“Bob’s bad stuff is better than other musicians’ best”
Down in the Groove is singer-songwriter Bob Dylan‘s 25th studio album, released by Columbia Records 30 May 1988. Egil here at Johannasvisions rate it as maybe Dylan’s lowest point. Me? I’m not so sure anymore…
It got pretty terrible reviews upon it’s release. Many reviewers compared it to his previous album, Knocked Out Loaded, and not in a favourable way.
“A highly collaborative effort, it was Dylan’s second consecutive album to receive almost unanimous negative reviews. Released during a period when his recording career was experiencing a slump, sales were disappointing, reaching only #61 in the US and #32 in the UK.”
How is it in hindsight? Was it unfairly slated? I think it’s better than reported and as usual Dylan’s standards were expected to be higher than anybody else’s. We cannot expect a masterpiece every time. Can we?
The album was delayed for more than six months and the track listing changed at least three times. The tracks that made the final album come from many different recording sessions spread out over a long time (six years?).
I’ve always thought of it as a strangely confusing album, but it gets less confusing with each listen session. It has some very good cover songs. Let’s Stick together opens the record in an energetic way, I would love to hear it live!
The comes the song I think is not very good at all, the cover When did you leave heaven. Very eighties drum sound, strange production, it just sounds a bit off, I don’t think the song suits Dylan, and it ends kind of funny.
Sally Sue Brown, the third track is another rockn’roll/soul standard that gets a good run through. I prefer Arthur Alexanders classic, but it is not bad at all.
The last three songs on the album are also cover songs (Ninety Miles an Hour (Down a dead end street), Shenandoah and Rank Strangers To Me, and they are all quite good actually.
I like Rank Strangers To Me best (the closing track). Dylan sings beautifully.
Let’s also include a fine live version from Wembley 1997:
” I think it was the first time I ever heard Dylan at all… And for the rest of our three weeks in Paris, we didn’t stop playing it.” – John Lennon
Dylan had already moved on to other songs when his first masterpiece was released. Contrary to his first album, this album mostly has songs penned by the man himself. With songs like Blowin’ in the Wind, Girl From The North Country, Masters Of War, and Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right that are still a big part of Dylan’s concerts half a century later, Freewheelin’ is an album whose music will live long after anyone who is reading this post is gone.
April 24–25, July 9, October 26, November 1 and 15, December 6, 1962, and April 24, 1963 at Columbia Records Studio A, 799 Seventh Avenue, New York City
John Hammond, Tom Wilson
The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan is the second studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released in May 1963 by Columbia Records. Whereas his debut album Bob Dylan had contained only two original songs, Freewheelin’ initiated the process of writing contemporary words to traditional melodies. Eleven of the thirteen songs on the album are original compositions by Dylan. The album kicks off with “Blowin’ in the Wind”, which would become one of the anthems of the 1960s, and an international hit for folk trio Peter, Paul & Mary soon after the release of Freewheelin’. The album featured several other songs which came to be regarded as amongst Dylan’s best compositions and classics of the 1960s folk scene: “Girl from the North Country”, “Masters of War”, “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”.
A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall:
Dylan’s lyrics embraced stories ripped from the headlines about civil rights and he articulated anxieties about the fear of nuclear warfare. Balancing this political material were love songs, sometimes bitter and accusatory, and material that features surreal humor. Freewheelin’ showcased Dylan’s songwriting talent for the first time, propelling him to national and international fame. The success of the album and Dylan’s subsequent recognition led to his being named as “Spokesman of a Generation”, a label Dylan came to resent.
The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan reached number 22 in the US (eventually going platinum), and later became a number one hit in the UK in 1964. In 2003, the album was ranked number 97 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In 2002, Freewheelin’ was one of the first 50 recordings chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry.
Girl from the North Country:
Even if you were among the handful of people who bought Bob Dylan’s 1962 self-titled debut, you couldn’t have predicted The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, the 1963 folkie touchstone where Dylan transformed American songwriting and blew the minds of everyone from his coffeehouse compatriots to the Beatles.
…Sure, I try to stick to the rules. Sometimes I might shift paradigms within the same song, but then that structure also has its own rules. And I combine them both, see what works and what doesn’t. My range is limited. Some formulas are too complex and I don’t want anything to do with them.
~Bob Dylan (to Bill Flanagan, in 2009)
“Dylan, who turns 68 in May, has never sounded as ravaged, pissed off and lusty”
~David Fricke (rollingstone.com)
Together Through Life is an album that gets its hooks in early and refuses to let go. It’s dark yet comforting, with a big tough sound, booming slightly like a band grooving at a soundcheck in an empty theatre. And at its heart there is a haunting refrain. Because above everything this is a record about love, its absence and its remembrance.
