Category Archives: Bob Dylan

Today: Bob Dylan released “Under The Red Sky” in 1990, 23 years ago

bob dylan under the red sky

“It’s just another record,” [Dylan says of Red Sky] “You can only make the records as good as
you can and hope they sell.”
~Bob Dylan (to Edna Gundersen, Aug 1990)

I made this record, Under the Red Sky, with Don Was, but at the same time I was also doing the Wilburys record. I don’t know how it happened that I got into both albums at the same time.
~Bob Dylan (to Jonathan Lethem, Aug 2006)

Anyway, Leadbelly did most of those kind of songs. He’d been out of prison for some time when he decided to do children’s songs and people said oh, why did Leadbelly change? Some people liked the old ones, some people liked the new ones. Some people liked both songs. But he didn’t change, he was the same man! Anyway, this is a song called …, It’s a new song I wrote a while back. I’m gonna try and do it as good as I can. there’s somebody important here tonight who wants to hear it, so we’ll give it our best …
– preface to ‘Caribbean Wind’, Warfield Theatre, San Francisco, November 12, 1980

Born In Time:

From wikipedia:

Released September 10, 1990
Recorded Early 1990
Genre Rock
Length 35:21
Label Columbia
Producer “Jack Frost” (Bob Dylan), Don Was, and David Was

Under the Red Sky is the twenty-seventh studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released in September 1990 by Columbia Records.

The album was largely greeted as a strange and disappointing follow-up to 1989’s critically acclaimed Oh Mercy. Most of the criticism was directed at the slick sound of pop producer Don Was, as well as a handful of tracks that seem rooted in children’s nursery rhymes. It is a rarity in Dylan’s catalog for its inclusion of celebrity cameos, by Slash, Elton John, George Harrison, David Crosby, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Bruce Hornsby.

Reception:

Dylan has echoed most critics’ complaints, telling Rolling Stone in a 2006 interview that the album’s shortcomings resulted from hurried and unfocused recording sessions, due in part to his activity with the Traveling Wilburys at the time. He also claimed that there were too many people working on the album, and that he was very disillusioned with the recording industry during this period of his career.

  • Dylan critic Patrick Humphries, author of The Complete Guide to the Music of Bob Dylan, was particularly harsh in his assessment of Under the Red Sky, stating the album “was everything Oh Mercy wasn’t—sloppily written songs, lazily performed and unimaginatively produced.
  • The album did have some critical support, particularly from Robert Christgau of The Village Voice, who wrote “To my astonishment, I think Under the Red Sky is Dylan’s best album in 15 years, a record that may even signal a ridiculously belated if not totally meaningless return to form…It’s fabulistic, biblical…the tempos are postpunk like it oughta be, with [Kenny] Aronoff’s sprints and shuffles grooving ahead like ’60s folk-rock never did.”
  • Paul Nelson, writing for Musician, called the album “a deliberately throwaway masterpiece.”

More opinions:

