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Bebop Spoken There

Jackie McLean: “I can't understand British audiences. In Britain there doesn't seem to be any curiosity." (Melody Maker, April 1, 1961).

Charles Mingus: "It seems to me that if our records were not issued in Britain, the British cats would have to think for themselves" (Jazz News, July 26th 1961)

Archives.

Today Saturday July 22

Afternoon
SummerTyne Americana Festival 2017 - Sage Gateshead. Day two of three. Details. From 12 noon all day.
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Evening
Steve Glendinning (solo guitar) - Cherry Tree, 9 Osborne Rd., Jesmond, Newcastle NE2 2AE. 7:30pm. No cover charge.
The Hookahs - Billy Bootleggers, Nelson St., Newcastle NE1 5AN. 9pm. Free.
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Big Chris Barber Band - Alnwick Playhouse. 7:30pm. £21.50/£20.50.
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To the best of our knowledge, details of the above events are correct but may be subject to alteration.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

CD Review: Bob Dylan - Shadows in the Night

Bob Dylan (vocals), Tony Garnier (bass), Donny Herron (pedal steel guitar), Charlie Sexton (guitar), Stu Kimball (guitar) and George C. Receli (percussion).
(Review by JC)
Subterranean Lovesick Blues
For most of us, Bob Dylan releasing an album of Great American Songbook numbers, mostly associated with Frank Sinatra, would have seemed an extremely unlikely prospect. Yet here is a man who, by his mid twenties, had been through numerous musical genres - early blues, folk, protest songs, electric rock and country music (and mostly completely reconstructed them) - and simultaneously, in song-writing terms, had created his own personal Great American Songbook. So why not do an album of standards?
Unusually, the best explanation for why he has made this album is provided by Dylan himself: 'I've wanted to do this for a long time but was never brave enough to approach 30-piece complicated arrangements and refine them down for a 5-piece band. That's the key to these performances.....I don't see myself as covering these songs in any way. They've been covered enough. Buried, as a matter of fact. What me and my band are basically doing is uncovering them. Lifting them out of the grave and bringing them into the light of day.'
As we know from his book Chronicles, albums like Self Portrait and The Basement Tapes and his more relaxed radio programmes Theme Time Radio Hour, Dylan sees music as layered upon itself over time and springing from subterranean sources. In a recent speech to the MusiCares Foundation in America he talked about his songs and said they '...didn't come out of thin air....there was a precedent. It all came out of traditional music: traditional folk music, traditional rock and roll and traditional big band swing.' All the kinds of music he was hearing as a teenager and young man, on the radio, on the streets and in the clubs. So in that context, the album makes perfect sense.
And why now? Well as Dylan himself said a long time ago 'I'll know my song well before I start singing'.  These are songs of memory and desire: love experienced, rejected, lost and forgotten; a lifetime's memories tinged with sadness and regret. Emotional depth is in these songs already but needs to be brought out and Dylan does this exceptionally well. Unexpectedly, he does this not just through the lyrics but through his voice. Much criticised by some in recent years as a 'hoarse growl', on these tracks his singing is textured and tuneful, tender and moving. With his band playing with delicacy and elegant precision, complemented by horns on some tracks, the album does indeed succeed in uncovering the buried layers of these songs.
The songs themselves are carefully chosen; from the tinge of desperate longing in the first track I'm a Fool to Want You to the final Lucky Old Sun, a song about death and hoping for an afterlife. In between The Night We Called It a Day, Autumn Leaves, Some Enchanted Evening, Full Moon and Empty Arms and more make up an album of ten songs which could be seen as making a coherent narrative but each one is also a crafted gem that can be enjoyed on its own merits.
Although these songs have been recorded by many other singers, this is Dylan's take on these tunes and, strange as it may seem to some, the album not only works, it's very good.
JC.

8 comments :

  1. A good review, what puzzles me is that some critics that loved this album (for right reasons as is explained here) thought that the sound was too monochrome, so that it got boring in the end. Well, I think that this says more about their failure to concentrate, and I as myself if they have the same feeling about the concept albums of Sinatra... For instance, the fabulous Where Are You sticks to a slow tempo and somber atmosphere with very much the same orchestration on all songs, would they call this boring as well? That album seems the blueprint for what Dylan has sought to achieve here and he succeeded pretty well, though for me he might have given himself a little more freedom to let his voice be like it is normally, he is singing with so much caution and elegance that sometimes a gets a bit shaky and I wished he had put in a little more of his gruff blues, but nonetheless, the emotion gets to my heart with enough force already. And the band shines!
    hans altena

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  2. Interesting that this should be one of the most visited blog posts. I must get it out and listen to it again!