~Danny Eccleston (mojo4music.com)
Beyond Here Lies Nothin’
I’m listening to Billy Joe Shaver
And I’m reading James Joyce
Some people they tell me
I got the blood of the land in my voice
~Bob Dylan (I Feel A Change Comin’ On)
April 28, 2009
Folk rock, blues rock, Americana
Jack Frost (Bob Dylan pseudonym)
Together Through Life is the thirty-third studio album by singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released in April 2009 by Columbia Records. The album debuted at number one in several countries, including the U.S. and the UK. It is Dylan’s first number one in Britain since New Morning in 1970.
Dylan wrote all but one of the album’s songs with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, with whom he had previously co-written two songs on his 1988 album Down in the Groove. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Dylan commented on the collaboration:
“Hunter is an old buddy, we could probably write a hundred songs together if we thought it was important or the right reasons were there… He’s got a way with words and I do too. We both write a different type of song than what passes today for songwriting.”
The only other writer Dylan has ever collaborated with to such a degree is Jacques Levy, with whom he wrote most of the songs on Desire (1976).
Rumors of the album, reported in Rolling Stone magazine, came as a surprise, with no official press release until March 16, 2009 — less than two months before the album’s release date. Dylan produced the record under his pseudonym of Jack Frost, which he used for his previous two studio albums, “Love and Theft” and Modern Times. The album was rumored to contain “struggling love songs” and have little similarity to Modern Times.
In a conversation with music journalist Bill Flanagan, published on Bob Dylan’s official website, Flanagan suggested a similarity of the new record to the sound of Chess Records and Sun Records, which Dylan acknowledged as an effect of “the way the instruments were played.” He said that the genesis of the record was when French film director Olivier Dahan asked him to supply a song for his new road movie, My Own Love Song, which became “Life is Hard” – indeed, ‘according to Dylan, Dahan was keen to get a whole soundtrack’s worth of songs from the man’ – and “then the record sort of took its own direction.”
Beyond Here Lies Nothin’ live 2011 Tucson, AZ:
Dylan is backed on the album by his regular touring band, plus David Hidalgo of Los Lobos and Mike Campbell of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Dylan commented on Campbell’s guitar work in his interview with Flanagan: “He’s good with me. He’s been playing with Tom for so long that he hears everything from a songwriter’s point of view and he can play most any style.”
In the interview with Bill Flanagan, Dylan discusses the only known outtake to “Together Through Life”, “Chicago After Dark”. Apparently, this song was in the running to be on the album but was left off the final version, as Flanagan talks about the song as if it is on the album. The song is not circulating among collectors.
“Bill Flanagan: In that song CHICAGO AFTER DARK, were you thinking about the new President?
Bob: Not really. It’s more about State Street and the wind off Lake Michigan and how sometimes we know people and we are no longer what we used to be to them. I was trying to go with some old time feeling that I had.”
Described at length in a 2009 interview to promote the album Together Through Life, according to Dylan, it’s about “how sometimes we know people and we are no longer what we used to be to them”. In fact, this song never existed.He made it all up. How fitting. ~Clinton Heylin (telegraph.co.uk)
Forgetful Heart, Memphis, 2011:
The album received two Grammy Award nominations in Best Americana Album category and “Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance” category for “Beyond Here Lies Nothin'”.
The album also is significant as the only album by Dylan to top the US and UK charts consecutively.
The album’s cover photo is the same as that on the cover of American author Larry Brown’s short story collection, Big Bad Love.
“Beyond Here Lies Nothin'” 3:51
“Life Is Hard” 3:39
“My Wife’s Home Town” (Willie Dixon, Dylan, Hunter) 4:15
..His talent takes many forms. He is one of the most compelling white blues singers ever recorded. He is a songwriter of exceptional facility and cleverness. He is an uncommonly skillful guitar player and harmonica player.
~Stacy Williams (“Bob Dylan” LP. liner notes)
Dylan’s first album can hardly be faulted. It is a brilliant debut, a performer’s tour de force,….
~Michael Gray (BD Encyclopedia)
Talkin’ New York:
March 19, 1962
November 20 and 22, 1961,Columbia Recording Studio, New York City, New York, United States
John H. Hammond
Bob Dylan is the debut album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released in March 1962 by Columbia Records. Produced by Columbia’s legendary talent scout John H. Hammond, who signed Dylan to the label, the album features folk standards, plus two original compositions, “Talkin’ New York” and “Song to Woody”.
