Saturday, March 31, 2007

Twelve Best...Dylan Albums of the 70s (#5)

#5. Planet Waves

An album of easy going, lazy day, summertime songs. That’s what Bob Dylan and The Band recorded in 1974 with what would become Ceremonies of the Horsemen or, as it was later changed to, Planet Waves.

For me, the album succeeds around its love songs, “Tough Mama,” “Hazel,” “Something There is About You,” “Forever Young,” “You Angel You,” “Never Say Goodbye” and “Wedding Song.”

The first of those, “Tough Mama,” is the least lovely of the love songs and contains the unfortunate lyric, “Today, on the countryside/It was a-hotter than a crotch.” Mentioning his junk aside, Dylan and The Band sound more in-sync with another than they do on the first two songs of the album, “On a Night Like This” and “Going, Going Gone.”

(Random Tangent: With the Mets playing the Cardinals in St. Louis on Sunday night, it’s a great feeling that baseball is almost back. And, Let’s Go Mets!)

A song performed at The Last Waltz, “Hazel,” is very much in the same theme of “Forever Young” but more its more directed at a woman instead of a child. It’s not the greatest love song Dylan ever recorded but the song does manage to escape its somewhat swampy beginning.

“Something There Is About You” is a mischievous, semi-biographical song that contains some of my favorite Dylan love lines: “Something there is about you/that brings back a long forgotten truth” and “My hand's on the sabre and you've picked up the baton/Somethin' there is about you that I can't quite put my finger on.” Most people have felt an attraction or even fallen in love with someone but can’t quite figure out why they love them so. Dylan does a remarkable job of bringing this conundrum into the limelight (and even gets a reference to “ol’ Duluth.) by at song’s end, he stops looking for an answer because there is no answer. When you’ve got “the soul of all things,” why bother explaining the unexplained? Also, do we know Ruth is?

First version of “Forever Young”: Good
Second version of “Forever Young”: Bad

I think enough has been written about that song for the present.

My two favorite songs on the album are “You Angel You” and “Never Say Goodbye,” and they basically mirror one another in sound and message. “Angel” is more well known (its featured on Biograph) and if I had to choose, I’d pick that one as the better song of the two. But luckily, I don’t have to. The beginning is fun and jaunty with Robbie’s guitar being backed by Garth’s organ and the opening verse matches the feel:

“You angel you
You got me under your wing.
The way you walk and the way you talk
I feel I could almost sing.”

Although song isn’t deep, it doesn’t have to be. Lines like “You angel you/you’re as fine as can be/The way you walk and the walk you talk/is the way it oughta be” speak perfectly well for themselves. Even easier and flowing is “Never Say Goodbye,” which picks up right where this song ends, but possibly takes the theme that much further. For instance:

“You're beautiful beyond words
You're beautiful to me
You can make me cry
Never say goodbye.”

It’s full of schmaltz but its rather genuine schmaltz, which escapes it from the boundaries of other songs like “The Ugliest Girl in the World” from Down in the Groove. This trend continues onto the last track, “Wedding Song.” Quite frankly, it’s exactly what it sounds like and is the only song on the album that features simply Dylan and his acoustic guitar.

Recap: Not the greatest thing either Dylan or The Band recorded, but its passionate embraces more than make up for it.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

That Dirty Ol' Egg-Sucking Johnny Cash

Five Best...Songs from Johnny Cash's At Folsom Prison

#5. "25 Minutes to Go"

#4. "Folsom Prison Blues"

#3. "Give My Love to Rose"

#2. "The Legend of John Henry's Hammer"

#1. "Jackson"

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Who Needs the 7-Eleven Mart? Not Meeeee!

Now, here's some great marketing by The Simpsons and 7-Eleven.

Twelve Best...Dylan Albums in the 70s (#6)

# 6. Slow Train Coming

A few weeks, I gave a diatribe about the lack of respect Dylan’s religious albums get among both fans and critics. It’s easy to jump on and ridicule because a) only 14 years prior, he spoke of “flesh-colored Christ’s that glow in the dark” and b) he’s singing about Jesus! I also mentioned in that posting about how I steer pretty much clear of all religion, but when it comes to the three or possibly four religious album—Slow Train Coming chief among them—I have a warm place in my heart for them.

