Tuesday, February 13, 2018


WELCOME! Here, I will be attempting to review and write about every Bob Dylan record, and rate every song on every Dylan STUDIO album. How could someone do this, you ask? Easy. Very easy. I will also be eating my dinner while I do this, which is ever easier, but harder to type on occasion.

I WILL BE UPDATING THIS WEEKLY (perhaps 2 a week on occasion when the hunger strikes!)

Bob Dylan was born Robert Zimmerman in Duluth, MN and took the world by storm in the early '60s. He continues to write, record, and tour to this day. For additional information on Bob Dylan, please refer to outside sources accessible in under 1 minute or less.

Each song is accompanied with a numerical rating as follows:

With that I say, happy travels, safe listening, and MANGIA! (Italian for "chewy your food slowly"... if you do not chew slowly you may choke on your food. If you find yourself in this situation, please refer to the international sign for choking)

Desire (1976)

(1976, Columbia Records)


(the momentarily famous TTLA sandwich from Whole Foods Market. A sandwich made famous by social media)

Desire? What does it mean to you? I don't know, but anyway you slice it, what a terrible name for a record! Okay, maybe George Clinton's Hey Man, Smell My Finger might be way worse. But this LP is considered by many to be one of Dylan's best studio efforts (after the other 7 great ones, or whatever). I don't know, there's just something so lifeless about standing around, talking music when one Dylanhead says to another "What's your favorite Dylan album?," and then the other Dylanhead leans close and whispers in the others ear "DESIRE....." I'm sure this has happened once or twice, at least. Maybe my second least favorite tittle after Planet Waves. Still trying to crack that code.

Anyway, welcome to Desire, Dylan's 17th studio album, and last of widespread critical and fan praise for the next 15-20 years. Basically, after Desire, Dylan's comeback as critical darling sank deeper in deeper as he became nearly forgotten in the '80s and had to slowly claw his way back in the '90s. So let's bid our Dylan farewell (and say a prayer for me as I will soon begin to tackle nearly a dozen LPs few care about.... Oh it burns... with Desire.....)

So, after the complete adulation of Blood on the Tracks, and the celebrated release of The Basement Tapes,  Dylan reportedly farted around for a few months, only having written 1 song by summer of 1975. To other musicians, this is sometimes called normal. To Dylan, disturbing. Around this time, he met Jacques Levy (playwright, director, songwriter) through Roger McGuinn of The Byrds in NYC. Together, the two began working on the remainder of the songs that would become Desire. The LP also features prominent violin work from Scarlet Rivera, someone Dylan reportedly found walking down the street, or sitting in her car, depending on what lore you wanna go with. Rounding out the record, the vocals of legend Emmylou Harris are all over this! At the time, the relatively unknown Harris was seemingly picked at random to be on the record when Dylan requested a "female" vocalist from Columbia Records. So there you have it. I call that DESIRE in a nutshell.

Some call this Desire in a Nutshell

One of the grandest things to come from Dylan's collaboration with Jacques Levy; the birth of the Rolling Thunder Revue. The RTR was a 2 part tour that bookended the release of Desire. The traveling "caravan" of musician roadshow directed by Levy traveled far and wide around North America, giving us famous pictures like this....

And this.....  (photos you can find in a college dorm, looking like Dylan fell face first into cocaine)

("you kids like clowns?"- Bob Dylan to his frightened children circa '76)

Finally, the LP cover? The photo was reportedly snapped at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts. Who could tell? It's just Dylan standing in front of a tree, smiling at.... his Desires? Who knows. No mention of the Plymouth Rock imagery, pilgrims. How 'bout a 12 minute song about the first Thanksgiving as told by Zimmy. Nope. A song about ship traveling across the ocean and the centuries of US horrors that have unfolded. Nope, nothing. Just desires? Desire. Repeat after me... "Desire. Desire...... desire"

Now real quick on my dinner of desires. I have purchased myself the famous-for-the-moment TTLA sandwich from Whole Foods. This sandwich is like the Elvis of sandwiches, literally the flavor of the month. It was turned into a national craze by actress and blogger Tabitha Brown. 

(Tabitha Brown eating the sandwich in question)

Since her review, this sandwich has blown up, flames and all. There's a lot of hype around it, and she calls the sandwich "life changing." We'll see... The sandwich contains vegan tempeh bacon, garlic aioli, lettuce, tomato, and avocado. I would also like to add, that I made this sandwich at work, and then purchased it for $8.99. It also comes on a ciabatta roll, different from the panini style in the famed video. But that won't stop me from tackling this trendy sandwich of desires.  NOW, let's dig in!

