For about a month now fans have been awaiting this somewhat mysterious “exclusive broadcast event,” a pay-per-view-type online streaming performance by Bob Dylan, and now it has aired, and will continue to be available to watch for 48 hours. Access in the United States costs $25.
It features Dylan performing in a stylized small club setting, alternating between at least three different stagings. The arrangements and performances are sharp and quite beautiful. The instrumentation includes accordion, mandolin, Spanish guitar, and acoustic bass, and sometimes electric guitar and bass. No drums at all. Dylan’s singing is superb (assuming you’re someone who can take his singing at all).
He has an audience of heavily smoking actors and actresses. (It appears that they inhale very little smoke, the better to blow it out for effect. Still, this viewer appreciates Bob’s support for the struggling tobacco farmers.) The band wear black masks while everyone else breathes and smokes freely.
The whole thing is directed by one Alma Har’el, an Israeli-American who has a prize-winning feature film and documentary in her belt, as well as various music videos.
While initially the show was billed as featuring songs from throughout Dylan’s body of work, this broadcast is actually subtitled “The Early Songs of Bob Dylan.” And indeed it does focus on the 1960s, although there are a couple of exceptions in “What Was It You Wanted?” from 1989 and “Forever Young” from 1974. The show is about 50 minutes in duration. That surprised me: I thought it would probably be around 90 minutes.
Taken together, the subtitle “Early Songs” and the relatively short duration leads this viewer to conclude that this is going to be a series, and that there are likely at least two more “episodes” in the can.
It’s a brilliant business idea, to be sure: I bet Dylan could easily fetch a million views, globally, for something like this, and at $25 a pop, well … I’m not great at math, but it’s a fair bit of revenue for all concerned. And after the last year and a half of worldwide Wuhan weirdness, people are certainly well accustomed to substituting online experiences for the real thing.
In the end, for a fan, it’s one of life’s miracles, and something for which to be grateful. Bob Dylan is 80 years old, and here we get to see and hear him — in exceptional form — reworking his songs yet again in a scintillating and eye-opening manner. The version of “Forever Young” he performs is jaw-dropping: I’ve never heard him sing it so movingly (and I’ve heard him sing it quite a few times). “To Be Alone with You” is an almost entirely rewritten lyric, incorporating something of a religious passion. “Queen Jane,” “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight,” “Tombstone Blues” — all standouts. Every song reveals something new of itself. It seems to this listener that the enormous work that Dylan did in recording five LPs worth of songs from the Great American/Sinatra songbook has enhanced his ability to reinterpret his own songs in especially gorgeous and sensitive ways.
The songs often sound like a commentary on our strange times, but that’s how Dylan’s songs always sound, grounded as they are in an awareness of death, eternity, human nature, and the things that remain.
And it’s all going to stand up to quite a bit of re-watching.
Darling, down and down I go, round and round I go
In a spin, loving the spin that I’m in
Under that old black magic called love
A few months from this time of writing, Bob Dylan will be performing at a big music event in California, sharing the bill with his contemporaries–and fellow septuagenarians–the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney. No doubt the Stones will be singing “Satisfaction” and “Paint it Black,” and no doubt McCartney will be singing “Yesterday” and “Band on the Run.” And no doubt Bob Dylan will be singing … well, “Autumn Leaves,” “All or Nothing at All,” and “That Old Black Magic.” You have to pause a moment to contemplate how wonderfully absurd and amazing that actually is. In his most recent shows, more than a third of the titles in his set list have been what we might call these “Sinatra” songs, and of the “Bob Dylan” songs in the show most have been from the past decade and a half or so, with only 3 dating back to the 1960s or 70s. And although some concert attendees have been heard griping (and when has that not been true at a Dylan show?), the most notable fact is that he’s actually been getting away with it in quite fine style. Dylan is conspicuously deriving great joy from singing the standards and puts his whole body and spirit into the effort. Singing these gorgeous old tunes (from songwriters he had some significant role in putting out of business) seems undeniably to be making his own heart feel young. Continue reading Bob Dylan – Fallen Angels (and Rising Prayers)→
It is (in the sense of those things these days) Bob Dylan’s hot new single: “Melancholy Mood.” The song is best known from its recording by Harry James and his Orchestra, with brand new boy singer Frank Sinatra, in 1939. It was the B-side of “From the Bottom of My Heart.” Neither side charted, though both are masterful and lovely records and show the promise of the Sinatra to come. Bob Dylan’s version is embedded below here via YouTube, with a little more on the song and his own quite lovely take on it coming under that.
