Category Archives: Bob Dylans’s best songs

Bob Dylan – Tin Angel Revisited

COLUMBIA RECORDS BOB DYLAN ALBUM

Just a few thoughts on the song Tin Angel.

For me, after listening to it for two days, the most obvious masterpiece on Bob Dylan’s new album is the murder ballad, Tin Angel. It’s a story-song, the kind Dylan has done so magnificently many times before. Cross the Green Mountain, Tweeter and the Monkey Man and  Brownsville Girl springs to mind. They are extremely cinematic songs and they tell a story over many verses.  Another song that pops up in my head is the wonderful story of Spanish Jack by Willy DeVille, not very like in sound but in tone.

The music on Tin Angel is repetitive, but not in a bad way, it’s an hypnotic rhythm and a bass that sucks the wind straight out of you. It transcends ordinary music and serves as a enhancement of the fascinating story that is told over the 28 verses.

I could try to analyze the song, but I don’t think we should. It is straightforward ballad of three doomed lovers, told in a dark, dark song, and it sounds like Bob Dylan is having a hell of a time when he tells it.

After I got a comment on the original post about the song Gypsy Davy I just had to do a revision (see the bottom of the post)!

..and why is it called Tin Angel, I have an idea, but I could be off the mark. Joni Mitchell has accused Dylan of being unoriginal, and I think he is poking fun at her  by naming the song Tin Angel. The same title as a song recorded by Mitchell but written by somebody else.

Here’s the spotify link:

It is a bit difficult to see who says what in the story, I have put who I think delivers the lines after each line of dialogue in the song.

The “playas”:

The Boss
The Wife
Henry Lee
Servant

The story starts at home at the mansion:

It was late last night when the boss came home
To a deserted mansion and a desolate throne
Servant said: “Boss, the lady’s gone
She left this morning just ‘fore dawn.” (Servant)

“You got something to tell me, tell it to me, man
Come to the point as straight as you can” (The Boss)
“Old Henry Lee, chief of the clan
Came riding through the woods and took her by the hand” (Servant)

The boss he lay back flat on his bed
He cursed the heat and he clutched his head
He pondered the future of his fate
To wait another day would be far too late

“Go fetch me my coat and my tie
And the cheapest labour that money can buy
Saddle me up my buckskin mare
If you see me go by, put up a prayer” (The Boss)

The Boss is determined to “set things straight” and rides off to get his wife and to kill Henry Lee. Henry Lee is a name that we know from an old song on the Harry Smith collection (the first on the first cd). Covered by Bob Dylan earlier (as Love, Henry), also covered by Nick Cave on the album Murder Ballads. An album where Tin Angel would fit very naturally.

The next 6 verses tells us about his journey and how he sneaks up on the unknowing lovers. Dylan really sets a terrifying scene for what is about to happen. The Boss really gets into a killing mood, “he renounces his faith, he denies his lord”:

Well, they rode all night, and they rode all day
Eastward, long down the broad highway
His spirit was tired and his vision was bent
His men deserted him and onward he went

He came to a place where the light was dull
His forehead pounding in his skull
Heavy heart was racked with pain
Insomnia raging in his brain

Well, he threw down his helmet and his cross-handled sword
He renounced his faith, he denied his lord
Crawled on his belly, put his ear to the wall
One way or another put an end to it all

He leaned down, cut the electric wire
Stared into the flames and he snorted the fire
Peered through the darkness, caught a glimpse of the two
It was hard to tell for certain who was who

He lowered himself down on a golden chain
His nerves were quaking in every vein
His knuckles were bloody, he sucked in the air
He ran his fingers through his greasy hair

They looked at each other and their glasses clinked
One single unit, inseparably linked
“Got a strange premonition there’s a man close by” (Henry Lee)
“Don’t worry about him, he wouldn’t harm a fly” (The Wife)


As we hear, the wife is not very worried or affraid of her husband.

A small snippet seems to be taken from The Fire-King by Sir Walter Scott:  “He has thrown by his helmet, and cross-handled sword, Renouncing his knighthood, denying his Lord”. I’m sure there are a lot of other small “thefts” as well.

Love and theft, baby, love and theft.

