Posts Tagged ‘bob dylan

12
Dec
14

Bob Dylan and The Band – Basement Tapes Complete

Dylan_BasementThe 7 Modern Wonders of the World are as follows: Itaipu Dam, The Golden Gate Bridge, The Empire State Building, CN Tower, Panama Canal, Channel “Chunnel” Tunnel, and the Netherlands North Sea Protection Works, however, I feel there is now an 8th, the release of Bob Dylan and The Band’s Complete Basement Tapes, finally in their entirety!

I have been a die hard Dylan fan for years, and the legends and myths surrounding the legendary basement sessions is well known  among Dylan fans worldwide.  Although Dylan and The Band (his backing band during his initial going “electric” and the primary musicians on the Highway 61 and Blonde on Blonde albums were known as “The Hawks”) released a snippet of these recordings in 1975 as an actual album, the 24-songs released were a mere “crumb” of the actual 130+ songs  recorded between 1967 and 1968, now available in the 6-cd set just released this past November.

I’ve only delved into 3 of the 6-disc set and so far it’s been very impressive; you hear a mature Dylan jamming with a group of musicians, often free form, making up lyrics on the fly, and sometimes just re-working some of his own songs, and those of others, such as Johnny Cash (Big River and Folsom Prison Blues) in a relaxed atmosphere of artistic freedom and exploration.  Absent are the artistic pressures of multiple takes in order to “get it right”, instead the mood is melancholy and silly at times, as heard in “See You Later Allen Ginsberg”. The majority of the recordings were made in the basement of Big Pink, a house in West Saugerties, NY that was rented by members of the band, thus the recordings allow the listener a raw and unadulterated room full of musicians doing what they love.  The music allows you, even briefly, into the world of Dylan’s writing and creative spirit, and also the talents of his peers who roll with the every changing tempo and mood that Dylan wanted at a moments notice.

Although it may sound outlandish to say, I really love every track on what I have heard thus far; it would not be an exaggeration to say so.  The Basement Tapes are a fun collection of music that allows the listener just another glimpse into the mystery of Dylan as an artist.  There has always been a shroud of mystery with Dylan; it is well known that he is a recluse, often avoiding the limelight and media a majority of his career; although it is gems like this whereas one feels that Bob is toying with his fans; giving them just one more taste of what they crave, more mystery, more unheard of tracks lying around in a moldy box awaiting to be discovered 40 years later.   And that is what the Bootleg Series has been about, about: Dylan not allowing the fan to truly know who he is, not willing to open up entirely, but yet giving hints here and there and keeping the fans enthralled.  Dylan is not quoted in any of the liner notes, and from what I believe, has not provided any interviews regarding the release of the official bootleg series; so on one hand he is exposing the essence of his inspiration and creative genius, and on the other hand hiding behind the curtain that he always has.  The release of The Basement Tapes Complete is the 11th volume of the Bootleg Series that Columbia Records has made available thus far; so who knows how much more is out there?

I recall many years ago while visiting a long forgotten record shop in Saratoga Springs, NY, right down from Café Lena (a folk mecca where a young Dylan spent a great deal of time), I came across “Great White Wonder”, a well known and well sought out bootleg album that circulated for years; this album contained a few of the songs found on the Basement Tapes, an other rarities, many bootlegs have surfaced since then as well.  Each bootleg, of which there are many, contained odds and ends of other songs from the Saugerties basement sessions, so the myth for so long has been that there clearly were more, but where, and who had them?  Often waived off by members of The Band and perhaps Dylan himself, that additional tracks existed, clearly they did.  It is my understanding that last year someone was able to obtain the collection of the remaining basement tapes (100+ songs) and put out a bootleg for the masses; upon learning about this Columbia Records (in partnership with both Dylan and remaining members of The Band) decided it was true and that the majority of unreleased tracks had been made available decided to make an official release (with even more tracks!) available finally.  My question  is why had they waited so long, and perhaps worse, allow time for someone to release the additional tracks?  These guys had 40+ years to get this stuff out there!

The fun things about this box set is that all is revealed “warts and all” of what actually happened in that basement in West Saugerties; with most bootleg recordings one would normally expect grainy poor quality but these recordings have a haunting quality of clarity. If you are a Dylan fan this is a must listen without question. If not, and are then curious about Dylan, although an exhaustive collection for the first-time Dylan listener, this is a great introduction to the dynamic range of style Dylan was capable of, and introduces one to the persona of Dylan himself.

Advertisements
21
Sep
11

Hoots and Hellmouth – Face First In The Dirt (2011)

This past weekend I decided to head downtown and check out an annual happening in my city, Larkfest.  Larkfest is a culimation and mishmash of various street vendors, artists, and live music.  In addition, it also sprinkles (or dumps) a large helping of obnoxious drunk college students who change the tone later in the day to something truly worth avoiding, especially if you have young children in tow.  Regardless, if you show up early enough it’s actually a worthwhile event; I always enjoy catching some of the random and obscure live musical acts that range from Alternative, Rock-a-billy, Emo-Folk, and Bluegrass, there’s a little of something for everyone.

