the wooden ships were just a hippie dream capsized in excess…

Full disclosure here, some days I think Neil Young is a genius, this thought came to me after I watched him play in his chicken coop on Farmaid the other day. Genius.

This took me to dragging out Earth, the live(?) album recorded with Promise of the Real and various ambient recordings of nature.

I have had this for some time and have not felt up to playing it since I streamed the album on Spotify, to be honest I bought it out of some completist need and it was cheap.

The concept is a live album with unashamed overdubs of choir like backing vocals and ambient animal sounds throughout. Terrifying in a way, Neil’s songs interrupted by chirping, cheeping, grunts and groans and thats not just the aging audience creaking away in their seats.

So I am not going to attempt to explain what is going on, other than the usual fair of anti-Monsanto pro-planet Neil Young, can’t really argue with pro-planet unless you are a Republican these days. Neil comes off at times as some sort of hippie Captain Planet at times and I have a fondness for Captain Planet.

If all you do is listen to Side 3. of the album, Hippie Dream into After the Goldrush followed by Human Highway your life will be enriched and made better, even the chirping and wolf howls fit in with the overdubbed original cornet solo and sickly sweet choirs, as I said earlier Genius.

You are welcome!

You’d like to fly with me And hide with me, baby…

Pink Floyd. You say the name and everyone knows what to expect, Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and the interminable whining of the Wall. It’s as if six years of making music has bee expunged from the collective consciousness of the planet and replaced with the Furry Freak Brothers image of the stoner Floyd fan in his bell bottoms toking on a joint and passing out as he attempts to sync Darks Side of the Moon with the Wizard of Oz, “do you start on the second or third roar maaaaaaannnnnn?”

The experimentation and mistakes and side tracks and cul de sacs have been forgotten by all but the completist and obsessive Floyd fan. Who knows the soundtracks and singles and the pop songs any more. It is as if most of the listening world is happy with the sanitized classic rock radio version of the band. This reality has been promoted by David Gilmour and his slick and rehearsed touring band apart from the carefully curated homage to Syd or the nod to the more acceptable soundtrack efforts. But David did sing many of those songs so why not. Roger who has not been been known to stray and loves his Animals but he still unfailingly wants to hang out on the Dark Side or cling to the Wall too much.

So it has been left to the race car collecting drummer to reignite interest in Floyds most diverse period. Actually he was convinced to do it by a Blockhead and a part time Blockhead who hangs with David and Roger and married Rick’s daughter, Lee Harris and Guy Pratt convinced Nick Mason to play those songs recorded before Dark Side and brought along Gary Kemp from Spandau Ballet for the ride and Dom Beken who seems to spend most of his time scoring video games when not making all those cool psychedelic sounds.

They called themselves, Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets, Mason calls them The Saucers, I know which one I would have gone with.

What you get is almost the perfect set list for the Floyd psychedelic completist, let’s face it though no early years fanatic is ever going to be truly satisfied. There are nods to the pop, punky, funk and the psychedelic wig outs. Songs about bikes and spaceships, green hair and psychedelic cats and crossdressers. It is the Floyd everyone secretly wanted to go see, or tell everyone they had seen. Nick Mason also makes drumming sound fun with an almost gleeful disregard for time, but plenty of rhythm. His band-members sounds like they are having the time of their lives and the songs sound fresh and wacky and fun again. He also did it without another drummer which means he still has his psychedelic chops, maybe it’s those over rehearsed homages to the big three albums he struggled with?

Throughout the liner notes everyone keeps saying how much fun it was and how friendly they are with each other. Roger even turned up one day to bang the gong again and looked happier than he had in a long time. The whole album exudes jolly bonhomie and happiness, which is how I have always seen Mason, slightly befuddled by his success and truly grateful to have had the gig.

I almost didn’t get this, in fact I cancelled the pre-order, then my Floyd need kicked in and there ya go.

There is now a piece of me that wishes, Roger and David would get there heads on straight and reach into that back catalogue of recordings and release some of those gigs you know where recorded, especially before they became the machine that sang about.

21st Century Dylan…I carry four pistols and two large knives…

Somewhere in the intervening years Dylan delved into the Christian Christmas songbook and what is generally considered the Great American Songbook.

