Bob Dylan – “Another Self Portrait (1969-1971): The Bootleg Series Vol. 10″ (2013)

September 10, 2013 at 10:49 pm (Bob Dylan, Music, Reviews & Articles)

Another take on Another Self Portrait, this time from PopMatters, dated Aug. 30th and written by Matthew Fiander…

A funny thing happens early on in Another Self Portrait, the latest edition to Bob Dylan’s Bootleg Series, which covers a short but fruitful period from 1969 to 1971. There’s something curious about the second song in this huge, 35-track collection. It’s “Little Sadie”, a song that pops up in more than one version in the original 1970 album Self Portrait. The version here, not the only in this collection either, is oddly revealing. It starts with Dylan instructing those in the studio, “Let’s just run this one,” he says. He is plain spoken and direct. From there, he launches into a dusty acoustic take on the old murder ballad, but his voice is curled and sweet at the edges, nothing like his speaking voice at the beginning of the track and very much like the voice we hear all over Nashville Skyline.

This one shift in voice isn’t all that revelatory. But what is curious is what happens as the song goes on. As we shift into the chorus and the second verse, Dylan drops the Nashville curl in favor of his usual nasal bleat. In other words, in this take of “Little Sadie”, his performing persona is fluid, always changing, comprising the guy in charge of the studio, the hopeful country troubadour, and the clear-eyed, challenging singer-songwriter everyone who had followed Dylan through the ‘60s knew. He is, in this one two-minute take, impossible to pin down.

So it goes with the seemingly flippant—or doubly flippant, considering the first album with this title—Another Self Portrait. The original double album, Self Portrait, was a chance for Dylan to throw everything at us at once, to leave us puzzled. Hence the infamous “What is this shit?” response. People do forget, though, that the album still sold three million copies, even if it was a critical curiosity, and critics have begun backpedalling on the dubious quality of the huge, uneven record. It is an album with its merits, to be sure, but it also is bookended by 1969’s Nashville Skyline and 1970’s New Morning, two albums that are shorter, more palatable, and yet somehow overshadowed by the infamous nature of Self Portrait.

This collection of outtakes, alternate versions, and demos seeks to capture the time in which all these albums were recorded as a particular fit of inspiration. Following Dylan’s motorcycle accident in 1966, these albums were a way to move away from the protesting folk singer of the early ‘60s or the reactionary, misunderstood folk-rock genius he morphed into during the middle of the decade. In the late-‘60s and early-‘70s, Dylan was taking a much sweeter, calmer approach to looking at tradition in song, and the results here are often fascinating and revealing.

But they don’t reveal him, necessarily. The purpose of the self portrait, Dylan knew well, is not to see the artist, but to see something in the process, in the product itself. And so these songs don’t, as we might now expect, tell us anything about Dylan himself—see again that shifty voice on “Little Sadie”—but they do show us different sides of his persona and his songs. Particularly striking on Another Self Portrait is the unabashedly romantic vein that runs through these songs. Dylan’s most striking empathy was always social, intellectual, political. Here, though, he strikes a much more personal chord not with words but with the way he emotes them. The stripped down version of “Days of ‘49” barely outdoes the already excellent take from Self Portrait by championing his weary, graveled voice in the track. The opening version of “Went to See the Gypsy” is far more stripped down than the country-funk version on New Morning and, in turn, reveals some of the desperation and searching inherent in the track.

There’s also the laid-bare romance of piano track “Spanish is the Loving Tongue” or standout “This Evening So Soon”—which tells the fated tale of a man about to die—that balances what the narrator wants with what we know he will lose. The collection sometimes digs into straight ahead romance, but isn’t afraid of digging into the delusion that it can sometimes become. “Wallflower” is achingly earnest in its love, until the narrator, begging the title character to dance with him, finally admits “I’m sad and lonely too / Wallflower, wallflower, take a chance on me / I’m falling in love with you.” He, of course, is not, but is projecting onto to some poor girl he doesn’t know. The insight is the kind of striking observation we expect from Dylan, but it doesn’t taint the more pure romance of these other tracks; rather it sets them in stark contrast.

Of course, Dylan is still a master of genre and message here. The violin heavy version of “If Not For You” is brilliantly bittersweet. “Only a Hobo” jumps right past campfire quaintness and digs into trashfire-beneath-the-underpass catharsis. The version of “Highway 61 Revisited”, recorded with the Band at as Isle of Wight show in 1969, is sweetly funky, but still hits all the song’s snarling highlights. The set closes with a demo take of “When I Paint My Masterpiece”, a smartly incomplete finish to a set that presents the possibility of a complete picture of this time in Dylan’s career. It’s Dylan and a piano, and he’s yearning for some end to isolation, for the girl to be there. “She promised she’d be right there with me,” he sings, “when I paint my masterpiece.” The song stretches from there to coliseums and beyond, but that pining for connection remains.