The album leads off with “Gotta Serve Somebody,” which was the hit song and is the only one that’ll still show up on the set list—410 times to be exact. Of course the lyrics are rather lame (“You may call me Terry, you may call me Timmy,/You may call me Bobby, you may call me Zimmy,/You may call me R.J., you may call me Ray”) but the song is undeniably catchy.

My favorite song on the album is “Precious Angel” Yes, it’s corny, overdone and a little whiny but the band and Bob were clicking on all cylinders when it was recorded. It also features the strongest vocals by Dylan on the album. When I mentions the song’s whiny factor, it’s necessary because he’s reaching out to the girl (Jesus?) and wanting her (him?) to “shine their light” on him. Heck, I even like the verse, “You were telling him about Buddha/You were telling him about Mohammed in the same breath/You never mentioned one time/ the Man who came and died a criminal's death.”

“I Believe in You” seems to be the unanimous favorite song on the album but it doesn’t do anything for me. For everything on “Precious Angel” that I gave accolades, they becomes this song’s weaknesses because it’s just a bit over-the-top.

The most vicious song on the album would have to be “Slow Train.” Condemning his companions, Alabama, foreign oil companies and all of man in general, Dylan bites his hardest since “Idiot Wind” four years earlier. The song comes across as slightly hollow but still successful.

The next three songs—“Gonna Change My Way,” “Do Right to Me Baby (Do Unto Others)” and “When You Gonna Wake Up”—are rather boring. They’re more fitting for halfway through Saved, in between “Pressing On” and “In the Garden.”

What can I say about “Man Gave Names to All the Animals”? I realize that it’s supposed to be a fun children’s song but there’s no reason it should be on an album by the same guy who wrote “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.” The more fitting territory for it is a book, which is what it was eventually made in to.

The last song on the album continues Dylan’s amazing ability to put great songs as the finale. This time, it’s “When He Returns,” and its one his finest from both the religious period and from a 70s album not named Blood on the Tracks. Take, for instance, this verse:

“Truth is an arrow and the gate is narrow that it passes through,
He unleashed His power at an unknown hour that no one knew.
How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?
Can I cast it aside, all this loyalty and this pride?
Will I ever learn that there'll be no peace, that the war won't cease
Until He returns?”

Sure it’s in the vain of “Blowin’ in the Wind” in that it’s a question song without answers, but you really believe that Dylan is asking us for the answer rather than just throwing the questions into the wind. Actually, he’s doing more than just asking—he needs to know the answer before it’s too late.

Recap: Give it another chance and you’re gonna change your way of thinkin’.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tangled Up in Sunshine

Today is the nicest day in New York City of the year (I believe that it's supposed to be in the 70s today) and on my 15 minute to school, I took special note of these lyrics:

"Then she opened up a book of poems
And handed it to me
Written by an Italian poet
From the thirteenth century.
And every one of them words rang true
And glowed like burnin' coal
Pourin' off of every page
Like it was written in my soul from me to you,
Tangled up in blue."

It's not as if those really anything to do with it being warm outside but when spring and eventually summer comes around, people are outside more and become *ahem* much more acquainted with one another. To have words "written in my soul from me to you" sounds corny in the winter but when it's nice enough that you can shed the coat, they become almost enlightening.

Longer post later.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Twelve Best...Dylan Albums of the 70s (#7)

#7. Self Portrait

-I actually enjoy this album. While it’s not the greatest thing Dylan ever recorded, there are some prime cuts on it that get overshadowed by reviews like Greil Marcus’ famous Rolling Stone review and tracks like the dreadful “The Boxer.”

Self Portrait can be best split up into three categories: originals, covers and live songs.

The worst of those categories are the live tracks taken from Dylan’s concert with The Band at the Isle of Wight in 1969.These include “Like a Rolling Stone,” “The Mighty Quinn (Quinn the Eskimo),” “Minstrel Boy” and “She Belongs to Me.” The only one worth even the slightest listen to is “The Mighty Quinn,” because the version of “Like a Rolling Stone” is pretty terrible.

As for the Dylan originals, it ranges from the great (“Living the Blues”) to the good (“All the Tired Horses”) to the weird (“Wigwam”) to the pointless (“Woogie Boogie,” a title gotten from a Marx Brothers skit.)