I have listened to and thoroughly enjoyed the Christmas album, I have however avoided the Sinatra years. These are critically acclaimed albums and I should probably get to but I have to admit I come over all funny when I think about Dylan crooning his way through Sinatra classics. It feels a bit like watching your dad drunkenly warbling The Lady Is A Tramp during a holiday family party.

Rough and Rowdy Ways will be the soundtrack to the pandemic as far as I am concerned. There was a moment in March that coincided with the release of Murder Most Foul when I realized that shit was getting serious. I fought with Asda in the UK to set up online shopping for my mum. I had to convince Boots that I was in the UK so she could get her prescriptions delivered and connected with family members to ensure that someone was checking in with her, all to the soundtrack of Murder Most Foul, a litany of pop culture references a history lesson in popular music and conspiracy theories.

It fitted in with the mood of the times, it was apocalyptic and steeped in the history of the country and name dropped like a fool. It managed to distract and inspire, the internet fired up with explanations of what it all meant, it sounded to me like the ramblings of an old drunk sitting at the end of the bar as he philosophized and rambled his way through the crannies of his memory. It was simultaneously the most profound and ridiculous song ever. A nonsense poem for the times.

It was also long and lock down meant people could actually listen again for awhile it seemed. That time has past with the urge to get back to normalcy, as if we will ever experience that again.

Then from nowhere came I Contain Multitudes with seemed to offer another view of who Dylan was. The pandemic was beginning to rage and I wanted Dylan to take his guns and knives to the establishment and make them pay attention. It was a life all lived in song out there for all to hear. Then came False Prophet basically reminding us to doubt the man, or maybe acknowledge that he maybe knows who he is, he’s just not willing to show us.

Like all of the other 21st Century Dylan it’s an album addressing mortality and life and all the the other bits and things that go along with humanity. Lyrically Dylan steals happily from anywhere he feels like, warping meanings and twisting pre-conceptions, self referential at times and disdainful of what the fan wants it to be.

So now we are over six months into the most significant historical event I have lived through. It has shone a spotlight on my suspicion that profit is more important than people and that public health is not a priority in the country I chose to live in. This is a time when the truth is stretched beyond the boundaries of any form of belief, when opinion is more important than fact. It is a time that working people are more actively than any other time in my memory making decisions that are so obviously contrary to their best interests. It is a time when racism is praised and actively promoted by our leaders and lies more than ever are the currency of politics. A time of despair, fear and loathing.

Mother of Muses sounds like some alternative anthem to forgotten history:

“Sing of Sherman, Montgomery and Scott
And of Zhukov, and Patton, and the battles they fought
Who cleared the path for Presley to sing
Who carved the path for Martin Luther King
Who did what they did and they went on their way
Man, I could tell their stories all day”

When Dylan crosses the rubicon with us we realize that this is the end of something, a changing a time for renewal and rebirth, the old heroes are leaving and we need to find our own courage now.

It’s been a trying year and we are just over half way through it all. It would be easy to fall in line with the conspiracists that this is all about control. Life is simpler if there’s a conspiracy to believe in, we can then blame someone or something else for all our troubles. That way lies authoritarianism, racism, bigotry and hate.

Rough and Rowdy Ways grounds us in the pithy world of the shadows and doubts and hope that we can keep going.

It really is the soundtrack to the apocalypse, good luck people and be good humans.

At least the scoundrels in the songs are honest ones.

Because at the end of the day as Zimmy might say:

“I’ve never lived in the land of Oz 
Or wasted my time with an unworthy cause 
It’s hot down here, and you can’t be overdressed”

I’m worried now but I won’t be worried long…

It’s the update…

Well we moved from one place to the next like transients until we ended up at the coast.

At the start of the week I decided to come back and see what was left, the house at that point was still in the Level 3 Go Now evacuation zone. As I drove into my small town I was taken by the signs posted by the locals threatening looters and for a time I worried about my safety not from fire but from roving bands of vigilantes. I took some defensive tactics of having the dog sit in the front passenger seat and waved at everyone I saw, luckily this tactic worked and I was safe from the “law abiding” citizens.

It felt like I had entered some strange alternate reality. For gods sake it’s only stuff, who needs to get shot at for stuff. It was then I realized how deep the divisions in this country are. Social media was full of the lie that Antifa had started the fires, the citizenry where not even willing to believe Law Enforcement when told this was not the truth, they were so excited by the lie and what that allowed them to do that they had no interest in truth.

