Reflections on listening to Bob Dylan 1962-2012

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by windfall, Aug 11, 2018.

  1. windfall

    windfall Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    UK
    So I am holed up for a week with my family away on vacation and just two cats for company. I set up my desk in the living room so I can make the most of a good (if long in the tooth) sound system, including Denon 2900 player, Denon 3830 amp and Dynaudio 5.1 set of speakers. Trying to break the back of a book I am aiming to finish by the end of the year.

    I have all of Dylan's albums in various formats, but have found a few CDRs in the collection back from my cheapskate days and decided to invest in the Complete Album collection. And I am going all the way from the debut to Tempest. I have the SACD boxed set and am playing those versions when they pop up in the sequence.

    Here are some thoughts, for what they are worth. Some of it will probably sound very pedestrian to real Bobcats.

    I never really listened properly to the debut, but it's a real fun listen. I love its energy and naivety.

    It is remarkable how Dylan's guitar technique developed at such speed in the first year or so of recording. He does little but strum on the first album. By the time we get to Freewheelin' and especially Times..., he is doing some sturdy and complex fingerpicking and the music really opens up as a consequence.

    Of course, the other thing is the artistic explosion that happens in terms of his songwriting. Two originals on the first album and then only months later we have songs of the order of Hard Rain, North Country and Don't Think Twice. How did that happen? There must be a story to tell. Perhaps it has been told many times already.

    Too often the focus on Dylan's genius has to do with the Bringing it All Back Home/Highway 61/Blonde era. Maybe it's too easy to lose sight of what remarkable songs he wrote when his gift first flowered.

    The SACD (stereo only) layer on Freewheelin in particular is breathtakingly good. Incredible detail and presence.

    I never warmed to Another Side of... and sadly I haven't done today, listening to it again as a whole album for the first time in decades. Not sure what it is. Martin and Guiesdon in their book The Story Behind Every Track, call it a rock album without any electric guitar, and maybe that's the problem. It has little of the intricacy and delicacy of the folk albums, and little of the excitement of the albums that follow. I find it monochromatic and in places just dreary (Ballad in Plain D being the worst offender). Of course, there are some incredible songs too (It Ain't Me Babe, Chimes, Back Pages). Maybe it would have been a better album if it had included Tomorrow is a Long Time or Mama, You Been on My Mind.

    Really not sure about the surround option on this SACD either. It's weird being enveloped by one acoustic guitar. Sounds artificial to these ears.

    Electric years coming up...
     
  2. windfall

    windfall Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    UK
    OK, so I realised that there is no way I can keep this up and still do all the writing I need to. And there's not a lot of interest here in any case. Which is understandable. There are far more informed Dylan threads all over the place!

    So I will just say, Blonde on Blonde is the greatest rock album ever made.

    That is all. :tiphat:
     
  3. NumberEight

    NumberEight Came too late and stayed too long

    NOOOOO!
     
  4. neilpatto

    neilpatto Forum Resident

    Location:
    Leeds, UK
    Hey Windfall, glad to hear that you're breaking the back of your epic book project. I'm sure that having Bob for company can only help the words flow. Enjoy the ride my friend and I will await the outcome with interest.
    NP
     
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  5. richierichie

    richierichie Forum Resident

    @windfall, c'mon man, I've only just come across your thread. You're doing something I've attempted to do all in one long session broken only by sleep and taking the dog for a walk. I have completed the journey but other things cropped up. I'm making another attempt in late September when I shall be undisturbed for a week. I don't have all the SACDs but for the first 8 albums I will be sticking with the mono box then playing SACDs as you are doing. I was thinking about playing LPs instead of CDs but I'm a lazy barstool so CDs it is.
    Good luck with the book, which I presume you are writing. Me? I have a few Zimmie books to read, so 1 or 2 of those will do me with chilli, pizza and cheese on toast to eat, coffee before 12 noon, cider after.
     
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  6. Richard--W

    Richard--W Forum Resident

    Come back Windfall. I only just saw this thread. Don't give up to soon.

    I wish the state-of-being and the state-of-mind he was in when he recorded The Times They Are A-Changin' had lasted several more years. It is an absolutely perfect album, vastly under-rated today. He recovers some of that voice during the acoustic sets on the 1965 tour, although the energy has changed.

