It’s an understatement to write that Bob Dylan has authored a lot of great music.
For what it’s worth, my favorite Dylan song isn’t from the sixties. It’s something he cut in the early ’80s, “Blind Willie McTell”. “BWT” is a blues number, ostensibly about how the old singer can’t be matched these days. But it’s really an incredible meditation about the human condition.
The music – Dylan on piano, accompanied by Mark Knopfler on acoustic guitar – is as stark and beautiful as a Cormac McCarthy passage. The bleakness of the lyrics is a perfect match. And speaking of the human condition, if there’s a better lyric to summarize that than
Well, God is in His heaven
And we all want what’s His
But power and greed and corruptible seed
Seem to be all that there is
I have yet to hear it.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve listened to this song. But it still moves me like very few others. It’s really just an amazing piece of work.
To me, the most amazing thing about the song is that Dylan left it off the album for which he recorded it, Infidels. (It wound up surfacing on one of the official Bootleg albums, fortunately.) He’s never given a clear reason for what strikes me as a weird lapse of judgment. Artists. What are you gonna do, sometimes?
Sigh. We lost another great last week, as John Renbourn, one of the giants in the British folk scene, died. He was one of the mainstays of Pentangle, which put out a few brilliant albums. He also compiled a number of noteworthy solo albums. His work with his fellow Pentangle guitarist, Bert Jansch, shouldn’t be missed. (I saw the two of them in concert once; to call their performance dazzling would almost be an understatement.)
Anyway, here’s an example of his style, which ranged over about as broad a spectrum of musical genres as is possible for a guitarist to play.
More links to clips here, if you’re interested.
For once, something not inspired by somebody’s death, or a 40-year old memory of mine.
This is something I came across last week. I’m the occasional sucker for a well-played piece of pop fluff, and The Rebel Light’s “Strangers” fits the bill nicely. In fact, I can’t get the damned thing out of my head. So maybe it’ll stick in yours, too.
Very California, no?
Upon reading that Chuks Amaechi’s first name is Nigerian for “only God knows”, this was the first thing that jumped into my head:
If Brian Wilson never wrote another song besides “God Only Knows”, he’d still be a genius.
I saw Delbert McClinton last night. It’s the best show I’ve ever seen a 74-year old man put on. It’s always a pleasure to watch a guy who loves to perform and connect with his audience. He and his band definitely didn’t mail in a single note.
I don’t know if you’ve had the pleasure of listening to his stuff before. He works around the area where honky-tonk and R & B converge and he’s got a voice that’s made in America. He’s been at it for decades, so needless to say he’s got as rich a song catalog as anyone out there.
Here’s a taste. It’s the song he closed with last night and it’s one of my favorites, the slightly Stones-y “Every Time I Roll The Dice”. Enjoy.
I thought I’d get off the R.I.P. kick I’ve been on lately, and turn to the merely old.
From 1965, here are the Rolling Stones on tour in Ireland with “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”.
This is why even men of the cloth fall in love with rock ‘n’ roll.
The clip is from a documentary DVD called Charlie Is My Darling. Per Wikipedia,
The 64 minutes documentary follows the group from their car trip out of London to Heathrow Airport, and from there to Dublin where they had two concerts at the Adelphi Theatre on 3 September. The next day they take a train up to Belfast for two concerts at the ABC Theatre, before returning to London by plane the following day.
Besides stage shots from the concerts (where the second Dublin concert ends in total chaos as fans storm the stage), the film contains scenes from a hotel room in Dublin (where Keith and Mick for fun do a few Beatles songs as well as a couple of their own), scenes from their train trip to Belfast, another impromptu song session by a piano (with both Keith and Andrew Oldham playing the piano while Mick impersonates Elvis Presley and sings Fats Domino’s version of “Blueberry Hill“), and finally their flight back to London. Intermixed with this are interviews with the band members where they talk about fame, fans and future.
Like the clip? Okay, here’s another one – “The Last Time”.
Jagger’s move with the jacket is classic.
Joe Cocker, R.I.P.:
His early tours — particularly “Mad Dogs & Englishmen” in 1970, which was documented in a live album and film of the same name — were rowdy affairs, awash in both drugs and the artistic excesses of the era. The sprawling “Mad Dogs” entourage included not only more than 30 musicians, among them the keyboardist and songwriter Leon Russell and the drummer Jim Keltner, but also spouses, babies and pets.
At the same time, Mr. Cocker’s onstage contortions had, for better or worse, become his signature. John Belushi performed a sendup on “Saturday Night Live” in 1975 that ended with his convulsing on the floor; the next year Mr. Cocker performed Traffic’s “Feelin’ Alright” on the show, joined by Mr. Belushi in imitation.
Asked about his mannerisms in an interview last year with The Guardian, Mr. Cocker said that they “came with my frustration at having never played guitar or piano.” He added: “It’s just a way of trying to get feeling out. I get excited, and it all comes through my body.”
I can’t think of any better example of all that than this version of “Cry Me A River”, which converted a slow, sultry tune into… well, something very different.
This death shit’s for the birds, by the way. Sigh.