  • Clinton Heylin (from “Still On The Road…”):
    under the red sky seems to oppress an awful lot of Dylan fans. Some particularly infantile criticism has been directed at its self conscious use of nursery rhyme-like constructions, largely from people entirely ignorant of nursery rhymes’ centuries-old role in the folk tradition. Dylan certainly received little credit for daring to make a gut-bustin’ R&B record less than a year after leaving the swamplands of Lanoisville. Whatever its failings, the album conveys a real unity of purpose. What it lacked was one song that raised things to a higher plane, preferably at the expense of an album-opener that went, ‘Wiggle wiggle wiggle, like a bowl of soup.’
  • Robert Christgau:
    This Was Bros. pseudothrowaway improves on the hushed emotion, weary wisdom, and new-age “maturity” of the Daniel Lanois-produced Oh Mercy even if the lyrics are sloppier–the anomaly is what Lanois calls Oh Mercy’s “focused” writing. Aiming frankly for the evocative, the fabulistic, the biblical, Dylan exploits narrative metaphor as an adaptive mechanism that allows him to inhabit a “mature” pessimism he knows isn’t the meaning of life. Where his seminal folk-rock records were cut with Nashville cats on drums–Kenny Buttrey when he was lucky, nonentities when he wasn’t–here Kenny Aronoff’s tempos are postpunk like it oughta be, springs and shuffles grooving ever forward. The fables are strengthened by the workout, and as a realist I also treasure their literal moments. I credit his outrage without forgetting his royalty statements. I believe he’s gritted his teeth through the bad patches of a long-term sexual relationship even if he still measures the long term in months. And when he thanks his honey for that cup of tea, I melt. A-
  • Michael Gray (Bob Dylan Encyclopedia):
    The first Dylan album after Oh Mercy shows Dylan characteristically retreating from that album’s mainstream production values and safe terrain, and refusing to offer a
    follow-up. Nevertheless his penchant for recently modish producers has him turn this time to DAVID & DON WAS of Was Not Was, who offer a rougher and less unified sound. It’s a pity Dylan pads out the album with some sub-standard rockism(‘Wiggle Wiggle’ and ‘Unbelievable’) and the ill-fitting, foggy pop of ‘Born in Time’, because the core of the album is an adventure into the poetic
    possibilities of nursery rhyme that is alert, fresh and imaginative, and an achievement that has gone largely unrecognised.
  • Paul Williams (from “Bob Dylan: Performance Artist 1986-1990 And Beyond”):It’s a magnificent album, really, and I love every performance on it. Oh, there have been times over the years when I’ve had my doubts about “10,000 Men” or “2×2,” but as with a good concert, each performance in sequence opens doors in listener and singer and musicians and, because the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, the parts are elevated in dignity and expressive power just by their connectedness to that whole. So I find myself getting into the groove of “10,000 Men,” the easy flow of the language, the surprising shouts and whispers of the vocal, the irrepressible Under the Red Sky humor that chugs along throughout (and catches my attention at different moments every time I listen).
  • Stephen Thomas Erlewine (allmusic.com):
    Dylan followed Oh Mercy, his most critically acclaimed album in years, with Under the Red Sky, a record that seemed like a conscious recoil from that album’s depth and atmosphere. By signing Don Was, the king of mature retro-rock, as producer, he guaranteed that the record would be lean and direct, which is perhaps exactly what this collection of simplistic songs deserves. Still, this record feels a little ephemeral, a collection of songs that Dylan didn’t really care that much about. In a way, that makes it a little easier to warm to than its predecessor, since it has a looseness that suits him well, especially with songs this deliberately lightweight. As such, Under the Red Sky is certainly lightweight, but rather appealing in its own lack of substance, since Dylan has never made a record so breezy, apart from (maybe) Down in the Groove. That doesn’t make it a great, or even good, record, but it does have its own charms that will be worth searching out for Dylanphiles.

Track listing:

All songs written by Bob Dylan.

  1. “Wiggle Wiggle” – 2:09
  2. “Under the Red Sky” – 4:09
  3. “Unbelievable” – 4:06
  4. “Born in Time” – 3:39
  5. “T.V. Talkin’ Song” – 3:02
  6. “10,000 Men” – 4:21
  7. “2 × 2” – 3:36
  8. “God Knows” – 3:02
  9. “Handy Dandy” – 4:03
  10. “Cat’s in the Well” – 3:21

My fav songs from the album:

  1. Born In Time
  2. God Knows
  3. Under The Red Sky

Personnel

  • Bob Dylan – acoustic and electric guitar, piano, accordion, harp, vocals, production
Additional musicians
  • Kenny Aronoff – drums
  • Sweet Pea Atkinson – backing vocals
  • Rayse Biggs – trumpet
  • Sir Harry Bowens – backing vocals
  • David Crosby – backing vocals
  • Paulinho Da Costa – percussion
  • Robben Ford – guitar
  • George Harrison – slide guitar
  • Bruce Hornsby – piano
  • Randy “The Emperor” Jackson – bass guitar
  • Elton John – piano
  • Al Kooper – organ, keyboards
  • David Lindley – bouzouki, guitar, slide guitar
  • David McMurray – saxophone
  • Donald Ray Mitchell – backing vocals
  • Jamie Muhoberac – organ
  • Slash – guitar
  • Jimmie Vaughan – guitar
  • Stevie Ray Vaughan – guitar
  • Waddy Wachtel – guitar
  • David Was – backing vocals, production
  • Don Was – bass guitar, production
Technical personnel
  • Dan Bosworth – assistant engineering
  • Marsha Burns – production coordination
  • Ed Cherney – engineering, mixing
  • Steve Deutsch – assistant engineering
  • Judy Kirshner – assistant engineering
  • Jim Mitchell – assistant engineering
  • Brett Swain – assistant engineering

