Thursday, July 06, 2006

Zimmy's Civil War Booty Call

At long last, my eagerly anticipated review of Bob Dylan's "LOVE AND THEFT" (2001). First of all, there's the quotation marks in the album title: Why? Answer: Who the hell knows? It's Bob Dylan, for chrissakes. Next up is the pencil-thin porno 'stache o'er Bob's upper lip (It's even more prominently featured on the back cover, but the picture here gives you a glimpse). Again, who is Haahnster to judge these things? Most importantly, there's the release date of this album: September 11, 2001. It's called a coincidence, people! So, in addition to not looking for hidden meaning in the quotation marks or the cheesy moustache, I'm not going to get all revisionist/conspiracy theorist with the lyrical analysis either. I'm a huge Bob fan, to be sure. But, I'm pretty certain he didn't address the terrorist attacks on 9/11 in these songs. Remember, we must distinguish between when these were released and when they were written/recorded. Sorry for all the hot air, as most of the above is common sense to most of you, I'm certain. 'Nuff said.

"Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum" (4:46) is a steady little shuffle with some fairly stinging guitar ("They're like babies sittin' on a woman's knee/Tweedle-dee Dum and Tweedle-dee Dee"). It's a nice enough opener, with a retro feel.

"Mississippi" (5:21) - Now, this is an instant Dylan classic, IMHO. True, his voice is more of a gutteral growl than that patented Dylan voice of yesteryear. But, man, this song is just a catchy mother of a tune. Certainly, it couldn't be anyone but Zimmy himself! ("All my powers of expression and thoughts so sublime/Could never do you justice in reason or rhyme/Only one thing I did wrong/Stayed in Mississippi a day too long")

"Summer Days" (4:52) is rockabilly, through and through. This could've been a Bill Haley tune (and, who knows, maybe it is!). One relatively minor complaint: "She says, 'You can't repeat the past.' I say, 'You can't? What do you mean, you can't? Of course you can.'" strike me as being among Dylan's most awkward lyrics ever. (Wikipedia says it's an obvious reference to The Great Gatsby. But, the quote from the book is far less awkward.)

"Bye And Bye" (3:16) - Now, this is more akin to a Dixieland tune...kind of a leisurely shuffle of a song. In fact, Dylan sings "Well, I'm scufflin' and I'm shufflin...'". But, I prefer the line "Well the future for me is already a thing of the past".

"Lonesome Day Blues" (6:05) - The drums kick in much more solidly here, and with some beefier guitar. As the title suggests, this is a bluesy arrangement, with Dylan's vocals approximating John Lee Hooker gargling with sandpaper. And, I don't mean that in a bad way, necessarily. I'm just attempting to express the degree to which Bob's voice has changed (For the record, I never heard 1997's Time Out Of Mind either. Perhaps his voice was already this way then, too...). It works for me. Others might not be convinced.

"Floater (Too Much To Ask)" (4:59) - OK, now this f*cker sounds like it dropped in from a lost episode of The Lawrence Welk Show. Or, as the "Schmenge Brothers" used to say on SCTV, "Let's a-polka!" This is a song that has yet to really grab me. I'll pass on the temptation to take advantage of the title word "floater".

"High Water (For Charley Patton)" (4:04) - The acoustic guitar/banjo combo, coupled with Dylan's eerie vocal delivery create a haunting mood. This is like goth-bluegrass, if that's even possible. The lyrics namedrop Big Joe Turner, George Lewis (unless it's this George Lewis), "Bertha Mason" (fictional character from Jane Eyre), and Charles Darwin. And, the line "I believe I'll dust my broom" is a nice homage to Elmore James. This is a keeper for sure!

"Moonlight" (3:23) - Another slow, mellow shuffle ("The clouds are turnin' crimson/The leaves fall from the limbs an'/The branches cast their shadows over stone/Won't you meet me out in the moonlight alone?") Any longer, and this one could easily become boring. But, I think the 3:23 running time avoids that trap.

