Archive for April, 2009

Please click over to the master web site

April 29, 2009
This blogging site will not be updated for the next few days. Sorry for the inconvenience.

You can still see all the daily updates by clicking over to the master web site:

This site will be operating normally again from 11 May. See you soon.

Gerry Smith

Bob Dylan, Miles Davis… and Mozart – your top musicians for grown-ups

April 29, 2009
Bob Dylan, Miles Davis and Mozart are the favourite musicians of grown-up listeners.

Dylan (currently on an eight-date British tour), Davis and Mozart head the Top 10 poll, which includes rockers from the 1970s (Neil Young) and the 1980s (The Smiths/Morrissey) alongside pre-rock pop stars (Sinatra) and classical composers (Beethoven).

The Top 10 Musicians for Grown-Ups, as nominated by readers, are:


1. Bob Dylan
2. Miles Davis
3. Mozart
4. Neil Young
5. Frank Sinatra
6. Bruce Springsteen
7. Tom Waits
8. Beethoven
9. Van Morrison
10. The Smiths/Morrissey

The Top 10 Musicians for Grown-Ups


Given the focus of the website, there are few surprises in the ranking, though my own list wouldn’t place Springsteen or Tom Waits so high.

Thanks again to all readers who nominated their Top Musicians for Grown-Ups: analyzing your votes produced a wonderfully eclectic ranking of great musos from many genres.

The lucky winner of my new book, Music For Grown-Ups – who requested privacy – has been informed.

Gerry Smith

Bob Dylan’s Together Through Life: first impressions

April 27, 2009
An evening with Together Through Life was a pleasant experience: better than expected, not as strong as secretly hoped.

First impressions:

* musically engaging – urban blues and Tex-Mex styles more suited to Dylan than the easy crooning and plodding rockabilly of the previous two albums.

* lyrically – worth careful scrutiny, though words seem a trifle lightweight on a superficial hearing.

* the De Luxe package is intriguing: extra content a mixed blessing – already have TTRH show on tape, doubtful will ever listen to CD; DVD a hoot, presumably intentionally; bits of paper not destined for the bedroom wall or the car windscreen. Another beautifully designed artefact – for the third studio album in a row.

Dylan’s USP, to me, is poet, philosopher and musician, in that order. This CD’s songs, though more immediately attractive than those on the two previous albums, are probably destined to be cherry-picked for a revised “recent songs” compilation, few if any of whose constituents would make my Top 100 Bobsongs.

That said, I usually revise my opinions upwards after getting to know a new Dylan album.

What do YOU think of Together Through Life?

Gerry Smith

Dylan in London last night: energized, committed, triumphant

April 26, 2009

26 April, 2009 by dylandaily

Last night’s show in the London O2 Arena was an unexpected triumph. 

Dylan was in overdrive from the very first bar of Maggie’s Farm to the closing note of Blowin’ In The Wind. His performance was as energized and committed as any of the shows I’ve seen since 1978 (and my mother has seen since 1965!)

The set opened like a freight train and rarely lost momentum. The setlist (below) was well chosen, with only half the songs repeats of the previous night’s gig.

Highlights – there were many – included Hollis Brown and Workingman’s Blues. The few longueurs, notably Spirit On The Water, were lounge-rhythm songs from the last two albums – they sound better on the hi-fi than on stage.

I’ve rarely heard Dylan sing so well – confident, expressive, assertive, his voice seems to have re-found the strength of 20 years ago.

The sound was first class from my seat, in the gods one too many mornings away from the stage. Dylan was commendably up in the mix. It was a relief to hear the music so clearly, as the jokey intro “… Colombian recording artist…” had sounded muddy, boomy.

I’d gone to the gig with trepidation, not only because of the embarrassing lack of public transport (some jobsworth wag had decided to close the Jubilee Line, the only serious transport link to distant central London, for the day), but also from a fear that Bobby might be getting past it.

The fears were groundless – Bob’s voice, his playing of keyboard and harmonica and his general energy levels were a revelation.

There’s years of the Might Zim left yet. Bob’s still the Man! Why did anyone ever doubt it?

1. Maggie’s Farm
2. The Times They Are A-Changin’
3. Things Have Changed
4. Chimes Of Freedom
5. Rollin’ And Tumblin’
6. The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll
7. ‘Til I Fell In Love With You
8. Workingman’s Blues #2
9. Highway 61 Revisited
10. Ballad Of Hollis Brown
11. Po’ Boy
12. Honest With Me
13. When The Deal Goes Down
14. Thunder On The Mountain
15. Like A Rolling Stone
16. All Along The Watchtower
17. Spirit On The Water
18. Blowin’ In The Wind

Gerry Smith

Top Musicians for Grown-Ups: Part 2 – rankings 11-20

April 24, 2009
Thanks to all readers who nominated their Top Musicians for Grown-Ups: analyzing your votes has produced a wonderfully eclectic ranking of great musos from many genres.