It’s Unbelievable:

Album of the day:

Check out:

Other September 10:

Continue reading Today: Bob Dylan released “Under The Red Sky” in 1990, 23 years ago

Bob Dylan: Barbara Allen (traditional)

bob dylan barbara allen

In Charlotte town, not far from here,
There was a fair maid dwellin.’
And her name was known both far and near,
And her name was Barb’ry Allen.

‘Twas in the merry month of May,
Green buds they were swellin’,
Poor William on his death-bed lay,
For the love of Barb’ry Allen.

…. And, you know, then the folk music, which I’d heard somewhat to a degree. I knew people that sung Barbara Allen and stuff like that. And I listened to all that music.
~Bob Dylan (to Nat Hentoff – Autumn 1965)

Wikipedia:

Written by Traditional
Published 17th century (earliest known)
Language English
Form Broadside ballad and folksong

Barbara Allen” (Child 84, Roud 54) is a traditional ballad originating in England and Scotland, which immigrants introduced to theUnited States, where it became a popular folk song. Roud and Bishop described it as, “…far and away the most widely collected song in the English language — equally popular in England, Scotland and Ireland, and with hundreds of versions collected over the years in North America.”

The story is a simple one. In “Scarlet Town,” a young man named Sweet William lies on his death bed and calls for Barbara Allen. He asks for her love; she coldly informs him that he is dying. There is some discussion over who slighted whom. She leaves and is smitten by remorse when she hears “the death bell knelling.” She asks her father to dig her grave. This done, she “will die for him tomorrow,” and buried next to Sweet William in the old churchyard, a rose that blossoms from his heart, and a briar that springs from hers, “grew and grew… till they twined a true love’s knot.”
~Lenny Kaye, liner notes for “O Love Is Teasin'” (Elektra 9 60402-1-U, 1985).

He sent his man down to town
To the place that she was dwellin’
Sayin’, “Master bids your company,
If your name is Barb’ry Allen.”

Oh slowly, slowly she got up
To the place where he was lyin’,
And when she pulled the curtain back,
Said, “Young man, I b’lieve you’re dying!”

Other notable versions

Joan Baez:

Pete Seeger:

Continue reading Bob Dylan: Barbara Allen (traditional)

8 fine cover versions of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”

bob dylan, neil young and eric clapton

Neil Young with Booker T and The M.G.’s – October 16, 1992

phil lesh - grateful dead

The Grateful Dead at the Capital Centre, Landover, MD 3/15/1990

Continue reading 8 fine cover versions of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”

Bob Dylan’s best songs: Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues #19 (Audio & Video)

bob Dylan Just Like A Tom thumb's Blues

When you’re lost in the rain in Juarez
And it’s Eastertime too
And your gravity fails
And negativity don’t pull you through
Don’t put on any airs
When you’re down on Rue Morgue Avenue
They got some hungry women there
And they really make a mess outta you

This reminds me of Kerouac’s “On The Road” – conjuring up a dusty character lost somewhere in America, or South America, down on his luck, wanting to go home and singing off with the bleak but also funny line: “I’m going back to New York City/I do believe I’ve had enough.”
~Howard Souness (His 40 Greatest songs – Uncut Magazine)

Among the masterpieces of Bob Dylan’s amazing outpouring of songs in the mid-’60s, “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” is a minor pleasure. For anyone else, its extravagant imagery and literary references would make it a sophisticated, comic tour de force. But it has tended to be overshadowed by Dylan’s other songs of the period.
~William Ruhlmann (allmusic.com)