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  3. I agree entirely Hugh, though I don't have a copy to dig out and shan't be buying one.
    I saw a Bon Dylan album was on the list just before hitting my bed and was quite troubled that: a Bob Dylan album was reviewed on a Jazz site (even an open-minded one), I imagine it received a good review, and I don't think a Bob Dylan album has deserved that in the last forty years, and that it was so widely read.
    Of course when I read it I remembered he'd done an album of GAS. I know at the time he admitted that while he'd heavily criticised SinAtra he must have been influenced by him unknowingly.
    I still don't get that Dylan (Beatles, Leonard Cohen, Bowie) can sustain so much interest amongst Jazzers.

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  4. Being a Jazzer doesn't preclude an interest in other types of music, of course, I do wonder whether some of the hits on this particular post were by people using an appropriate term in their search engine of choice, rather than accessing BSH directly and then reading the post.
    For anyone interested, but who does not have (and does not propose to buy) the CD it is available on Spotify.

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  5. Waddington's point is interesting as, indeed, is Hugh's. In these enlightened times (musically) I'd like to think that most of us have moved from the classical v jazz/ trad v modern/ jazz v rock feuds of the past 100 years. Today, I think, most regard music as music irrespective of the genre. As Ellington once said - 'Only 2 kinds: good and bad.' Of course it would be naive to think that everyone should like everything. However, let's not forget that rock and folk came from jazz and blues, albeit not always directly and that many a country guitar lick could slot easily into a jazz performance. Waddington should read some of Steve T's reviews to realise that we are open minded. Getting back to Dylan, in his early days, when I was a bebop purist, Dylan was one of the few no jazz people I listened to - as much for the words as the music and, you know what? He's now got a Nobel Prize or something like that.

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  6. As a veteran of the Amazon discussion forum, I have always found the Dylan police are even worse than the Beatlemaniacs.
    I think the point I was making was, not that people shouldn't listen to other music, but why it had SO many hits. It sometimes seems that people who regularly come to BSH are more interested in people like Bob Dylan than they are in Jazz.
    I've had about 16 Dylan albums over the years on various formats so I'm a bit of a fan, though I think he's become hugely over-rated over the last quarter century and I don't think he's done anything decent in 40 odd years.
    I remember somebody boasting that he'd played Sgt Pepper every sunday morning since its release and I immediately thought how much music he's missed because of a ritual.
    People listen to what they like but I prefer to listen to Jazz and other media unfriendly music cos you hear all the media stuff anyway, including Bob Dylan.
    Jerry Butler said some people think Curtis Mayfield is the black Bob Dylan but he thinks Bob is the white Curtis Mayfield. And yet most people only know one or two Curtis tracks despite a dozen or so classic albums and a similar golden age of around 61 to about 75, with odd moments since.
    I can actually remember the first person I ever met who actually thinks Bob is a greater artist and songwriter than Curtis.
    How many thousands of worthy writers didn't receive the Nobel Prize because, in their wisdom, they decided to give it to a songwriter? It's not the same thing and if he had anything about him, he'd pass it on to his favourite author or poet. Who's going to get it next? John Lennon! Morrissey! Noel Gallagher!