These musicians were placed in rankings 11-20

11. Rolling Stones
12. Elvis Costello
13. Herbie Hancock
14. Ella Fitzgerald
15. Hank Williams
16. Bjork
17. Bach
18. Cecilia Bartoli
19. Ray Charles
20. Richard Wagner

Next week: The Top Ten revealed. Make sure you drop by!

Gerry Smith

Top Musicians for Grown-Ups: Part 1 – the honourable mentions

April 22, 2009
Many thanks to the many readers who nominated their Top Musicians for Grown-Ups: analyzing your votes has produced a wonderfully eclectic ranking of great musos from many genres.

Let’s start with a list of the honourable mentions:

Ryan Adams
Marcelo Alvarez
Ketil Bjornstad
Eric Clapton
The Clash
Len Cohen
Bryan Corbett
Ray Davies
Natalie Dessay
Everly Brothers
Ella Fitzgerald
Bryan Ferry
Renee Fleming
Howlin’ Wolf
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Tord Gustavsen
Joy Division
Mark Knopfler
Mark Linkous
Gustav Mahler
Bob Marley
John Martyn
Olivier Messiaen
Conor Oberst
Luciano Pavarotti
Primal Scream
Stan Rogers
Andy Sheppard
Paul Simon
Stephen Sondheim
Stone Roses
Joan Sutherland
Ali Farka Toure
Big Joe Turner
Gillian Welch
Cassandra Wilson
Amy Winehouse
Warren Zevon

Part 2, to follow, will cover musicians voted in positions 11-20; Part 3 will reveal your Top 10 Musicians for Grown-Ups.

Gerry Smith

Dylan, Morrison, Cohen, Young: wrinkly rockers keep on keepin’ on

April 20, 2009
Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, the key rockers for grown-ups, are very active in their wrinkly years:

* Dylan’s touring Europe (London this weekend); new album next Monday;

* Morrison is rolling out his Astral Weeks Live gig – London shows at the weekend, like earlier US shows, were praised to the skies; new album of the LA gig recently released, DVD coming soon;

* Cohen’s recent world tour was wildly successful, CD/DVD recordings of the London show capture the brilliance;

* Young’s 2008 shows were the best in years; new album just released.

Deeply impressive; in spirit, if not in body, all four top rockers for grown-ups look as though they’ll stay forever young…

Gerry Smith

Sony Legacy’s Playlist series: why?

April 17, 2009
Have you seen Sony Legacy’s new Playlist series, covering about 50 artists?

It’s a puzzling product range.

The Very Best Of Bob Dylan ‘60s, released just before last Xmas, was followed last month by The Very Best Of Bob Dylan ‘70s.

They’re decent compilations – let’s face it, it would be hard to foul up a 14-track selection from the greatest living songwriter. But, given the availability of so many other official Sony Dylan compilations, you have to question the logic.

At least they’re better intros to the artist than the Playlist devoted to Dylan’s contemporary, Van Morrison. Sony only have access to the interminably reissued Bang sessions – ie the pop material recorded before Morrison found his true voice with his masterpiece, Astral Weeks.

Sony Legacy’s Playlist series: why?

Gerry Smith

Lua by Conor Oberst and Gillian Welch – a duet made in Heaven

April 16, 2009
Of all the rockpop musicians I’ve seen in the last ten years, none give better gig than Conor Oberst and Gillian Welch. They’re both outstanding writers and performers, the cream of their generation.

And they’ve just released a duet of Oberst’s classic song, Lua. I’m usually very skeptical about duets, but Lua is a duet made in Heaven.

It’s squirreled away on Dark Was The Night, a new compilation album, though the single track is also available from iTunes.

Highly recommended – you won’t hear a better duet for grown-ups. Ever.

Gerry Smith

Bob Dylan in London, 25 April: no Jubilee Line Tube to the O2 Arena

April 15, 2009
A few days ago I asked: “how EXACTLY do you plan to get to the O2 Arena – several (6?/10?)miles outside central London – and back into town after the show?”

Thanks to Cornelia Grolsch and Gordon Macniven for responding – “by Tube” (aka Underground/Subway/U-Bahn). Well, that would normally be the obvious route.

But there is no Jubilee Line Tube running to the O2 on Saturday 25 April, the day of the Dylan gig. Just take a look at this official announcement (thanks to Paul Ryles for the link):

Click to access bob_dylan_transport_25_april.pdf

Gerry Smith