Most of the album’s shining points come from Dylan’s cover—some of which get an Arranged by Bob Dylan attached to them because of deeply rooted they are in the folk tradition. The grandest example of that is “Alberta” and “Alberta, No.2.” The song is the first and last thing we hear Dylan singing and it’s a fun, catchy little song.

The two best songs on the album would have to be “Days of ‘49” and “Copper Kettle (The Pale Moonlight.)” Attributed to the Alan and John Lomax and Frank Warner, “Days of ‘49” was originally a song sung to gold diggers in California in the 40s, while “Copper Kettle,” written by Alfred Frank Beddoe, is the song critics give the most praise to. Personally, I think “Days” is much, much stronger than “Copper Kettle” because Dylan puts a lot of heart into his singing and it sounds much more contemporary…and this coming from a 19-year-old living in New York City.

The rest of the album contains a classic (“In Search of Little Sadie”), a smattering of good songs (“Early Mornin’ Rain,” “Let It Be Me,” “I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know,” “Belle Isle,” “Gotta Travel On,” the Hank Williams-esque “Take Me As I Am (Or Let Me Go” and “It Hurts Me Too” ) and some absolute junk (“The Boxer,” “Blue Moon” and to a lesser extent, “Take a Message to Mary”)

Of all the songs on Self Portrait that aren’t named “Like a Rolling Stone” or “She Belongs to Me,” Dylan has performed “I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know” the most (55 times), followed by “Gotta Travel On” (17 times and a song that I’d think be a blast to hear live) then “Early Mornin’ Rain,” with 8 times. Oddly enough, “Quinn the Eskimo” has only shown up in concert 6 times.

Sadly, “All the Tired Horses” has never been played.

Recap: An album that people, to quote bodgieman, believe the negative “hype” and don’t bother giving a listen to, even though there’s some pretty good stuff here.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Even the best...

Five WORST...Songs by The Beatles

#5. "Flying" from Magical Mystery Tour

#4. "Sun King" from Abbey Road

#3. "A Taste of Honey" from Please Please Me

#2. "Revolution #9" from The Beatles

#1. "Within You, Without You" from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Friday, March 23, 2007

Twelve Best...Dylan Albums in the 70s (#8)

#8. Before the Flood

As any reader of my blog has noticed, I truly enjoy both Bob Dylan and The Band. So, to have a live album chronicling their first tour since the amazing shows of ’65 and ’66 sounds like an immediate favorite. But, alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

Before the Flood—released on June 20, 1974 and taken from shows in January and February of the same year—is essentially a two-disc greatest hits album that features a lot of yelling by Dylan. But unlike the effective use of this style of singing during the first leg of Rolling Thunder, it comes across as rather annoying in a quick amount of time.

I realize that I’m in the minority when it comes to my opinion of the album (Robert Christgau wrote “At its best, this is the craziest and strongest rock and roll ever recorded” and gave it an A) but although I appreciate Dylan’s radical interpretation behind the songs and The Band keeping right up with him, the album comes across as sounding a little thin. But maybe (like New Morning) this is an album that you had to be there to understand; the press behind Dylan and Band working together again was massive and this was also the tour that received 5.5 million pieces of mail in order to get tickets. Not to mention the then extravagant ticket prices of $9.50…and to think, I paid $120 for my first Dylan ticket at the New York City Center.

Like every show but the first during the tour, the album opens up with “Most Likely You’ll Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine),” which although not the best song Dylan ever recorded, it is an interesting song to open your first tour in eight years. Oddly enough, the first song performed during the tour was “Hero Blues,” a great cut that appears on the Genuine Bootleg Series.

Maybe the reason I don’t appreciate the album is the track listing chosen. After “Most Likely,” the next songs are “Lay, Lady, Lay,” “Rainy Day Women #12 and #35,” “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” “It Ain’t Me Babe” and “Ballad of a Thin Man.” Only one of those songs, “It Ain’t Me, Babe” could be construed as a personal favorite of mine.

The rest of the first disc is populated by Band songs: “Up on Cripple Creek,” “I Shall Be Released” (I still consider it to be a Band song), “Endless Highway,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and “Stage Fright.” I like the fact that they included “Endless Highway” and, to the end the first disc, “Stage Fright.”