Comparing Dylan’s to the Harry James/Frank Sinatra side (also on YouTube at the moment) reveals that it is the very same arrangement, as adapted by his five piece guitar-based band. You would think that someone like Dylan would do it as a song, rather than in the style of a big band, where the singer comes in only after the band has gone through the tune already—but you would think wrong. Where Harry James played his trumpet, we have beautiful solo guitar, and on it goes to about the one minute and seven second mark (just as on the James side) and then Bob Dylan steps to the microphone—the most grizzled boy singer you’d ever want to see—and caresses the lyric the rest of the way.
That has been the modus operandi of Dylan on these “Sinatra covers;” that is, to take one of Sinatra’s original recordings (in a lot of cases there were multiple Sinatra versions to pick from) and to simply try to recreate the arrangement with the five piece combo (and occasional extra). In so doing, and in each case, they come up with something beautiful of their own. Dylan’s singing, of-course, is always his own.
And as with his previous interpretations of these old popular songs, Dylan brings resonances to “Melancholy Mood” beyond the boy/girl love theme that would have been the given way of hearing it before. This song, from a lonely soul, even has something to say along those lines, which sounds so right in Dylan’s gentle and aged voice:
But love is a whimsy
And as flimsy as lace
And my arms embrace an empty space
The singer’s soul is “stranded high and dry”—all he can see is “grief and gloom / till the crack of doom.” Still, he prays for release from his melancholy mood, and in Bob’s voice it seems to me this has less the sense of a boy praying for his girl to come back and more the sense of the creature praying to his Creator for an infinitely greater kind of release.
Dylan’s gift to these songs is to show just how deep they can go, without changing a note or a word.
Bob Dylan’s forthcoming album, from which “Melancholy Mood” is taken, is titled Fallen Angels, and is to be released on May 20th. The full track listing is as follows:
1. Young At Heart
2. Maybe You’ll Be There
3. Polka Dots and Moonbeams
4. All The Way
7. All Or Nothing At All
8. On A Little Street In Singapore
9. It Had To Be You
10. Melancholy Mood
11. That Old Black Magic
12. Come Rain Or Come Shine
And to all that I can only say: Golly! It’s a great time to be alive.
The U.S. State Department has warned Americans abroad to steer clear of numerous sites in Italy that are apparently threatened by jihadist attacks. These include in particular the Vatican in Rome, and two sites in the city of Milan: the Duomo and La Scala opera house. The warning also mentions more general targets “such as churches, synagogues, restaurants, theatres, and hotels” in both Milan and Rome. Continue reading Bob Dylan Chooses Hired Guns Over Cancellations→
Anything Bob Dylan does continues to be grist for the media machine, as if he were a slightly more hirsute Taylor Swift, and the news that he would appear on the second to last episode of the “Late Night with David Letterman” show duly got the presses rolling. I was struck by the angle taken in New York’s Daily News, where, underneath a photo of the “legendary rocker” was this bit of editorializing: “The singer has been particularly obsessed with aging as his own career winds down.” Aside from begging for the observation that we all should be glad to have as many number one albums as Dylan when our careers are winding down, it made me wonder: Is Dylan really obsessed with aging? The article also states: Continue reading Bob Dylan: “Obsessed with Aging”?→
Bob Dylan recently added the song “Autumn Leaves” to what has been for some time a very fixed live set list. He’s long been playing two sets divided by an intermission, and now he is finishing that second set with “Autumn Leaves,” whereupon he and his band depart the stage and are entreated back for the encore, which continues to be “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Stay With Me.” “Autumn Leaves” is only the second song from his new album Shadows in the Night that he’s chosen to play live (alright: he did “That Lucky Old Sun” live some years back but that’s a different context). Recent accounts say he’s knocking them dead with this song and in fine form overall. Continue reading Bob Dylan – “Autumn Leaves”→
I’ve long harbored the sense that it’s a bit farcical of yours truly to “review” a new Bob Dylan album; being as much of a fan as I obviously am, my enthusiasms tend to run over: I get carried away (especially absent any humorless editor to beat me down). Why pretend to offer an unbiased review? On the other hand, everyone has his or her own biases, declared or no. A review is most useful or interesting to a reader to the degree that the reader either shares those biases or at least appreciates their presence.
