Friday, October 21, 2016

Self Portrait (1970)

Self Portrait
(1970, Columbia Records)


(pancakes, "angel tears," and vegan sausage links)

Strap in for a wild ride on a doomsday device, cause I'm talkin' Self Portrait, baby. This record is often referred to as Dylan's strangest record. So, I thought I'd be an adult about this and do something downright wacky for dinner tonight. I have prepared myself 3 frozen pancakes (there's 3 more on reserve if needed, which they will most certainly be because I am more food-beast than gentleman), along with 5 links of microwavable Morning Star vegan breakfast sausages. I've topped it off with the tears of angels. Yes, also known as "syrup." Every thing is ass backwards, and I'm sure I'll make it through this dinner before I plow through even a quarter of this 24 song American MONSTERpiece.

Perhaps no better time to review this steaming pile of notes, this dinner comes a week after Bob Dylan's real life ascension into the pantheon of Nobel Prize winners for Literature. Well, here's a real study in the absurd for you scholars. So, after nearly a decade of influential, ground breaking, critically lauded work, we reach the bottom of the barrel. Perhaps debated as much as it's hated we've reached the controversial,  2nd double LP of his career, Self Portrait. 

In the days of yore, exceptional rock critic and full-time Dylan obsessor, Griel Marcus, opened his Rolling Stone review for this LP with the now infamous  line: "What is this shit?" Well, let's sit through it together and find the F# out.

Many have called this Bob Dylan's career suicide record, a contractual obligation of sorts. Such things had been done before, and as such continue to live neatly tucked away in the far recesses of our brains, and the internet...   Check out one of the great Van Morrison career highlights from his great "lost" contracutal obligation record below.

(I mean, it could be ring worm, y'know?)

Over the years, fans and curiosity seekers have come to Self Portrait's defense, offering up wild explanations about it's arguably horrid nature, jumbled ideas, half-assed covers, and its arching baffling quality. Hell, even Dylan himself confessed to painting the ridiculous album cover in under 10 minutes (Looks like a handsome devil, put through a fun house mirror of oil paints if ya ask me). I mean really, it's sort of postmodern art mixed with the Mobile Alabama leprechaun sketch.

(OR is this Dylan's unreleased Amateur Sketch LP from 1971, as rarely rumored)

Mostly sung in Dylan's country affected Nashville Skyline meatball-in-the-throat style, the whole hodgepodge is daunting to say the least. In reality, the LP is mostly a collection of what Dylan once described as practice tapes made before other recording sessions while in Nashville. In this sense, Dylan has offered up the explanation that this is own self-released bootleg record. Others have speculated this album helped rid this burdened Zimmy of any remaining "hero of a generation" status from the man at the time. Still, others revel in all that is Self Portrait, holding it in such regard as, say, The Shaggs' Philosophy of the World. Truly, a record that defies explanation, a perhaps only remains interesting without a definitive answer. 

At any rate, let's dig into this heaping pile of polarizing carpola together. CHEERS, and don't choke to death!

All the Tired Horses- Okay, a group of women are seemingly stuck in an echo chamber, repeating the same damn line over and over. From the horizon, acoustic strums and some subtle orchestration sweeps in and out and swell about. All the while, the female singers keep singing, "All the tired horses in the sun, how my 'supposed to get any riding done?" I'm beginning to wonder myself. I didn't know this was an issue I was supposed to think about as I sat down with my pancakes. But now I begin to worry on the 49th or 52nd time they've repeated this sentiment, "YES! How am I supposed to get any riding done, indeed?" Well, this song is kinda of terrible, but also oddly gripping. Seems to never end, which is a major drawback for a 3 minute opener on a 24 song LP.  Also, I once put this album on a few years back and fell asleep before this song was over. I eventually woke up somewhere around track 17, which is like going through a slow motion nightmare to find you're still not done listening to Self Portrait. Oddly hypnotic, I guess. 

Alberta #1- op-----------kjl7fg6v7y  What you see before you is the first published works from my Tuxedo cat, Maisy. I know my other cats, Iris and Mitzi have published some work on pervious blog posts, but now this little stinker?  Maybe Maisy did too. I don't know, these felines are prolific! I got up and paused this record to fetch some added angel tears (syrup), and she took over. Figure I'd leave it because it fits perfectly in the sense of Self Portrait, and properly sums up the LP better than most critics can. Nice work Maisy.

Anyway, Bob Dylan's back on this track, finally dropping some honest to goodness Dylan vocals, none of which mention "horses." Here, a mix of electric Dylan collides with some of that leftover country croon from his past couple LPs. This song's a traditional blues number, or so the liner notes tell me. It shuffles sleepily along, the bass sounding like a doe eyed bassett hound on sedatives. Love the out off synch backing vocals from what can only be described as a makeshift choir section.

(This is Maisy, who looks suspiciously like the above "leprechaun sketch" but without the hat. Mystery debunked.)