Man of Constant Sorrow:
The album was ultimately recorded in three short afternoon sessions on November 20 and 22 (1961). Hammond later joked that Columbia spent “about $402” to record it, and the figure has entered the Dylan legend as its actual cost. Despite the low cost and short amount of time, Dylan was still difficult to record, according to Hammond. “Bobby popped every p, hissed every s, and habitually wandered off mike,” recalls Hammond. “Even more frustrating, he refused to learn from his mistakes. It occurred to me at the time that I’d never worked with anyone so undisciplined before.”
Seventeen songs were recorded, and five of the album’s chosen tracks were actually cut in single takes (“Baby Let Me Follow You Down,” “In My Time of Dyin’,” “Gospel Plow,” “Highway 51 Blues,” and “Freight Train Blues”) while the master take of “Song to Woody” was recorded after one false start. The album’s four outtakes were also cut in single takes. During the sessions, Dylan refused requests to do second takes. “I said no. I can’t see myself singing the same song twice in a row. That’s terrible.”
The album cover features a reversed photo of Dylan holding his acoustic guitar. It is unknown as to why the photo was flipped.
In My Time of Dyin:
In less than one year in New York, Bob Dylan has thrown the folk crowd into an uproar. Ardent fans have been shouting his praises. Devotees have found in him the image of a singing rebel, a musical Chaplin tramp, a young Woody Guthrie, or a composite of some of the best country blues singers.
~Stacy Williams (“Bob Dylan” LP. liner notes)
“You’re No Good” – Jesse Fuller 1:40
“Talkin’ New York” – Bob Dylan 3:20
“In My Time of Dyin'” – trad. arr. Dylan 2:40
“Man of Constant Sorrow” – trad. arr. Dylan 3:10
“Fixin’ to Die” – Bukka White 2:22
“Pretty Peggy-O” – trad. arr. Dylan 3:23
“Highway 51” – Curtis Jones 2:52
“Gospel Plow” – trad. arr. Dylan 1:47
“Baby, Let Me Follow You Down” – trad. arr. Eric von Schmidt 2:37
“House of the Risin’ Sun” – trad. arr. Dave Van Ronk 5:20
“Freight Train Blues” – trad., Roy Acuff 2:18
“Song to Woody” – Bob Dylan 2:42
“See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” – Blind Lemon Jefferson 2:43
Bob Dylan – vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica
John H. Hammond – production
Baby, Let Me Follow You Down:
By the time sessions were held for his debut album, Dylan was absorbing an enormous amount of folk material from sitting and listening to contemporaries performing in New York’s clubs and coffeehouses. Many of these individuals were also close friends who performed with Dylan, often inviting him to their apartments where they would introduce him to more folk songs. At the same time, Dylan was borrowing and listening to a large number of folk, blues, and country records, many of which were hard to find at the time. Dylan revealed in an interview in the documentary No Direction Home that he needed to hear a song only once or twice to learn it.
The final album sequence of Bob Dylan features only two original compositions; the other eleven tracks are folk standards and traditional songs. Few of these were staples of his club/coffeehouse repertoire. Only two of the covers and both originals were in his club set in September 1961.
Dylan stated in a 2000 interview that he was hesitant to reveal too much of himself at first.
See That My Grave is Kept Clean:
Bob Dylan did not receive much acclaim until years later. “These debut songs are essayed with differing degrees of conviction,” writes music critic Tim Riley, “[but] even when his reach exceeds his grasp, he never sounds like he knows he’s in over his head, or gushily patronizing… Like Elvis Presley, what Dylan can sing, he quickly masters; what he can’t, he twists to his own devices. And as with the Presley Sun sessions, the voice that leaps from Dylan’s first album is its most striking feature, a determined, iconoclastic baying that chews up influences, and spits out the odd mixed signal without half trying.”
However, at the time of its release, Bob Dylan received little notice, and both Hammond and Dylan were soon dismissive of the first album’s results.
Bob Dylan’s first album is a lot like the debut albums by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones — a sterling effort, outclassing most, if not all, of what came before it in the genre, but similarly eclipsed by the artist’s own subsequent efforts. The difference was that not very many people heard Bob Dylan on its original release (originals on the early-’60s Columbia label are choice collectibles) because it was recorded with a much smaller audience and musical arena in mind.
~Bruce Eder (allmusic.com)
My voice was never really that glamorous. But a big vocal range really isn’t necessary for the type of songs I sing. For what I sing, my voice does pretty well.
(Bob Dylan to Greg Kot in August 1993)
“My songs come out of folk music…..I love that whole pantheon. To me there’s no difference between Muddy Waters and Bill Monroe.”
