Portraits as Living Dead

•December 9, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Just ran across a blog that I use to read that was a forum for an artists renderings of celebrities and politicians as if they were zombies. I had forgotten he did one of Bob Dylan! He doesn’t update the site anymore, but it’s a good laugh if you have a morbid sense of humor like I do. I don’t know how he’s implying Dylan may have met his demise here; Perhaps falling off a train into a haystack?

Bob Dylan as the Living Dead

Check out his blog here: Portraits as Living Dead

– Shaun

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A Follow-Up on the ‘Tarantula’ Discussion:

•December 8, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I found out about a graphic novel about the three major beat poets of the time, Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burrows called, quite simply, ‘The Beats.’

It’s new, so I haven’t read it myself, but if anyone’s interested in reading more about them, this would be interesting. It comes recommended amongst the comic book community.

Here’s a link to it on Amazon: ‘The Beats’ by Paul Buhle

– Shaun

Favorite Dylan Song

•December 7, 2009 • Leave a Comment

For me, it was not hard for me to come up with my all time favorite Dylan song. My favorite Dylan song is Sara. This is my favorite song because my parents named me after this song. I have grown up listening to this song, and it has a sentimental meaning to me. When trying to come up my second favorite song, it was hard for me to narrow it down. I kept trying to narrow down my list of songs to my top favorite, but I was unable to. I consider each of the songs my favorite song, because they have all held a special place in my life. So here is my narrowed down list of some of my favorite Dylan songs.

She Belongs to Me

Mr. Tambourine Man

Like a Rolling Stone

Highway 61 Revisited

Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine)

I Want You

Subterranean Homesick Blues

Lay Lady Lay

My Back Pages

Tangles Up in Blue

-Sara

Time Out of Mind

•December 7, 2009 • Leave a Comment

When Dylan released “Time Out of Mind” it has been seven years since he has releases an album of original songs. I feel like it was worth the wait. When this record first came out many people considered it to be his comeback album, but I don’t think that he ever really left. He has always been making music, just at times the records didn’t etch their way into peoples souls the way that “Blond on Blond” and “Blood on the Tracks” do. “Time Out of Mind” is extraordinarily deep and at times even dark album. This album is full of grit, passion, longing, and regret that can stand among the best albums of his legendary career.

One thing that I believe sets “Time Out of Mind” apart from many of Dylan’s other albums is that there are no wasted words on this album. The lyrics on this album are even more direct then those on “Oh Mercy” and “Blood on the Tracks.”  Dylan is not using the same turn of phrases that he utilized in his earlier work. He has made the songs easier for many of his listeners to relate too, or at least understand their meaning.

Another thing that I noticed about this album is that it is full of dark songs, songs about a place you don’t want to, but can’t help going. The listener can almost feel Dylan’s pain when he sings “Not Dark Yet.” I feel that this song is a metaphor for dying. Shortly before Dylan wrote this album, it is well known that Dylan had suffered a serious illness that hospitalized Dylan. His hospitalization could have allowed him to reflect on how fragile his own life is. He does not seem like he is in despire and he isn’t welcoming death. As he sings, “I was born here, and I’ll die here, against my will. ”On this album it seems that Dylan is putting his emotions out there for you to either accept of reject.

Sara

I like lists.

•December 4, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Ralph Waldo Emerson said in his essay, “Nature,” “The wise man shows his wisdom in separation, in gradation, and his scale of creatures and of merits, is as wide as nature. The foolish have no range in their scale, but suppose every man is as every other man. What is not good they call the worst, and what is not hateful, they call the best.” I use this quote often to defend myself when I admit that I am constantly refining my list of Top 100 Favorite Movies (Shaun’s Top Movies List) or something similar. So, if you ask me what my favorite something is, I’m going to produce a list. And it’s going to be an agonizing process, a life or death process, a process that’s going to require every scrap of mental energy I can put into it to make it as definitive as possible so that someone can’t misconstrue my opinions at all.

They have clinics for people like me.

