Thursday, May 08, 2008

One-Listen Review: "New Morning" by Bob Dylan

This man wants to give you a kiss.

Track 1 - "If Not For You"

George Harrison did this, so I kinda-sorta know this song. But the Dylan arrangement is nice. His voice is very melodic here, which I guess was par the course for him after that Nashville Skyline business.

Comparison: George's version was his usual weepy-slide-guitar sweet version. This one's kinda loungy, more laid-back, and... well, it's cute. Very cute. I never thought I could call a Dylan song "cute" (except for maybe "Quinn The Eskimo") but here it is. I mean, christ, there's a glockenspiel!! Proof that Bob Dylan was the original Belle and Sebastian.

Track 2 - "Day of the Locusts"
It's a Bob Seger song. No, really. Was Bob Seger listening to this shit? It sounds right up his alley. Probably based his entire career off this song.

There's a lot of organ here. Nice Dylan vocal - a little more sneer than the last song. I like this! It's a really warm, pleasant piece of work. Put it on if you wanna feel good.

Track 3 - "Time Passes Slowly"
"Time passes slowly, up here in the mountains." Bob Dylan is a mountain man.

Piano, piano, piano. The whole thing is kinda jagged. Song just kinda... ambles along. It's OK.

Track 4 - "Went To See The Gypsy"
I decided to follow the lyrics to this one as best I could. So Bob goes to see a gypsy dude. Umm, then he leaves the gypsy guy to make a phone call (?) and runs into some girl who says, "Go back and see the gypsy." So he does, but the gypsy's gone, and so's the girl.

Am I supposed to follow this? Probably not.

Anyway, this is another piano-bluesy thing. Is Bob on piano? I have no idea. I'm not looking up the fucking personnel for this shit. I don't like Bob Dylan enough.

Track 5: "Winterlude"
Waltzy little oh-come-a-darlin' sing-along. Y'know, 3/4 time and all that.

"Winterlude, winterlude, my little apple!" "Let's go down to the chapel!" Oh Bob. Let's go a-courtin'.

Track 6: "If Dogs Run Free"
Err, umm, what? What the shit?

It's like... slow piano-based jazzy stuff. With Bob speak-singing the whole time. And it's not like, y'know, normal Dylan funny-asshole speak-singing like in "One Of Us Must Know". It's like lounge-jazz, soft-spoken, "cool" speak-singing that just sounds silly coming out of Dylan. Worse you've got some lady jazz-scatting behind him. "BEBOPADOOPOWBOWOWOWOW!!" Ugh.

"True love can make a blade of grass stand up straight and tall." Imagine Bob Dylan whispering this into your ear as if he were trying to distract you at a crowded party while slipping some roofie powder into your margarita.

At the end he says "GO BABY" and that lady starts scatting all over the place. No, no! Don't keep scatting!!

This is dumb, Bob. DUMB.

Track 7: "New Morning"
Hey now this is more like it! Country-blues shufflin'!! And there's no piano somehow!! (There is a "Like a Rolling Stone" organ, but I like that).

This one's like "Meet Me In The Morning", only much more uppity. Reminds me of the Kinks' "Muswell Hillbillies," but that was recorded later and drew from the same influences Bob did (and was recorded by the devil Britons, who have nothing to do with us pure Americans). There's even a little fiddle hidden away in the bridge! Try and find it!!

It's slower, but it's warm and sweet. Wipes that "If Dogs Run Free" scatty B.S. right out of my mouth. Ah, the promise of a new day.

Track 8: "Sing on the Window"
Reminds me of Randy Newman. Oh, and Bob Seger.

Starts off with just Bob and his pianny. Then settles into a rootsy groove with lady backup singin'. It's gentle. And it almost sounds like there's a mellotron (??) a couple minutes in. Neat!

Favorite line: "Had a bunch of kids call me 'Pa' - that must be what it's all about." Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to good-ol' domestic Bobby Dyls.

Seriously, didn't he do Blonde on Blonde like 4 years before this? Jesus.

Track 9: "One More Weekend"
Hell yes he made Blonde on Blonde!! Now we've got some fucking BLUES motherfucker. Blues up your ASS.

It's Blonde on Blonde blues all over again, but it also reminds me of Love and Theft's bluesiest songs. By the way, can I state for the record that I like Love and Theft BETTER than Blonde on Blonde?? Is that sacrelige? Man, I'd take me "Lonesome Day Blues" over that "Pledging My Time" shit any day. White man's blues just sounds a thousand times more convincing coming out of a 60-year-old's smoke-ravaged larynx.

Track 10: "The Man In Me"

Seriously that movie was great. And this song reminds me of that movie. It's the only song I knew before I heard this album. It's good!

Funny thought - I didn't even catch that this was Dylan the first time I heard it. Just sounded like a guy with a Dylan-esque voice. I think maybe it was those female backing singers. They're all over this album! I dunno what the deal is!! Did Bob pick them up from a vacation in Maui or something!!!?

Track 11: "Three Angels"
Speak-singing again. Goddamnit Bob stop doing this you aren't Bill Shatner.

"Three angels up above the street. Each one playing a horn. Dressed in green robes with wings that stick out. They've been there since Christmas morn." That's it, people: everybody should have seen his conversion to Christianity coming. It's all in this song! It's like a hymn or some shit.

At least the music's pleasant. But Bob. Seriously. Just sing like a normal motherfucking human being. If I wanted to hear you ramble about stupid crap I'd rent Renaldo and Clara.

Track 12: "Father of Night"
Joe Cocker! Bob Seger again! It's all here people!!

I thought maybe this would be a good-timin' song when it started, but it's actually kind of dark. The backing lady-vocals (AGAIN) sound kinda creepy, and Bob just rattles of a list of fathers of... things. It's a weird way to end the album - and it's only 1:30 long! Jeez, Bob, give us a nice one to leave with.

Not bad. It's a down-home album - almost as if Dylan tried to do The Basement Tapes again all by himself. "If Dogs Run Free" and "Three Angels" can go fuck a cat up a tree, but most of the other songs are perfectly pleasant Dylan nuggets: "If Not For You," "Day of the Locusts," "New Morning," "One More Weekend," all great boppin' Dylan good-timers. Most of them point to the sweeter, more direct music Dylan would make with Blood On The Tracks but without all the broken-heartedness. There's lots of organ, lot's of female vocal accompaniment, lots of PIANO HONKY TONK.

I haven't heard Self-Portrait or Planet Waves, which surround this album. Do either sound like this? I have no clue. He sounds very happy here. Probably happy to be out of the spotlight for once. Self-Portrait did its job, I guess.

I wouldn't call this an absolute classic, and it's one that I'm sure will remain love-hate for a lot of Dylan fans. Most will probably like it. Those guys who dropped Dylan like a bad habit after he ripped his balls off on his motorcycle (true story) might not like it. Neither will the folkies. But Bob Seger fans - make a line to pick up your copy of New Morning!!

1 comment:

Adam said...

I meant to comment on this a while ago, but I don't see why many reviewers are so against reviewing an album track by track. I love it... I mean, the feel and overall sound of the album, combined with the history and whatnot... that's all important. But for most albums, what really counts are the individual songs themselves... but that's just my opinion.