21st Century Dylan…Well, life is for love and they say that love is blind…

Together Through Life entered the charts at #1, this is becoming a habit for the crotchety old pop star.

Lyrics largely written along with Robert Hunter lyricist for the Grateful Dead it is maybe the most lightweight of the 21st Century Dylan. Of course not everything has to be heavy man. Dylan’s pronouncement on the album was that his fans would like it, and he was right.

Mike Campbell from the Heartbreakers and David Hidalgo from Los Lobos join in with the touring band. The album musically retreads the blues/folk/rock feel of previous albums with less stylistic changes. It’s a pretty uniform album in that way. Dylan produces and the band take direction well so it all works out. It may very well be one of the most consistently sounding Dylan albums in a long time.

This however makes for the fourth good to great album in a run from Dylan. Unheard of consistency in many ways but not unwelcome. the 21st Century was not treating the old codger badly, love songs, songs bemoaning the fate of the world, road songs and feisty songs. Not a bad record in all. Even though it runs to a double album on vinyl it doesn’t feel bloated like some records of the time by his contemporaries.

Apparently it began life as a soundtrack album and then took a different direction becoming a full on album.

The final track is, It’s All Good which stands as a phrase of contempt, denial, anger, frustration and confusion at the state of the world, it is almost as if Vonnegut’s phrase of “so it goes” made it into song. Maybe in a year or two Dylan will write a song called “It is what it is” to memorialize the current state of events and the lack of leadership.

21st Century Dylan…We live and we die, we know not why But I’ll be with you when the deal goes down…

The 21st century revival meeting goes on with Modern Times, this may be my favorite Dylan album for the new century so far in my listening binge. It’s surprising it took me 14 years to getting around to buying it.

I was overcome with the completist bug and found myself late at night purchasing some Dylan gaps and this was one of them. This last few weeks I bought the records Tempest, Modern Times, Together through Life, Good As I Been To You and World Gone Wrong, I cannot really bring myself yet to buy Under A Blood Red Sky after the time I bought the cassette. Trauma is real. This was all brought on by the moment when I bought Rough and Rowdy Ways in the Barnes and Noble half price vinyl sale. We will get there eventually.

The album rolled through two sides of enjoyable late period Dylan, lazy blues, rocking blues, ripping off of other writers and that weatherbeaten voice, sometimes cracking an other times hitting a note or two. But always driving the song along.

Then came Side 3. and the knock out kick in the head moment, that Dylan guy can still manage to put out a great song. Working Mans Blues #2. It’s part protest part complaint and all empathy, Beyond the Horizon a song reflecting on age and love and then the closing punch of Nettie More. A song full of grief loss and struggle sung in a plaintive, demanding and consoling voice. During these strange times when empathy is so missing in the public forum in the USA to have Dylan expressing sorrow, love and concern is particularly jarring when interspersed with the news form CNN.

There is also the inevitable hindsight is 20/20 moment in Ain’t Talkin’.

“Ain’t talkin’, just walkin’
Through the world mysterious and vague
Heart burnin’, still yearnin’
Walkin’ through the cities of the plague”

If there is an argument for Dylans continued relevance as a song writer it is on Side 3. of Modern Times.

Modern Times entered the US charts at Number 1. which for a 65 year old man was no small achievement. It is a truly satisfying album, contemplative in a way early Dylan is not. It is a reflective album even in it’s more raucous songs. If you have time to spare it’s worth reading some of the plagiarism arguments, everything from Ovid to obscure civil war poets and Muddy Waters. They are great songs and obviously there are influences, it’s almost as if Dylan was listening to a standard and then went in his own direction on some stream of consciousness riff of what the song means to him.

Right after Love and Theft I stopped going to see Dylan live, during the pandemic times as I sit in the plague lands I am regretting that decision. I also apparently stopped buying Dylan albums or even listening to the new ones any more. Again I am beginning to regret that decision.

As I gird my loins to head out into the plague lands to visit with my programs and keep staff moving forward I have been accompanied by these later Dylan albums. The sun beating down and the grass and greenery turning brown Dylan has kept me company with his gamblers and rogues along for the ride, his apocalyptic rasp of a voice just seems fitting to the strange times we are in.

21st Century Dylan…I’m no pig without a wig…

Love and Theft heralded in the real 21st Century for Dylan in Sept 2001, four years after his alleged resurgence.

Augies back on the immortal Vox organ, keeping the beat and laying the bedrock of what any worthy Dylanoligist sees as the real return to form for Zimmy. This much to the man himself’s amusement as he appears to think these scholars are kind of wacky to waste so much time thinking about him. So here I am thinking about Zimmy.

Dylan as usual rips off everything he has ever heard, dropping lines from songs, books and probably snatches of conversation overheard. Some call it plagiarizing, I kind of think it’s just that wicked brain up there putting stuff together the way I for sure can’t.

I remember buying the album and being terrified by the title of the first track, Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum, somehow it reminded me of Wiggle Wiggle in its name. I remember driving home and thinking have I just made a massive mistake buying this instead of a safer choice, this was at a time when every purchase may mean we ate macaroni again today. Thankfully instead of a vague attempt to write a sure pop song it is a dark study of Mardi Gras drunkenness and debauchery ending in death.