    I've always had trouble with Another Side of BD as well. He begins with "All I Really Want to Do" -- I hate this song. It's the only song in his songbook that I cannot tolerate. It starts the album on the wrong foot, so to speak. If he had to include that song it should have been at the end of the album (closing the 1978 concerts with this song did not help the tour, either). My favorite songs from the album are "To Ramona," "It Ain't Me Babe," "My Back Pages" and "Chimes of Freedom." These four are among the best songs he ever wrote. He's at no loss for words and bursting with good ideas throughout the album, but the other songs are just cleverness, just having fun and being playful, and don't appeal to me nor does the higher voice he seems to be trapped in.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2018
  7. Michael

    Michael I LOVE WIDE S-T-E-R-E-O!

    certainly the best one Dylan made.: )
     
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  8. NumberEight

    NumberEight Came too late and stayed too long

    There must be something wrong with me. I’ve always liked Another Side.
     
  9. Richard--W

    Richard--W Forum Resident

    windfall, what do you think of the Woody Guthrie performance, the Isle of Wight concert performance, and the Bangladesh performance?

    I think the Bangladesh performance as it appears on the album is one of his finest hours on stage, ever.

    Of course you have! Nothing wrong with that.

    What is your position on the the Woody Guthrie benefit performance, the Isle of Wight concert performance, and the Bangladesh performance?
     
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  10. windfall

    windfall Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    UK
    Thanks for the responses, good people! Man, I love this forum. OK, I will post a little update tomorrow. And, yes, it is a book I am writing not reading. I may post a bit about that too. Thanks for the good wishes, Neil!
     
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  11. Richard--W

    Richard--W Forum Resident

    Talk about nostalgia. Are You Now or Have You Ever Been: His Gotham Ingress was not my first Dylan album, more like my third or fourth, bought at the Farmer's Market record booth which was always a good place to find weird records. It was taken from the proposed "In Concert" LP that never happened. The tracks are from Town Hall and Carnegie Hall 1963. For years listening to this album made me think of Sunday afternoons in the back yard with the barbecue fired up, the house full of grandparents and aunts and cousins, and the neighbors splashing about in their pool across the fence. It was the only Dylan album my parents let me play publicly. They liked it. They actually liked it. I think it's all been officially released now, hasn't it. There's no point in owning it today, but in the 1970s I could not foresee a time when these magnificent tracks would be officially released and as appreicated as they are now. I lost track of the album years ago. Something about the famous photo on cover still takes me back to when I was a teenager discovering Dylan for the first time in the mid-1970s. I forget just where that intersection is, but it will come to me soon as I click "submit."

    [​IMG]
     
  12. windfall

    windfall Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    UK
    So I just emerged from the electric storm of Bringing/Highway/Blonde. Just as the creative flowering of Freewheelin/Times overwhelmed me when I listened in sequence, the breathtaking creativity of 65/66 was a thrill all over again. And I have been listening to these albums for over 30 years. Who really knows how much of it was chemically induced, but the lyrics alone could repay weeks of study, even before we start considering the music.

    That glorious opening drumbeat and chord to Like a Rolling Stone still hits like an 18 wheeler.

    Blonde on Blonde is the jewel in the crown for me. It's like this fever dream, the songs all mesh... despite the fact that there are some individual songs that are among the best he ever wrote, I find it hard to isolate particular songs from BoB in a greatest hits or playlist context. The album demands to be heard in its entirety. Is it true that it was the first double album in the rock genre?

    I love the immersive surround sound layer on the SACD. If it is true that the album was recorded to 4 track, that is quite an achievement. But reading around the making of the album a little, I find myself wishing I had the mono version to listen to - apparently that mix was supervised directly by Dylan and the stereo version mixed later without his input.

    Going from this trilogy of albums into John Wesley Harding is, again, instructive in this listening experiment. What a shock it must have been. Dylan talked about the sound of the album being modeled after Gordon Lighfoot... 'muffled'. I would call it muted, listening to the SACD. It is a world away of course from BoB etc. but it is also far more subdued than the immediacy and presence of the folk albums. The opening lines of the first track come across as naive, maybe a conscious rejection of what had gone before. They sound almost gauche ('a gun in every hand'? What is he, an octopus?!). But then he hits with you the heavily freighted lines of a song like 'Watchtower'.

    A weird phase coming up next. I know I probably should have dropped Basement Tapes in before JWH but I am going to stick to release chronology, for better or worse. But I have Nashville Skyline, Self Portrait, Pat Garrett, Dylan and New Morning to work through before Planet Waves and on into the mid-70s which has always been a highpoint for me (I have always listened more to BOTT and Desire and the surrounding live albums probably more than any other era except maybe 65/66).
     