This desire for connection is a striking vein that runs through these songs—and the albums from which they come—mostly because the reason the albums were made, Self Portrait in particular, seemed to be to not only challenge his audience but to push it away, to deny fame and all its trammels. But it didn’t work. Each album charted better than Blonde on Blonde did. He couldn’t escape us, escape his influence, even as he tried to force us into working even harder to figure out what he was up to.

And if Self Portrait was a big thorny, uneven dose of song, and Nashville Skyline and New Morning excellent but less challenging sets, Another Self Portrait falls in line with those same fates, but perhaps in mirror image. Nashville Skyline and New Morning succeeded in their pleasantness, but Self Portrait—despite being full of old songs, other people’s songs, songs that really weren’t Dylan’s—was undone not by carelessness but rather by too many versions of overworking those songs. To hear the versions here without overdubs, especially “Days of ‘49” and “Copper Kettle”, is to hear Dylan four decades ago hiding behind too much production. Another Self Portrait doesn’t always succeed either, but for a different reason. Versions here like “Working on a Guru” or “If Dogs Run Free” feel too safe by the numbers to be anything other than curiosities in his song catalog. Meanwhile extra versions of “Little Sadie” and “Went to See the Gypsy” that come up later in the collection feel too ragged, even under-thought, to do much more than show us how much better the other takes here, and on record, are.

This is another excellent addition to the Bootleg Series connection, one that reflects the period it represents while also complicating it. Of course we don’t know more about Bob Dylan for hearing these songs, but we do know more about the songs themselves. How they work, how they sometimes don’t, and how tweaking the performance can make their impact even deeper than we expected from one of our most consistent performers, even when this constant chameleon was aiming for inconsistency. After this period he didn’t record again for four years, and that’s always been seen as an absence, but maybe it was just space, time for him (and now, in retrospect, us) to digest all these twists and turns through the tradition of songwriting, through the seemingly reluctant path to fame of one Bob Dylan.

Matthew Fiander

http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/174834-bob-dylan-another-self-portrait-1969-1971-bootleg-series-vol.-10/

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Bob Dylan – “Another Self Portrait (1969-1971): The Bootleg Series Vol. 10″ (2013)

August 31, 2013 at 10:44 pm (Bob Dylan, David Fricke, Music, Reviews & Articles)

This comes from the Aug. 29th and latest issue of Rolling Stone, written by the great David Fricke…

Dylan Repaints Self Portrait

What is this great shit? With brilliant box set, Dylan reclaims his weirdest record.

This two-CD set of previously unissued demos, alternate  takes, scrapped arrangements and discarded songs from more than 40 years ago is  one of the most important, coherent and fulfilling Bob Dylan albums ever released. The performances are immediate and invigorating,  often in spare, buoyant arrangements with clear, virile singing. Despite the  vintage, or maybe because it’s all been hidden for so long, everything here  feels like new music, busy being born and put to tape with crisp impatience.  “Let’s just take this one,” Dylan says before a take of the traditional ballad  “Little Sadie,” one of 17 raw, magnetic tracks from a single three-day sprint  with guitarist David Bromberg and pianist Al Kooper in March 1970. Dylan was, in  fact, on the verge of a crossroads: the widely scorned double LP Self  Portrait, issued three months later. He sounds eager to get there.

That album is still tough going: a frank, confrontational  likeness of the artist at 29 and loose ends, crooning folk tunes, pure corn and  odd, plaintive originals, mostly through thick Nashville syrup. There may be no  better description of Dylan at the close of his first, whirlwind decade,  exhausted and uncertain of his way into the next, than Self Portrait‘s  opening mantra, sung in his place by a group of country-gospel angels: “All the  tired horses in the sun/How’m I supposed to get any ridin’ done?”

Self Portrait and the country-folk assurance of its  late-’70 follow-up, New Morning, were actually part of a long,  connected act of self-examination and re-ignition. Most of Another Self  Portrait comes from those sessions, highlighting Dylan’s breadth of drive  at a time when many thought he had no direction forward. The horns on this set’s  “New Morning” are busy in the verses but a delightful Stax-like reveille in the  chorus, while a pre-overdub version of Self Portrait‘s ghost story  “Days of ’49” has more room for the haunting in Dylan’s voice. “I contemplated  every move, or at least I tried,” he sings in a moving take of “Went to See the  Gypsy,” effectively summing up this period in a line he then cut from the song  on New Morning.