However, the special way in which it is impossible for me to pretend to offer a coldly objective review of Bob Dylan’s Shadows In The Night is this: I happen to know that he recorded this album for me. That has to affect things on some level. You see, while I like to think that I have eclectic taste in music, a quick glance at the CDs on my shelves or the gigabytes on my external hard drive would reveal that the music I’ve collected from two particular artists far exceeds the music I’ve collected from any other. Although I’m not into making lists of favorites—top ten favorite female singers, top ten favorite country songs, blah blah blah—there’s no necessity to sit back and wonder who my two all-time favorite musical artists are. They are Frank Sinatra and Bob Dylan. Continue reading (Review) Bob Dylan – Shadows In The Night→
Many of the remarks Dylan made in his MusiCares speech a week ago are still echoing around the solar system, upsetting some as much as they’ve been entertaining and/or fascinating others. He covered a lot of ground and he named names, not always in a complimentary fashion. He said himself at the end of the speech: “I probably left out a lot of people and said too much about some.” That was a pretty good bet. So, obviously in the spirit of smoothing some, er, misimpressions, Dylan talked to writer Bill Flanagan, who has always been a worthy interviewer of Bob. Their conversation is posted at BobDylan.com and you can read it yourself. He also expands on some subjects he brought up, like the blues, rock & roll and all that jazz. Continue reading Bob Dylan Talks (Post-Speech Hoopla) to Bill Flanagan→
In his speech last Friday night, accepting the “Person of the Year” award from MusiCares, Bob Dylan remembered many old gratitudes, for such as John Hammond, the Staple Singers, Joan Baez, Lou Levy, Johnny Cash, and others, and then he also used the occasion to take issue with many of the tropes that music critics have employed when writing about him. And he also took a couple of knocks at some individuals in the music business who he believes disdained his songs many years ago, contrasting those individuals with others who said nice things about his music. People have been reacting different ways to his speech, some focusing on the gratitudes, some focusing on the knocks, some seeing a lot of humor in it all, and some hitting back at Dylan for being petty or cranky. I think one issue is that people have been reading the speech (full transcript here) and of-course Bob wrote it to be delivered—which is a different kind of writing—and there are laugh lines and so forth which temper the crankiness quite a bit. I haven’t seen much video of the speech as yet, but for some reason this Belgian website has a fairly good series of short clips spliced together that do go a long way towards conveying the tone of the delivery. Bob was having a good time. Continue reading Reactions to Bob Dylan’s MusiCares Speech; Plus The Blackwood Brothers Quartet→
[UPDATE: Full transcript via Randall Roberts of the LA TIMES at this link.]
These are good times. Or maybe the world’s about to end. Or both. Bob Dylan puts out this beautifully recorded, wonderfully executed (my own self-indulgent review to come shortly) album called Shadows In The Night, a tribute to Sinatra but more than that a great work in itself, and now this: Last night Bob Dylan gave a speech well over thirty minutes long when accepting his “Person of the Year” award from MusiCares (a charity for musicians suffering hard times). Dylan, unfiltered by any interviewer or editor, giving his gratitudes and picking some bones along the way.
Except that no one at this point seems to have a full transcript, let alone a tape (though the whole event was recorded for later use). However, significant extracts of Dylan’s speech are quoted here, here and here. Sharp, funny, utterly direct, great stuff.