Outside of the first concert, the shows took a standard formula: an opening six-song Dylan/Band set, a five-song Band set, three more Dylan/Band performances, a five-song Dylan acoustic set, a three to four song Band set and a joint finale. I am happy that whoever put this album together kept that in place; it gives the listener more of a feeling that they were actually there.

The second disc opens with “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” and “Just Like a Woman,” with “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” following. “It’s Alright, Ma” was arguably the most popular song on the tour because the Watergate scandal was in full swing and that song contains the lyric, “But even the President of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked.” On the album, you can hear the crowd give this line a nice ovation.

The next three songs—“The Shape I’m In,” “When You Awake” and “The Weight”—were all written by The Band, with “The Weight” being the fan favorite song of their set. I’ve heard the song seemingly hundreds of times but Levon’s vocals always sound amazing to me.

For everything you hear about The Band, not much attention is paid to the number of instruments each of them could play. On this album alone, Rick Danko played guitar and fiddle; Levon Helm played drums and mandolin; Robbie Robertson played the guitar but can pound the drums; Richard Manuel would preside over drums, electric organ, piano while Garth Hudson, most amazingly, would play Hammond organ, clavinet, piano, keyboard and saxophone. That’s quite impressive. Not to mention that three of them can really sing. Sorry, Robbie…

The album ends with the Hendrix version of “All Along the Watchtower,” two songs from Highway 61 Revisited, the title track and “Like a Rolling Stone,” while the last song, somewhat predictably, is “Blowin’ in the Wind.

In The Village Voice’s Pazz and Jop poll, the album would place #2 for 1974 (Steely Dan’s Pretzel Logic would win) while Planet Waves was down at #7. I’d disagree with this ranking and that should be pretty obvious since I haven’t done a posting of Planet Waves yet.

Overall, Before the Flood is a good souvenir album but not an essential one.

(Tangent: Why did Neil Young’s On the Beach place at #28 for 1974? It’s not his best album, but it’s still a great album.)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Like a Rolling Stone(s)

Today is a rather busy day so instead of #8 on the Dylan posting, here's another list:

Five Best...Rolling Stones albums

#5. Between the Buttons

#4. Beggars Banquet

#3. Sticky Fingers

#2. Let It Bleed

#1. Exile on Main Street

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Even the Monkey Man Would Like This...

Traveling Wilbury's to be re-released in June.

Twelve Best...Dylan Albums of the 70s (#9)

#9. Hard Rain

“Although the band had been playing together longer, the charm had gone out of their exchanges.”
-NPR’s Tim Riley

So went the review of the Fort Collins, Colorado show in 1976 from which the bulk of Hard Rain got its material. While part of what Riley said is true, I don’t fully agree. Yes, the ’75 leg of the Rolling Thunder Revue was much better and more spirited (listen to The Bootleg Series, Vol. 5, especially “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and “Hurricane” for proof of this) but considering the circumstances behind Hard Rain, it’s pretty remarkable that anything worthwhile come out of it.

The concert had been pushed back a few days because of terrible weather (fittingly enough, rain) so the band was already pretty restless and just wanted the tour to end. None of its members—Stoner, Joan Baez and Scarlet Rivera, among others—were in the brightest moods, while Dylan was in the worst of them. His marriage to Sara was crumbling and it didn’t help much that his former flame, Baez, was always hanging around.

Plus, the show was to be broadcasted on NBC.

So, things were going rather terribly and as for the actual concert, there were a lot of empty seats. But Dylan found a way to release his pain by performing two songs appearing on Blood on the Tracks: “Shelter from the Storm” and “Idiot Wind.”

As the sixth song on a nine-track album, “Shelter” is the first track that makes Hard Rain worthwhile for even non-Dylan fans. The sound of the song is one that The Clash would later master—but that’d still be a couple of years later. While it is straight rock ‘n’ roll, a listener can’t help but hear the reggae and even punk sound that is transcended through the guitar, bass, violin and drums. Before the lyrics kick in, you know the message is going to be powerful; almost as if the storm clouds that had been hanging over Fort Collins were only over the band now and they had to plow their way through it. The thing that I like most about the song is Dylan’s phrasing; for instance, instead of the hopeful way he sings it on Blood, he’s now phrasing each word in different breaths. Dylan sings, “Just. To. Think. That. It. All. Began. On. An. Uneventful. Morn” as if each word began a new (and therefore, important) sentence.

