a western movie set in the Russian steppes, with a crazy, jangly, riding rhythm propelling it along. “Thunder On The Mountain” also had a great keyboard solo by Bob.

The closer, “Blowin’ In The Wind” was handled with a light touch. Too light, I initially thought. Its bouncy swing seemed to rob it of its power. But as the band played on it felt more like Bob once again denying any accountability as a prophet of protest. It felt like a purposeful deflation of his own self-importance, turning a song about warning into a singalong goodbye.

The wonderful, perverse old bugger.

Photo from Tristan Legros under Creative Commons license

Photo from Tristan Legros under Creative Commons license

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New Dylan album this month: Together Through Life

18 April 2009

Bob Dylan’s new album, Together Through Life, lands (in the UK, at least) on 27 April. That’ll be two days after I see him play at the O2. Get it!

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Stuff to do in London

13 July 2008

It was a nice day and I was determined to spend it downtown seeing something new. So I queried TimeOut for its suggestions, plotted out an efficient tube journey, and carried out my plan.

  1. I went to Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre to catch the Doctor Who exhibit. It was really great for fans of the last few series. It’s not in the huge main hall; it’s in an underground (but still large) set of rooms at the back entrance, near Brompton Road tube. After a quick photo list of pre-millenial Doctors they jumped into all things Ecclestone and Tennant (except for the series just finished, but these will reportedly be added during the summer). They had lots of full models: the Face of Boe, the Slitheen, K9, a monstrous Empress of Racnoss, and more. There were costumes, plot reviews, and examples of how they create special effects (you can see video of yourself in the Tardis) and makeup (the Ood!). The animated Cybermen and Daleks near the end were fun. It’s £9 for adults and runs until the autumn sometime.
  2. I tubed over to Mayfair to see an exhibit of Bob Dylan’s Art at the Halycon Gallery. The Drawn Blank Series contains many studies by Bob of the same image but coloured differently, to explore how that changes the perception of the painting. There are prints for sale if you have £1500 to £2500 to spare. Well worth seeing, though, and free.
  3. I caught the tube over to Liverpool Street and walked to Brick Lane’s Truman Brewery art space to see Free Range. This is an ongoing showcase of art from new graduates. They’re rotating through different work; it was mostly photography today. It was a mixed bunch. I really liked James Dare’s series “The Great British Gun Owner” (a connection we UK city dwellers rarely make) and Emma Mari Trinder’s set of photos of single fathers and their daughters (touching, I thought). It’s also free.
  4. I then tubed up to Camden and fought my way through the market crowd to the Proud Bar and Gallery where they had a series of photographs of Sid Vicious. I liked them. Free as well, though I sat outside in a deck chair and had a beer since it was so nice out (not very punk, I know).

Also entertaining: on Brick Lane I saw a guy with a T-shirt that said, I listen to bands that don’t even exist yet.

Also also entertaining: whilst drinking my beer at Proud they played Cage the Elephant’s “Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked”. That’s a good song.

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Dylan Hears a Who

8 March 2007

From BoingBoing (there’s a download link there):

Dylan Hears a Who: a six-song album of music adaptations of Dr Seuss storybooks sung in the style of vintage Subterranean Homesick Blues-era Bob Dylan.

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Theme Time Radio Show

2 January 2007

Wow, these Bob Dylan radio shows are incredible. The music is mostly old blues, jazz, and country, but there’s some rock stuff and world music, too. Much of it is very funny. Bob himself is stunning: he’s so cool and sardonic. I’ve listened to the Christmas show (2 hours) and am in the middle of the “Drinking” show now.

Best of all, it looks like BBC radio is picking it up again in March and continuing through the spring.

EDIT: even more shows on Radio 6!

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What Would Dylan Play?

2 January 2007

I blogged a few weeks ago about how BBC Radio 2 was going to be broadcasting several of the Bob Dylan XM Radio shows over the holiday period.

Because Radio 2 is one of the radio stations we get via Freeview digital TV broadcast, I was able to record them all on our PVR. I’m listening to the first of them now. It’s awesome. Not only are the songs great, but Dylan’s funny, cryptic, clever, and raspy. It’s like listening to a radio show from that wise guru hermit at the top of the mountain: no need to climb.

The show’s called “Theme Time Radio”, and he certainly sticks to a theme. This one is radio:

Turn Your Radio On – Grandpa Jones
Roadrunner – The Modern Lovers
Cool Disc Jockey – Lloyd Bennett and His Rockets
Border Radio – The Blasters
On Your Radio – Richard Lanham
Radio Commercials – Lord Melody
This is Radio Clash – The Clash
Those DJ Shows – Patrice Holloway
Caravan – Van Morrison
Disc Jockey Blues – Luke Jones and His Orchestra
My Hi-Fi to Cry By – Bonnie Owens
Canned Music – Dan Hicks and His Hotlicks
Radio Boogie – LC Smith and His Southern Playboys
Radio Radio – Elvis Costello

All his playlists can be found here.

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“Settin’ my dial on the radio”

11 December 2006

Earlier this year, XM Satellite Radio started a regular show programmed by none other than Bob Dylan. I don’t get XM Radio (it’s a pay service), so i’ve never heard these, although I would have liked to.

My UK taxpayer fees will now go to something very useful: the BBC has purchased some of these shows, and will be broadcasting them soon.

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His back pages

28 August 2004

Finally, Bob according to Bob?