Get back on it…

There is an essential truth, we should all be aware of and accept.

Neil Young was born to rock, he will never be an opera star.

Re-ac-tor, may not be the greatest album ever made by Neil Young, it is probably a footnote in the Youngian canon, however after a weird weekend of emotional highs and lows it is exactly the Neil Young album to play.

I have been trying to explain my love of this album for years. The lyrics often suck, and it occasionally sounds out of tune. It heralded the 80’s for Neil Young with a fierce annoyance, it was also the last album on Reprise for awhile and may be the album David Geffen wished Neil would give him by about half way through the decade.

It is a forty minute slice of aggressive guitaring with fundamentally silly lyrics and very little direction and it’s silly. For some reason I have two copies of the record, a CD and a cassette that I have nothing to play it on. The other day I listened to it on the Neil Young Archives.

So what we have is an album containing songs about, opera, drugs, cars trains, meat and border violence. Maybe its a more relevant album than I thought.

come crawl up to your window…

I am all in favor of turning it up, there is however something magical that happens when you turn it down and record it on one microphone. Whites Off Earth Now is the first album by the Cowboy Junkies. It is mostly a collection of blues standards, a Springsteen and one original.

The claustrophobic, intimate sound of the album turns those blues standards into almost lethargic charged paeans to sex and rock and roll. The pace of the album makes it the perfect soundtrack to the day after the night before. The bass slinks along under Margo Timmins languid slurred vocals and the drums and guitar thread their way through the whole thing.

Damn it’s a dirty album.

Of course the album cover looks like it was recorded by a bunch of nerdy kids one afternoon, it should be full of perky, happy power pop. It should not be wallowing in the muck that is found on the floor of a juke joint the morning after.

I got the vision but it caused division…

The much derided and ridiculed Christian period for Zimmy has even been ignored by him until we hit Vol 13 with the Bootleg Series.

Maybe there is a reason the Dylan organization waited until Vol 13. Maybe that unlucky number with some of the most impassioned playing and singing may reach the heathen masses. Dylan may have said he was never born again, he never said he never got religion.

There is something truly immediate, passionate and engaging about Trouble No More. It’s sincere and compelling and in your face. It was three years of touring filled with ridicule and boos. The playing and singing however is some of the best you will hear from Dylan and any of his bands.

Songs that seem trite and formulaic on the albums live become dangerous and imperative. Singing that is hesitant in the studio becomes fiery.

Let’s face it Dylan has always had something of the apocalyptic visionary about him, whether it’s Hard Rain or Gates of Eden or Slow Train.

The collection is musically rewarding and lyrically challenging, there is a lot of sense being sung in retrospect and like every sincere song ever sung they are worth hearing. Is Zimmy going to evangelize you or turn you off, I have no idea. He will make you think and lets face it he immersed himself in this music for three years almost exclusively avoiding his hits to get this message out. So maybe on that basis alone it deserves to be re-examined.

I sat down tonight thinking I would make it through one side and have to take my time to get through the box. Several hours later I just put away LP 4 having played the whole thing. The collection is revelatory, other Bootleg series have confirmed how great the period it covers was for Dylan. This box redefines the evangelical period by giving you what that sounded like live.

It’s not hip to like religious music, we do however give Beethoven and Brahms their chance with it, so why not Dylan. Maybe we prefer to have our rock stars strung out and hedonistic than sincere and preaching. Who knows?

Ry, David and Jim…

I have never seen the movie Paris, Texas. There is probably a good chance I will never see it. Not that it does not deserve to be seen, it’s just that there is not enough time to see all the movies I think I may want to or need to see.

So what I am left with is the soundtrack. It is nothing short of beautiful.

I have a tendency to avoid soundtracks. I own a few and they fall into the category so far of either Tangerine Dream, Ry Cooder or there is a Peter Gabriel song on there that cannot be found anywhere else, I also have the required nostalgia fest of Pretty In Pink because it was there. I seem to have never actually seen any of the movies of the soundtracks I own.

There is not really a theme here other than I obviously do not watch too many movies. In fact most of my viewing seems to be Star Trek and it’s many offshoots right now.

So what Ry Cooder has created here is a truly amazing, atmospheric and haunting collection of soundscapes. Its minimalist and rich in it’s minimalism. You get lost in the motifs and melodies that conjure up the desolation and beauty of the desert. I have never been to Texas, I do however now have a desire to do so. It may be easier to watch the movie though.

Based on the cover alone, the movie is probably lonesome drifter searching for the love of his life and his sone he lost in some tragic manner.