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  7. As the writer of the review of this Bob Dylan album I'm intrigued by RW's amazement at the fact that a large number of people appear to have read it on the BSH web site. If I (reluctantly) leave aside the possibility that the high quality of the review meant that it quickly went viral then may it not have something to do with the fact that, love him or hate him, he is one of the most influential and important artists of the last fifty years? I think it would be reasonable to speculate that amongst the wide and diverse jazz-loving readership of BSH many more have at least one Dylan album in their collection than have a Frank Sinatra record. This is of course not to suggest that therefore Dylan is "better" than Sinatra - a pointless comparison - but rather that when a leading artist brings out a record that is different to their usual work many people might be interested to hear how it sounds.
    RW says that Dylan hasn't produced any decent work in the last 40 years, so if he has listened to the 45 albums Dylan has produced in that time, including 17 albums of original material, and the many re-workings of his earlier songs which throw considerable light on his artistic development (not to mention the 100 plus live concerts he has been playing every year for the last 20 years), I would be happy to defend his right to hold that opinion.
    In an earlier comment RW suggests that Dylan was highly critical of Sinatra but this is not in fact true. Speaking about the album Dylan said, "When you start doing these songs, Frank's got to be on your mind. Because he is the mountain....you have to climb, even if you only get part of the way there."
    Interestingly, Sinatra asked Dylan to perform at his 80th birthday concert and requested a particular song Restless Farewell that Dylan had never sung live before. The only other time he played it live was a few days after Sinatra's death.
    Anyway, if a review of a Dylan album enables more people to discover the informative jazz delights of BSH then that can only be a good thing.
    JC

    PS - Keith Jarrett performs a very nice version of My Back Pages

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  8. The review was high quality, but you don't know that until you've read it.
    The problem with people going on about people being influential is that it doesn't make them good. Bowie was influential on glam, punk-rock, new romantics, Boy George, Indie and Brit-pop; thanks Dave.
    Even if you believe the creation myths of Bob and the Beatles, he himself, having chastised his then girlfriend Joan Baez for pampering to teenyboppers by recording Yesterday, said that just as their song-writing was beginning to improve a little (not a view I share), they spoilt it with over-production. Bob was mainly influential on Byrds, CSN, Neil Young, Donovan, James Yaylor, Nick Drake and lots of people who think it's interesting to stand with an acoustic guitar with a harmonica attached and sing songs badly. Thanks Bob.
    OK I'll give you Folk Rock, but as I said, I quite like him though it, like him, is hardly important in the general scheme of things.
    It's worth noting that Blues artists were recording this type of stuff in the twenties and black artists have been writing 'their own songs' ever since, so the myth that Bob and the Beatles toppled Tin Pan Alley is precisely that. As devotees of Jazz, or Black Music generally, we have to hope that the media will not always be made by and for straight, white, middle class, middle aged (square) men and will one day stop bombarding us with how important people like Bob are. You can't listen to Kind of Blue forever.
    If you re-read my initial post you'll find I became unsurprised about the review when I was reminded it was a Gas album. I remain alarmed that it proved so popular. If JC is upset that I said I wouldn't buy it, he'll know there is a large school of thought that people should listen to his songs by other people,(not a view I share; if you can't stand his voice, don't bother; you'll get Hendrix anyway)so the idea that people should listen to him sing other peoples' songs seems a little bizarre considering his voice is only really comfortable on fairly straight folk music and, as he strayed further into pop in the mid sixties, he started sounding like he was straining on the toilet.
    If I've only heard 16 of his albums, JC will know I haven't heard the 17 from the last 40 years. I've heard a few of the ones which are widely regarded as the best. Every artist has their time. I haven't heard every Curtis Mayfield album after 75 and I wonder how many Curtis and Impressions albums JC has heard.
    It's possible Bob was lying when he said he was critical of Sinatra but it makes sense; much has been made in the media about Bob, John and Paul singing their own songs.
    I agree entirely that Bob people coming over to a Jazz site would be a good thing but I haven't heard much Jazz or Black Music here, or are we saying it's no longer a Jazz site at all.
    Bob currently has an art exhibition challenging notions of celebrity. Seems he has an uphill climb against his own.

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About this blog - contact details.

Bebop Spoken Here -- Here, being the north-east of England -- centred in the blues heartland of Newcastle and reaching down to the Tees Delta and looking upwards to the Land of the Kilt.
Not a very original title, I know; not even an accurate one as my taste, whilst centred around the music of Bird and Diz, extends in many directions and I listen to everything from King Oliver to Chick Corea and beyond. Not forgetting the Great American Songbook the contents of which has provided the inspiration for much great jazz and quality popular singing for round about a century.
The idea of this blog is for you to share your thoughts and pass on your comments on discs, gigs, jazz - music in general. If you've been to a gig/concert or heard a CD that knocked you sideways please share your views with us. Tell us about your favourites, your memories, your dislikes.
Lance (Who wishes it to be known that he is not responsible for postings other than his own and that he's not always responsible for them.)
Contact: lanceliddle@gmail.com I look forward to hearing from you.

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