Mr. Ruhlmann has a point… this masterpiece is no. 19 on my Dylan top 200 list… and still there are 3 songs on “Highway 61 Revisited” that are better + 6 others from 65/66… It is brilliant song that carries most of the same characteristics as two of the other  masterpieces on H61 (Like A Rolling Stone & Ballad of  a Thin Man):

Bob_Dylan_-_Highway_61_Revisited

Now if you see Saint Annie
Please tell her thanks a lot
I cannot move
My fingers are all in a knot
I don’t have the strength
To get up and take another shot
And my best friend, my doctor
Won’t even say what it is I’ve got

Original version:


Spotify:

Continue reading Bob Dylan’s best songs: Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues #19 (Audio & Video)

The Best of Another Self Portrait: The Isle Of Wight concert

isle1

I have now had a few days listening to the new Bootleg series 10 deluxe box set. It is very interesting, and it is actually rather good. I am one of those few that kind of liked the original album, so I expected to like Another Self Portrait. I was not expecting that I would like it as much as I do.

That said, there are two things that stand out however. The first is the demo version of When I Paint My Masterpiece, it knocked me out. It is breathtakingly beautiful.

But the best of the release is the full Isle of Wight performance with The Band, and I really did not expect that!

I’ve read about the Isle of Wight concert, what an important event it was, how good it was. Dylan’s first concert in three years! More than a concert, a culturally significant event and a great show.

Rolling Stone Magazine wrote in 1969:
“During Dylan’s performance, a lovely 19-year-old girl, who said her name was Vivian and that she came from “nowhere,” appeared naked with a similarly naked young man, in the midst of a sea of foam pumped into a recreation area, and before 200 persons, made love. There was no attempt to stop them – but there was plenty of encouragement. “Beautiful,” bellowed several who saw it: “Freaky, baby!””

Well, they got my attention!

isle2

…and they wrote about the concert:

“On came Bob Dylan, one of the very few artists who could afford not to wear skin-tight, flared, sexy trousers. Boy Dylan in a loose white suit (Buddy Holly probably owned a suit like that), white shoes, white tie and yellow shirt, behind a sparkling stainless steel chin-height barricade of microphones.

The stomping and the cheering and the crying and the crush toward the front-stage area was still strong as Dylan began his first song, “She Belongs to Me.” “Great to be here, great to be here,” he said as he finished the song. “It sure is.” There was a slightly more down-home resilience to “I Threw It All Away” and “Maggie’s Farm” than on the recordings, possibly due to the Band’s mellow, sinewy backings. “Highway 61” positively rocked.

Then the Band departed for a time, allowing Dylan to play acoustically: “Will Ye Go, Lassie Go,” a hardy perennial on the British folk scene; “It Ain’t Me Babe”; “To Ramona”; “Mr. Tambourine Man.” In “Like a Rolling Stone,” Dylan hit upon a new device of adding the world “girl” at judicious places – “You mustn’t let other people get your kicks for you, girl!” the sang, goosing the song along all the better, with the Band, who had re-joined him now, adding their resonant voices to the chorus. “I Pity The Poor Immigrant” took on sea chantey tones with Garth Hudson’s accordion accompaniment. Song after song rolled on, “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight,” “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine,” “Lay Lady Lay,” “One Too Many Mornings.”

And then Dylan announced: “We’re going to do one more for you.” Just the slightest sardonic grin. “This was a big hit over here by Manfred Mann, a great group, a great group.” A whoop of anticipation, and sure enough, it was “Mighty Quinn,” mighty funky.

Bob smiled broadly and waved his goodbye as the audience fell into their chant: “More, more, more more, more . . . ” So he did an encore of two more songs, the first of them a new Dylan song, a slow, gentle ballad called “Who’s Gonna Throw That Next Throw,” then followed it with a prancing “Rainy Day Women No. 12 and No. 35.”

And that was it. He had sung for one solid hour, from 11 PM to midnight. “Thank you, thank you, great!” he told the audience, still smiling, as he left for the last time.”

They describe the second coming don’t they?
Continue reading The Best of Another Self Portrait: The Isle Of Wight concert