Posts Tagged ‘Bob Dylan’

Bob Dylan and Miles Davis: Sony’s big box sets compared

November 13, 2009

As far as Bob Dylan and Miles Davis, its major assets, are concerned, Sony does a creditable job managing the treasures locked away in its priceless vaults.

However much hardcore fans might moan about the slow drip-feed of the unreleased Dylan legacy, Columbia Legacy is to be commended on its Bootleg Series.

Columbia Legacy also manages its Miles Davis assets pretty astutely, though some Miles aficionados whinge that Sony has released too much inconsequential blathering by the Prince Of Darkness!

But the imminent release of the Complete Miles Davis Columbia Album Collection will leave Bobfans drawing unfavourable comparisons with the Zim equivalent, 2003’s Bob Dylan Revisited: The Reissues Series.

The two reissue projects are similar in key respects – all the albums in both collections have remarkable upgraded sound and both boxes reintroduce the original album artwork, in seductive digipak format.

But, in other ways, the new Miles box is more compelling:

* it pulls together all of the label’s Miles albums – Bob Dylan Revisited: The Reissues Series was selective, with only 15 titles, against the Miles box’s whopping 52, many of them double albums!

* many of the Miles albums carry worthwhile bonus tracks – the Dylan reissues eschewed any.

* even if you already own most of the original recordings, the incentives to buy the Miles box are persuasive – a newly released live DVD, a couple of previously unreleased CDs-worth of music, a substantial 250 page book by two leading Miles experts, and striking packaging.

* value: the “street” launch prices of the two boxes are similar, but the Miles box gives you far more bang for your buck.

Bottom line: I already had virtually all releases by both musicians. I passed on the Dylan box; I’ve ordered the Miles box.

Gerry Smith

Dylan Different: jazz singer Ben Sidran covers Dylan

October 26, 2009

I’m not over-fond of Dylan cover albums, but when a favourite singer – Bryan Ferry, most recently – interprets Bobsongs, I usually buy and enjoy.

So I’m looking forward to Dylan Different, an album of covers by jazz singer/pianist Ben Sidran.

Sidran crossed my radar with his contribution on the grossly under-rated Van Morrison album, Tell Me Something (1996), a collection of Mose Allison covers which also featured Georgie Fame and Mose himself.

I searched out Sidran and saw him play a tiny London gig. He was outstanding – laconic, droll and a beautifully lyrical musician. Very similar to Mose Allison, in fact. Watching him perform at close quarters for a couple of hours a was sheer delight.

Ben Sidran’s Dylan Different, due 16 November, is a must-buy in these parts.


Everything Is Broken
Highway 61 Revisited
Tangled Up In Blue
Gotta Serve Somebody
Rainy Day Woman
Ballad of a Thin Man
Maggie’s Farm
Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
Subterranean Homesick Blues
On The Road Again
All I Really Want To Do
Blowin’ in the Wind

Gerry Smith

Bob Dylan’s Christmas In The Heart – reviewed by Matthew Zuckerman

October 12, 2009

Well, Christmas In The Heart arrived in the post today — nice efficient service from Isis.

They always manage to get the new releases on the doormat the day before official release. Many thanks to Derek and Tracy (& great to see you at the Mott the Hoople reunion show!)

The deluxe version is just the regular jewel case in a cardboard sleeve, with five cards — blank inside — all with the album cover and envelope.

As for the album, I downloaded it on to my iPod and listened to it as I walked the dog around the local cemetery. What immediately struck me — well, not immediately, but what started to dawn on me by the second or third song and was clear by the fourth — was that this is not just a little dashed off side project.

Like it or not, the emotional commitment that Dylan has given to these songs makes Christmas In The Heart very much the new Bob Dylan album.

For many people, certain albums — Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61, Nashville Skyline, Self Portrait, Slow Train Coming, Saved, Shot of Love — were too associated with something they hated (rock & roll, country, schmaltz, Christianity) for them to want or be able to appreciate the albums for themselves.

You can add Christmas In The Heart to that list.

Those who cannot accept the fact that Bob might want to have such an album in his catalogue — as Bing Crosby, Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Dinah Washington and many other of his favourite singers have done — will find the album a closed door. But for anyone else, it could be a small delight.

I have only listened to the album once, and do not have time to write more than the most fleeting impressions.