You really believe that Dylan’s being “hunted like a crocodile.”

The best track on the album is left until last and in my book, every officially version of the song, “Idiot Wind” (contained on Blood on the Tracks, The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1-3 and Hard Rain) is great for completely different reasons.

Blood version: After the slow “You’re a Big Girl Now,” to hear the immediate opening of “Someone’s got it in for me” with the organ, guitar and drums bashing down at the same time (think “Like a Rolling Stone” but much softer) is quite a shock. Having the most pronounced “E-ed-e-ot” of the three versions, this version falls right between the other two—not quite as hurtful as Hard Rain or as sad as Bootleg.

Bootleg version: The one that leaves you feeling for Dylan because, by the end, he seems about ready to let it all go and start crying. It’s also the version that you’re most likely to hear at 2 am at some dive of a bar.

Hard Rain version: Poisonous. Vicious. Those are just two of the words to describe this version. The humor of “They say I shot a man named Grey and took his wife to Italy/ She inherited a million bucks/ And when she died, it came to me/ I can’t help it if I’m lucky” is all but lost and you envision Dylan being the mysterious shooter. Whenever I listen to it, I think about the kid on the playground who always could hurl the most stinging insults out and even if they were not directed at you, you’d still feel their effect. This song works the same way because unlike the other two, each line (or insult) feels like a dagger—and you’re left wondering who the actual “idiot” is.

The rest of the album contains a few other good tracks (“One Too Many Mornings,” “You’re a Big Girl Now” and “I Threw It All Away”) but its mostly just clunkers. After performing “Oh Sister,” you can hear a fan yelling for “Lay, Lady, Lay” which Dylan would eventually play but in a lifeless version.

It would be another 21 months before Dylan would go on tour again. And after a listen to “Shelter from the Storm” and “Idiot Wind,” it’s no wonder why.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Twelve Best...Dylan Albums in the 70s (#10)

#10. At Budokan

Between choosing either At Budokan or Hard Rain in terms of being worse, it came down to one thing: what could have been. With the gift of those two albums being over 20 years down the line, listeners have The Bootleg Series, Vol. 5 to document the great first leg of the Rolling Thunder Revue instead of only Hard Rain, while for Dylan’s supposed “Vegas” tour, we’re left with nothing.

I’m a huge fan of Street Legal (more on that album in another post) but At Budokan—recorded in February and March of 1978, only a few short months before Street Legal, but not released until 1979—sounds like a not-so-modest blueprint of the Street Legal sound.

The album begins with an interesting version of “Mr. Tambourine Man” that is mostly hindered by the use of a flute played by Steve Douglas. But whatever intrigue that song has for the rest of the album is completely sucked away by the next track, “Shelter for the Storm.” A brutal rendition that makes the version appearing on Hard Rain sound that much better. As you’ll see tomorrow, I believe “Shelter from the Storm” to be one of the two good songs on Hard Rain.

The best song on At Budokan is the drastically different “Love Minus Zero/No Limit,” which now contains a slightly altered melody, string and yes, that aforementioned flute. And, once again, whatever momentum the album builds is shot down again with the dreadful “Ballad of a Thin Man.”

“Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” gets a reggae feel that makes one respect Bob Marley that much more, while the next song, “Maggie’s Farm,” continues my thought that there’s only one version of the song worth listening to: the rendition at the Newport Folk Festival with Mike Bloomfield. The relatively recent of “One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below)” gets a sly playing with Steve Douglas redeeming himself by adding the sax to the song, which actually works better than it should in theory.

I’ve never quite understood why “Like a Rolling Stone” and “I Shall Be Released” would be placed as 8th and 9th tracks on an album with 22 songs; after all, they’re typically show closers but for whatever reason, these tame versions get placed before one of the better songs on the album, “Is Your Love in Vain?” Dylan introduces the song by saying, “Here’s an unrecorded song. See if you can guess which one is,” but luckily for the listener, its gets better than this supposed wit of his. Dylan takes his time with his words and plays it closely resembling the album version, which actually comes across as a mini-blessing because this means he isn’t changing the song just to change it. Most of the time, I love his altered versions but when Bob gets bored with the different versions, the songs become stagnant. I guess that’s the curse of an album which ends its first disc with “Going, Going, Gone.”