Continue reading Bob Dylan – Tin Angel Revisited

Bob Dylan’s best songs – Sad Eyed Lady of The Lowlands #49

bobdylan-blondeonblonde-cover

Stayin’ up for days in the Chelsea Hotel,
Writin’ “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” for you.
~”Sara” (Bob Dylan)

That song is an example of a song… it started out as just a little thing, Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands, but I got carried away, somewhere along the line. I just sat down at a table and started writing. At the session itself. And I just got carried away with the whole thing… I just started writing and I couldn’t stop. After a period of time, I forgot what it was all about, and I started trying to get back to the beginning.
~Bob Dylan (to Jann Wenner Nov 1969)

This is the best song I’ve ever written.
~Bob Dylan (to Robert Shelton)

@ #49 on my list of Dylan’s 200 best songs. Recorded @ Columbia Music Row Studios – Nashville, Tennessee – February 16, 4-5.30 am.

Bob Dylan & Sara

Session list:

  1. I’ll Keep It With Mine
  2. I’ll Keep It With Mine
  3. I’ll Keep It With Mine
  4. I’ll Keep It With Mine
  5. I’ll Keep It With Mine
  6. I’ll Keep It With Mine
  7. I’ll Keep It With Mine
  8. I’ll Keep It With Mine
  9. I’ll Keep It With Mine
  10. I’ll Keep It With Mine
  11. Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands
  12. Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands
  13. Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands
  14. Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands

Spotify:

Continue reading Bob Dylan’s best songs – Sad Eyed Lady of The Lowlands #49

Bob Dylan’s best songs – Visions of Johanna #1

bobdylan-blondeonblonde-cover

“The ghost of ’lectricity howls in the bones of her face Where these visions of Johanna have now taken my place”
— from “Visions of Johanna”

In 1982 readers of ‘The Telegraph” voted ‘Visions of Johanna’ their “favourite Dylan Song” by a wide margin (‘Like A Rolling Stone’ & ‘It’s Alrght, Ma’ tied for second). Why? There is a depth in this song, an intimate bond created between the singer and the listener, that defies analysis & explanation
~Paul Williams (BD Performing Artist 1960-73)

bob dylan 1966

@ #1 on my list of Dylan’s 200 best songs.. this really is a song so good it’s hard grasp…  every time I put it on… it feels like a new & old classic.. a true masterpiece.

The master version (Blonde On Blonde version) was recorded @ Columbia Music Row Studios – Nashville, Tennessee –14 February 1966 (47 years ago).

This was the the 6th Blonde On Blonde session, produced by Bob Johnston.. and Dylan also landed “Fourth Time Around” @ this sessions.

bob dylan blonde on blonde photshoot

Continue reading Bob Dylan’s best songs – Visions of Johanna #1

Bob Dylan’s best songs – This Wheel’s on Fire #100

bob dylan basement tapes

Jan Wenner: Of all the versions of This Wheel’s On Fire, which do you like the best?
Bob Dylan: Uh… the Band’s. Who else did it?
Jan Wenner: Where was that done?
Bob Dylan: Well, that was done out in… out in somebody’s basement. Just a basement tape.
~ Jan Wenner Interview Nov 1969

the band big pink basement

@ #100 on my list of Dylan’s 200 best songs. Recorded in the basement @  The Big Pink, West Saugerties, New York – June – October 1967.

the big pink

 Basement tapes version:

From Wikipedia:

This Wheel’s on Fire” is a song written by Bob Dylan and Rick Danko. It was originally recorded by Dylan and The Band during their 1967 sessions, portions of which (including this song) comprised the 1975 album, The Basement Tapes. The Band’s own version appeared on their 1968 album, Music From Big Pink.

Released June 26, 1975
Recorded 1967
Genre Rock
Length 3:49
Label Columbia
Writer Bob Dylan, Rick Danko
Producer Bob Dylan & The Band

bob dylan and the band 1967

Here’s a great live version from Stockholm 1998-06-09:

  Continue reading Bob Dylan’s best songs – This Wheel’s on Fire #100

Video of the day: Brownsville Girl (Dylan) – Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy

bonnie-prince-billy-2001-photo

 Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy aka Will Oldham is coming to Norway in May, playing at least three cities. It would be great to get to see him in concert, but I’m guessing it will be quite difficult to get tickets. Anyway, that’s why I chose him for the video of the day. That and the fact that he has recently played Bob Dylan’s masterpiece Brownsville Girl in concert, one of my all time favourite songs.

Brownsville Girl (Bob Dylan) covered by Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy:

“Well, there was this movie I seen one time,
about a man riding ‘cross the desert
and it starred Gregory Peck.”

– Hallgeir