CD Reviews: More gems from Dylan
(Columbia/Legacy)Both haves of Bob Dylans two-disc set Tell Tale Signs open with the same song, Mississippi, from 2001s Love and Theft. This could be taken as a tell-tale sign that the latest volume in Dylans Bootleg Series comprises a bunch of repetitious filler material, of interest only to the fanatics who care to dissect every version of a song for minute differences.But the two takes here of Mississippi, a profound mediation on overcoming loneliness and regret, not only differ markedly from the original album version, but from each other. Each is acoustic and delightful the first with a shuffling blues feel, the second with a twangy country tone. Dylans phrasing and emotion on each take is spell-binding.Given what rounds out Tell Tale Signs, the twin Mississippis seem like a bold pronouncement: Dylan, even the latter-day Bob, can repeat himself, and still give us reason to hang on every word. The package compiles alternate studio takes, live versions, contributions to film soundtracks, and several unreleased songs, and not one track of it counts as filler. Not even close. The package also features two versions of another stellar song, Dignity, and its hard to imagine skipping one of them with a flip, Oh, Ive heard that.Dylan has a history of burying absolute gold, and some of it is mined here. The seven-and-a-half minute love song Red River Shore surfaces for the first time, as does the dark, atmospheric Dreamin of You. Neither belongs in the garbage can. An acoustic Most of the Time sounds more like an outtake that was somehow left off the 1975 masterpiece Blood on the Tracks, rather than an alternate version from 1989s Oh Mercy.There are live versions of Dylans recent classics (High Water (For Charley Patton) and Ring Them Bells); takes on traditional tunes (Cocaine Blues, The Girl on the Greenbriar Shore, and Robert Johnsons 32-20 Blues); and a duet with Ralph Stanley on The Lonesome River.After Dylans performance at the recent Labor Day Festival in Snowmass Village, some listeners no doubt concluded that Dylans legacy would have been better served had he stopped writing, recording and especially singing live around 1975. But the renaissance of the last two decades is undeniable. And now it is that much deeper, richer and more productive.
produced by Don Was (Nettwerk)Funny thing here: In the liner notes to Tell Tale Signs, theres a quote from Dylan saying that Don and David Was, producers of Dylans Under the Red Sky album, didnt know anything about American folk music. Seems like Don, at least, has learned since then.Here, Was produces an outstanding album that is as American-folky as it gets, although his production technique seems mostly to stay out of the way. Old Crow Medicine Show takes old sounds (fiddle, harmonica, slide guitar), old themes (open roads, rivers, and drugs loads and loads of drugs), and old ways of singing, and turns them into well, not something new, but something timeless. On Tennessee Pusher, their finest recording yet, the young gentlemen arent mimicking old America, but connecting with it in a natural way. For an extra dose of sound, they bring drummer Jim Keltner and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench onboard for several tracks (both of whom also appeared on Under the Red Sky).
produced by Eric Liljestrand and Tom Overby (Lost Highway)Lucinda Williams has always poured her emotions directly into her songs, and for the very most part perhaps entirely the emotions have been pain and anger. But at her Belly Up Aspen show last few year, Williams announced that she had found the true love of her life, a sentiment reflected in her onstage warmth.And now its in her music. Little Honey opens with Real Love, in which she not only proclaims her happiness, but also glances back at her past: All the time I was thinking now way/ All the time I never thought Id say/ I found the love Ive been looking for. Where she once wrote a song titled Joy You took my joy, I want it back is the biting refrain here she sings Tears of Joy: You took this girl and made her your queen/ Thats why Im crying tears of joy.The $64,000 question is, does contentment fuel Williams creatively like pain has? Answer: No doubt. Her voice still drips with feeling; listen to the way she stretches out the word cry-iy-iy-ing on Tears of Joy. The backing vocals throughout the album are something of a new touch. The additional voices not only round out the sound, but convey the idea that Williams is finding pleasure in connection. Overall, there is an eclectic quality to Little Honey a duet with Elvis Costello on the country drama Jailhouse Tears; horns on several songs, including the delicate epic Rarity that suggests that something has been unleashed in Williams.They say that youve only really learned something when youre able to teach it to others, and on Little Rock Star, Williams uses her self-destructive past as a warning to other artists.
produced by David Andrew Sitek (DGC/Interscope)The Brooklyn quintet TV on the Radio put a lot on their plate for their fourth CD: classic funk, 80s rock, 70s disco, electronica, hip-hop, the New York-based Afro-beat horn section Antibalas. Poetry, philosophy and politics. David Andrew Sitek, the groups producer and one of several multi-instrumentalists, qualifies as a near-genius for layering all these elements, along with the stream-of-consciousness lyrics, so that Dear Science comes out coherent, balanced and even danceable, while they take us on a tour of the new anxiety.
produced by Tobias Frberg (Basin Street Records)Singer-violinist Theresa Andersson was born in Sweden and flowered musically in New Orleans. So why does Hummingbird, Go! put me in mind of Detroit? On past CDs, Andersson worked in conventional structures, with conventional instruments, but here, working with fellow Swede Tobias Frberg, conventions are thrown aside. Andersson bangs bottles, rubs wine glasses and plays slide violin. For some reason, on songs like the wonderful Birds Fly Away and Hi-Low, the effect is a twisted, dreamy take on Motown girl groups. Its as original as it is email@example.com
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