"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Monday, July 18, 2005

peace and quiet
A rare moment of peace and quiet in the Woodshed this morning as the Missus is out with the kids and I'm on the nightshift. At last a chance to blog:

Item the first - Bob Dylan, Super Genius
Just finished reading "Chronicles" Bob Dylan's stab at autobiography - it's well written, but a bit scattered and tragically doesn't deal with the making of any of his early classic albums. He does talk a fair bit about how things were when he first came to New York and his early days in Minnesota. At one point he talks about how important folk songs were to him and how when he started playing the coffee houses he noticed that most singers were trying to put themselves across to the audience, but he was more interested in putting the song across.
This got me to thinking about how much I love early Dylan, so I dug out my copy of "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan" and tried to listen to it with a fresh ear. Go thou, and do likewise.

Remember what was on the radio at the time this record was created - Johnny Mathis, Frankie Avalon, Ricky Nelson - this is before the Beatles, Beach Boys and Rolling Stones. This is before Peter, Paul and Mary - Mitch Miller was hip! Forget for a moment the iconic status of "Blowin' in the Wind" and just listen to the song. This was before anyone had heard of Vietnam, a good old Pete Seeger-style anti-war song. Genius.

Now listen to the rest of the songs, from the wistfulness of "Girl from the North Country" to the venomous "Masters of War" the goofiness of "I Shall Be Free" the smooth "Corrina, Corrina" the nostaligia of "Bob Dylan's Dream" the subversive and sly "Talking World War Three Blues" and "Bob Dylan's Blues" - the other instant classics off the record "A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall" and "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" (one of my all time desert island must-have favorite songs) . Listen to these songs and tell me that if this record was made today, note for note the same way, that it wouldn't still be an instant million seller. He was 21 when he made this record. Even if he had never recorded again, never made albums like "blood on the tracks" "love and theft" "Highway 61 revisited" or "Blonde on Blonde" this album alone would have made him a legend. I have an old friend who makes a living of sorts from performing classic rock albums more or less note for note and I can't see them doing this one, because it really isn't reproducible- it would be like trying to pick up a handful of mercury. Say it with me now..."We are not worthy"

I'm now listening to the Bob Dylan live official bootleg series #6 the Concert at NYC's Philharmonic Hall from Oct. 1964, with Joan Baez joining him on stage. Dylan complains a bit in his book about being branded the "voice of a generation" and people expecting him to lead them. Listening to this record I'm amazed he wasn't elected world president by 1966.

Item the second - I'm a better harp player than Van Morrison
Based on his harmonica work on his newest album, the extremely good Magic Time, I'd blow Van the Man right off the stage in a blues harp contest. Of course, he is a better singer, songwriter, guitar player, saxophone player and all-around human being than I am by so many orders of magnitude that it would take scientific notation to write it down and I'm not smart enough to figure out how to do that on this computer. But when it comes to the Mississippi saxophone, the chrome biscut, the harpoon - I'm better, me, the Rev. Paperboy, I'm the boss harp player between me and Mr. "Here Comes the Night". And while I'm bragging, I'm a way better driver than Ray Charles.

Item the third - New Asylum Street Spankers stuff
The Spankers have a new web site on line and a new live record coming out soon! go buy it! In fact while you're at it buy everything they have ever done. Twice, and then give the second set as gifts to other people. Apparently they have a new DVD in the pipeline too.

stay tuned to the woodshed for two reviews later this week, first of the summer blockbuster scifi film "The Island" and second, comic book god Will Eisner's debunking of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" in graphic novel form, "The Plot".

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