Dylan was no writing engine that year. The few previously  unissued originals here are quirky pleasures (the shaggy-dog dada of “Tattle  O’Day”). But the music is consistently alive and astonishingly modern. The  honky-tonk walk “Alberta #3″ could have been cut for last year’s  Tempest. The exploration of different roads in the same song; the  restorative power Dylan draws from traditional sources like “House Carpenter,” a  song in this set that he first cut in 1962: Dylan still makes his best work that  way. The difference here: He did it, then gave us something else.

A deluxe edition of this set has Dylan’s 1969 Isle of Wight  concert with the Band, a romping affair (excerpted on Self Portrait)  that, except for the mileage on Dylan’s voice now, doesn’t sound that distant  from his shows of the past 20 years. There is also a remastered Self  Portrait, an instructive bonus if you’ve never heard it. But you won’t go  back to it that often. There will be no need.

David Fricke

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/albumreviews/another-self-portrait-1969-1971-the-bootleg-series-vol-10-20130814

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Michael McClure – “Bob Dylan: The Poet’s Poet” (1974)

February 21, 2013 at 9:48 am (Bob Dylan, Music, Reviews & Articles, The Beats)

A March 14, 1974 article that Beat poet Michael McClure wrote for Rolling Stone concerning Bob Dylan…

I had the idea that I was hallucinating, that it was William Blake’s voice coming out of the walls and I stood up and put my hands on the walls and they were vibrating.

Memory is a beautiful thing — as I get older I learn to cherish it. It seems so beautiful or ugly that it is often more than real. Sometimes the vision is lit up with imagination; sometimes the imaginings have the shapes of real acts and gestures we call experience.

Experience is physical matter — and there is no sense in hanging onto it. It is a pleasure to let memory pour through the consciousness like nuggets of gold and moss agates and crystals of quartz clicking through the fingers at a rock shop. One never plans to keep those stones but the pleasure of feeling them is lovely.

The autoharp Bob Dylan gave me early in 1966 sat on the mantelpiece for six weeks before I picked it up and strummed it. A black and magical autoharp. Afraid of music, I had always felt totally unmusical — except in appreciation. Bob had asked me what instrument I’d like to play (I was writing song lyrics). I said autoharp out of the clear blue though I had no picture of what an autoharp looked like. There must have been people playing them on farms in my Kansas childhood.

San Francisco poets were poor in 1965 and it was an impressive present and it committed me to music. There was the interest in writing lyrics and perhaps a new way to use rhyme.

Rock had mutual attraction for all; a common tribal dancing ground whether we were poets, or printers, or sculptors, it was a form we all shared. I spent a year and a half learning to play autoharp in an eccentric way and wrote songs like “The Blue Lyon Laughs,” “The Allen Ginsberg for President Waltz” and “Come on God, and Buy Me a Mercedes Benz.”

I bought an old amplifier and stood in front of the mirror whanging on the autoharp. Obsessed with John Keats’ question: What weapon has the lion but himself, I tried to make it a song and sang it so many times so loudly that I wonder what the neighbors thought in those old days when acid rock was a baby.

In December 1965, when we had been bombing Vietnam for eight months, Dylan read “Poisoned Wheat,” a long anti-war poem of mine. One day as we were eating chicken, I handed him another copy. He left huge greasy fingerprints and he did it with complete aplomb. It seemed very non-materialistic and natural not to notice the blotches. It seemed right to treat works of art as part of the transformations of life. Later I gave the copy to a girl who wanted Bob’s fingerprints.

The first person to play a Dylan album for me was the poet David Meltzer. It was Dylan’s first album, and I heard it shortly after it came out in March or April of 1962. I could not understand what David heard in the album. In high school I knew people at the University of Chicago and in New York City who were singing like that — just some hillbilly-intellectual music that I’d gotten bored with earlier. In retrospect, Dylan must have shown a direct creative thrust without the “Art” self-consciousness of other singers.

Early in 1965 a friend of my wife Joanna came to visit and brought the Dylan album with “She Belongs to Me.” The album had changed her life-image from a tragic loser to a proud artist. Joanna heard and understood Dylan at once and completely, I think.

In 1965 everyone had been after me to listen to Dylan carefully — to sit down and listen to the words and the music. I absolutely did not want to hear Dylan. I imagined, without admitting it to myself, that Dylan was a threat to poetry — or to my poetry. I sensed that a new mode of poetry, or rebirth of an old one, might replace my mode. In the long run, rock lyrics have sensitized many people to words and brought them to discover poetry.