Hurricane- Following the last 2 songs on Blood on the Tracks ("Shelter From the Storm," "Buckets of Rain"), one would not be remiss to think Dylan had gone into full blown meteorologist mode for good, since he is a man of invention. However, this is not the case. The song is less about weather allusions and 100% about Rubin "Hurricane" Carter ("Reuben" is also the name of a popular, delicious sandwich). You might remember him from Denzel Washington's depiction of said professional boxer who was thrown into prison for a murder of which he was later acquitted. Dylan takes a scathing shot at the Police state, racism, and the (in)justice system. Boom! Also, Dylan gets about as vulgar as he's ever gotten. Tipper Gore must have shat a nickel when she heard this one as Zimmy drops words like "ass" and "shit." Whoa!!!  Also, the song itself is a funky, hard edged hoedown that propels forward for 8 minutes and doesn't let up. A real fiddle driven punk-esque tune, years before Zimmy gave himself a mohawk outside of CBGB's at that Richard Hell show (I think)

(This is a goalie of the Hurricanes, waving a disavowing stick at American medical insurance, something Dylan probably has talked about)

Isis- Well, this is a touchy subject these days. Now, this blog will probably be on some sort of watch list. But hey, I'll take all the readers I can get, even you The Ghost of J. Edgar Hoover. Anyway, "Isis" is another super long, never ending cut. Fortunately, like "Hurricane," it's pretty damn cool. A slow jam full of dragging fiddles, piano pounding, and another empowered performance by Dylan. This song tells the overlong tale of a man lost in Egypt coming upon an empty tomb with his partner... Oh who cares. If you want a real story, read a book. In this case, just smoke a little wacky weed and take the trip with a man and his lost love, a girl named "Isis."

(Members of Isis being dicks, unrelated to the narrative of what our faithful narrator, Robert Zimmerman speaks of. These guys are terrible.)

Enough about Isis, and more about this TTLA sandwich. First off, is it life changing? Hmmm, let's see. Same amount of money still in my back account. I don't see any newborn children suddenly in my apartment. My limbs are still in tact, and a racist, reality television star is STILL our president. Nope, my life is about the same. However, it is DELICIOUS!  Let's continue on. More to come!

Mozambiqu- This ones a real WHALE of a song, virtually unpronounceable to the average grandmother who couldn't find it on a map. 9 minutes, baby! Strap in.  Apparently, cowriter Jacques Levy, wanted to see how many words he and Dylan could rhyme with the title, a South African country know best know for being a Bob Dylan song (not really). What they come up with in the end sounds kind of like if Jimmy Buffett started a not-half bad country jamboree band and invited Emmylou Harris to sing backups. Annoyingly catchy!

(like the song, here's a whale, one that sadly washed up on the shores of Mozambique) 

Back to the sandwich, which is half consumed and being eaten with great restraint. Now, anything with garlic aioli and avocado is going to be delicious. Really, if that's all that came on it, you've already got a winner. The garlic aioli alone is what DESIRES are made of. The smoky tempeh bacon is a vegan delight, adding a nice smoked finish to every bready bite. Wish the tomatoes were a bit more ripe, but such is the case when eating tomatoes in February. I would recommend toasting this. However, going at it cold is still delightful!

One More Cup of Coffee- Coffee is one of the greatest gifts the God has ever given us (but don't tell 1978 Dylan about no Gods, cause he's just a few short moves from going full-on religious zealot with a guitar). It's also a known fact, a fresh-faced boy known as Zimm-kid used to perform at coffee houses in a small town known as New York City, Manhattan. This is a 3 and half, middle-eastern meets spaghetti western tune, and it's the way to GO! Emmylou Harris adds some cool off-time vocal interludes, while you sit feeling like Rick Blaine waiting for a plane in Casablanca. 

Oh, Sister- Full disclosure. I have 1 brother, 0 sisters. So, according to Ancestory.com, this song is as close to a sister as I get. Here, Emmylou and Dylan mirror each other vocally as the fiddle screeches, the drums slow roll around, and the rest of the lot subtly move this impacting piece along. Basically, this song seems to have laid the template for a good amount of Will Oldham's work in the future. If you do not know Will Oldham's work, that ranks you in the majority of people standing in line at an Arby's.

Speaking of Arby's, they sell sandwiches, but they don't sell anything that compares to this TTLA sandwich. You may have the meats, but do you have the vegan meats? No, because you're "restaruant" chain is bullshit.

(another boner by Arby's)

Joey- 2 Also the name for a baby kangaroo, this song is actually not about that. Also, "Joey" is 4 letters, but this song is 11 minutes long. A staggering ratio! Brimming with confidence over Side A's opener, Dylan the Defendant tackles the story of mobster Joey Gallo who was gunned down in New York's Little Italy in '72. Well, unlike "Hurricane," this one seemed to find little sympathy with the general folk as Joey Gallo seems to have left his mark as somewhat of a historical scum bucket, eating lead due to his shitty dealings in the mob underworld. The song is one never-ending fiddle fuck fest; a bellowed ballad that lasts a year and day. If you zone out, it's bearable. This go-round, I find myself staring aimlessly at the walls, remembering why I usually skip right past "Joey."

(it is often believed the NY crime family syndicate was extinguished by one Richard Tracy, circa December '74, aka the release of The Godfather II). 