"Honest With Me" (5:49) is a faster-paced, heavier rocker ("Well, my parents they warned me not to waste my years/And I still got their advice oozing out of my ears"). See, I like the way Bob keeps most of the slower tunes shorter, and extends the upbeat tunes. The reverse might've been deadly.

"Po' Boy" (3:05) is a country-rock/acoustic blues ballad, with a little Dylan wryness ("Time and love has branded me with its claws/Had to go to Florida, dodgin' them Georgia laws/Poor boy, in the hotel called the Palace of Gloom/Calls down to room service, says, 'Send up a room'").

"Cry A While" (5:05) - Electric blues returns here ("Last night 'cross the alley there was a pounding on the walls/It must have been Don Pasquale makin' a two a.m. booty call"). So, there you have it: Bob Dylan using the term "booty call". I'll admit I have mixed feelings about that, myself. Of course, it's used in reference to a 19th century opera character, which I believe is called "irony".

"Sugar Baby" (6:40) is as classic Dylan as classic Dylan gets. A haunting, meandering tune, the chorus of which includes "Sugar Baby, get on down the road/You ain't got no brains no how". I find this reminiscent of "You're an idiot, babe/It's a wonder that you still know how to breathe" from "Idiot Wind". Man, this is a killer song. I love it! The $6.99 I paid (Used CD bins rock!) for this CD would've been worth it for this song alone, at least for a Bob freak like the Haahnster.

Dylan wrote all the songs, and produced the album under the pseudonym "Jack Frost". The musical line-up was a highly adaptable group, and had grown to be a fairly tight unit by the time of this recording: Bob Dylan - vocals, guitar, piano; Larry Campbell - guitar, banjo, mandolin, violin; Charlie Sexton - guitar; Tony Garnier - bass; Augie Meyers - accordion, Hammond B3 & Vox organs; David Kemper - drums. (Clay Meyers - bongos on tracks 1 & 9.)

All in all, I think Dylan pays his respects to most of his musical roots while still crafting an enjoyable set of songs. Stylistically, it's all over the map. But, most of it works for me (Of course, I love a good change of pace). RS says it's #467 of all time. OK.


Shit, I forgot to tie in the "Civil War" part of the title to this post. Umm, there are several Civil War references in the lyrics. Sorry for being too lazy to go back and cite them.

8 Comments:

Blogger Beth said...

I swear, Haahnster, you and I must have the same CD collection! I'm getting ready to go into two hours of meetings, so I've printed out your post to read over lunch. I'll be back later with my Love and Theft musings.

8:54 AM, July 06, 2006  
Blogger Keith Kennedy said...

For me, the most remarkable thing about Love and Theft (as well as Time out of Mind) is the fact that they were made at all.

In an industry full of creative bursts that usually burn out within three albums at best - there are the guys like Neil Young and Bob Dylan that seem to be able to continue to tap into their muse and produce meaningful music.

I have huge respect for that and I think the key is that both of the above mentioned artist are always all over the map with their styles.

It is truly amazing that they can put together so many different styles and pull them off with grace and dignity.

And let us not forget the Cash-Man is in this category as well.

So I loved this Bob Dylan recording. Not so much because it grabbed me like Bob's early stuff - because it doesn't - but it validates the amazing ability people like him have to somehow transcend EVERYTHING.

May we all be this flexible in our futures.

Long live Bob.

9:22 AM, July 06, 2006  
Blogger haahnster said...

Beth: I'll be interested to read your comments ("musings" as you say)!

Keith: Very well put! I enjoy this album, and at least 2 or 3 songs are real killers. But, it's not (in my opinion) the wall-to-wall amazement of a Bringing It All Back Home or Highway 61 Revisited or Blood On The Tracks. But, I do find it highly enjoyable that Bob Dylan still had it in him to record this album in 2001, more than 35 years after those other albums (well, make that 25 years after Blood On The Tracks).

Dylan and Young are amazing examples of musical nomads that likely will never really be seen again.