At last I could not resist Joanna’s demand that I hear the album. We had a banged-up record player in the hallway at the top of the stairs. Late at night, in the pale-gray hallway-light, Joanna sat me down in front of the speaker and told me to listen to the words. I began to hear what the words were saying, not just the jangling of the guitar and the harmonica and the whining nasal voice. The next thing I knew I was crying. It was “Gates of Eden”: “At dawn my lover comes to me/And tells me of her dreams/With no attempts to shovel the glimpse/Into the ditch of what each one means . . .”

I had the idea that I was hallucinating, that it was William Blake’s voice coming out of the walls and I stood up and put my hands on the walls and they were vibrating.

Then I went back to those people who had tried to get me to listen and I told them that I thought the revolution had begun. “Gates of Eden” and those other songs seemed to open up the post-Freudian and post-existentialist era. Everyone didn’t have to use the old explanations and the mildewed rationalities any longer.

By the time I met Bob, his poetry was important to me in the way that Kerouac’s writing was. It was not something to imitate or be influenced by; it was the expression of a unique individual and his feelings and perceptions.

There is no way to second-guess poetry or to predict poetry or to convince a poet that the very best songs in the world are poetry if they are not. Bob Dylan is a poet; whether he has cherubs in his hair and fairy wings, or feet of clay, he is a poet. Those other people called “rock poets,” “song poets,” “folk poets,” or whatever the rock critic is calling them this week, will be better off if they are appreciated as songwriters.

At a party after his concert at the Berkeley Community Theater in December, 1965, Dylan told me that he had not read Blake and did not know the poetry. That seemed hard to believe so I recited a few stanzas. One was the motto to “The Songs of Innocence and Experience” which begins: “The Good are attracted by Men’s perceptions/And think not for themselves/Till Experience teaches them to catch/And to cage the Fairies & Elves . . .”

Bob was sitting on the floor and everyone crowded around him. Joanna, who has a tendency to go to sleep when she’s pleased and in a crowd, started to sleep with her head in my lap. Someone told her in an ugly way that she ought to wake up — that if she didn’t want to hear what was being said, there were plenty of others who would like her place close to Dylan. One wonders if those were honors being paid to a popular poet, or a worshipful voice in the crowd that the poet argues against.

In 1965 that first Dylan concert in the Bay Area was at the Masonic Auditorium. In those days the Masonic seemed huge and rather plush. It was the first time I’d heard Bob Dylan in person. The records were beautiful but this was better — an immaculate performance with inflections or nuances different from the albums. Dylan was purest poet. Like an elf being, so perfect was he and so ferocious in his persistence for perfection. There was a verge of anger in him waiting for any obstacle to the event.

After the Masonic Auditorium concert we went to the Villa Romano Motel, where Bob and the Hawks were staying, and met Al Grossman. He, Joan Baez, Allen Ginsberg, and I spoke for a while. Joan said that Allen and I should be Bob’s conscience. It seemed a beautiful thing to say, though not clear at the time. Later Joan wrote that we should hold Bob in our consciousness.

A night or two later, after another concert, there was a party for Bob in San Francisco. Ken Kesey bounced through the door with a few of his Merry Pranksters. Ruddy with the vigor of good health, Los Gatos sunshine and acid, Kesey immediately hit Dylan with something like, “Hey, man, you should try playing while you’re high on acid.” Without a pause Dylan said, “I did and it threw off my timing.” There was no way to one-up Bob or to get ahead of him at any level or any time. You knew that pop stars like Dylan or Lennon drove around in black cars and they were careful and they were very fast and they were staying where they were and they were not kidding.

 

Nine years later, on the plane going to Dylan’s Philadelphia concert, I reread Robert Duncan’s small book, Seventeenth Century Suite. Duncan has vowed not to commercially publish any of his new poetry for 15 years, so that no pressure would direct him to write anything other than what he wishes most deeply. By canceling formal publication he was essentially vowing to please only himself. Robert made an edition of 200 copies of Seventeenth Century Suite and gave them to friends for Christmas gifts.

How incredibly far it is from Duncan’s private edition of Seventeenth Century Suite to Dylan’s millions of albums. Both are fine poetry and though they seem poles apart, they almost touch in their subtle images and music. One can imagine the radiance and spectrum of the poetry in between.

