Tag Archives: Robert Christgau

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:

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Bob Dylan & The Band – Down In The Flood (2012) DVD (Videos)

bob dylan and the band

bob dylan and the band dvd back
  •  DVD Release Date: September 25, 2012
  • Run Time: 114 minutes

Great documentary.

This is the story of Bob Dylan and The Band, the legendary amateur recordings that they made together in Woodstock, their re-invention of American music and their continued relationship during the late 1960s and 1970s. Featuring the first interview with Garth Hudson in over a decade, together with contributions from Band producer John Simon; 66 tour drummer Mickey Jones; Hawks mentor Ronnie Hawkins and many more, plus rare footage, archive interviews and the music that changed the world. This is the finest program on Dylan and The Band s respective and communal careers yet to emerge.
~amazon.com

 

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Part 6:

Part 7:

Part 8:

-Egil

Today: Led Zeppelin’s “Houses of the Holy” was released in 1973 – 40 years ago

led zeppelin houses of the holy

The epic scale suited Zeppelin: They had the largest crowds, the loudest rock songs, the most groupies, the fullest manes of hair. Eventually excess would turn into bombast, but on Houses, it still provided inspiration.
~Gavin Edwards (rollingstone.com)

#1 – The Song Remains The Same

Wikipedia

Released 28 March 1973
Recorded January–August 1972, Stargrovesand Headley Grange with the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio, and Island Studios, London; Mixed at Olympic Studios, London and Electric Lady Studios, New York
Genre Hard rock, heavy metal
Length 40:58
Language English
Label Atlantic
Producer Jimmy Page

Houses of the Holy is the fifth studio album by English rock band Led Zeppelin, released by Atlantic Records on 28 March 1973. It is the first Led Zeppelin album composed of entirely original material, and represents a musical turning point for the band, who had begun to record songs with more layering and production techniques.

During the sessions, Led Zeppelin also recorded a song named “Houses of the Holy”, and planned to make it the album’s title track. However, the band eventually decided that it didn’t fit in, and the song was instead released on their next album, Physical Graffiti.

  • Houses of the Holy was certified 11× Platinum by the RIAA
  • In 2012, it was ranked number 148 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

led zeppelin houses-of-the-holy-back

 But side two begins with two amazing, well, dance tracks–the transmogrified shuffle is actually called “Dancing Days,” while “D’Yer Mak’er” is a reggae, or “reggae”
~Robert Christgau (http://www.robertchristgau.com)

#5 – Dancing Days

Album Sleeve Design

The cover art for Houses of the Holy was inspired by the ending of Arthur C. Clarke’s novel Childhood’s End, which involves several hundred million naked children, only slightly and physically resembling the human race in basic forms. The cover is a collage of several photographs which were taken at the Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland, by Aubrey Powell of Hipgnosis. This location was chosen ahead of an alternative one in Peru which was being considered.

NI_710.tif
Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

 Critical reaction

Upon its release, the album received some mixed reviews, with much criticism from the music press being directed at the off-beat nature of tracks such as “The Crunge” and “D’yer Mak’er”. However, the album was very successful commercially, entering the UK chart at number one, while in America its 39-week run (2 of them spent at number one) on the Billboard Top 40 was their longest since their third album.

#2 – The Rain Song

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Today: Van Morrison released “His Band and the Street Choir” in 1970 – 42 years ago

 Morrison is still a brooder–“Why did you leave America?” he asks over and over on the final cut, and though I’m not exactly sure what he’s talking about, that sounds like a good all-purpose question/accusation to me–but not an obsessive one, and this is another half-step away from the acoustic late-night misery of Astral Weeks. As befits hits, “Domino” and especially “Blue Money” are more celebratory if no more joyous than anything on Moondance, showing off his loose, allusive white r&b at its most immediate. And while half of side two is comparatively humdrum, I play it anyway. A
~Robert Christgau (Consumer guide)

Street Choir – Van Morrison Live at Montreux 1974:

From Wikipedia:

Released 15 November 1970
Recorded March–July 1970, at the A&R Recording Studios, New York City
Genre Folk rock, R&B, blues
Length 41:40
Label Warner Bros.
Producer Van Morrison

His Band and the Street Choir (also referred to as Street Choir) is the fourth solo album by Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison. It was released on 15 November 1970 by Warner Bros. Records. Originally titled Virgo’s FoolStreet Choir was renamed by Warner Bros. without Morrison’s consent. Recording began in early 1970 with a demo session in a small church in Woodstock, New York. Morrison booked the A&R Studios on 46th Street in New York City in the second quarter of 1970 to produce two sessions of songs that were released on His Band and the Street Choir.

Domino (Midnight Special TV-show, 1977):

Reviewers praised the music of both sessions for its free, relaxed sound, but the lyrics were considered to be simple compared with those of his previous work. Morrison had intended to record the album a cappella with only vocal backing by a vocal group he called the Street Choir, but the songs released on the album that included the choir also featured a backing band. Morrison was dissatisfied with additional vocalists to the original quintet that made up the choir, and these changes and others have led him to regard Street Choir poorly in later years.

“His Band and the Street Choir is a free album. It was recorded with minimal over-dubbing and was obviously intended to show the other side of Moondance. And if it has a flaw it is that, like Moondance, it is too much what it set out to be. A few more numbers with a gravity of ‘Street Choir’ would have made this album as close to perfect as anyone could have stood.”
~John Landau

His Band and the Street Choir was as well received as Morrison’s previous album, MoondanceStreet Choir peaked at number 32 on the Billboard 200 and number 18 on the UK Album Chart. It owes its success mainly to the US Top Ten single “Domino”, which was released before the album and surpassed Morrison’s 1967 hit, “Brown Eyed Girl”. As of 2010, “Domino” remains the most successful single of Morrison’s solo career. Two other singles were released from the album, “Blue Money” and “Call Me Up in Dreamland”; although less successful, they still managed to reach the Billboard Hot 100.

I’ve been working (From Van Morrison in Ireland, 1979 in Dublin and Belfast):

Tracks:

All songs written by Van Morrison.

Side one

  1. “Domino”  – 3:06
  2. “Crazy Face”  – 2:56
  3. “Give Me a Kiss (Just One Sweet Kiss)”  – 2:30
  4. “I’ve Been Working”  – 3:25
  5. “Call Me Up in Dreamland”  – 3:52
  6. “I’ll Be Your Lover, Too”  – 3:57

Side two

  1. “Blue Money”  – 3:40
  2. “Virgo Clowns”  – 4:10
  3. “Gypsy Queen”  – 3:16
  4. “Sweet Jannie”  – 2:11
  5. “If I Ever Needed Someone”  – 3:45
  6. “Street Choir”  – 4:43

Jason Ankeny (allmusic.com):
After the brilliant one-two punch of Astral Weeks and Moondance, His Band and the Street Choir bringsVan Morrison back down to earth, both literally and figuratively. While neither as innovative nor as edgy as its predecessors, His Band and the Street Choir also lacks their overt mysticism; at heart, the album is simply Morrison’s valentine to the R&B that inspired him, resulting in the muscular and joyous tribute “Domino” as well as the bouncy “Blue Money” and “Call Me Up in Dreamland.”

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