Romance In Durango- 2 So, being that "Joey" is 11 minutes long, that means my TTLA sandwich is about 10 min and 45 seconds gone. It was fun while it lasted. I DO recommend it, and I'm not being paid to say that. Grab one of these suckers, if your local Whole Foods participates in the craze. Now, back to the music....

Eww, if this ain't some doggone skin crawlin' title if I've ever heard one. Dylan, fresh off a Bowery burrito, shows off his bi-ligual chops, chops up tomatoes for a fresh salsa, and proudly sports his chops of mutton (see LP cover for reference). Overall, I could not care less about Dylan doing traditional Mexican themed music, even if he does have the wherewithal to name drop "tequila" mid song. While I like tequila in the right moment, I do not care for "Romance In Durango," a song which speaks of.... desires!

(Pictured: 2001 Dodge Durango; a possible place where one can experience romance, albeit in the roomy back-seating)

Black Diamond Bay- Things finally pick back up with the long, but killer song about an island blowing up via volcano eruption. Now, this is some Hollywood action you can sink your teeth into, once you're done with you TTLA sandwich! Apart from the handsome (if not goat-like) leading man, Zimmy Zimmerman killing it behind the mic, this song is a total hook filled, multi-layered narrative opus that propels its barbs and sticks to your skin like molten-lava. I'm not sure if lava has barbs though. Actually, molten-lava would burn through your skin at a tremendous rate, and is best when avoided by humans.

(Volcanologists speculate this song caused the filming of Dante's Peak, an unforgettable Bond film)

Sara- You might remember Sara as the thankless leading lady Dylan spent his entire album shitting on and sulking all over with Blood on the Tracks. She was also his one time wife, including being present in the studio of the time of recording; poor Sara, sitting bedside to her wordsmith husband, their lives coming undone and going their separate ways. Well, who am I to say all this stuff?  I ain't no marriage counselor. Actually, where Blood on the Tracks alluded to "Sara" and "marriage," this track basically says "hey world, I think I'm gettin' divorced!" The next year, it would become so. But here, Dylan weeps through 5 personal minutes of separating from his wife, the one he claims he'll never regret loving.....  unfortunately, Dylan had other deeeeessssiiiiiiirrrrres.

(Sara and Dylan, seconds after finding out he was a divorced man... with DESIRES)

So, who's up for something a little more light hearted?.... Oh, on that note, stay tuned at "Dinner with Dylan" for the rest of Robert Zimmerman's mostly underwhelming career! 

For my next dinner, I shall digest Dylan's 1978 Street Legal... where the ugliness begins to rear its head, forcing Dylan into a near 15-20 year creative coma!!!

"Say what?"- Bob Dylan, caught off guard for the next two decades.

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Basement Tapes (1975)

The Basement Tapes
(1975, Columbia Records)


(Vegetarian Jambalaya with Tofurky sausage)

Up until 1975, there were two things weird men in hats couldn't stop looking for. One is the Arc of the Covenant...

"You know it..." I. Jones

The other; Bob Dylan's LOST recordings he made with his backing band, The Hawks, back in 1967 following his "infamous" motorcycle accident.

"Truth bro..." Big Dylan fan with weird hat. 

This once long lost Holy Grail we now know as The Basement Tapes.

But wait, first off, what's all this with Dylan's backing band known as The Hawks?

(Reported photo from the first day of recording)

Well, your moms and pops would know this fabled band The Hawks as... uhhh, The Band. Some know them as those coked up dudes from the movie The Last Waltz. Yes, the soon to be multi-platinum selling artists started life backing up Bob Dylan in the basement... makin' tapes. Initially, Dylan joined forces with mostly Canadian The Hawks who worked as his backing band during his "electric" shows. These shows are often remembered for fans throwing up their souls onto their laps, while hurling garbage at Bob Dylan. Now-a-days, these are known as "the good years!" 

Following Dylan's fabled motorcycle accident, he retreated into a quiet life, putting the pieces (of his spine) back together. It was here, he invited members of The Hawks to woodshed some stuff in the basement of the Big Pink.

(The Big Pink, where the boys recorded this classic piece of smut)

On The Basement Tapes, Dylan was able to flex his wings, shed his French poet-on-speed-and-downers persona, and take in lungfuls of fresh country air. Through reported intense, therapeutic, and cathartic recording sessions, a double disc classic was born. Following the sessions, the often sought out, but rarely heard tapes stayed underground. Meanwhile, Dylan went about as a partial recluse, and occasional recording artist. The Hawks eventually morphed into The Band, making millions and working with Dylan on 1974's poorly named, ho-hum Planet Waves LP.

(For reference, this is The Band; five guys who enjoy sitting down)

Following the smashing success of Dylan's Blood on the Tracks, he allowed Columbia to release these much talked about tapes to the public, resulting in mutual aneurisms amongst rock critics. Dylanites were losing their skulls like Dylan on a wobbly motorcycle at a glimpse into the long lost past. Officially released in 1975, Dylan's 16th LP recorded between Blonde on Blonde and John Wesley Harding, essentially fills the gap between Blood on the Tracks and the rest of his fucking career.  