It’s an album of whores, gamblers, drunks and outsiders. It maybe hits just about every musical style America has given us, except for the stage musical, Dylan was saving that for later it seems.

“I’ve been in trouble ever since I set my suitcase down.”

This line sums up the whole album, Dylan the rogue, the conman, the artist, he’s in trouble.

Now I got that out of my head the truth is it’s a great album, probably up there with the high marks of the 60’s and 70’s, of course that is entirely subjective and subject to change at a moment. I have managed to drive around with this album all week in the plague lands and it’s kind of fitting for pandemic times.

At the time Dylan had entered his 60’s and seemed to have mortality on his mind. He’s got nothing for us and he had nothing before. This is fascinating as the most interesting piece of the Dylan myth has been the impact he has on people, the fans, the friends and the business. He has managed to be totally involved in the “business” of Dylan and yet maintains his integrity somehow. It’s quite the feat.

The music is predominantly played by the touring band. It has a liveliness missing from Time Out of Mind, there is also the lack of the Lanois touch doer want of a better phrase. It’s a more immediate sound. Produced by Dylan himself.

21st Century Dylan…I was born here and I’ll die here, against my will…

The next great Dylan resurgence is upon us.

It all began way back in 97 with Time Out of Mind the Daniel Lanois produced return to form, after the 89 Daniel Lanois produced return to form of Oh Mercy. Yet the one recurring memory I have of Time Out Of Mind’s sound is the Augie Meyers organ  that pervades the album and let’s face it Augie perfected that sound before Lanois got out of  short pants.

So Time Out of Mind is the turning point, the return to form, the rebirth of the songwriting talent of Bob Dylan, or maybe the cocaine ran out, who knows?

IMG_3835.JPGEither way he seemed to have moved away from the idea that he needed to have a plethora of guests on an album to make it relevant and stopped trying to be a pop star and concentrated on writing songs.

This was after all after his two records of folk and blues covers, some see as a stop gap of dealing with the lyrical drought that is perceived as happened in the mid to late 90’s. Maybe it was Zimmy’s attempt to get back to the roots, a solo retreat to the Big Pink on some level, there was no Band around this time just our boy, his guitar and the songs he cut his teeth on on some level, the recorded version of his radio show. That was somewhere in the future.

It was also at some point in the never ending tour that he had perhaps managed to exorcise some demons. Who knows it would take a Dylanologist to come up with a good enough theory as the man himself is not forthcoming with any semblance of the truth.

So we have some theories that are not worth the virtual paper they are written on, and a record that puts Dylan back on some sort of track. It helped that grunge had happened and the need to sound relevant was passé, it was more important to sound authentic, of course in order to do this Dylan made with Lanois what many consider to be in some way his most “artificial,” as in the sound could not be easily reproduced live, album.

Add to this some near death experience with a rare and strange heart condition and you get all the elements of a come back.

I have now listened about three times this week to this album, in the car, sat on the couch and walking the dog. Each time I hear a new lyric, a turn of phrase a comedic moment, a moment of tragedy and at times horror. Each time the record/stream stops I feel like the album is just out of reach, I don’t remember the songs until they start and then they are like old friends coming to sit and sip whiskey.

Not dark Yet, Cold Irons Bound and Can’t Wait along with Highlands are the stand outs, it is however a remarkably consistent album. It was twenty some years ago and it seems old Zimmy is still in his third, fourth or fifth come back and started the new century early.

I remember sitting there as the Y2K moment came and went, listening to Time Out of Mind as I watched the fireworks around the world waiting for the lights to turn off. For some reason this was the CD I wanted to be stuck in the CD player when the world ground to a halt. No turntable in those days as I was along with most of the world enamored by CD’s, there was however a box of records under the stairs.

It’s hard to think that this record is now twenty three years old. When it was released Dylan’s career had been twenty five years. In those twenty five years he released twenty nine albums. In the last twenty three years he has released ten, how things have changed.

As the Y2K bug never appeared it was on to the 21st Century with Dylan.

I ride humanity on a sea of blood…

By my own rules, that if it doesn’t get to a point that I feel comfortable within a week with a post it goes in the trash. I just deleted  a post that covers everything from federal behavior in Portland Oregon, Covid-19 fears and worries, the dangers of isolation, Alzheimer’s affects on our family and my running stats for the last four weeks/ this is not so interesting apart from at 54 I was convinced by my 20 year old son to start running in the trail at our home.

What we are left with is not much really other than a week or so worth of listening with little comment:

Apparently I have listened to 21 albums in the last week or so, mostly in the folk/folk-rock genre with detours to Dylan, Young and the mighty Hawkwind Live 79 which will drag you kicking and screaming out of any doldrum. Martin Carthy and Sandy Denny seem to have been the most frequent appearances on the turntable.

We have also, well by we I mean my children, been building a fire pit. In my mind this was a slight depression in the ground that a fire could be built in, my sons and grandson have decided this is a more complicated proposition. It has involved concrete, cinder blocks and tractoring all of which I am in favor of, and I get to not do the work so win for all.

Right about now it may be fortunate that other post never got to a point I was happy with. This has been a lot more positive and life affirming in its own way.