It is a mistake to wonder which poetry will matter 30 years from now. We should wonder what is wrong if Dylan’s songs do not mean something to us today. We are all moved by spiritual experiences. For some of us the spiritual experiences can be the grossest hit songs or the most kitsch painting. It is really a matter of whether we are ogres or elves — or something in between drawn one way or the other at one moment and another.

 

The Philadelphia concert made the Masonic Auditorium of San Francisco 1965 seem like a jam session in a small nightclub. The crowd was not in their late 20s and early 30s as friends in San Francisco had predicted — this was an audience of nice-looking, scruffy young people in their early 20s. The tri-sexuals and glitter bunnies were obvious by their absence. All in all, except for a number of bodies (making one think of the pictures of a Tokyo beach), one did not mind being there. There were some of the best people around, a part of the backbone of the future — the people with hope and some enthusiasm in a country run over for eight years by the War Machine.

The lights went down accompanied by a burst of enthusiasm from the 19,000 living souls.

To open the first set houselights came down into darkness very fast. Colored spotlights flashed to the stage and banks of colored lights shone. The Band and Bob Dylan almost ran onstage and began playing without a pause while the audience was still cheering their enthusiasm.

There were two thoughts that someone had imparted to me. One was that Bob was doing his old songs as rock for the new rock generation who did not know him well. The second was that Dylan was in danger of disappearing into his own creation; that as one of the founders of the giant rock scene he had spawned so many followers, imitators, and Dylan-influenced groups and movements that he stood in danger of blending in among his own offspring and hybrids — ending up in the public eye as another surviving folk-rocker.

Dylan a grown man . . . a young man still, but a man. The elfish lightness of foot is gone and the perfection of timing is replaced by sureness; the nasal boy’s voice replaced by a man’s voice.

Another poet’s singing came to mind: Allen Ginsberg at the 1966 Human Be-In singing his strange “Peace in America — Peace in Vietnam.” Ginsberg introduced me to Dylan in 1965.

Now Dylan is official culture — like Brecht and Weill. He played “Mr. Jones” — in 1965 a glove thrown in the public face, a statement of revolt; now it is Art.

I could not take my eyes off the lights, hypnotized by the spots of amber, lavender, blue, red that kept playing on Dylan. The banks of lights up above the bandstand stage to the right and left kept bleeding and blinking off and on in time with the drama and melody of the songs. Bright lights kept popping in the blackness — intensely bright and silvery white in their flash. Flashbulbs! It seemed crazy that anyone sitting three blocks from the bandstand in darkness would be setting off flashbulbs. It seemed demented.

“My God, it is a long way since the Avalon Ballroom,” I thought. A long way since the lightshows by Tony Martin and Bruce Conner and the smallness of the dance floors and the tribal dancers of 1966. We felt so crowded together, transpersonal and magical in those days. In Philadelphia what I saw was gigantic! The incredible subtlety of the earlier lightshows was surpassed by the blending of colors, the motility of the spotlights and sheer candlepower. The devastating volume of the music made it unpleasant trying to pick Dylan’s words out of the roar.

One became aware that the enormous volume of the amplified music mimicked, as it bounced off the walls, the roar of the crowd. The music became a response to itself. The effect would trigger in the audience a response to the music. Loud cheering. When it happened I wondered if that was entertainment or ethological manipulation — or if entertainment could be ethological manipulation.

I loved what I could hear of Dylan’s new love songs — they seemed inspired. The melodies, lost in the amplified blare, were not impressive but I was able to hear: “May you always stay courageous/Be forever young . . .”

In the darkness at the end of the concert, the audience lit matches and cigarette lighters, making a Milky Way of wavering lights and cheers — a universe of tiny flaming stars.

If a scholar goes seriously into an analysis of the poetry convergent with the rock movement there will be interesting contrasts between Lennon, Kerouac, Dylan and Ginsberg. The whole thing started with the poets of the Fifties. It was an alchemical-biological movement, not a literary one. An English group with shiny jackets called the Silver Beetles took Jack Kerouac’s word “Beat,” grew their hair out and became The Beatles. It was beautiful! Bob Dylan’s “Dylan” is from Dylan Thomas, the Welsh poet so popular in the Fifties. Allen Ginsberg asked if I’d heard that Dylan was titling his album Planet Waves. I asked Allen what he thought of that. Allen said, “Charming! Delightful! Great!” I think so too. Allen’s last book was Planet News. There’s plenty of room for feedback back and forth.