He picked the perfect moment, didn’t he? That’s what usually happens at charity galas: everyone sits around, has dinner, and then there’s a big speech. Except usually it’s not preceded by a two-hour concert. One may recall if one is old enough how Frank Sinatra was awarded some special mega-Grammy award very late in his life. He was introduced by Bono, who got to make a big speech. Then Frank came on and said “thank you” and was continuing, but was abruptly interrupted. The lights went down and the camera went away. They weren’t expecting a speech; he was supposed to just take the award and go. Maybe he wasn’t in great shape to give a speech—I really don’t know. But no one was going to get away with interrupting Bob Dylan last night.
Addendum: And if you read the full transcript (now available) you might possibly note like I did that the climax of the speech on paper, i.e. the end of the main speech where Bob is basically talking about himself and his career and his critics, is this section:
The Blackwood Bros. have been talking to me about making a record together. That might confound expectations, but it shouldn’t. Of course it would be a gospel album. I don’t think it would be anything out of the ordinary for me. Not a bit. One of the songs I’m thinking about singing is “Stand By Me” by the Blackwood Brothers. Not “Stand By Me” the pop song. No. The real “Stand By Me.”
The real one goes like this:
When the storm of life is raging / Stand by me / When the storm of life is raging / Stand by me / When the world is tossing me / Like a ship upon the sea / Thou who rulest wind and water / Stand by me
In the midst of tribulation / Stand by me / In the midst of tribulation / Stand by me / When the hosts of hell assail / And my strength begins to fail / Thou who never lost a battle / Stand by me
In the midst of faults and failures / Stand by me / In the midst of faults and failures / Stand by me / When I do the best I can / And my friends don’t understand / Thou who knowest all about me / Stand by me
That’s the song. I like it better than the pop song. If I record one by that name, that’s going to be the one. I’m also thinking of recording a song, not on that album, though: “Oh Lord, Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.”
Anyway, why me, Lord. What did I do?
So that’s how he chose to end, essentially, and what he’s saying there seems clear enough, and also an echo of that quite obscure song once sung by Frank Sinatra that he chose to “uncover” on his latest album, namely, “Stay With Me.”
He then closed by appropriately thanking MusiCares for their work in helping hard pressed musicians, in particular singling out his friend Billy Lee Riley, and then he said “goodbye” this way:
Like the spiritual song, I’m still just crossing over Jordan too. Let’s hope we meet again. Sometime. And we will, if, like Hank Williams said, “the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise.”
Back when the album Shadows in the Night by Bob Dylan was first announced, in May of 2014, Rolling Stone magazine and others were all labeling it as “Dylan does Sinatra.” Although Frank Sinatra and Bob Dylan have long been the sun and moon in my own musical consciousness (and I’ve always been fascinated by any even-tentative connections between them) I greatly hesitated about jumping on that notion, knowing that a lot of people who don’t know better tend to regard any old popular standards as “Frank Sinatra songs.” We didn’t have a track list. It wasn’t clear what the album was really going to be based upon.
Then we got the track list, and it was immediately obvious to any serious Sinatra aficionado that this album was in fact centered around songs closely associated with Frank; it included songs written for him, songs debuted by him, one cowritten by him, no less than four from a single Sinatra album (1957’s Where Are You?), and most were songs where Sinatra’s rendition is indisputably the one that matters most in musical history. (“That Lucky Old Sun” is an exception, and “Some Enchanted Evening” is assuredly a song that almost everyone has done.) Continue reading Shadows In The Night: A Sinatra Tribute or NOT a Sinatra Tribute?→
In a career not short on greatness, “Why Try to Change Me Now” is an especially great Frank Sinatra song, and a great Sinatra moment, all the more so as it is actually two moments: two great studio recordings. There are of-course many songs that Sinatra recorded twice (and more) and they’re always very good for providing a window into how he developed as an artist, as this one is. It can also be noticed that the songs he revisited through his career are all great songs. He recorded his share of cheesy or schlocky tunes over the years—a few of which were big hits, indeed—but each of those he recorded just once.
His first recording of this tune was in 1952, and it was his final recording for the Columbia record label.