Here is a brilliant live version of “Blackjack Davie” from 1993.09.12 – Great Woods – Mansfield, Massachusetts:
November 3, 1992
Good as I Been to You is the twenty-eighth studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released in November 1992 by Columbia Records.
It is composed entirely of traditional folk songs and covers, and is Dylan’s first entirely solo, acoustic album since Another Side of Bob Dylan in 1964. It is also his first collection not to feature any original compositions since Dylan in 1973.
On the charts, Good as I Been to You reached #51 in the US and #18 in the UK.
Since launching the Never Ending Tour in June 1988, traditional covers became a feature at virtually every concert, often as part of an acoustic set. After recording Under the Red Sky in 1990, Dylan would not release an original song until 1997, and during that time, he would increasingly rely on his stockpile of covers for ‘fresh’ material. Dylan called these covers “the music that’s true for me.”
The response to Good as I Been to You was surprisingly positive, particularly for an album with very modest ambitions. It drew comparisons with the acoustic sets featured in Dylan’s “Never Ending Tour” shows, drawing much praise for his interpretive skills. A number of critics pointed out that Dylan’s voice was now physically ravaged, but the focus was often on the phrasing. “Dylan sounds now, in comparison to his younger self, like one of those ghosts,” wrote David Sexton of The Sunday Telegraph, “but a powerful ghost. The effect is not so much nostalgia…as deeply inward.”
….Yet this album, imprecise, errant, at times blurred and furry, is a singular creation that gains as well as loses by Dylan’s loss of the effortless certainty
of youth. Dark, complex, surreal and fractured, it is like an inspired, lost work from some opiumthralled folk archivist throwing his own torrid genius into celebrating the myriad strengths of anonymously created song: song from before there was a music industry to kill off its mystery and its purpose. Stand-out tracks: ‘Hard Times’, ‘Arthur McBride’, ‘You’re Gonna Quit Me’, ‘Diamond Joe’ and ‘Froggie Went a-Courtin’’. The fine outtake ‘You Belong to Me’ was used on the soundtrack of Oliver Stone’s film Natural Born Killers.
Here is “Jim Jones” from the second Supper Club Show Nov 17 1993:
David Wild (Rollingstone.com):
…..In its stripped-down intensity, Good As I Been to You recalls the midshow acoustic segments that in recent years have been a consistent highlight of Dylan’s Neverending Tour. Even more than that, the album’s intimate, almost offhand approach suggests what it would be like to sit backstage with his Bobness while he runs through a set of some of his favorite old songs. This is a passionate, at times almost ragged piece of work that seems to have been recorded rather than produced in any conventional sense.
Only a quarter of a century late, this is the sort of album the people who booed Dylan’s decision to go electric wanted from him. And for the most part, the songs on Good As I Been to You are the same sort of material that might have appealed to the younger, freewheelin’ Dylan back in the days when he was being influenced — by Woody Guthrie, for example — rather than exerting profound influence in his own right. Still, at least one selection — the unlikely but oddly delightful “Froggie Went A Courtin'” — evinces some of the fascinating perversity that fans have come to expect from Dylan in his middle age.
………… This fascinating exploration of musical roots is more than a diversion for musicologists. Good As I Been to You shows that sometimes one can look back and find something that’s both timeless and relevant. It also proves once again that Dylan can still be every bit as good as he’s been to us in the past. Which is, of course, as good as it gets. Read more @ rollingstone.com
My fav song from the album is “Hard Times“.
An extremely sincere rendition of this song was recorded in the summer of 92 and released on Dylan’s “Good As I Been To You”. Dylan premiered the song in concert on April 12, 1993 in Louisville, Kentucky. The song which was always employed as a show opener, was an almost constant feature throughout Dylan’s 93 summer tours, until it was suddenly dropped, mid tour, on August 21, 1993, never (as of yet) to return.
~Derek Barker (The Songs He didn’t write)
Here it is:
Here is Dylan & “Hard Times” @ Willie Nelsons’ 60th Birthday TV Special (KRLU-TV Studios – Austin, Texas, 27 April 1993):
All songs are traditional, arranged by Bob Dylan, except where noted.
“Frankie & Albert” (arranged by Mississippi John Hurt) – 3:50
“Jim Jones” (arranged by Mick Slocum) – 3:52
“Blackjack Davey” – 5:47
“Canadee-i-o” – 4:20
“Sittin’ on Top of the World” – 4:27
“Little Maggie” – 2:52
“Hard Times” (Stephen Foster, arranged by De Dannan) – 4:31
“Step It Up and Go” – 2:54
“Tomorrow Night” (Sam Coslow and Will Grosz) – 3:42