But they’re too expensive, so here’s my Top 10 Favorite Bob Dylan Songs (That Are Probably Not Your Favorite So There):

10: Who Killed Davey Moore? (Bootleg Series, Vol. 1)

Why It Made the List: Bob Dylan isn’t just a song writer, he’s a storyteller. If you watch this video, you’ll see that this song isn’t really a song so much as a poem with a little guitar in the background telling the story of a boxer who was killed in the ring and trying to find the blame. The audience doesn’t sing along, they don’t clap or cheer, they sit there and they listen. Daddy’s talking, and the children are hanging on his every words. When they react, they react to what’s happening in the story, not to a sweet guitar lick or because he said the name of the town their in.

Dylan has a lot of songs that are stories, but I like this one particularly well because of the ambiguity. He says in the first few lines, “Not I…Don’t point your finger at me.” And that’s just it – It’s not a finger pointing song, and it seems to just be saying that sometimes shit happens: “It was destiny, it was God’s will.” You want to spend your time pointing fingers when something goes horribly wrong, but in the end we all just have to do what’s got to be done and hope for the best.

9. Shelter from the Storm (Hard Rain)

Why It Made the List: This version of the song is powered so much more by testosterone than the studio track. Instead of another acoustic ballad of a drifter, it’s made into a stadium anthem with harmonizing guitars and loud, electric jamming that reminds me of The Allman Brothers Band or some other southern rock group. Dylan works well with his bandmates on stage in this version, and I think his forceful vocals add a cool urgency to the story. The strong bassline gives it a slight note of cheekiness to it; a driving rhythm that adds a sexual tone: “I was burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail, / Poisoned in the bushes an’ blown out on the trail, / Hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn. / “Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm.” That’s what she said.

8. In the Summertime (Shot of Love)

Why It Made the List: This is on one of his Christian albums, so you would assume that Dylan’s intended message was that about his relationship with God. But, this song, I feel, could applicable to any significant relationship that may not have lasted as long as you wanted it to. I find the past tense verbs in the lyrics place a sort of melancholic nostalgia (melancholgia?) in the song: “In the summertime when you were with me.” This is more than just a summer fling; This is a significant relationship that even in its fleeting moments left such an impression it made time seem irrelevant: “I was in your presence for and hour or so / Or was it a day? I truly don’t know.” And even though it had to end, the effect he carries with him: “It’s a part of me now, it’s been cherished and saved, / It’ll be with me unto the grave / And then unto eternity.”

Even the tone of the musical arrangement is very melancholgic, possessing a quality of quiet contentment with the present, even while longing to recapture that which has past. (I also find it funny they misspelled ‘Dilan’ in the video. Ah, YouTube…)

7. I Shall Be Free No.10 (Another Side of Bob Dylan)

Why It Made the List: It’s very simple: this song is ludicrous. It sounds like he was making it up as he went along. I would like to think he was, because there are several other versions of this same song on the Bootleg Series albums with different words. Like, “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues”:

Or, my favorite of the three, “Talkin’ Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues,” based on the merit that it’s the silliest:

I can’t really say much on it other than that. They just make me laugh. One line might hit a little close to home – “My arms and legs were broken…my feet were splintered…My head was cracked…Couldn’t walk…couldn’t talk…smell, feel…couldn’t see…didn’t know where I was…I was bald…quite lucky to be alive, though!”

6. Girl From the North Country w. Johnny Cash (Nashville Skyline)

Why It Made the List: I’ll tell you why I prefer this version over the original version from Freewheelin’ – It’s all on Johnny. This version is adapted to the country rhythm, and I think it fits the story of the song better. It has a plodding rhythm, like you would be singing this song as you’re riding your horse off into the sunset, leaving behind you a similar message to “If You See Her, Say Hello.” It’s a similar feeling I get from “In the Summertime,” in that there’s that one you can’t be with, but you can’t let go of the time you did have: “Remember me to one who lives there / For she once was a true love of mine.”

It’s a very cowboy sentiment. Willie Nelson once wrote in his song, “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys,” “Cowboys are special, with their own brand of misery / From being alone too long.” Some are not a fan of Dylan’s nasaly vocals on this album, but I actually don’t mind them that much. And I think they mesh well with Johnny’s. Dylan’s voice is notoriously bad for meshing with just anyone on a duet, and even though Johnny and Dylan tried to do a whole album together, this was the only song they felt was good enough to be released. I’m glad they did, because they both seem, in Willie’s words, “Slowly in search of / And one step in back of / Themselves and their slow moving dreams.”