I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know- There's that Dylan country croon we've come to know and love (to hate). Just joshing, Mr Zimmy. Here, Dylan tackles an old country number 1 HIT, from Skeeter and Betty Jack Davis. The song itself was written by Cecil A. Null. Again, how do I know this? Reading about it, and reporting the facts. And now you've read it, and you'll remember it for a night and both impress and annoy your friends who want to receive exactly none of this information. This is some sleepy, sappy, corny, straight-up county! You can almost see the neon glow of the buzzing Schlitz sign over your shoulder, hear the clunk of a cowboy boot on the hardwood.  And yet, overall, it's somewhat comforting, but far from brilliant.

(a real-life cowboy still trying to "get" Dylan's Self Portrait since its release)

Day of 49- Dylan lays it down pretty straight. Doing what he does most on the LP, Zimmy counterattacks with another cover, this one about the Gold Rush. It's 5 straight shooting minutes of piano, guitar, drums mid-tempo folk rock. Nowhere near as radical as anything from when Dylan went electric, but passable. Interesting mainly for two things; Dylan stumbling and fumbling through several lines and just leaving it on tape, and for the outlandish DUCK sounding instrument melodically farting in the background. Fart on, you melodic duck!

(WARNING: this album may contain duck farts)

Early Mornin' Rain- Dylan decides to cover Canadian folk hero (as he is a monster of Canadian folk), Gordon Lightfoot. However, this one is a 3 lifeless minutes of snooze piano, harmonica sections accented by creepy flamanco guitars, all built around paralysis inducing verses.  Also, I hope you're happy. I've gotten syrup on the keyboard now, adding to the many things that have become lodged in my keyboard since the first post. Who did I think I was bringing syrup around a computer? I am not GOD, but a mere man. Oh boy, how do I clean this? Gross. The rest of this review will be a squeamish exercise in why I can't have nice things.

(how I now feel following my Angel Tear follies)

In Search of Little Sadie- This is a strange stripped down tune where Dylan basically throws in the kitchen sink, although he apparently never threw a kitchen sink at any of his studio musicians. For all of his fault, Zimmy is not a sink thrower. This one is actually a Dylan original, a retelling of the song "Little Sadie," which he decides to cover 2 songs later, of course, because this LP is full of dumb ideas. The song's basically a two-parter, shifting gears mid song for no good reason except that this album is one big "kiss my ass" in a world full of puckered lips. Have I mentioned this is a strange LP?

Let It Be Me- Okay, side one done. The dinner is long done because it's a small dinner, but the memory remains.... of syrup.

(Metallica in a syrup commercial)

Still, this goop is on the keyboard. Syrup is like glitter; get it on something and it regenerates itself. F this! I'm heating up more frozen pancakes as a reward for getting through side A, and enjoying it as much as I did.

Okay, I'm back to report on the song, and not syrup. Originally written by French composer, Gilber B├ęcaud, it was later made semi-famous by the Everly Brothers, the envy of all kids snatching up 45's at the 5 and Dime. If you're on a  bullet train to Schmaltz City, let this song be your ride ticket. That's some thunderous piano balladry in the mix but a spine tingling number in bad taste.

Little Sadie- Dylan sings this traditional folk song that would make any old toothless man in butt-flap pajamas want to pogo around with a jug. Included in the mix, some extraneous bongos? Sure, why not? 2 bizarre minutes that the world could've certainly done without, but glad to have it. 

Woogie Boogie- Here, we find a short Dylan original. The man who once wrote "Positively 4th Street," "Just Like a Woman," and "Masters of War," now drops a little ditty named "Woogie Boogie" on us, like a piano falling from a crane on a hapless dog (the dog was not injured, thankfully). So what we have here is simply a "boogie." The piano boogies, the guitar boogies, the bass... you guessed it.  BOOGIES. Everything about this song also does sort of "woogie" as well. It can't be disputed that it doesn't lack in the woogie department. Near the end, a killer sax rips in and that boogies too. And we woogie on out with the sax blasting like the session player were auditioning for the SNL band 5 years to soon.

(other examples of "boogies" that have been "woogied" out of one's body)

Belle Isle- A traditional folkie piece that Dylan digs out of the gutter. Vocally, Dylan sounds like the young prince of Greenwich Village again, but the orchestration crushes the life out of this one. It's so out of place, one can almost sit stunned at the inclusion of such heavy handed bullshit in a two minute folk piece. And yet, it's so weird, I kind of love it.

Living the Blues- Dylan walks the fine line between sarcasm and straight up cornball.  A tongue-in-cheek piece. Is Dylan both nodding and winking at us, simultaneously? Who cares. Kudos to the old-timie radio style backing vocals. Crummy stuff here. 