At the Toronto concert, Marshall McLuhan and his wife were in the audience. McLuhan told me that he had played Dylan albums to a poetry class that morning. McLuhan believes that rock & roll comes out of the English language — using its rhythms and inflections as a basis for melody. (Exactly what I believe — and also that it comes out of the Beat mutation or has the same root.) The future of rock, he felt, would be the same as that of the language; that it would have ups and downs as the language does.

As a mode, the ballad and story-song seem mined out, I said. Anyone can write a story-song in almost any manner and it becomes uninteresting to listen to. McLuhan felt it is the background, not the mode, that gives out. The background is violence, and Dylan was singing violently. “Violence is the result of a loss of identity — the more loss the greater the violence.”

Sitting among 19,000 people McLuhan said, “Gravity is like acoustic space — the center is everywhere.”

I told Marshall that I wanted to go out into the hallway in the last set of the concert when Dylan and the Band played “Like a Rolling Stone.” The night before I had been carried away and wept so hard that I did not want to have the experience again. This was my third concert and the incredible volume of the speakers was beginning to undermine my nerves.

I first heard “Like a Rolling Stone” when Joanna and I were driving in an open MG across the Arizona-California desert with our daughter curled up asleep behind us next to our Russian wolfhound and our pet black-and-white rat sleeping in his cage on the floor of the sports car. The moon was on the horizon. A song never hit me so hard except as a child when my mother sang to me. Much of our poetic sensibility may have its origins with cradle songs — I remember my mother singing songs from Disney cartoons and movies and reciting Mother Goose.

Dylan sang well, putting on extra temperament, and I wondered if he consciously or unconsciously put force behind his lines about professors and critics.

After the concert there was a moment to introduce McLuhan and his wife to Bill Graham and Barry Imhoff and Dylan before Bob and the Band went back onstage for their encore.

Pouring sweat, his face puffy, his eyes partially blanked by the concert he’d just delivered, Bob smiled as much as he could. In the auditorium almost 20,000 people were screaming and yelling for him to come back so he could reconnect them briefly to the godhead.

When Dylan and the Band ran back onstage, Marshall said that this was his first rock concert. Graham replied: “I wish I could say the same thing!” Bill had been concerned because everything was going too well. There is a theater superstition that if small things don’t go wrong then something major will.

 

Dylan has slipped into people’s dream baskets. He has been incorporated into their myths and fantasies. They worry about him: whether he is understood, what his next album will be like, if he is appreciated by the press, whether he might get a cold and how he performs his pieces.

My particular fantasy is that he is underpaid. I would not stand in front of 20,000 people and those lights and amplifiers and do what he is doing for all the dollars in the world or for a stack of gold records.

Bob is a prisoner, of his fame and fortune. When he says, “I’m anyone who lives in a vault . . .,” he means himself. He is a real poet who lives the poems that he sings. A low of people who hold Dylan in their dream baskets think the songs are a confection — that they are cute and sweet the way Rod McKuen is. But everything I’ve seen convinces me that Bob is the real thing, that he is no joke, that he has no answers, that he is a poet, that he is trapped most of the time.

The several new songs that I heard in the concerts were domestic (about wife and home) and inspirational. I hope this is the direction that Dylan is going. It would be good to see lots of young Americans put back on their feet — not through renewed faith in the old values that have been shot down, but through greater awareness of themselves on an earth that was once beautiful — and that still has pockets of beauty. I’d like everyone to begin to get some sense of what, and who, they are — and a further sense that something can be done to elevate the vicious mindlessness of politics and bio-environmental destruction and the extinction of the species of living plants and animals. A lot of the poets are moving in that direction — Ginsberg, Snyder, Duncan, Creeley, Waldman.

Thinking of Dylan’s poetics I had brought along some books as background material: Seventeenth Century Suite by Robert Duncan, poems by Gary Snyder and Allen Ginsberg, Black Music by Imamu Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) and Kafka’s “Josephine the Singer.”

In Black Music, published in 1968, Baraka says that the content of white-rock, anti-war and anti-authoritarian songs generalizes “passionate luxurious ego demonstrations”; that the artists want to prove that they are good humans though in fact, Baraka contends, they are really sensitive antennae of the brutalized and brutalizing white social mass. Baraka insists that is a cop-out and the music is still wealthy white kids playing around. We should remember Baraka’s viewpoint; it may be narrow but light sometimes passes through a thin slit. The Beatles did not write anti-war songs. When asked about that they replied that all their songs are against war. There may be some beams of light in that crack too.