5. Lay Lady Lay (Hard Rain)

Why It Made the List: Another track from Hard Rain – I prefer this version to the Nashville Skyline version for two reasons: One, I do prefer the stretching of the pace of the song. It makes it feel a little more like seduction, and less like moping. I feel the Skyline version has a little bit more of a sadness to it, like he’s been deprived, and a little bit like he’s begging. This version is cool. Two, the nasaly vocals are absent here. This was recorded 7 years after Skyline, and he’s moved past that phase. The nasaly voice only added to the qualities I mentioned before, and here Dylan seems like he’s much more in command. There are other songs I have on my list for melancholgia, but this is the one that feels like it’s more when he’s at the top of his game.

4. I Feel a Change Coming On (Together Through Life)

Why It Made the List: Well, first, I should say I couldn’t find a video of Bob doing this song. It’s a full band piece, accordians et al., but I find this really lovely acoustic cover by some dude on YouTube named rollingthunder2007, and I’m going to give him mad props for this jam. He puts the soul in the song, and even though he may look like my 6th Grade Math teacher, my brother is taking it to it. For Those About to Rock, We Salute You, rollingthunder2007.

I love this song because I think it speaks of a fundamental truth in humanity that Dylan embodies: change. When being taken to the Gray Havens to die, Bilbo says, “I’m quite ready for another adventure.” Dylan thinks the same way. It’s an opprotunity for something new, and no matter how much life has changed to this point, he’s still not ready stop evolving. And the song has a touch of that meloncholgia to it, too, because he doesn’t want to go alone. God Bless Ya, Bob.

3. Going to Acapulco (The Basement Tapes)

Why It Made the List: This song isn’t about the lyrics, totally, for me. It’s another song that sounds, to me, like I’m on the back of a pony, drifting through the desert, hoping for something better, and all you can do is dream about warm beaches and a warm heart waiting on you when you get there. Can’t figure out how to change anything, so you just go along the way you’ve been going along, and fight it uphill as you go: “Well, sometime you know when the well breaks down / I just go pump on it some.” There’s a quiet resignation in the mournful vocals. It sounds like they’re tired, but they’re not ready to drop yet for the night.

2. River Theme (Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid)

Why It Made the List: I would probably put the entire soundtrack to Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid in this one spot, but I narrowed it down to my favorite piece from the album. It’s a drifting song. It’s a riding song. It’s filled with that melancholgia I’ve been talking so much about. Dylan didn’t even need to use words to convey its story; just a chorus of soft notes and calm, country acoustics to evoke an entire scene in your mind. The sun’s setting, and it’s time to be moseying along.

1. Forever Young (continued) (Planet Waves)

Why It’s My Favorite: There’s a lot of bullshit in life; I suppose you got to let it roll off your back. Keep fighting it, and don’t let it turn you into an old man. Keep the ideals. Keep the faith. “May your heart always be joyful. May your song always be sung.” It sounds like a prayer.

I prefer the B-Side version simply for the liveliness. It sounds more like a sermon than a lullaby. It sounds like he’s trying to get the pulpit fired up, not put his kids to bed. The guitar riffs to open up the song make me want to get up and sing along. It makes me want to dance. It makes me want to pick up my guitar and play. I love the soft, quiet, chill tunes just as much – but in the end, I love rock and roll, and that needs a little bit of electiricity and something to pump your fists to.

Keep on rockin’ in the free world,

Shaun

Least Favorites vs. Favorites

•December 4, 2009 • Leave a Comment

One of my least favorite Dylan songs is “Visions of Johanna.”  This song is definitely a favorite of many Dylan lovers; however, I find its sound and lyrical structure to be twisted.  I prefer more of Dylan’s straightforward lyrics and simpler melodies.  In the Rolling Stone top 500, it is ranked 404.  Again, it is liked by many—maybe because of its uniqueness and mysterious lyrics; however, I am definitely one who prefers a more direct message.

A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” is another one of my least favorite songs.  I find the melody of the song to be ridiculously annoying.  I swear, because of that, I ALWAYS get the song stuck in my head every time I hear it.  The constant use of numbers in the song also distracts me.  I become annoyed by that, and it diverts me from the meaning of the song.  I do understand the nature of the song; it was written around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, so the song became relevant to that time period.  Interestingly, most people I know how love this song were alive during that time period.  I just don’t think I will ever understand that.

“Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” is definitely one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs.  I know it sounds cliché (as most people would pick this), but I do enjoy it.  For me, I am not the biggest Dylan fan.  I do not find his voice very appealing at all; however, this song does seem to have one of his best vocal performances.  This is probably one of the reasons for this song’s popularity.  This is evident by its ranking in the Rolling Stone top 500.  At number 190, “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” is definitely a hit.

The popularity of the song is also obvious due to the number of artists that have covered this song.  The lyrics are relatable, and it touches on the subject of religion, which is an area many people do not speak about openly.  I think many people enjoy the mystery in the song.

Another song I really enjoy is “Forever Young.”  Again, this song is a favorite of many, but I think its timeless nature is great.  The lyrics are cheerful, raw, and young spirited.  Most of the time, I find that many of his songs involve complaining.  Also, many times, when he is quoted (or in Tarantula), he is sarcastic.  This song shows a different side of Dylan, showing his sensitivity.  This is something I definitely appreciate.  I wanted to know more about the song, and I found this explanation:

“After an eight year break from touring, Dylan’s legend was big enough to fit all twelve apostles and still have room for a couple of Buddhas. He agreed to go back on the road in 1974 with The Band, his old backup group who had become stars themselves during the down time. They got together and quickly knocked off an album, Planet Waves, which featured two versions of a blessing from a parent to a child. In the years he was away from stage, Dylan had become a father. He had that in common with a good chunk of the audience. The song reflected it. It was memorably recited on American tv by Howard Cosell when Muhammad Ali won the heavyweight crown for the third time.”

-Kathleen

Time Out of Mind

•December 4, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Time Out of Mind, released in 1997, according to many gets Bob back on track. The beginning of the “trilogy” of newer music, it is again full of all new compilations and beauty poetry and songs for Dylan fans to enjoy. Dylan begins the album with “Love Sick,” a very simple song in terms of music, just a few chords and his voice. In this song Dylan says “Im sick of love, but Im in the think of it.” What kind of love can be disputed: real love, rebound love, groupie love, music love, really any kind of love you can think of can be substituted, but whatever it is, he is tired of it. To me, the rest of the album seems to argue that he is sick of all types of love. Many of the other songs deal with different kinds of love, their turmoil, and heartbreak. All things that would make anyone “love sick.” However, typically Dylan takes a phrase which usually means totally in love and switches it up, doesn’t give you what you are looking for, but exactly the opposite.

“Standing in the Doorway” to me is a very honest and sad song. The melody and music used in itself seems sad and dragging. The lyrics come from a very dark place: “Don’t know if I saw you, if I would kiss you or kill you, It probably wouldn’t matter to you anyhow.” These remind again of Blood on the Tracks, where the lover has gone, he would like to see her again, but isnt quite sure what he would say. He is certain she would not be as thrilled to see him. The song could be about love in general, go back to his love affair with Sara, what he seems to think is the only love that he really had, or be about one of the many girls he could have been seeing. Throughout the whole song he seems to be longing for this girl; he definitely needs a shoulder to cry on.

In “Tryin’ to get to Heaven” Dylan seems to be doing a little bit better. The song is more upbeat, more happy. Her memory “doesn’t haunt [him] like it did before.” This song also talks about Miss Mary-Jane, perhaps a reference to him moving on with his life, trying again. Dylan as seen the world, but he is trying to get to heaven. To me this sounds like heaven is a good relationship, one that lasts.

After that little bit of hope, “Not Dark Yet” again makes Dylan sound like he is so sick of love, so sick of trying, just so over it. “I just don’t see why I should even care / It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there,” these lines make me think that Dylan, though he is trying to care, and still does a little, wont very soon. He is reaching his capacity. Dylan again says that he has been all over the world, but this time in a negative sense. He has seen all there is to see, and still he cannot find a place to call home, a good woman to come home to.

Time Out of Mind was a good comeback album for Dylan. It reminded his fans how beautiful and eloquent his writing was; reminded them why it was that they so loved his music and his art. The songs are varied, balanced between rock and blues, and all capture the essence of Dylan.

Madeline