The country music station plays soft
But there’s nothing, really nothing to turn off
Just Louise and her lover so entwined
And these visions of Johanna that conquer my mind
- Bob Dylan, "Visions of Johanna"
When it comes to naming all-time favorite Bob Dylan songs, I have dozens.
What's with the whole "Top 10" thing anyway? What are we, pre-school kids counting on our fingers? Why not a Top 15? Because that's what I'm offering up here: My 15 favorite albums of the past year.
Even though, overall, 2009 wasn't the greatest year for music, there were still some terrific albums released.
Terrific albums, yes, BUT, unless I missed them, no classics. I mean, where was this year's Kala, or Modern Times, or Elephant, or East Nashville Skyline, or Is This It, or Late Registration, or Stankonia, or Heartbreaker, or Love and Theft, or Tell Tale Signs. If an all-time classic album was out there this year I'm pretty sure I didn't hear it.
That said, the year did produce some pretty damn great music. And so here, in no particular order, are MY PICKS FOR THE TOP 15 ALBUMS OF 2009:
"Lily had two queens, she was hopin' for a third to match her pair"
- Bob Dylan, "Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts"
Few things in life are quite as uplifting and inspiring as the onset of an early summer - a week of glorious, sunny, warm, summer-like days right in the middle of April. Well, at least for those of us living here in the rain forest known as British Columbia. However, one thing does come pretty close in the whole uplifting and inspiring department and that's receiving - for free, no less - a $175 Bob Dylan CD. Especially one as good as the third disc of Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series Vol. 8, Rare and Unreleased 1999-2006.
We gotta get out of this place
If it's the last thing we ever do
We gotta get out of this place,
'cause girl, there's a better life... for me and you
The Animals, "We Gotta Get out of This Place"
Don’t Mess With The Prairie Folk
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in recent days it’s that you should never mess with the prairie folk, not unless you're willing to face the dreaded Saskatuan sarcasm mechanism.
Here’s how it all went down:
This past week, after the main Neil Young fan site, Neil Young News/Thrasher’s Wheat, put up an excerpt from an old piece of mine called Talkin' Prairie Triangle of Inspiration (A.K.A. Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell Make Their Great Escape) a backlash of sorts occurred, one initiated and led by a few of those afore-mentioned good folk out on the prairie... and all of a sudden I found myself facing a barrage of bitter, angry, sarcasm. Yes, words of indignation were unceremoniously being spewed in my general direction. And I literally unleashed a monster.
In the room where fortune falls
On a day when chance is all
In the dark of this exile
I felt the grace of your smile
Honey you're my lucky day
- Bruce Springsteen, "My Lucky Day"
Lucky day indeed. Yesterday marked not only the release of Bruce Springsteen's new album, Working On A Dream, but also the release of Woody Allen's wonderful Vicky Cristina Barcelona on DVD. And it sure made for one heck of a terrific day for all us fans of great music and film.
As for the Bruce album, after six good listens I can now say with quite some certainty that Working On A Dream is one of his greatest albums of the past two decades, if not his whole career.
"You think I'm over the hill
You think I'm past my prime
Let me see what you got
We can have a whoppin' good time"
- Bob Dylan, "Spirit On The Water"
Some might say that Bob Dylan is way past his prime and that all of his best work is well behind him, but anyone who would say such a thing clearly doesn't know much about good music. Either that or they've just been awoken from a 20-year-long coma.
"What I'm doing now, its a whole other thing. We're not playing rock music. It's not a hard sound. I don't know what it is." That's a quote from Dylan during the Highway 61 Revisited sessions back in 1965, but it just as easily could apply to the brilliant work of his Second Coming. That is, his resilient resurgence of the past 20 years, starting with the release of Oh Mercy in 1989 and continuing right on up until this fall and the release of Tell Tale Signs,
"It ain't no use to sit and wonder why, babe
If you don't know by now"
- Bob Dylan, "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right"
I've never before written two reviews of the same album, but this time, it seems, Bob's simply left me no other choice. And, yes, I know all the Dylan haters out there must be shaking their heads in bewilderment, but, as Bob himself once sang, "don't criticize what you can't understand".
The fact of the matter is, the more I listen to Bob's new album, Tell Tale Signs, the more I feel I have something extra I need to say. Something more substantial. Something more decisive. Something, perhaps, a bit more radical.
In my earlier piece, Bob's Back: Tell Tale Signs of Joy... and A Complete Lack of Judgement, I raved about this ninth installment of The Bootleg Series being a stunning classic, but, after a full month of listening bliss, I can now see that it's much more than just that. Which is why I'm now willing to go out on a limb and say that I think this 2-disc collection of 27 songs taken from the past two decades is - and this may strike some people as a tell tale sign of my own mental demise - possibly the best Dylan album of the last 20 years.
This is truly a special week for all fans of great music. I mean, how often do you get treated to new albums from the likes of Bob Dylan, Todd Snider and Lucinda Williams all within a few short days? For me, personally, we're talking about new albums from three of my all-time favorite artists - all within an 8-day span. It doesn't get much better than that.
"Stick with me baby, stick with me anyhow
Things should start to get interesting right about now"
Bob Dylan, "Mississippi"
Tell Tale Signs, the eighth installment of Bob Dylan's Bootleg Series, came out earlier this week and after three solid days of listening pleasure, I'm ready to report that it's yet another classic.
The "Eternal Sunshine of Charlie Kaufman's Mind" Rave (Featuring My List of The Top 5 Comedies of All Time)
There are lots of good, even great, films out there, even a few amazing ones, but what's especially exciting, at least for a film buff like myself, is when you come across a completely original piece of filmmaking. Which is exactly what "Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind" is - completely original AND totally amazing. I just watched it again, for the first time in four years, and, like so many other great films, it blew me away even more on second viewing.