Like A Rolling Stone (live)- Here's the first of a bunch of weirdo live songs that appear for some reason on this over-stuffed album. The recordings are from Dylan's somewhat famed performance at the Isle of Wright festival in 1969. The festival took place in a relatively unkonwn English town (to your average American folk eating hamburgers and lighting fireworks), and attracted Woodstock like numbers, but significantly less. The big deal in '69 was the return of live Dylan, after laying low from that sketchy motorcycle accident. And let me tell you, based on this crooning bullshit version of "Like a Rolling Stone," I'm sure many fans were like, "let's take selfies at the Red Bull truck and snag some $4 bottles of water than continuing to listening to this shit." If you listen closely, you can hear the sound of colleges kids tipping over ATMs and climbing the scaffolding.

Still a lot of Dylanites like this live set, so I'll shut my mouth, or lick the syrup off my fingers. Ewww.

(possible footage from Dylan's Isle of Wright Fest set in '69. Fans were excited to see them some Live Zim!)

Copper Kettle- Here, Dyaln covers a song by folkie Alfred Frank Beddoe who wrote this in the '50s.... the 1650's!!! (when folk meant something, am I right?). But, no, really. Here Dylan gives a strong vocal performance. The instrumentation is lush but still feels wholly appropriate. The female harmonies in the back are near perfect, if not somewhat ridiculous. Dylan's best showing of the LP, possibly.

(An artifact no Dylan fan can live without, this can be purchased on

Gotta Travel On- Dylan tackles a country hit from the late '50s and turns this into some snarled-lipped country rock. This whole song feels like it's covered in dirt, much like my keyboard is continuing to remind me it's covered in syrup. What a terrible dinner this has turned out to be. Also, I'm hungry! Next week, I'm gonna make a meal and stop trying to be "clever" with stupid pancakes. On a different note, if you're a fan of bongos, head over to this song and here them blasting out of the right speaker. Man. Bongo FURY! But this is some Allman Brothers or Lynrd Skynrd type stuff pre-dating the both bands. But most certainly, this song does not predate bongos.

(Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart appear on the cover of Bongo Fury, released years after Self Portrait. It should be noted that both Zappa and Beeheart would have made welcome additions to Self Portrait)

Blue Moon- 1 Uggghh, this sums up this whole LP. What is happening? But who gives a flyin' flip? I'm personally glad this horrible cover of a horrid song is on here because it wouldn't be Dylan's weirdest album full of tracks sort of him literally shooting himself in the foot. Love that piercing violin outro. So horrid it's also pretty great.

(Blue Moon is also a beer that everyone claimed they hated years back until everyone found out all their friends secretly loved it, despite everyone claiming they hated it, and now it's okay to be yourself.) 

The Boxer- Mr. Zimmy gets contemporary for the kids and tackles Queens, NY's greatest export since Mr. Met Bobbleheads, Simon and Garfunkel. Mind you, this was before The Ramones so Dylan had to reference these balding beaus. As the history of this song supposedly goes, "The Boxer" is  possible slander towards Bob Dylan for denouncing his folk roots. SO, in a great strategic attack, Dylan covers it, does a terrible job doing so, and makes a mockery out of the whole thing. Others say, that's all speculation, but man this is a terrible cover. Botched from top to bottom, and beaming with irreverence. Gotta love it!

(One time, this boxer bit off another boxer's ear, somewhat controversially). 

The Mighty Quinn (Quinn the Eskimo) (live)- This song would eventually get an official release on The Basement Tapes but here, we get it for the first time. Yes, this is another senseless inclusion of a live track from the Isle of Wright Festival. Dylan and The Band are at least giving it the ol' dirty try here. Unlike "Like a Rolling Stone," this one really pushes forward, frolicking about in its upstate NY country glory by way of the UK.

(more scenes from the Isle of Wright fest, I think)

Take Me As I Am (Or Let Me Go)- Another semi-lifeless country cover to round out the third side here. Originally recrorded by country legend Boudreaux Bryant (who recorded tons of songs with his wife, Felice). I've currently heard zero originals of theirs compared to Dylan's one cover at this point in my tenure on God's green pastures. This is a mix of straight country and falling comatose, face down in a smoldering ashtray.

Take a Message To Mary- So if you liked the last song, welcome to this song. Yes, Dylan's covering the Bryant's again. Speaking of covering, and the Everly Brothers (as I did earlier), the Bryant's wrote a bunch of songs for the Everly Brother's in the late '50s. So there's that strange connection. "The world is a weird place maaaaannnn"- Dylan in, like, '65. Unlike the constant snooze alarm of the "Take Me..." this is a catchy, strongly played ditty with killer backing female harmonies.

It Hurts Me Too- A totally stripped down blues original penned by Dylan, buried at the end of this massive album of junk. Not breaking any boundaries here, musically and especially lyrically. Still, this is a welcome reprieve after mostly wishing I could be listening to anything else at this point. Wait, what am I saying? This album is kind of cool! Ughhhh. Art is complicated, maaaaaaaaannnn.