All I would say is listen to the musicians (Bob’s road crew plus David Hidalgo and a few others — and a startlingly fine piece of harmonica playing on one track); the really very fine melodies; the instrumental and vocal harmony arrangements that both recapture the slick 1940s/50s studio sounds that Bob grew up with and breathe life into them, humanizing them; the battered and beaten voice sometimes flaring and phlegming up but still hitting all the notes – and singing with the same intense intimacy that he invested in A Simple Twist of Fate.

And then there’s Must Be Santa. Bob Has often talked about his love for polka. And with this manic — yet always controlled — performance you can see why.

I wonder what the world would have done if Bob had mixed his folk lyrics and surreal verse with a polka outfit like the one backing him here instead of a rock & roll band.

Would we have booed? And would we all — supporters and booers alike — follow him down his various roads, as we have done in this layer of the multiverse?

I digress, and I must end. I have much to do and time is short.

Dylan “too selfish”, according to female singer-songwriter

August 10, 2009

Singer-songwriter Dory Previn regards Bob Dylan as selfish.

In an interview with Jonathan Wingate published in Record Collector (Jan 2008?*), she tells of a gig she performed where Dylan asked to meet her backstage:

“Yes that was the worst… you can’t have a chat with him because he’s too selfish, so he won’t give you anything…“

Dory Previn was a cult favourite in the early 1970s. Her bleak confessional lyrics documented her mental health problems, marital breakdown, and a world going wrong.

In my list of favourite women rockpop artists from the 1970s, I’d place her second only to Joni Mitchell, and well ahead of every other female writer/performer.

(* The interview, pulled out the monthly mag Record Collector, looks as if it promoted the Jan 2008 release of The Art Of Dory Previn, a must-have compilation CD summarising the gifted singer-songwriter’s legacy.)



Gerry Smith

Roger McGuinn, ex-Byrd, tells his Dylan stories

July 8, 2009

Completing a short English solo tour in St Albans last week, Roger McGuinn spared us his born-again folkie stuff and focused mainly on the luminous Byrds legacy.

His likeable 90-minute performance thrilled the crowd of 500 ageing pop-pickers, well up for a night of comforting nostalgia. In delivering it, McGuinn, using only his 12-string Rickenbacker and his 7(!)-string Martin HD-7 acoustic, demonstrated that he’s a fine multifaceted musician and singer, and an engaging, generous-minded raconteur.

His debt to Dylan was all over the evening. As well as My Back Pages, the opener, McGuinn explored the Zim locker with Mr Tambourine Man, All I Really Want To Do and You Ain’t Going Nowhere, plus the Dylan-influenced Ballad Of Easy Rider.

He recounted his story of the writing of The Ballad Of Easy Rider – how Dylan, too busy to supply a song for the movie soundtrack, scribbles a few lines of lyrics on a paper tissue, gives it to lead actor Peter Fonda, tells him to fly coast-to-coast and hand it personally to Roger – “Give it to McGuinn, he’ll finish it…”.

McGuinn also recounted how, when The Byrds first played Dylan their version of All I Really Want To Do in the studio, he expressed a liking for the song – before being reminded that he’d written it!


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, 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

New Bob Dylan album: revealing interview on Together Through Life

March 16, 2009
Bob Dylan is very forthcoming in the first interview about his new album, Together Through Life, just posted on

He agrees with interviewer Bill Flanagan that it has a “Chess feel – mood… intensity… more of a romantic edge (than Modern Times)… I see that my audience now doesn’t particular (sic) care what period the songs are from…”

(Bill Flanagan wrote the liner notes for the DYLAN 3CD box.)

Together Through Life is released in the US on Tuesday 28 April, so presumably the day before in Europe. is already taking orders for “regular” cd, deluxe cd and vinyl editions (thanks to Peter Brookes for his link).

Gerry Smith

New Dylan CD – possibly Best Album Of 2009, according to MOJO

March 12, 2009
Thanks to Peter Brookes for the tip that MOJO, the achingly beautiful London-based Heritage Poprock monthly, has scooped the pool with an early review of the new album.

According to writer Michael Simmons:

“YESTERDAY, MOJO HEARD seven of what may turn out to be ten or eleven Bob Dylan originals…

“… ample proof of an artist steeped in the past but thoroughly living in the present, cognizant of everything, not afraid to point fingers or laugh at fools or fall in love.

“It’s a powerful personal work by a man who still thinks for himself… it’ll be in the running for Best Album Of 2009.”

Simmons reviews the seven tracks in detail – his article is well worth your time:

Gerry Smith