In Toronto I read Kafka’s “Josephine the Singer.” A mouse-narrator relates an account of a woman-mouse named Josephine who is a singer. She proclaims herself a great artist and the other mice congregate to hear her at the risk of their lives. But nothing will satisfy her ambition. She has a coterie of worshipful followers. Many of the mice people, however, are not at all sure that what she does, as fascinating and important to them as it is, is singing. They think that it may only be “piping” and perhaps it is her childishness (as she reflects simple attitudes of her people back to them) that is attractive: “Here is someone making a ceremonial performance out of the usual thing.” Josephine demands freedom from the labor quota of the mouse people. But no matter how much they love or worship her they will not free her from the work law. Josephine disappears — perhaps has gone into hiding — to force people to accept her demands. Anyone interested in Dylan and/or poetry should look at the piece.

 

I thought of the creation of a demigod and prophet that took place in the multicolored spotlights and amplification and banks of stagelights — better known to the modern world than Plato or Confucius or Buddha; watched by thousands with millions wishing to see him in other cities. One can become a statue of one’s self, mimicking what one is in eternity. Immortality (or its substitute) can be turned off and on and directed by voice over wires and captured on disks of black plastic. There is the possibility that the background has swallowed up the object and that we are in the process of whiting-out. If so, I think we stand in need of it.

“Poetry, in a general sense, may be defined to be the expression of the imagination; and poetry is connate with the origin of man. Man is an instrument over which a series of external and internal impressions are driven, like the alternations of an everchanging wind over an Aeolian lyre, which move it by their motion to ever-changing melody. But there is a principle within the human being, and perhaps within all sentient beings, which acts otherwise than in the lyre, and produces not melody alone, but harmony, by an internal adjustment of the sounds or motions thus excited to the impressions which excite them . . .”

Said Shelley in 1821 in A Defense of Poetry.

Michael McClure

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Bob Dylan – “The Original Mono Recordings” (2010)

September 15, 2012 at 11:06 am (Bob Dylan, Music, Reviews & Articles)

Here is a long examination of Bob Dylan’s 2010 box set, which consisted of all of his early albums (up to and including John Wesley Harding) presented in mono, as they were initially intended to be heard. This comes from Blue Yonder and was written by Roger Ford. I’m not exactly sure of the date of this article, but it is presented in pdf form, so please click on the link below…

http://www.rdf.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/MonoReissues/MonoReview_ISIS153.pdf

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Bob Dylan – “Tempest” (2012)

September 14, 2012 at 6:51 pm (Bob Dylan, Music, Reviews & Articles)

Another take on the new Dylan album. Jim Farber’s mostly unfavorable review from the New York Daily News, Sept. 11, 2012…

Dylan’s sprawling new album is full of violence and carnage, set to generic folk and blues tunes; there’s also a song about John Lennon.

A man shot in the back, another one bleeding through the mouth. A woman run through with a knife by her own hand. An ocean bobbing with hundreds of dead bodies.

Dastardly deeds and tragic circumstances of this sort form the nasty core of Bob Dylan’s latest disc. Fifty years into a storied career, the bard has cooked up a work primed to rival the most carnage-crazed CDs of gangsta rap.

While the Tempest title has caused tea-leaf readers to draw an ominous connection to Shakespeare’s final work, Dylan’s disc actually inches closer to King Lear. It finds an older man railing against a world that’s getting away from him. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bob Dylan – “Tempest” (2012)

September 12, 2012 at 7:13 pm (Bob Dylan, Music, Reviews & Articles)

Will Hermes’ 5-star review from Rolling Stone, posted Aug. 30th, of the brand new Bob Dylan album…

Bob Dylan’s Hardest Rain

Blood, shipwrecks, bad memories: Dylan makes one of his darkest, strangest albums ever.

Bob Dylan’s 35th album begins with a train whistle exploding in his mind. He sees an old oak tree he used to climb and imagines a woman smiling through a fence. He hears the voice of “the mother of our Lord” – and still, that whistle, screaming “like the sky’s gonna blow apart.” It’s astonishing, ” Duquesne Whistle” suggests, how much can be channeled through a simple sound.

That notion defines Dylan’s career, and especially his output of the past decade – music built from traditional forms and drawing on eternal themes: love, struggle, death. With its jazzy, pre-rock groove, “Duquesne Whistle” could be from any of Dylan’s last three albums, 2001’s “Love and Theft”, 2006’s Modern Times or 2009’s Together Through Life. But then the song ends, Dylan gets off the train and soon one of his weirdest albums ever truly starts. Tempest is musically varied and full of curveballs. It may also be the single darkest record in Dylan’s catalog. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bob Dylan – “Tempest” (2012 – Press Release)

July 17, 2012 at 10:02 am (Bob Dylan, Music, Reviews & Articles)

Columbia Records announced today that Bob Dylan’s new studio album, Tempest, will be released on September 11, 2012. Featuring ten new and original Bob Dylan songs, the release of Tempest coincides with the 50th Anniversary of the artist’s eponymous debut album, which was released by Columbia in 1962.