("Fuck art, Let's Dance"???? I guess this was taken at the Isle of Wright festival? Pictures are worth  a thousand words). 

Minstrel Boy (Live)- The next two live songs are from that same damned Isle of Wright Festival (possibly pictured above) I keep bringing up. I keep mentioning it because Dylan was brought there, and then he brought the songs here. What a circle. So this was the only known recording of this song until the official Bootleg collections of The Basement Tapes were released nearly 40 years later in 2014. Whatever... This song's got some cool drunk guy vocal harmonies at the beginning. I'm checking out and my inner Griel Marcus is calling... "What is this shit?"

She Belongs to Me (Live)- 2 The great song from Bringing It All Back Home is redone here with The Band adding that funky, country bass hustle and horrid jangled bluesy riffs no one asked for. Imagine going to see your favorite artists and a bunch of moronic frat dudes come out with their blues chops and take a shit all over it.  The Band are really shitty most of the time. Just ask Robbie Robertson. He's probably like, "I don't care what you say. Just pick up a copy of The Last Waltz on Blu-ray today!"

Wigwam- 3 Officially, this was the only single released from this album. How 'bout that trivia? Can't you just picture all the teens in their bellbottoms and Nixon fronted "Not My President" t-shirts running out of the record stores clutching a copy of something called "Wigwam." Anyway, if you can't I'll describe this to you in a pictures.

(kids going to grab their copy of "Wigwam" at a Chicago Whitesox game, some 9 years later)

 First off, for this being the only single off the album...  How do I put this? THERE ARE NO LYRICS! Just blaring horns, and Dylan babbling a melody like he's intoxicated.  Screw it, this record is kinda great.

Alberta #2- How do you round out the crummiest record of your career to date? Bring back the second song of the LP to close it out. Unfortunately for us, this is a few shades cornier than the first, by a smidge (which is like a 'smudge,' but cuter).  The rhythm is tighter here, but I prefer less county-rock bop... and more...

I really don't care for Kidz Bop to tell you the truth. But after all this, I'm fatigued and open to anything, I guess. 

Well, I made it through this album for the second time in my life in one sitting. The rest has been pieced together. At least you finally have a treasure map of how to navigate one the greatest career suicide records ever released. Also, I'd advise against syrup and bring a couple of Advil with you. 

Join me next week as Bob Zimmerman returns to the market a mere 4 months later with a "real" LP, and attempt to show the world he was just yankin' everyone's chains with this Self Portrait tome of magnetic tape and etched wax.  

(Bob Dylan, in search of another chain to yank, circa "after the '80s")

Until next time! 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Nashville Skyline (1969)

Nashville Skyline
(1969, Columbia Records)


(Creole Mushroom Soup with extra creole seasoning. Looks more like a pile of corn stew mixed with vomit than a soup, but so it goes. Also, I've had this before, as my Blonde on Blonde will prove.)

Well don't little Bobby Dylan just look like he's havin' the darndest time havin' such a darn good time?

And well, I'll be a raccoon's skinned ass if this ain't the shortest Bob Dylan record he's released to date. I mean, just 3 years ago (in '60s speak) he released rock n roll's FIRST double LP, and here, at under 30 minutes he put out rock's first SoCal hardcore-lengthed country record. Hell, some could call this the first grindcore record minus 110% of the the grindcore.

(not Bob Dylan circa Nashville Skyline)

With John Wesley Harding, Dylan had shed the electric ROCK stigma that had turned his folkies, and probably his folks, against him. Following his "questionable" motorcycle accident, he seemed to get a screw or two knocked loose, or back into place depending on your feelings on brain screws. Dylan had not only shed the electric geetar, but he was playing some rootsy, down-home, deep woods country laced with traces of his folk beginnings. On Nashville Skyline, Dylan reinvented himself, yet again, into a well-oiled, country machine.

Perhaps what's most stark, and talked about, on this record is Dylan's vocals. Is this Bob Dylan at all, or some impostor??? Perhaps fans should have been looking into his post accident "death clues" instead of bothering poor Sir Paul McCartney.... uhhhh, I mean Billy Shears (play your Beatles records backwards, and see what truths you'll find, my friends. It will scare you for eons). But here, in 1969, gone are the days of Bob Dylan slowly morphing into a goat, eating discarded cans of beans on the side of the road and shitting in vast pastures. No, a goat  he is not. Here, Zimmy sounds like he's a deep-voiced country crooner going after the heart of southern belle.

Mind you, this is 1969. Vietnam is raging. The Woodstock music festival is still several months away, and the Hell's Angels are still looking to stab someone during Rolling Stones' songs later in the year at Altamont. Eveyone's favorite punchline, Richard Milieus Nixon, had just taken office a few months prior, and what's America's voice of generation doing? Well, singing lovely little country songs for the teenage public, dontcha know. Oh, Bob. You slay us.