There's enough mythology and praise around this album to feed a nation of starving children, if mythology had nutritional value, so whatever I have to cry about on this entry is without merit. It's legacy is huge, even if my hunger for it isn't as great as everyone else.  Speaking of hunger, let's double down on this double LP.

Real quick on the topper of a meal that I'll be devouring tonight. Since this LPs a doubler and about 10 days long, I prepared myself a heaping, seemingly bottomless pot of Vegetarian Jambalaya. This low-rent Jambalaya concussion is a ricey dream stirred in with mass amounts of garlic, tender onions, crisp celery, with touches of crushed tomatoes, red bell pepper, hot sauce, and Tofurky Italian Sausage. Why Tofurky you ask? 'Cause I'm a rootin'-tootin' vegetarian you see. So, without any further ado, let's carb up with The Basement Tapes.

Odds and Ends- Bob Dylan is back... from 1967! In some ways, this is the prequel to Back to the Future. If you look closely, you can see a folded LP copy of this record in the back of Michael J. Fox's jeans during the malted shake scene. Anyway, the scratchier, thin production sets the tone for most of the record. Some call this the first lo-fi album, but I guess those people haven't heard a single blues 78? Here, Dylan and The Band do a honky tonk-like cry for feeling like used trash. If The Velvet Underground or Bowie did a song like this, it'd be cool for the young crowd. Here it's cool for the dads. Either way, I'm a sucker for this shit. Good stuff.

(Some say this Dylan-head loved the song so much, he posed in front of a picture of the title)

Orange Juice Blues (Blues For Breakfast)- 1  Ugghh, track 2 and already it's an ALL inclusive The Band tune, sung by bassist Richard Danko. See, one major drawback of this LP, there are flat out songs where Dylan's off takin' care of business on the toilet, and The Band essentially delivers an early demo of theirs (sometimes studio jams). Ultimately, I don't care about this, but if you're a Band-Aid (new name for fanatics of The Band), maybe this is heaven for y'all? If you like orange juice, The Band, and lame titles this one is like striking gold. Music from a white bluesy dumpster. To be fair, I like some of the The Band's music, outside of these solo outings on this record. They're just everywhere on this LP, so strap in.

Alright, time to dissect the rice dish I made. Man, I love rice on here. Guess, I love to choke on starch. This isn't too spicy, just the right amount. Thankfully, I knew when to take the throttle on dribbling on that hot sauce. Mmmmm.... and when it comes to garlic, gimme more!  If you're coming over for a pot-luck, or a million dollar bash, remind me to make this for y'all.

Million Dollar Bash- 4 What do you know, a song called "Million Dollar Bash," right after I referenced it. The luck of that. This is a real throwback here. Part 50's nostalgia, part laid-back swing rock, with a muddy scoop of crooning hillbilly sensibilities. Infectiously hypnotic, despite its cheesy choruses. Dylan sounds like a half rejuvenated man who's gotten his brains knocked back into semi-normie mode (sans lyrics about the "mashed potatoes") following that motorcycle accident.

(Here is Bob Dylan on a $10 bill as imagined by artist Jeremy Hara. If you had 100,000 Dylan bucks, you'd have 1,000,000 Dylan Dollars.... it's simple Dylan math)

Yazoo Street Scandal- 1 DYLAN DOES NOT APPEAR ON THIS TRACK.....Again... I'll get used to it with this collection. Real sleazy greasy vocal wise on here. This is the kind of song that makes you want to take a shower. Man, The Band is (mostly) a real bunch of crud. Ugh, quite funky in a bad way. This is one of the sleaziest sounding organ parts ever. uggh....

This Jambalaya went down quick during this one. Boy, I hate this song so much the only thing to do through it is hate-eat. Shoveling that shit in my mouth.... HOT damn, this song for aiding in my weight gain.

Goin' to Acapulco- 4 Dylan's back, and with it so is my appetite. No longer will I hate-shovel Jambalaya down my throat because of The Band. They don't control my eating habits!

 This song seems to be about traveling to Mexico for a real downer of a time goin' at it between the sheets with a woman of the night, because you hate yourself and what else is there in life (the song interpretation, not my life's credo)?  So that's kind of cool, I guess, if you wanna stay trapped in the mind of a lost soul suck in Mexico? This track's a slow drawl of hangover depression. Part Blonde on Blonde blues-balladry, part "dude hating himself with a hangover and empty pockets after a wild night."  

Katie's Been Gone- A real roots-rocker recorded as The Band without Dylan, so there some of that The Band ooogliness going on in here. Icky, but not as yucky as some of their other white boogie jams. This song is, at the very least enjoyable, and I can tape a toe to it. Will it stick in my memory bank? Hell No. But can I hate on it? Of course I can, but I won't.  As someone once said, "Hatred is the Devil's Phillips-Head screwdriver and if we give in, we're all screwed." The person who said that was me, just now.

