Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Bob Dylan: Modern Times

For every Hendrix or Cobain or Buckley, you have a Bob Dylan, someone whose brilliance seems to shine endlessly instead of flickering out tragically too soon. Dylan's promise and potential have been fully realized over a body of work that spans five decades. From the Sixties to the new millenium he has influenced multitudes of artists and become the preeminent singer/songwriter of the second half of the Twentieth Century.

Bob Dylan's Modern Times arrived in the mail today along with several other CDs of various genre and quality. But, Modern Times was the first one I played, simply because I have grown to love Dylan's recent work almost as much as I love his classics (Blood On The Tracks, Blonde On Blonde). Talents like Dylan don't come around all that often and I feel blessed to be alive in a time that he is still releasing new music. Perhaps that is why Love & Theft and Time Out Of Mind have had such a lasting impact on me, because they happened, they were released, while I was alive. His songs have also scored some of my favorite movies (Wonder Boys, High Fidelity), which probably doesn't hurt his standing with me, either.

While I can read what Highway 61 Revisited meant to scores of music fans upon its release in 1965, I certainly didn't feel the same way they felt when I discovered it 30 years later. But, I can still look at it and sort through the stories, the lyrics, and the tall-tales and find something intimate about the album that begs my attention and my ears. At the end of listening to that CD, I always find myself adrift in "Desolation Row" wondering what the impetus for such a song was. What could inspire an 11 minute song with no real chorus? And what brave man could dream it all up?

A friend of mine told me recently that he had no desire to listen to the new Dylan record because he doesn't view Dylan's contemporary music as relevant, or at least as relevant as it was in the '60s and '70s. He prefers to view Dylan as the social and political activist who wrote songs like "Hurricane," "The Times They Are A-Changin,'" and "Chimes Of Freedom." Here we are blessed with 50 years of epic songwriting (all while wishing Cobain and Hendrix had 50 more) and we dismiss him as no longer relevant or important. It is a short-sighted attitude, and while we don't live in the 1960s we still live in a world that begs for Dylan's thoughts and opinions.

Fortunately, Dylan is here to share those thoughts, and his most recent album is phenomenal. It is classic Dylan from top to bottom. These days, it is definitely hard to sift through reviews for an artist like Dylan. In the same way that U2 could take a piss on polycarbonate plastic and people would call it their best CD since Joshua Tree, Dylan will probably do no wrong from here on out. I have tried to keep that in mind (as well as keeping my inner fanatic at bay) while I listen to it, but it still comes across as a wonderful work of art. Below are a few favorites from recent Dylan albums and a couple of masters taking their turn at a Muddy Waters classic.

MP3: Bob Dylan - "Not Dark Yet"
MP3: Bob Dylan - "Most of the Time"
MP3: Bob Dylan - "Rollin' and Tumblin'"
MP3: Eric Clapton - "Rollin' and Tumblin'"



Anonymous said...

Dylan's the one real genius pop music has produced, thanks for posting this, top blog.

Anonymous said...

another boring Dylan record. who cares.