I made it to my property and thankfully everything was in one piece, a bit of a mess but nothing had been damaged. There was no power so I decided to spend the night on a couch again, and work called.

The next day as the area was downgraded to Level 2 and the power came back on. the signs went down and people appeared to settle themselves down.

The sunflowers were starting to bloom in the smog.

With the aid of some tape and filters laying around I set up a filtration system with the heat pump on re-circulating the airflow, surprisingly it all works.

Syd was super happy to be back in his woods. The amount of windfall from the wind storm that blew all this up was incredible. Gonna have to sweep the forest I guess.

This morning the air quality was worse than yesterday but at least I am home.

21st Century Dylan…I’ve got a date with a fairy queen…

Tempest was the album by Dylan I first streamed on Spotify. It felt like a betrayal to physical medium. I had already moved to an iPod and spent the best part of a year ripping CD’s and downloading album after album to hard drives and flash drives. I had a connector for the iPod on my stereo in the green 4-Runner. Everything in our lives was becoming digital and less fun it seems on reflection.

I struggled with Tempest in 2012, it seemed almost like Neil Young in the 90’s Dylan could pee on a snare drum and the critics would fall in line to praise. I was looking for new sounds in my listening and in reality finding more of the same. I was also heading towards fifty and struggling with that so did I really want another album being frank about age, mortality and the world at large.

It also has possibly the worst album cover ever, some badly photoshopped picture of a statue, I know this was all supposed to be dreadfully symbolic and meaningful. To me though it looked like some bad art project one of my children may have done at school.

Eight years later the album doesn’t sound so bad. Yes the title track is the weakest because it is dealing with a real life event and not really that well. The voice is beat, phlegmy and raspy and evil sounding at times. David Hidalgo is there with the accordion to underpin the melody and keep time. The songs are mean and brooding and heading for the underworld of life, violence, decay and righteous anger at the state of the world. The music occupies the some territory as earlier albums, rootsy and based in every Americana style available.

This was to be Dylans last original work for a long time, he was about to dive into Sinatra world in the same way as 20 years earlier he had jumped headlong into the Blues and Folk music of previous decades. Dylan it seems needed to replenish the creative juices by wallowing in the music of his childhood/youth, who knows really. In twenty years he’ll probably dive into disco or hip hop to get his shit together

Really I am overthinking this now.

Do not panic think only of yourself…

If only that was true.

Tuesday as the fires started to surround the homestead we made the decision to evacuate and head for safer ground.

Safer ground lasted almost two days and then we had to head out again. This time to the coast. Of course we had to move amongst our family. 10 dogs 3 horses and 3 cats. Thanks to good neighbors and family we are safe and alive as is the menagerie.

Hopefully the records are there when we get back whenever that is.

Who knew a pandemic could be so fun. We decided not to follow the advice of the song and thought of others so there ya go Moorcock and Hawkwind.

A few pictures from the last few days.

Tractor porn.
From a safer time.

trying to prove your conclusions should be more drastic…

So if you were going to historically make a great Dylan covers album there is in my opinion a formula.

It goes this way:

1 part jingly jangly guitars

1 part laid back swinging band

Refuse to be to reverent with the material and choose the hard tracks.

Plus a girl singer.

In this way you normally get early Fairport Convention.

However in the 21st Century you get Emma Swift and her amazingly glorious album Blonde on the Tracks.

So the new formula may be:

1 part 80’s quirky power pop punk psychedelic maestro.

1 part Nashville session players

Plus 1 Australian girl singer not afraid to do the hard songs.

There’s really only one way to figure out how great this album is and that is to take a listen. Produced by Wilco’s Patrick Sansone and featuring Robyn Hitchcock on guitar, the album covers everything from Byrds influenced jangle to folky strumming and Emma Swift has the temerity to cover Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.

I have always enjoyed female singers covering Dylan much more than male singers. Women seem to feel more assured in interpreting the lyrics than men do, they also have it seems enough disdain for the arrogance inherent in the lyrics, women seem comfortable with Dylan’s musicality rather than his lyrical extravagances.

I’m done, pretentious sentence moment completed there. Go listen to the damn song.