(Actress Kate Hudson is a "Katie that's been gone," every time she leaves one location and moves on to another... for reference only)

Lo and behold my followers of the home-made Jambalaya.... I have finished my first plate, eating at a reasonable pace. Excuse my while I refill this plate of Cajun glory by way of NJ. 

Lo and Behold!- Dylan's back for side B. Okay, really for every second song I feel like I proclaim "Dylan's back." Dammit Zimmy, you're being too casual with your keys to the kingdom. The Band scuffles about with a fast paced little jive in the back with Dylan vocals up front. The song is a classic little basement tape gem. The chorus is awkward, but the whole thing is annoyingly catchy.  A mix of lo-fi dirty country with gospel hooks. Alright, I'll take it. 

Bessie Smith Oh man, more tracks from The Band, when all we wanna here is what went on in that BASEMENT. This is a studio track tacked on by Columbia Records. Fortunately, it's not half bad. If you like The Band, godblessya, one and all. If you don't, you might be able to hear it and be like, "Oh, OK? It's like yeah... What's on Netflix, bro."

A fan of The Band watching The Last Waltz on Netflix. 

Clothes Line Saga- 4  According to the history of music, and others who write about it, this is a riff on Bobbie Gentry's '67 hit "Ode to Billie Joe." Whatever the case, this is a narrative Dylan weaves in a monochromatic tone as The Band adds some bluesy bloops and streamlined strums behind our Zimmyteller. Mostly about wet clothes hanging on a clothes line while the neighbors inquire about them, which is pretty goddamn cool.

Bob Dylan, circa 1918.

Apple Suckling Tree- A real off-the-cuff traditional sounding romp as The Band and Dylan seem to be making this up almost on the spot. Some would call that improvisation. Others, jammin'.  A real sing-song bout of country nonsense. But what nonsense it is! Good clean fun that shines through brightly. Brilliant? No, not at all. But the more songs recorded like this in the world, the better. Hit record and commit everything to tape.

Alright faithful dinner followers... I gotta slow down with the rice. Seems the Gerd is catching up to me. For those who don't know what Gerd is, it feels a little something like this...

(actual photo my wife took of me right now? we my never know)

Gerd is the devil's play thing. For all rice eaters like myself, who can't stop indulging, this is a straight up bad time to be alive during any meal. Not only does your chest feel like it's being ripped apart with fire and swallowed sledgehammers, it prevents you from eating more rice at a rapid rate. Now that's a sin.

I shall plow through.... and we will ramble on with the Jambalaya! 

Please, Mrs. Henry- Dylan, vocally, comes off like he's walked out of an all-night Highway 61 Revisited session here. Tired and drunk and out for the sex, Dylan sounds like he's speaking through his COOOOL oversized '60s shades again. Well, after all, this was still the '60s. Thankfully during this sexist song about wanting to "pump a few," Dylan cracks a couple laughs. Man, being up in Woodstock must've really got this guy's testies in a vice. Hopefully, one day this man will find Jesus...

"Soon and very soon, I am going to see the King"- a mighty Saved Dylan from the Future.

Tears of Rage- Perhaps the most famous song from The Basement Tapes, "Tears of Rage," reflects upon the failing state of the nation in 1967, back when this was recorded. Fortunately, by 1975 these guys were WAY more into the cocaine than the senseless war in Veitnam. But to take a step back and examine this in the dim light of the basement, this is a wonderfully crafted pleading ballad of poetic heartbreak. Awesome. Sheer potency, and one of the reason these tapes deserved to be released.

Too Much of Nothing- So here we are moving ever so slowly through this basement skullduggery. Luckily, the opener of Side C (3?) is a fitting mix of normie rock and weirdo tendencies. The whole thing has an eerie feel, vocals and instruments reverberating. Then the buildup to the chorus sounds like a psychedelic circus. And then, the chorus is a falsetto out-of-left-field performance, sounding as if a testicle or two were accidentally snipped. Dylan and The Band were really gellin' on this one, testicles or not.

Yea! Heavy and a Bottle of Bread- Why can't Dylan and The Band ever seem to sing in unison? Must be drunk, or perhaps it's just "rustic." For whatever reason, this work perfectly 'cause this song is a freakshow mess. The lyrics are an incredibly stupid, somewhat amusing selection of weirdo sentences. The '60s man, am I right? I don't know if I'm right, but there certainly was a decade referred to as the '60s.  Anyways, this is like a wilder companion piece to "Too Much of Nothing."

Well, fellow people of the Fire of Chest community we call Gerd suffers, the Jambalaya has one. Despite being mighty full, I'm also packing this eating contest in due to chest pains.  Feels a little something like this...

So to that I say, let's just review the rest of this tome. While I'm at reviewing, can I say I'll give my made-from-scratch Jambalaya a solid 4.5 outta 5 stars. I ain't modest. 

Ain't No More Cane- The Band "steals" this Dylan composition and Columiba Records told ol' Plumber Zimmerman to head back to the basement and start plumbing them pipes some more. Here, The Band plays an old traditional work song and it ain't all bad. The harmonies are strong and the accordion's a slick choice, but it still kind of stinks.