Sinatra had signed with Columbia in 1942, at the age of 27, after leaving the Tommy Dorsey band, and it was during this era that he came to be known as The Voice, and what a voice it was. Although no longer as purely angelic as on some of those great Tommy Dorsey sides, Frank’s voice wasn’t straying in these years so very far from paradise; it was deeply romantic, and he could conjure with it just the sufficient level of ache when needed. It was the voice that brought out the bobby-soxed girls and made them faint (and worse). But it was a voice anyone could appreciate, with wonderful expressiveness and the remarkable vocal and breath control that Sinatra had worked for years to achieve. It can be heard at its best on the great ballads that Sinatra sang in those Columbia years, like “I Fall in Love Too Easily,” “She’s Funny That Way,” “Try A Little Tenderness,” and “I’m Glad There Is You,” often with the great Axel Stordahl conducting and breaking new ground in the musical framing of a vocalist. Sinatra could swing pretty good too, on tracks like “S’Posin'” and “Five Minutes More,” even if he would find his best shoes for swinging years later with Nelson Riddle and Billy May.
On that final recording date in 1952, the bobby soxers and the acclaim must have seemed to be in the very distant past. His divorce from his first wife, Nancy, and his relationship with actress Ava Gardner had knocked him off any angelic cloud in the popular consciousness, and he’d been struggling as a recording artist and performer. He’d been let go by not only his record company, but also by his movie studio and talent agency. He’d been having real problems with his all-important voice, having difficulty just getting through performances. For his own part, Sinatra maintained that he was glad to get away from Columbia Records: he’d fought for years with producer Mitch Miller over matters of taste, Miller being very fond of novelty records (most infamously represented in Sinatra’s case by the record “Mama Will Bark“) and had to have been dreaming of the freedom to record just what he wanted, just how he wanted. The only problem was that he had no replacement record contract and poor prospects for one. No one on earth could have predicted then how well Sinatra would be doing in just a few short years, following his own muse (albeit ably abetted by other great talents in the studio).
The title of this song, “Why Try to Change Me Now,” seems almost too pat in retrospect as his final turn at the microphone for the record company that he’d felt was trying to change who he was as an artist. But it being Frank Sinatra with a great song in his hands, the record is far, far more than merely a gimmicky goodbye.
The composer, Cy Coleman, noted that Sinatra slightly changed the melody at the opening of the song. He is quoted by Will Friedwald (in the best book I know on Sinatra):
I listened to the record and it sounded so natural, the way that Frank did it, that I thought to myself, “He’s right.” So I left it that way. So I changed the music! That’s the first and only time I’ve ever done that.
The arrangement was by Percy Faith. You can hear the record (or at any rate a digital shadow of it) via iTunes, via Amazon, and currently via YouTube.
The song opens:
I’m sentimental, so I walk in the rain
I’ve got some habits even I can’t explain
Could start for the corner, turn up in Spain
But why try to change me now?
It is in this verse, the next verse and the bridge the song of a misfit, someone who feels himself a bit off-kilter, something of an odd man out in the conventional, modern world. This is not such an unusual theme for a popular song: one could make a very long list of songs with similar sentiments. “Pretty Vacant,” by the Sex Pistols, would be one. “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” by Bob Dylan, would be on that list too. And both are enormous fun in their distinct ways. But the beauty and grace of this take on the theme is just that much more conspicuous when you compare it to such others. There is a restraint in the anguish and alienation that is being expressed with merely a wry shrug (as opposed to a molotov cocktail) and there is no singer better able to distill and express that than Frank Sinatra. His voice is beautiful here, but, knowing where he was at in his life, you can just read the great weariness between the lines.
And then there is the final verse, where the song reveals itself as being addressed in just one all-important direction:
So, let people wonder, let ’em laugh, let ’em frown
You know I’ll love you till the moon’s upside down
Don’t you remember I was always your clown?
Why try to change me now?
It is a plea to someone whose acceptance matters more than all the rest of the world. And Sinatra voices that last questioning couplet with an exquisitely unstrained sense of yearning and of heartbreak. It is inexpressibly masterful.
Envision, if you will, a tragic twist of fate or two, and this might have been the last record Frank Sinatra ever made.