And, I agree on Johnny Cash. He was at Sun Studios making some of the earliest recordings at the dawn of rock and roll. He toured with Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis, and was arguably bigger than either at the time. He mastered country, country rock, and recorded country/folk with Bob Dylan. The man in black did his own thing. You gotta love it. I don't have too much of his stuff. But, I LOVE the restored/remastered Folsom Prison CD...AWESOME!

11:20 AM, July 06, 2006  
Blogger Beth said...

[Once again, Cup stands and applauds Haahnster's brilliance. She's impressed.]

Haahnster, I don't know what you do for a living, but I hope you're putting together a music mag to rival the good ol' days of Rolling Stone. You do know your music.

Don't you love Cash's Rick Rubin era? If you don't have them you must, you MUST, go out and get them this weekend. Rips your heart out.

And now I'm going to take my tree-like head and get some sleep.

9:13 PM, July 06, 2006  
Blogger haahnster said...

Yes, well, sorry about the mistaking-your-head-for-a-tree thing. Like I said, I don't distinguish colors very well. It's either color blindness, or the result of never having the really big crayon box as a child. I'm not sure which.

I need to check out some of the latterday Cash albums (Rick Rubin's involvement is usually a plus).

As for the music magazine thing, it would probably make me much happier. "Creative expression" is considered a negative for professional accountants & auditors. Unfortunately, I tend to be a gutless turd when it comes to taking real risks. Thus, the outlet that is "Haahnster's Hallucinations".

9:26 PM, July 06, 2006  
Blogger Beth said...

Welcome, fellow gutless turd. My name is Beth, I'm 47, I've always wanted to be a writer, and I'm just this summer starting on my first short stories.

And thank God we have Haahnster's Hallucinations. I may start sending you album requests for reviews.

5:12 AM, July 07, 2006  
Blogger bloodtracks said...

Hi fellow turdsters! I'm new to blogging and only just come across your page, so here are a few Bob meanderings, in no particular order. I went to see the Zim last week in Bournemouth, England, and he played several songs from Love an Theft, all of which were reinterpreted but still recognisable. The encore was a blistering All Along the Watchtower. He also played Just Like a Woman and on the chorus the whole audience joined in, which seemed to take Dylan totally by surprise - a widwe eyed look lit up his face. He didn't pick up a guitar once but stayed at the keyboard all night - I heard on the grapevine he suffers with arthritis in his hands and now finds it fifficult to play the guitar. Do you know if this is true? As always he never acknowledged the audience once, apart from introducing the band, and at the end he stood in front of the musicians and seemed like a fish out of water, seeming not
to want to appreciate the audience's applause and eager to get off the stage. But that's Dylan and you have to go with his flow. Love and Theft is a wonderful album but I think time Out of Mind is a more coherent album - if you still haven't heard it you have a treat in store. Many of the songs deal with mortality, age, and approaching death. Some critics have said because of this it's all a little too depressing but it's the opposite for me. Dylan is coming to terms with his own mortality with respect and grace but also challenging it to do its worse. He knows the outcome is inevitable but will not go without a fight. This brings me to Cash. Though not a lifelong fan, you MUST get his American recordings. They seem soaked with his own sense of approaching mortality, much like Dylan. Cash has gone, but like Cash, Dylan will 'rage against the dying of the light' - in his music at least, and through the songs he will reach immortality, though he's done that already, ironically. I can't wait for 'Modern Times', Dylan's newie, at the end of August. Enough for now. Respect.

6:53 AM, July 10, 2006  
Blogger haahnster said...

Thanks for the comments, bloodtracks. I've read the same thing about Dylan at keyboard instead of guitar. It seems like a logical explanation. I can't really confirm it other than to say I've heard it elsewhere.

One of my best friends still bitches about a Dylan concert we saw in' '86 or '87 (I can't remember for sure which year). He was really put off by Bob's lack of crowd acknowledgement. I still laugh about that...did he actually expect Dylan to 'rev up' the crowd a la David Lee Roth or some other bleached out hard rock singer?! Doesn't sound like a reasonable expectation to me...

7:34 AM, July 10, 2006  

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