Also, first a second about my meal. I really do apologize, folks. These pictures of my dinners are getting worse and worse. In fact, it's the same picture I've previously used because I ate the whole thing without taking a picture of it this go-round. Regardless, this picture looks more like a punishment than nourishment. It looks like something you wouldn't give a death row inmate who personally wronged you. It looks like the way a lot of people think Self Portrait sounds. But believe you me, this thing is GREAT! So great, I decided to eat it twice. Unlike, Dylan, I do not reinvent my meals, for I am on a budget and needed a good ribsticker of a meal. It's a cream base, with mushrooms, some added carrots, and boat loads of corn mixed with with Creole seasoning. Got a bit of a kick.

So let's kick out the jams, like Bob Dylan should have said at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago if he was still the political leader of the free world.

(Instead, these guys said it followed by the word "m**********r." This is not Dylan or The Band, who are sometimes none to use WORSE language!)

Further more, here's to memories of guerrilla style jungle warfare and widespread LSD droppage. Sit back, relax, and twang away with Bob Dylan ushering out the '60s, Nashville style.  

 Girl From the North Country- Well this one sounds familiar. If you've got half a brain or care as much about Bob Dylan as rock critics of the past 50 years do, you'd know this song like the back of your On the Road paperback. Previously released on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan WAAAAYYY back in '63, here we get a new version of the same song recorded with the Man in Black. No, not Tommy Lee Jones you UFO loving dumbbell. I'm speaking of Johnny Cash. What a beautiful, subtle duet. Guitars and vocals only through most, with a distant snare shuffle in the right speaker. Chilling,  and downright lovely, unlike the Men in Black franchise.

(it is somewhat disputed amongst cirtics: who originally penned the song "Ring of Fire"? Some say Johnny Cash, while others might say TLJ)

Nashville Sklyline Rag- Okay, I didn't mention it during the opener, but it sounds like Dylan's got a meatball stuck in his throat. A real, genuine meatball.
(Exhibit A: Meatball)

On this one, we ain't gotta worry about no meatball sounds, cause Dylan goes instrumental. We got some bass geetar a-bouncin', the harmonica is distant and pleasant, the guitar rambles along. The electric guitar solo is about as enjoyably hayseed as they come. Damn, this is some good stuff, even if I know less about country than I might about folk music. (deduct/add three numerical points for every Dylan song I rank not released from '64-'66).

To Be Alone With You- Ol' Meatball Throat is back. Compared to the balladry of the opener, and the country knee-slapper of the last track, "To Be Alone With You" sounds like outlaw rock! The bass bounces along, the piano's back in the mix boogieing, and the guitar leads prick and prod like a Nashville hornet with shitkickers on. It's a short, good time affair. Can't hate on this, unless your middle name is "Hate." And if it is, your parents are very senseless for naming you that.

Okay, so with my "soup," I gotta say, this is more like a pasty creamed corn nightmare, that I still can't get right. The corn has sucked up all the soup base and turned this into a gluey goodness. I can't get enough of this, but I'd be damned if I were ever to say Welcome to my home. Here eat something to make you feel like you're on skid row. But I'm telling you, one bite and you'd be out of your skull with the flavor of this stuff. Here's a good time to promote Tony Chachere's ORIGINAL Creole Seasoning. It makes life taste better.

(hopefully this Tony Chachere is a fan of Dylan's and will not slap a lawsuit on my front door with his Creole seasoned stained hands).

I Threw It All Away- 4 If this ain't the most beautifully lush song you've ever heard by Bob Dylan, then that's because you heard one of Dylan's other beautifully lush songs. However, this ranks up there with one of the more heartbreaking little ditties. Pensive country, full of reverb, regret, and hushed organ trills of pain.

(what it looks like when you literally "throw it all away." Not so pleasant now, is it Zimmy?)

Peggy Day- Whimsical guitar ushers us in and off we go into the golly-gee, doggone, bygone days of yore. One cheesy affair that hasn't aged well, as a whole bunch of Dylan disciples cribbing on The Basement Tapes and this very LP went on to make a stupid career out of music like this. Mostly, I'm referring to a band called The Band.

("Am I cool yet?" - the credo of Robbie Robertson, the man with a dumb name).

Lay Lady Lay-
So, by the power of Wikipedia, I have found out that the aforementioned, Tony Chachere, of Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning died in 1995, so hopefully his estate will not sue me. It is also safe to say he is currently not reading this. Thank you for your seasoning and contributions to the culinary world, Tony Chachere of Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning. I hope you were a decent person who liked to season the night away while listening to Nashville Skyline.