While strollering my 4 year-old around and my teenage Chinese exchange student we checked out the random ethnic food samplings, tatooed cuties, and a variety of hipster artisans selling t-shirts , cupcakes, and graffitti artwork.  At one piont I passed a tent sponsored by a local radio station where the guy gave me a look and panned down at the plethora of scattered CD’s. It was truly a “come hither stare for free stuff”, and he was very cool about taking as much as I wanted.  The offering of free music was of bands I had never heard of and he knew that; jokingly he said “Yeah, I guess you just have to judge the music by the cover art and take a risk” and he was right.  It was like being offered a mystery free candy yet being unsure you really wanted to find out what it tasted like.  Plus, for most of us, avoiding anything that adds to our physical music collections we do at all costs, especially mystery music.  Regardless, I could not resist and grabbed two albums not wanting to pass up the opportunity for some fresh fodder to review and also not offend the guy offering free music.

I grabbed two albums, one was Jenny Dee and The Deelinqents (to be reviewed later this month), and a band called Hoots and Hellmouth out of Philadelphia, PA.  As with most albums you put in your CD player the first impression is rarely an “oh my god!” moment, and well, this wasn’t one of them either.  However, the band does have something going on in the right direction and I feel they may be one to watch in the future.  The album that I grabbed seems to be more of a sampler rather than a full fledged album and I wanted hear more.  I could find the album on Amazon and it to0 indicated this album was only 4 tracks; this contrasts in comparision to their two prior albums which featured around 10 tracks each; so perhaps it’s just a stripped down album to buy some time.  For what it is worth, it’s a solid sampling of their music and is catchy.

The band has the feel of something between a faster paced version of Dolorean and The Kingsbury Manx; with a twist of Ray Lamontagne without the raspy grit, and a wee bit of Old Crow Medicine Show and some Chatham County Line thrown in for good measure.  Basically, they have a kind of down home sultry folk / country type of sound that appears to making a come back in the underground alternative scene.  While I do like what they are creating for themselves, I’m not sure I’m a fan from the first listen.  It can be truly be said that this band is an “acquired” sound that not everyone is into from the get go;  like Iron and Wine’s sound or the late Elliot Smith’s music, some people pass it off as too mellow or sleepy tending to form automatic opinion’s about its worth or longevity as a something worthwhile to add to a collection.  I think it would be fair to say that Hoots and Hellmouth has a quality sound and feel that is not worth passing up, it’s worth giving a few listens and then forming your own educated decision. Unlike the meloncoly sounds of Smith and Iron and Wine; Hoots and Hellmouth are far livelier and faster paced, definitely some “feel good” music, yet campy.

In closing, I think I would like to hear more about what these guys have put out there and also would be curious if any of our readers have seen these guys live.  Being from Philly myself, I’m partial to liking these guys and giving them a chance.  As always, let us know what you think of this band if you have caught a show, or perhaps send us an opinion on the two prior albums and how they measure up to this release.

Hoots and Hellmouth’s 4-track Face First In The Dirt gets a 3 out of 5.

15
Feb
11

The Grammy’s and a “Watershed Moment”

Usually there is one or two nights that I purposely avoid watching television; one is the MTV Music Awards and second is The Grammy Nominations, both in my subtle and humble opinion have become utter rubbish.

I find much of the performance trivial and pointless, far more of a popularity contest rather than one of talent.  This years was no different, except for one thing and perhaps a milestone in a rather mundane event; that “thing” was “true acnowledgement”, even if it was for one fleeting moment.  Actually, to be fair there were several surprising and deserving moments at this years Grammy event.

First, and what is the apparently all the literal rage with little “Beiber-ettes”, is the crime of the century of their prized little turd not getting the “New Artist of The Year” award.  I had the sit in my arm chair and smirk with the dissapointment (and I’m sure true tears of dismay for some little bubblegummer) that a little known (and VERY talented) young woman named Esperanza Spalding would win this catagory.  It is a bittersweet moment for those of us who enjoy more than just the Top 40 brainwash stations.  Ms. Spalding may just be the catalyst to interest younger listeners into incredible world of improvisational jazz, latin fusion, and afro centric rhythms and styles.  I think this would be called a “watershed moment” for the much needed change in direction of what award ceremonies should truly represent.  Remember folks, it’s not about popularity, but more talent and profound contribution. 

This years Grammy’s finally bestowed much deserved honors on other pioneers such as Herbie Hancock, Paul McCartney, and Neil Young.  Although they all had their “Beiber” moments in their career (except for perhaps Herbie Hancock) they have made very profound and unique contributions to music as an expression of self. 

Most of the artists that performed that night were rather dull and uninteresting, perhaps except Bruno Mars.  Mar’s I can’t quite figure out yet; he’s part James Brown, Terrance Trent D’Arby, Prince, and BB King all rolled into one, check him out if you have not yet, very interesting sound.  He gave a very entertaining and humble interview on NPR last month and I gained a respect for him and what he is trying to create. 

Other performers like Eminem, Rihanna, Lady Antebellum, and Arcade Fire were not my cup of tea and felt like blah filler for a rather boring show.  As for Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger, I’m not impressed any longer with their performances and think they both should retire and enjoy the days they have left on some warm beach.  Both of those two geezers have made great contributions to music, but clearly their time is over and perhaps saved for Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve show; an event where clearly washed up, boring, and barely living acts are still  featured.

When does Phish get their Grammy dammit?