Sunday, November 11, 2007


A lot of cool Bob Dylan stuff going on lately.

1 - The 3-CD compilation, Dylan. Not many artists can have a 3 CD "best-of" which still has tons of omissions. The best starting point for people who want to know what the big deal is (and it makes The Essential Bob Dylan obsolete).

2 - Mark Ronson's remix of "Most Likely You'll Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)." It's the first time Dylan has let anyone remix his music. Ronson is the guy who produces Amy Winehouse - yes, she has a great voice, but his production is why the records have that awesome vintage sound. As he did on her album, on this remix, he uses The Dap-Kings, who really have that vintage soul sound (their main gig, if not their best paying one, is as Sharon Jones' backing band).

3 - The upcoming film, I'm Not There, a biopic starring a number of different actors, including Christian Bale, Richard Gere and even Cate Blanchett as Dylan. I'm looking forward to seeing it.

4 - The I'm Not There soundtrack. It has a big indie-rock slant, which is cool: Dylan's music should be as welcome towards the margins as it is in the middle of the page. Still, it's weird to hear Pavement's Stephen Malkmus - a guy who isn't the most passionate singer I've ever heard - warbling though venomous songs like "Maggie's Farm" and "Ballad Of A Thin Man." It's like weird karoke. Eddie Vedder doing "All Along The Watchtower" is a bit obvious... so much so, I'm surprised he did it. But I hope he brings that one back to Pearl Jam. A big highlight is Mark Lanegan doing "Man In The Long Black Coat." I guess that one is a bit obvious too, but man, he nailed it. Calexico is an indie group that I've been impressed with. I liked the song that they did with Roger McGuinn, "One More Cup Of Coffee," but their best contribution on the album was backing Willie Nelson on "Senor (Tales Of Yankee Power)." I really liked the album that Willie did with Ryan Adams last year - I'd love to see what he would do with Calexico. Some other highlights: Cat Power's "Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again" (which suprised me, as I've never been knocked out by her, I think she's using Al Green's band on this one) ; John Doe's "Pressing On" (I'd never heard the song before), The Hold Steady's "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window," and The Black Keys' "Wicked Messenger." And Dylan's "I'm Not There," which I'd never heard before.

5 - Perhaps most exciting was the project that seemed to get the least amont of hype: a new DVD, The Other Side Of The Mirror: Live At The Newport Folk Festival 1963-1965. It's all footage of Dylan's performances at the legendary folk fest, both on the "main stage" (don't know if they called it that back then) and also at "workshops." You've read it before: the evolution that the guy went through in three years is pretty incredible, as is the way people reacted to him. The set he does in '65 with a rock band is as punk as anything I've ever seen. People are just booing him. I can't imagine what an artist like that could possibly do in 2007 to upset their fans that much.

I'd love to add a "#6" to this list - hopefully Bob is working on new music. Last year's Modern Times was my favorite album of the year. On the other hand, if that's his final album, it's a great "last word." And there's lots of archival material out there. I'd love to hear some live recordings from the '90s: I went to lots of shows in the '90s, and despite the bad rap Bob had for his shows, the ones I saw were pretty incredble.

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