Okay, this one of Dylan's most covered, and famous, songs according to my friend Justim who works at the Library of Congress. Justim knows everything. Anyway, everything about this song is subtle and essential. The percussion, the sparse bass root notes, the distant pedal steel. The entire song's mostly constructed of longer verses drilled home by the unexpectedly short choruses. Dylan sounds upfront in the mix, as if alone in an auditorium while the band (not The Band), plays somewhere behind the curtains. Haunting.  As for my friend Justim? Well, I just made him up. Who's named Justim anyway? I know! The guy I made up named Justim, as in "Justim-agine if I had a friend named Justim who worked at the Library of Congress."
(Additionally, "Lay, Lady. Lay," may be a common phrase uttered by insensitive, short tempered, sexist chiropractors across America. May we revoke their license to practice).

One More Night- Dylan, for a split second, sounds like the Dylan of old... but only for approximately the first syllable of the song. Mighty quickly, the meatball goes back down in the windpipe and our New York City coffeehouse hustler is transformed back into Nashville's lost prophet. Forget the voice, how 'bout the song? It's a bouncy, gospel-like affair. Catchy, with repeating phrases, just in the way gospel songs usually are. What do I know about gospel music? Not much, I'd say. Fortunately, this song's about longing for further correspondences withs someone between the sheets, rather than a song about Jesus, so it's highly enjoyable. Short and fun, just like Bob Dylan.

(Speaking of short, Bob "Zimmy" Dylan is said to be 5'7'' tall, but according to this picture he appears to be between 3 and 4 feet tall. We may never know).

Tell Me That it Isn't Over- This short number combines some of the best of electric Dylan style with new country Dylan. It sort of has a looser Blonde on Blonde feel, but it's wholly country in sound and approach. The repeating, one-note guitar interludes are so simple and infectious, just like the stuff boiling over on "Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)" off B on B.

Okay, I've scraped the bottom of the damn pot for the last delectable drops of this Creole Corn soup nonsense. I'm telling you; 5 stars. Do not judge my (stock) picture, for it does not tell the whole story. In fact,  it tells a completely different story, and I deserve to be judge harshly. Damn.

Country Pie- This song clocks in at 1:35 which is the shortest Dylan song ever released... I'll check on that. Sounds like a Paul McCartney song via The White Album or Side 2 of Abbey Road. Silly little ditty to make you smile from ear to meatball licking ear. That sentence might sound kind of stupid, but then so does this song in general.

Also, Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning is like liking a salt block in hell. My god, I think I'll be using a trough tonight when I wake up every 10 minutes from dehydration.

(me at 5 am, trying to cure the Tony Chachere's Creole madness)

Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You- Has that '70s country-roots-rock feel to it before that feeling was everywhere. Mind you, it's still the '60s at this point. So, I'll give Bob Dylan a pass on this, along with most of The Basement Tapes which I'll be reviewing later in a fallout shelter (the ultimate basement). Mid-tempo piano driven country-rock. The drums are tight, the pedal steel is humming, the bass grooves... uh, groovin' (a word in which autocorrect insisted I was writing "groin"). Dylan creates a clear narrative about as far from his days of poetic acid tripping in '65 as one can get. Thanks for the clarity, Zimmy.

And just like that, Dylan goes country. And now it's all behind us. How 'bout that, y'all?!? Yee-haw. Please remove yourself's from your Own Private Grand Ole Opry, and proceed to the exits.

NEXT WEEK, stay tuned for, perhaps, Bob Dylan's most hated album of his career, if not his most notorious. So horrifying, it can only be fit to print just in time for Halloween, right as all the leaves fall from the trees and die! That's right folks. I'm talkin' the 24 track, career suicide, double LP Self Portrait. Hang on to your hats, prep your nooses, and see y'all next week.

(possibly taken at a Self Portrait listening party)

Sunday, October 2, 2016

John Wesley Harding (1967)

John Wesley Harding
(1967, Columbia Records)

Meatless beef tips with a white cheddar mac and cheese and a side of kale (Two crescent rolls not pictured)

Welcome back fellow Dylanites and fans of the feastive bite! Speaking of bite, this summer's taken one large bite outta me and I've been slacking on my Dylan and dining. Not to say I haven't eaten dinner the past two and a half months. I'd be dead or a martyr, but I strive for neither. 
On a personal note, which I don't do too often on this, I've been absent due to dealing with some life's heavy handedness, including the passing a of a close family member. When shit hits, sometimes it hits hard. I'm getting back in the saddle, or various saddles, and forging ahead. Life goes on, and even if the tears are a comin' I can't stop my fingers from typin' and my jaws from chompin' at the bit for Dylan, Bob. Thanks for reflecting with me.

So, summer came and went, and HOLY HELL, is that Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Halloween commercials I see already? Sure is. At any rate, I'm back once and again, spearheading the well balanced diet of Dylan on a food pyramid that looks something like this.

(if you look closely, you may see Robert Zimmerman at the top of this Pyramid [aka, the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame], munchin' on a chicken wing. Don't strain your eyes.)

This week, I have prepared myself a special wonderment of assortments. What you see above is meatless beef tips with a white cheddar mac and cheese and side of kale (two crescent rolls are not pictured). After all, nothing screams end of summer dining like warm vegan friendly beef and hot crescent rolls. I should be fired from concocting these one man disasters. 