Crash on the Levee (Down In the Flood)- Song's mainly constructed of a blaring organ and walking bass. A skeletal accostic strum ties it together in the back, as Dylan gets all old-time blues preachy about the flood coming through. Unfortunately it's non-too-memorable. Nobody likes a flood, but people like to sing about it, and all possible meaningful things that could lie underneath....

Other meaningful Floods include:
The Great Mississippi River Flood of 1927

Famed St. Louis Cardinal's Center Fielder Curt Flood

A really good record named Flood.

A Millionaire 

Ruben Remus- What is this? The Band doing kid's music? Okay, I'll break it down. The music isn't horrid. The recording has a terribly murky quality to it that somehow redeems it, but it's still a pile of shucked clams. MMMM, one of these diners I'm gonna make myself a Ruben.  Now we're talkin'.

Tiny Montgomery- 4 The song follows that "Highway 61 Revisited" formula, also known as a hackneyed blues formula. On that classic song, Dylan sounded like he was flying high on Grade A hashish. Here, Dr. Zimmerman sounds as if he chugged some Reubentusen and told The Band, "Gents, let's fffffffuuuuucccckkkkkkin'..... boogie!"

You Ain't Going Nowhere- 5 One of the greatest rock/folk/blues/country highbryd out there. Okay, the BETTER version was released by The Byrds back on their Sweethearts of the Rodeo LP, or so I say. But this version? Still, HOT DAMN! More off-the-cuff with shabbier vocal melodies and a tinge of wafting pot smoke still in the air, seeping through the floorboards into the second floor of the Big Pink.

Don't Ya Tell Henry- Ugggghhh, this is the complete opposite of the bliss of "You Ain't Going Nowhere." An exclusive The Band track that's about as insufferable as any George Thurogood b-side, or any side, for that matter. Apparently, this song was actually written by Dylan, and The Band deliver it in rockin' fashion. Pass.

Nothing Was Delivered- Speaking of The Byrds... They also recorded an incredible version of this eerie blues tune for Sweethearts of the Rodeo too. Man, those Byrds really knew how to cover a killer tune... umm, mostly by Dylan. A true gem from the basement.

The Byrds really liked Bob Dylan... and it made them lots of money. Facts. 

Open the Door, Homer- An song apparently written with novelist, and Dylan friend, Richare FariƱa in mind, as he'd recently passed away. Dylan and The Band sing "Open the door, Richard," every time instead of "homer," because they don't understand how lyrics and titles work. Oddly catchy, somewhat sad, longing, reflective, celebratory. All these adjectives, and it's not even a perfect song. BUT, it's a notable basement cut.

Long Distance Operator- 1 The Band lay down some sleazy rainy day sex voodoo here. That sick bass could charm a snake out of a forty year slumber in a basket of used gym socks. Nope. Almost worse than gettin' the Gerd.

This Wheel's on Fire- 5 A real overblown, forlorn, doomride of a closer. From the production, to the rising choruses, to the skittish rythms... Goddamn, not to mention the lyrics, which I don't like to mention, because I don't care what most people are singing about.... Anyway, let me catch my breath. I caught it and it's mine, and you can't have it. Epic closer to a unbalanced, undisputed, once unreleased classic by Bob Dylan and his good friends... The Band.

WELL.... there you have it folks... Another main meal down with Bob Dylan and The Band.  Join me next time as I tackle one of the last well received Dylan records (1976's Desire) before he began his multi-decade long decent into sheer madness, poor record sales, and terrible production choices.

Until next time, what'd ya say Bobby (with a Robbie on your shoulder)....

("Get in the Van....."- Bob Dylan, cracking puns to The Belfast Cowboy)

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Blood on the Tracks (1975)

Blood on the Tracks
(1975, Columbia Records)


(veggie black bean burger on toast, with tomato and vegan smoked gouda cheese)

Welcome to the Hungerdome my delightfully dining Dylanites. Are you ready for another entry into the 38 course meal that is reviewing EVERY Bob Dylan studio album ever made? Well, I hope so, because we're in for a heaping pile of BLOOD!!!... Served up ON THE TRACKS! Yes, it's time to tackle one of Zimmy's most beloved records of all-time. The true "comeback" of his career after releasing weirdo double LPs (Self-Portrait), Western soundtracks (Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid), contractual obligation records (Dylan), and something unfortunately named Planet Waves. Blood on the Tracks is to Dylan's career to what the Ten Commandments are to Moses; career defining!

(Moses snags a 180-gram copy of Blood on the Tracks, Record Store Day circa 323 BC)

First, let's talk about the ol' din din. As some of you may have seen, I was away for a while... Again!!! Like any fun, fulfilling thing in my life, I find it's nice to abandon from time to time and come back to on a rainy night. Yes, I am a model recipe for success.  So welcome back to, my faithful readers. Tonight, we've got a delectable black bean burger, wedged between two perfectly toasted pieces of whole grain wheat bread. One ripe ass tomato accentuates the black bean heartiness, all smothered with a gooey layer of vegan smoked gouda cheese purchased from the trusty local Whole Foods. I will say I have two of these bad boy sandwiches on hand because I will certainly plow through one before the first track. Both were lovingly prepared for me by my girlfriend, who continues to think this blog is something of a good idea. Moses bless you, my dear for not sending me to the nut house years ago.