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  13. windfall

    windfall Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    UK
    Richard-W, nice choice. 'Seven Curses' has always been one of my favourite obscure Dylan tracks. I've been doing it at open mics for the last couple of years it almost always hooks the audience. Especially when I introduce it as a tribute to Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby.
     
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  14. windfall

    windfall Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    UK
    As far as those one-off concert appearances at the end of the sixties and the early 70s, I am trying to stick with the project - just the released albums, none of the Bootleg series, etc. But I did queue up Bangladesh from vimeo when I started working this morning. It's a great performance, and I like the way the arrangements are built around his acoustic guitar, with the band embellishing rather than overwhelming. You can hear his voice evolving too although in some ways I find it closer to what would happen to his voice at the end of the 70s (traces of the nasal whine) rather than the shoutier style of 74-76.
     
  15. windfall

    windfall Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    UK
    The packaging on the SACDs is beautiful, by the way, for those of you unfamiliar. High quality fold out digipaks with some great additional photos.
     
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  16. Chemguy

    Chemguy Forum Resident

    Don’t do it! You’ve got to play the Basement Tapes befor JWH!

    It’s the artist you want to track, not the record company release dates!

    Keep it up, Windfall...you’re doing great!
     
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  17. windfall

    windfall Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    UK
    Aaagh! Too late. :) I know, you're right. I guess I am imagining being a Dylan listener from 1962-2012, as if I had come in at the start instead of around 1984, as I did.

    Random thought - imagine 'To Be Alone with you' done BoB-style. Just occurred to me. Maybe we're not that far away, even when Dylan is doubling down country style.

    Meantime, here is a Dylan-esque mid-60s hint at the book I am working on. Hope the link works.

     
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  18. Chemguy

    Chemguy Forum Resident

    I’m not right at all, of course...just another way of doing something awesome.

    Am enjoying the song, right now. The link works fine.
     
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  19. neilpatto

    neilpatto Forum Resident

    Location:
    Leeds, UK
    Yep, that link works. Cheered me up on my bus ride to work, thanks Windfall (now crack on with the book!!!)
    NP
     
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  20. Ernold

    Ernold Well-Known Member

    Location:
    West Sussex
    I don't see Blonde on Blonde as a rock album, but it's certainly great.
     
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  21. windfall

    windfall Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    UK
    Surprised at how much I am enjoying Self-Portrait. Croon, Bobby, croon!!
     
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  22. Snoddywilko

    Snoddywilko Forum Resident

    Location:
    United Kingdom
    Maybe it has something to do with it being the first Dylan album I bought on vinyl as a teenager, but I love Another Side of Bob Dylan - including All I Really Wanna Do - which I used to perform as a 19 year old busker, harmonica rack & all.

    I’d say the entire track-listing is up there with the best song-writing of Dylan’s career, with the possible exception of Black Crow Blues. Even the sillier songs, such as Motorpsycho Nitemare, work to give the album variety, just as his Guthrie talkin’ blues style songs worked as a contrast alongside the more serious songs on Freewheelin’. Yes, The Times They Are A Changing is a brilliant album, but is a little heavy & one-dimensional. I feel that the relationship songs & more humorous songs on this album truly deliver Another Side of this incredible young man; who had only just turned 23!

    Another remarkable thing about this album is that he recorded it in ONE NIGHT, whilst polishing off a couple of bottles of red wine. By anyone’s standards, that’s not a bad nights work.

    There were a couple of tracks also recorded that night that didn’t make the final cut: Mama, You Been On My Mind, & Mr. Tambourine Man. Just imagine what an incredible album it would’ve been if those two tracks had replaced Black Crow Blues & Motorpsycho!!
     
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  23. NumberEight

    NumberEight Came too late and stayed too long

    Hmm. My original post was completely ambiguous. My response was to the bit highlighted in red, as I wanted you to keep up this thread.

    For the record, Blonde on Blonde certainly is one of the greatest rock albums ever made.
     
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  24. Tuco

    Tuco Forum Resident

    Location:
    Pacific NW, USA
    Those digipaks are nice packaging. However, I found initially that I had to actually break some of the spindle teeth on several paks just so that I could safely remove the discs.
     
  25. NumberEight

    NumberEight Came too late and stayed too long

    Agree 100%. That needed to be said.
     
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