NOW, to the Dylan. Following Dylan's amazing run of triumph, gold medal worthy folk-rock-country-garage-blues records, the man with the wild hair took a step back, dropped out of the limelight for a hot second, and put out one gray cloud downer of an LP. 

By the time 1966 was in the heat of it's '66-ness, Dylan was losing his mind (which is like 400% crazier than a some normal guy with a desk job), so you know it must have been really bad. Tweaked out, exhausted from touring and resentful from the hero to a generation, Dylan did what any tax paying citizen might do; he crashed his motorcycle and broke his neck.

Ok, Dylan did not intentionally crash his bike, and he did not mean to break his neck (allegedly on all accounts). A good deal of people wonder if the crash really happened at all, a conspiracy involving Dylan intentionally removing himself from his whirlwind schedule to focus on being an all-American family man with his now wife, Sara (the one he sung so fondly about closing out Blonde on Blonde). 

John Wesley Harding is a sudden step out of the rock n' roll wading pool and into the overcast, muddied forests of folk-country that no one asked for. It's a downer of a record mostly, little thrills throughout. But through it all, it remains not quite folk, not quite country; it's a mature record from a man finding himself more concerned with fatherhood and marriage rather than sucking on French cigarettes jumping into limos with journalists. 

In short, this record sounds like the album cover itself. I mean, really. What's going on here? Dylan is devilishly smiling next to what appears to be two men in costume and someone's uncle who happened to wander into the shot looking for a paint can opener. In reality, the two men are Bengali musicians who were visiting Woodstock NY, and the other guy, a local carpenter (possibly looking for a paint can opener). Still, that doesn't help answer what is going on in this photo. 

(the alternate cover to John Wesley Harding, perhaps, still making about as much sense as the original)

Without any further ado, let's dig in and get this slow train a rollin' once again. 

John Wesley Harding- So I never met this John Wesley Hardin(g) in person, because he was shot dead in the 19th century and I was born a child of the Nintendo generation. However, according to all accounts, this outlaw was a real "piece of feces," (not a lyric in the song, by the way). Here, Dylan opens his record, showcasing a new direction for his musical smatterings and offers up a story about John Wesley Harding, being a misunderstood outlaw, lending a "helping hand" and lifting the spirits of the down-and-out. Well, what does Bob Dylan know? This song proves Dylan is really bad at history. Actually, he's acing his revisionist history exam, and even managed to misspell the guy's name! It's "Hardin," as in "I reckon this Bob Dylan record is gonna be hardin than a bag of frozen snowballs to dance the Lindy Hop to." 
(Speaking of "hardin," this is a picture of another shitty dead John. This John, known as Dillinger, was rumored to have a larger than normal genitalia because of this photo. FACT)

As I Went Out One Morning- Acoustic guitar, bass walking and crisp drumming. Very stripped down. This is like Dylan goes lo-fi, after losing his marbles going electric. Another simple narrative song. Okay, all the songs on here are narratives, folk tales, and parables of some sort. The bass carries this one while Dylan lays down a subtly catchy vocal line. So simple, so effective. So delicious.... MY DINNER THAT IS!
Betcha thought I forgot to eat it, just as I thought I had all summer long. This mac and cheese is a little bland for me, but when combined with these vegan beef tips?.... Now we're talkin'. I'm eating this kale, only to try to eat a little healthier when eating straight up garbage. Thankfully these crescent rolls will negate any health benefits of the kale. Only the full die young!

I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine- MMMM, nothing says dinner time like a folky ballad about St. Augstine, the most rockin'est of all the Saints.  Yes kids, it's Saint Augustine. I'm not sure what St. Augustine accomplishments are, nor do I care to look them up at the moment. I'll consult a priest if need be on this, thank you.  Something tells me this guy "allegedly" could kick back a casual miracle or two in his day. Now, it's a miracle anyone's even blogging about him. Am I right? Or am I right? On this tune, we've got that bass holding it down AGAIN, really anchoring the whole song, and a true bright spot. It's a good time to declare that Charlie McCoy is laying down these sweet little bass walks. I wanna quit writing this blog, put on a cowboy hat and take a brisk stroll through the dense woods of Woodstock, hopefully to find that cool Carpenter on the front cover of this LP. 
(Some say St. Augustine was a heavy gambler, who could drink a giant under the table. He was known for his crude humor, classically trained guitar skills, and street magic. It's said that he was named after a town in the state of Florida)

All Along the Watchtower- 5 Your misinformed, uncool father or stoner uncle who only listens to classic rock radio during drive time hours might tell you that this Jimi Hendrix song is the greatest thing on God's green earth besides Led Zeppelin 4. Okay, well they can keep their opinions in their shirt pockets because this scathing country tune full of implied imagery was Dylan-famous before Hendix turned this into a song only The Wonder Years could love. Apparently, this song's about Dylan's hatred for the record industry as told through biblical allusions. Well, I've never been one to breakdown poetry outside of college courses for a fair enough grade, so I'll leave it to the scholars on this one.