But, thank God, it was not. And seven years later, in 1959, Sinatra was standing in front of a microphone to sing “Why Try To Change Me Now” again, this time for his album No One Cares.
In the preceding years, under a new contract to Capitol Records, Frank Sinatra had recorded masterpiece after masterpiece, and along the way defined the potential of the long-playing record in popular music. In the Wee Small Hours, Songs for Swingin’ Lovers, Only the Lonely, Come Fly with Me: these and others can be seen now not merely as great records but irreplaceable cultural treasures. (We’re lucky indeed that millions of copies exist.) Sinatra’s very voice had changed; it had gathered maturity, acquiring some cracks that weren’t there before but only an ever-deeper capacity to communicate a song to a listener. Working with brilliant arrangers and musicians, but commanded finally by his own discerning vision, Sinatra recorded some of the most refined, truly adult and simply marvelous popular music that has ever been committed to any medium, before or since.
By this point, he was coming close to the end of this near-perfect run (though he had lots of great stuff still to come). No One Cares was without doubt one of his “mood” albums, the mood succinctly expressed in the title. For these LPs, a crucial element was the way in which Sinatra chose songs without regard to their vintage. There were songs specifically written for the project (like the title track by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen) and others from decades previous (like “I Can’t Get Started,” by Vernon Duke and Ira Gershwin, from 1936). The point was to create a whole that held together, greater even than the sum of its great parts. The arranger in this case was Gordon Jenkins. He is not treated by critics as untouchable to the same degree as fellow arranger Nelson Riddle; he had an approach that could sometimes be considered a bit repetitive or simplistic, featuring what are often described as “high keening strings.” (Riddle, by contrast, was always varied and inventive.) Yet, in these years, Sinatra did not over use Jenkins’ talents. So, the two albums from this period, Where Are You? and No One Cares, stand as great examples of Sinatra’s voice framed by Jenkins’ sparse, emotive and exceedingly dark arrangements. (Ironically enough, Sinatra also called on Jenkins for his marvelous Christmas album.)
While Sinatra, in the second act of his American life, had enjoyed enormous professional success in the middle and late 1950s, he was still a human being, and other aspects had not gone quite as well. His very anguished relationship with Ava Gardner was officially ended with their divorce in 1957.
But from wherever it came, there was never much doubt that great darkness was there under the surface for Frank, and he could tell the truth about it, like no one else, when he was in front of a microphone.
So, his second recorded reading of “Why Try To Change Me Now” is taken significantly more slowly than the first, every note and syllable carefully measured out. It can be heard via iTunes or via Amazon and currently via YouTube.
Frank’s singing still possesses enormous grace and restraint, but the song is performed as if treading on a ledge that is now substantially thinner. Sinatra’s voice has that added depth that maturity has brought and at the same time some added weaknesses, and he puts all of this into play with devastating but still ultimately unstrained effect (and therein lies a crucial element of his genius).
When he reprises, in the end, the final questioning lines of the song …
Don’t you remember I was always your clown?
Why try to change me now?
… his voice conveys an expectation that is different than before. In the Columbia recording, the singer has a love, and he is at least yearning for a positive, accepting answer to his questions. Here—it seems at least to these ears—the words are sung as if to an abyss, to a lover who he wishes would answer him, but one who he knows is no longer listening …
(This post is in honor of Frank Sinatra’s centenary, which we’re marking at the present moment by looking at some of the songs as sung by Frank Sinatra that Bob Dylan selected for his new album Shadows In The Night.)
Some of us are date-oriented and some of us are not. By dates, I refer neither to the fruity nor to the romantic kind (though the same statement would probably apply to both) but rather the chronological sort: anniversaries, birthdays, milestones and the like. Some of us are date deniers, wondering whether it matters that such and such happened so many years ago on this date. This day is still little different from yesterday or tomorrow, after all; it’s just another day, significant only for what it achieves for itself, surely, and not its numerical coordination with some other day.
