East Bay View (a blog about several things)

now 98% free of substantive content

Monday, October 05, 2009

The decade in Dylan

My big three Dylan albums* will forever be The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home and Blood on the Tracks, but Love and Theft is top of the second tier. It's an album about staying in Mississippi a day too long, then finding there's now no reason to leave. On "Po' Boy" he employs the novel concept of playing the Fool for laughs, not tragedy. He sings like an old man, but a sprightly one, and if you don't believe him when he promises love, he's so alluring when declaring attraction you'll fall for him anyway. A major advantage over previous comebacks was the quality of the playing, especially Charlie Sexton's ominous riff on "Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum", and Larry Campbell's slide on "Honest with Me".

Modern Times lacks a truly great punchline, but it's one of his most consistent albums. First and foremost it's a band album, and on "Spirit on the Water" it sounds like he has his best band since the Band, though one far more languid. His theft of “Nettie Moore” sounds as justified and ancient as anything on World Gone Wrong. And "Workingman's Blues" might make you forget he hasn't been using the word "proletariat" all his life. (Neither did Chaplin.)

Together Through Life contains multiples duds, though a lower proportion than, say, any of his Eighties albums. Still, "Life Is Hard" and "I Feel a Change Comin' On" (bit late, what) could yet end up on Un-Dylanlike Artist Covers Dylan, Vol 619. More essential Dylan artifacts from this decade are Masked and Anonymous, which is all other the place but has some terrific parts, like Jeff Bridges as a rock scribe so pompous Lester Bangs would've beaten him up, then asked him for beer money; and the memoir Chronicles: Volume One, in which he's telling the truth, he swears!

*You're free to substitute Highway 61 Revisited for one of these. Not Blonde on Blonde, which gets pretty dull on the second LP.


Post a Comment

<< Home