(That moment when Kevin Arnold learned this song was written by Bob Dylan, and he flunked his music appreciation course big time!"

The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest- A humbling little ditty of a tune that goes on and on. And on. ANNND on. If you thought Hendrix covering the last song was the definition of cool, then guess who took their name from this song? No, not Mad TVs' Frankie Caliendo. Try "Judas Priest," the same band who wrote "Turbo Lover." This never ending country narrative is supposed to be somewhat loved by Dylanphiles, but I can't get through this one without letting my mind wander. Example: I'm currently Googling pictures of the band Judas Priest, and I'm seeing that all 5 members seemed more concerned with looking tough than looking like Bob Dylan. Huh? 

Might I add, these vegan beef tips are truly a marvel. I have moved on from forking around the macaroni and kale at the beginning of this song, and I'm going for the fake beef. Very juicy. My god!

Drifter's Escape- A short bouncy pop-tastic ride after the long-wided "Frankie Lee and Judas Priest" saga. This is practically a number 1 hit backing that mind-number. Dylan rambles about, telling this straight up tale. But Charlie McCoy should win the Oscar, Emmy, and Daytime Soap Opera awards for his bass playing on this one, basically constructing the entire melodic flow under Dylan's ONE note he strums throughout. AMAZING display of less-is-more. 

Dear Landlord- Hmmm, something seems to be missing here, but you don't know what it is? Do you, Mr.  Jones? 
"Nope"- Mr. Jones

Well, I'll tell you what it is. Where the hell is Dylan's acoustic guitar? Finally, after 6 string scrapers, Dylan ditches the box of coils for a piano. A real stripped down, bluesy waltz of sorts. In other hands, this one might sound like a pretty '70s AM radio hit. However, Dylan sings like crap most of the time, so this one orbits around the rad-osphere of the universe.

Also, I'm done with my dinner yet again because eating and typing is bullshit. Also, food and me are like an electric vacuum and dust. Obliterated.

I Am a Lonesome Hobo- By this point, Dylan had more money than 99.9% of all "hobos" in American, in the traditional sense. However, that did not stop ol' Bobby from weaving another "hobo" like tale in typical Dylan style. Here's food for thought: Perhaps Dylan was the first crust punk?  The guitar is back on this one, after "Dear Landlord's" all you can pound piano buffet. A bit of a snooze overall, I must say. The groovin' bass along with Dylan's acoustic strums add up to the most "rock" song on this otherwise bluesy, country record. However, this is still a cloak of blues you can wrap yourself in out in the country, far from the nearest rocks. (Poetry, I make).

I Pity the Poor Immigrant- Years before Mr. T made the word "pity" chic and less about the topic of "pity," Bob Dylan was dropping pity slang in his song titles! A real subtle, almost hymn-like refelction full of weepy harmonica intervals and pained, patient lyrical patterns. If you came here looking for Mr. T, forget it. This is Mr. D all the way, and I ain't talking Mr. Deeds. I'm talking Bob DYLAN. This is some old granddaddy stuff, but damn, what a cool, old granddaddy he is.

(Donald Sutherland is just one of planet earth's cool, old grandaddies)

The Wicked Messenger- Some more groovin' Motown-like bass holds this bouncy quicky together. Nearly over before it starts, it's not particularly memorable, nor is it offensive in anyway. If you added an organ, and stretched this out to 8 minutes, I'm sure this could've been a welcomed throwaway track on Highway 61 Revisited.

(Some parents of the late '90s thought this man was in fact "The Wicked Messenger")

Down Along the Cove- Did someone tell Dylan we was allowed to have a birthday party rather than sulk around the woods all year with an acoustic guitar and a bible? This song is a downright BOOGIE laden compared to some of the somber tunes, alluding to every bible character and the like. The drumming is the standout here, with nifty jazz interludes and a solid shuffle throughout. The bass walks all over the place while still jumping back in the pocket. Overall though, seems out of place, tacked on at the end. Mehhh.

I'll Be Your Baby Tonight- A tasteful pedal steel guitar, I hear? Yes,me ears do. This is the most "country" Dylan gets on his first "country" record. One might actually begin to believe this teller of tall-tales is from the country, and not NYC. I mean, one might begin to believe he's actually from some place like rural Minnesota rather than attending grammar school at PS-121 in Manhattan Time Square! This one never gets old, despite its lame-o title. A real short, tasteful country closer that leaves the faint smell of old beer behind. Or, that could just be me.

And if you thought you liked Dylan going' country on this outing, just WAIT until his next one.... 

"YEEEHAWWW, NASHVILLE!!!"- a hobo on a train holding a jug marked with 3 large X's.