Bob Dylan, however, has apparently been paying some attention to dates. The first track (“Full Moon and Empty Arms”) to be heard from his forthcoming Sinatra-themed album was released to the world last May 13th, the day before the anniversary of Frank Sinatra’s death in 1998 (perhaps someone’s itchy promotional trigger finger caused it to come out a few hours early, at least state-side). And the album itself is being released right here in the first part of 2015 A.D., which happens to be the centenary of Sinatra’s birth (his birth date being December 12th, 1915). Continue reading Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, 2015: A Very Good Year→
Well, those North Korean hackers couldn’t stop Bob Dylan (Sony recording artist) from announcing today some details on his forthcoming album, Shadows In The Night, which will indeed as speculated consist entirely of songs that would be best known as sung by Frank Sinatra.
Last night Bob Dylan played the first of a series of five concerts at New York City’s Beacon Theatre, the final stand of his current tour.
I thought I’d probably seen my last Robert A. Zimmerman performance a few years ago. I’ve seen him live quite a bit over the years, and that last show was a good one, and for a variety of reasons I just felt it best to leave it at that. (One also has the impression that Dylan really enjoys playing to the new faces in the crowds, rather than old fogeys like moi.) However, through the intervention of a very kind friend, myself and the missus found ourselves last night once again breathing the same air as Bob and his five superb sidemen: Tony Garnier, George Recile, Stu Kimball, Charlie Sexton and Donnie Herron. Continue reading Bob Dylan Live at the Beacon Theatre, New York→
So, on his current tour—or, if you prefer, the current leg of his “Inevitably Going to End One Day” tour—Bob Dylan has been closing his shows in an unprecedented manner, with a song he had never sung in concert before. I’d daresay that precious few singers have sung this song in concert before (and I’d bet the house that no one has ever closed the show with it).
It is a song titled “Stay with Me,” and it was written specifically for a 1963 film directed by Otto Preminger called The Cardinal. Jerome Moss composed the score for the film, and Carolyn Leigh wrote the lyrics for this, the film’s main theme. And the film is about an actual Roman Catholic cardinal; that is, it follows the life of a protagonist named Stephen Fermoyle from Boston as he becomes a priest and goes through various dramas before ultimately rising to that office in the Church. (Curious fact: the “Vatican liaison” on the film was one Joseph Ratzinger.) Continue reading Bob Dylan Abides with “Stay with Me”→
Although it was during the mid-1980s that yours truly happened to become a Bob Dylan fan, listening to his albums from that period has sometimes seemed like a guilty pleasure. While I’d stick up unreservedly for a certain number of those songs, there are those others that just seem silly. Yet, sometimes I kind of like them anyway. One that I probably wouldn’t have thought to defend in solemn company—but really have always liked—is “Never Gonna Be The Same Again” from his 1985 album Empire Burlesque. Well, now I’m correcting myself, and it’s thanks to hearing a solo acoustic version by Ron Sexsmith (on YouTube at this link).
Happening somehow upon Sexsmith’s YouTube channel (discreetly titled “Rawnboy”) made me feel like I’d found something secret and private (hope I’m not blowing the cover). Although he’s a genuine star and one of the finest pop songwriters of the last couple of decades, here he is just sitting in his kitchen and living room and playing things casually into the webcam, like a million YouTube amateurs do. So he’s uploaded a wealth of acoustic versions of his own songs, and a plethora of affectionate cover versions. (You’ve gotta wish everyone you were a fan of would do something like this. Bob, Van, you listening?) And of all the Bob Dylan songs he chooses to sing, it’s “Never Gonna Be the Same Again.” Continue reading Bob Dylan – “Never Gonna Be The Same Again”→
Doing the rounds on various websites is a clip from a new film titled St. Vincent, starring Bill Murray, directed by Theodore Melfi. The clip is remarkable for how little occurs in it: it’s simply the Bill Murray character singing along to Bob Dylan’s song “Shelter from the Storm” like any ordinary Bob-Dylan-loving-doofus might. Yet it seems to strike some kind of chord with people, given the degree to which it is being circulated. And yours truly has found it oddly charming also. I guess it’s because (a) I can sadly picture myself acting in the same way and (b) Bill Murray is just kind of a likeable bum and (c) It’s so refreshing in these dark times to see someone singing while smoking a cigarette. Continue reading Bill Murray and “Shelter from the Storm”→