NOW.. on to the record.  This is one famous record. Why so famous? Because it just is, okay?  Basically, Dylan came out of left field after kicking up dirt, recycling ideas, putting out substandard music, and walloped the world with long, emotionally resonant folk-rock full of piercing lyrics, subtly killer hooks, and over long songs that somehow feel breezier than the (idiot) wind. It was a return to form, and an expansion, on Dylan's ever growing cannon that seemingly came out of nowhere. Well, mostly it came from divorce. 

The record alsomarked Dylan's return to Columbia records after jumping ship for Asylum Records for Planet Waves (along with his live LP with The Band, Before the Flood). On the historic side of things, Dylan recorded the whole record in New York, prepared it for release, and then scrapped the whole damn thing right into the toilet. Must be nice being so prolific... Right Baha Men?

(one of many1 hit wonders still waiting to get their foot in the prolific game)

After completing the record, and with a Christmas-time release set, Dylan rerecorded all the songs in his home state of Minnesota at the 11th hour. Following the Minnesota sessions, Zimmy sat around contemplating his stack of tracks, rescuing some of the NY sessions from the gutter. The resulting record of infamy is a 50/50 split from both recording sessions, or some similar ratio... I'm bad at math.

In a famous twist of wasting recording engineers time,  bootlegs from both these recording sessions have been forever traded and nitpicked to no end by a bunch of losers who have nothing better to do than trade bootlegs and review every single goddamn song... I mean who would review every song?

(a dramatization of myself, taking a moment to think about myself)

Speaking of losers (and a famous loser at that), Dylan himself was losing HARD at this point. The whole record, although somewhat denied by Zimmerman himself (who's denied tons of true things in his lying-sack-of-hit career), is an allegory for his recent messy divorce with his wife Sara. You'll recall Sara as the inspiration behind Dylan's epic "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowland," and for patting his head with a cool washcloth after he broke his neck on his motorcycle. His better half, and mother to his children was gone. Dylan was out for blood. And there's blood on these tracks. Wait? Tracks as in "songs" or tracks as in "tracks"? Either way, this record title is cool as ice and way better than say, Planet Waves. Seriously, what the fuck does that mean?

What ever this record's about, you can read about the great debates in a book at your local library, if they still carry Dylan debate books in stacks. 

Quick note. The cover itself is rather famous, featuring one's view of Bob Dylan through a sort of frosted glass looking like The Penguin with a wig and shades. It's not winning any awards for originality, but damn that cover is famous.

(alternate "unreleased"version of the LP cover shown above)

Without any further ado, I'll stop typing, start listening, and begin savoring my black bean patty melt with a side of salt and vinegar chips. Did I mention I have chips? Regardless, join me on my strange trips through possibly the greatest mid-career reformation records of all time. 

Tangled Up in Blue- Perhaps the best known song off the album. It pops on the overhead at supermarkets once in a blue moon, and sometimes classic rock radio gives it the time of day. However, this does not mean you can stop right here. Oh no folks. If I have to eat 20 of these black bean patty melts before this LP is over, then so be it. You'll have to suffer the burn along with me. Flat out, this opener is fantastic! Dylan drops about 3000 words on us (like the old days before he was a country bumpkin, or playing stripped down ditties with The Band), recanting a tortured narrative while dropping a repetitive quality hook, all to a jangled country folk-rock background. Gone is the white roots groove funk of The Band's influence of Planet Waves, but still doesn't mean this song is the whitest blues to hit the market until this guy came chompin' about...

(The title is often misinterpreted as when one runs their fingers through Cookie Monsters fur after a night on the town)

Simple Twist of Fate- 5  So, this black bean burger is kind of the pits on its own. I'll admit it. It's a frozen ass patty purchased for peanuts at Aldi, which is a super savings mishmash of almost quality food. It's got calories, it gets the job done, but it's not going to floor Gordon Ramsey anytime soon.

(Gordon Ramsay making someone listen to Blood on the Tracks through breadphones)

Still, this sandwich is SAVED (not to be confused with Dylan's 1980 gospel LP), by the ripe ass tomato and the vegan smoked gouda. It's like eating bacon in cheese form. Smoke up, Johnny!

In the song department, while the opener was one of the Minneapolis recorded tracks, here we get the first cut from the original New York sessions. Essentially, Dylan drops a pain drenched acoustic chronicle under the guise of breezy uplifting strumming. Narrator Zim comes at the lister with a sparse inward tale, and then slathers it off with some harmonica blues that actually doesn't pierce one's eardrum for a change. This one can make you feel all sorts of churnked up ways, so sit back and be happy you're not some rock stars wife who's world famous husband is writing an album about you (allegedly). 