Tempest is available for pre-order now on iTunes and Amazon. The new album, produced by Jack Frost, is the 35thth studio set from Bob Dylan, and follows 2009’s worldwide best-seller, Together Through Life.

Bob Dylan’s four previous studio albums have been universally hailed as among the best of his storied career, achieving new levels of commercial success and critical acclaim for the artist. The Platinum-selling Time Out of Mind from 1997 earned multiple Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, while “Love and Theft” Read the rest of this entry »

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James Wolcott – “Tarantula Meets Mustang: Dylan Calls on Patti Smith” (1975)

July 6, 2011 at 7:25 pm (Bob Dylan, Music, Patti Smith, Reviews & Articles)

Taken from The Village Voice, July 7, 1975…

Her Passion Was a Planet Wave

A copy of Witt was slid across the table to Patti Smith. “Would you sign this for me, please?” “Sure,” said Patti, “what’s your first name?” He told her. “Like in New Jersey?” Patti asked, and he said no — with a z. “Well, I’ll draw you a map of Jersey,” and so on the inside page Patti scratched its intestinal boundaries, in the middle labeled it Neo Jersey, signed her name, and passed the copy of Wittback to Jerzy Kosinski.The night before, after the second set at the Other End, the greenroom door opened and the remark hanging in the air was Bob Dylan asking a member of Patti’s band, “You’ve never been to New Jersey?” So, all hail Jersey. And in honor of Dylan’s own flair for geographical salutation (“So long New York, hello East Orange”), all hail the Rock and Roll Republic of New York. With the Rolling Stones holding out at Madison Square Garden, Patti Smith and her band at the Other End, and Bob Dylan making visitations to both events, New York was once again the world’s Rock and Roll Republic. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bob Dylan – “Infidels” (1983)

April 18, 2011 at 7:18 am (Bob Dylan, Music, Reviews & Articles)

A Nov. 24, 1983 review by Christopher Connelly from Rolling Stone…

Infidels is Bob Dylan’s best album since the searing Blood on the Tracks nine years ago, a stunning recovery of the lyric and melodic powers that seemed to have all but deserted him. Under the aegis of Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler, Dylan has produced eight vigorous songs that teem with self-effacing introspection and wit, free of the cant that’s weighted down his recent efforts. The songs on Infidels touch on religion and politics but are rooted in an ineffably deep sadness: the sadness of broken hearts and broken dreams, the sadness of middle age, the sadness that has been the wellspring of great rock & roll from Robert Johnson to “Every Breath You Take.” Flaming through that sadness is the sort of hell-hound-on-my-trail passion that you’d have to reach back ten years to find in Dylan’s recorded work.

Who could have expected so strong a rebound at this late date, especially after such flat, lifeless records as Saved or Shot of Love? Those LPs culminated a process that began with 1975’s Desire, wherein Dylan was purging himself of the metaphors and personas that had vaulted him to Sixties sainthood by rendering simple, limpid tales about his personal life. To hear the man of a thousand poses wailing “Sara, oh Sara/Don’t ever leave Read the rest of this entry »

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“Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid” (1973)

April 12, 2011 at 7:19 am (Bob Dylan, Cinema, Reviews & Articles, Roger Ebert)

Controversial director Sam Peckinpah’s 1973 western, featuring James Coburn and Bob Dylan (who did the soundtrack). This review comes courtesy of Roger Ebert in the pages of the Chicago Sun-Times, May 23, 1973. Clearly, Ebert was not impressed about anything concerning this movie, including Dylan’s performance and music…

 

Sam Peckinpah attempted to have his name removed from Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. I sympathized with him. If this wasn’t entirely his work, he shouldn’t have had to take the blame. And even if it was, the less said the better. It’s a movie that exists almost entirely on one note — a low, melancholy one — and achieves what I thought would have been impossible for him Peckinpah: he’s boring.

The movie tells a simple story, simple-mindedly. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, good and true friends from way back, find themselves on opposite sides of the law when Garrett becomes sheriff. He locks Billy up for an old murder, and Billy is scheduled to hang in three days. Billy blasts his way out of jail, goes on the run, and sets up a chase through the West that lasts for the final hour of the movie. Read the rest of this entry »

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