You're a Big Girl Now- This song is all mucked up by a horrid Muzak-type feel, topped off with spine numbing flamenco guitar. Ugh, and those crisp hi-hat tickles and piano frills is enough to make any self-respecting rock fan upchuck a bit of spittle on their pair of Chuck Taylor's. Fortunately, the song as a whole is pretty goddamn great despite seeming hellbent on appealing to Upper Class folks, perpetually in their 60's. Lyrically, more pain from divorced Dylan. He admits it, but hey dude... Ya fucked up.

You know what's not fucked up? This sandwich! One down... One to go. If you're gonna pick a tomato, pick the RIPE one. Ohhhhhh!

(Dr. Dylan pictured with wife Sara and son Jakob in the late '60s. Some historians credit this as the original line-up of '90s alt-rock darlings The Wallflowers)

Idiot Wind- The nearly 8 minute epic of the LP is a pretty blatant "shut your dang mouth, and zip up my nagging weirdo wife, I'm Bob Dylan and you're my wife and I wish I was dead, and shut up already," which is a stark contrast to such other beautiful epics written to wife Sara (see Blonde on Blonde's "Sad Eyed Lady of the Low Land). Again, Dylan says this ain't about her, but good LORD this is a scathing piece of art that happened to perfectly coincide with a torrid separation. Regardless, one of the greatest Dylan songs in the catalog, bar none! The whole track boils, the organ screams in the background, Dylan sounding flat-out unhinged at parts, but somehow it manages to not fly off the handle (although the same can't be said of his '66 motorcycle accident).

(a dramatization of the infamous Dylan bike wreck)

You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go- After the Dylan exhausted all his Minnesotan rage in "Idiot Wind," he pulls back a bit here. How unhappy can one man be? I'll tell you how unhappy? How about finishing your second sandwich before the second side of the LP? I'm mad at my lack of self control. So mad, I've moved on to eating through half this back of salt and vinegar chips, and boy is the roof of my mouth tired. These chips should come with an insurance policy. Must the entire roof of my mouth burn? Will I ever learn?
Sorry, got sidetracked as to what I'm gonna eat for the rest of this masterpiece. Through this song, Dylan spits out lyrics like the lost 4th member of the Beastie Boys (minus most rhymes and pop culture references, but Jewish all the way), a torrid of lyrics comes spewing out over an acoustic folk-country shuffle held together by some busy bass work. So short and simple, you'll wanna revisit before moving on to the next side. 

Meet Me in the Morning- 3 nod back to the Blond on Blonde LP, Dylan delivers a real smokey, blues number that nearly falls victim to the lame-ass qualities that made Planet Waves half a bummer. Still, in context of the record, "Meet Me in the Morning," is both lyrically and musically bland, unlike this..... Which I finished eating during "Idiot Wind," because as an American glutton, I can't possibly eat any slower. 

Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts- Okay, if "Idiot Wind" wasn't long enough for you, take a couple weeks off of work and start doing a hoedown to Dylan's jovial oompah-rocker. At nearly 9 minutes long, this is a quality listen while waiting for your fingernails to dry. Also, despite its anti-early-era-Napalm Death song length, this song is a one hell of catchy, good ol' time ride. Imagine  if the "Chicken Dance" was actually cool and reworked by a masquerading folk poet from Minnesota. Also, if you're a fan of words, this song has most of them in it.

(It's believed the song inspired this best selling comic book, and spawned such blockbusters as X-Men: Origins, The Avengers, and the Robin Williams' family friendly, freak-child saga Jack).

If You See Her, Say Hello- A prickly send-off and impaired well wishes to his estranged wife Sara, after he dragged he figuratively dragged her through the mud on "Idiot Wind." Dank Dylan turns inward again, possibly singing this one up toward the moon as Sara packs up the family wagon, throwing little Jakob in the back, and driving off with one headlight. Musically, as well as vocally, this stands as a beautiful throwback to the glory days of Dylan's mid-60s French Folk poet/rocker phase. Lyrically, it bares all sorts of wounds for all parties involved. 

Shelter From the Storm- The first of two tracks that close out the LP and make music critics and meteoroligsts all giddy in their low pressure systems. A straight acoustic tune with bass backbone, Dylan runs through lyrical cycles, diverging never from a series of four lines, capped off with "come in I'll give you shelter from the storm." A goddamn classic worthy of repeated listens. Extra bonus for unbridled guitar pick clunking making an intrusive appeareance from start to finish. A song that both brings images of sunshine and humid rain showers.... Sounds to me like the perfect mix for a....

Buckets of Rain- 4 Dylan lets his acoustic guitar do most of the talkin' here. He does plenty of nasally goat-like singing too. However, the stabbing guitar walk downs played over the subtle bass melody really makes the song. Dylan pops in with a low-key performance vocally, including quick barbed hook for your listening pleasure, and together it all works as the perfect closer to a real album of bullshit, one sided marriage counseling.


("I don't wanna go down to the basement?" - Bob Dylan, reading songs title of the first Ramones LP in a confused voice outside of CBGBs with Allen Ginsberg).