I would listen to any argument that places the At Budokan version of “Blowin’ in the Wind” as one of Dylan’s worst songs. One has to wonder if Stevie Wonder was listening to it before his performance of the same song at Dylan’s 30th Anniversary Concert. At the very least, Dylan doesn’t include a 5 minute opening about the state of the world.

The bad keeps coming with “Just Like a Woman” and a swampy version of “Oh, Sister,” but a slightly Nighthawks at the Diner Waits-esque “Simple Twist of Fate” is worth at least a quick listen to. But then again, all is lost with a boring “All Along the Watchtower,” the worst possible “I Want You” ever (!), a Brady Bunch sounding “All I Really Want to Do” (although I do like the slight lyric changes; in fact, this recording is sort of a guilty pleasure) and a version of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” which has the exact same opening as the earlier “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.”

A desperate sounding “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” breaks the trend of lackluster songs, while “Forever Young” is neither good or bad—just sort of stuck in neutral.

For the last song, “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” here’s what Rolling Stone had to say: “The low point of the set is "The Times They Are A-Changin'," which Dylan introduces by saying: ‘Thank you, you're so very kind, you really are. We'll play you this song -- I wrote this, also, about fifteen years ago. It still means a lot to me. I know it means a lot to you, too.’ I don’t believe it’s the worst song on a bad album, but that’s not to say I enjoy it either.

You have to wonder who this album was for: the fans or the record company? Having three live albums in five years isn’t a shrewd move and making one of those from his much criticized ’78 tour doesn’t go too far into solving that mystery. But I guess Dylan himself is pretty much a mystery too.

The Rolling Matthews Band

Here's a great performance of "Wild Horses" by The Rolling Stones and Dave Matthews. This morning, I watched the Buffy episode "The Prom," in which a cover version of "Wild Horses" is being played while Angel and Buffy dance. I typically hate prom scenes but between the song, the mood and my caring for the characters, it really did something for me.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Twelve Best...Dylan Albums in the 70s (#11)

#11. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid

-I really enjoy the sound of the album but considering there’s only two tracks with lyrics (I’m including all the “Billy” songs as one), it’s tough to give much credence to this soundtrack album.

Recorded between January and March in 1973, Dylan made part of the album in Mexico City with local Mexican musicians and the other part, which included “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” in Burbank, California.

The first track, “Main Title Theme,” has essentially the same rhythm as “Billy 1” but contains a consistent jingle bell and is much longer. It sets the tone for the sound of the rest of the album and does give you a vision of what we’re supposed to be looking at when it’s played. The song also features some good finger pickin’ by long-time Dylan collaborators, Bruce Langhorne and Roger McGuinn.

The “Theme’s”—“Cantina,” “Bunkhouse,” “River” and “Turkey”—are all pretty much skip-worthy instrumentals. They make sense in the movie but for somebody listening to the album while driving in their car, they come across as filler—like “Woogie Boogie” on Self Portrait.

“Billy 1,” “Billy 4” and “Billy 7” are actually quite an interesting set of songs. Of the three, the first one is the most powerful and, in my opinion, is far and away the best song on the album. Dylan’s gentle rhyming of…

“Playin' around with some sweet senorita
Into her dark hallway she will lead ya
In some lonesome shadows she will greet ya
Billy, you're so far away from home.”

…is very effective—which is quite an accomplishment because when rhyming “senorita” and “ya,” you’re going down a slippery slope. The only line that could have used some work is, “She may have been a whore, but she was a hot.” But I’m not one to doubt Bobby. For unintentional semi-hilarity, check out “Billy 7” because Dylan puts on this fake showman’s voice that runs rampant in Las Vegas, but not so much the Wild West.

Possibly Dylan’s most well-known track is also on Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid: “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” In the movie, it’s playing as Slim Pickens’ character, Sheriff Colin Baker, gets shot and eventually passes away while his wife grieves over the lifeless body. The song has been covered by The Grateful Dead, U2, Guns ‘N’ Roses, Eric Clapton, Avril Lavinge, Warren Zevon, Bon Jovi and Bob Marley, to name just a few. The song only runs a brief 2 minutes and 35 seconds, but its popularity can’t be overstated. Maybe it’s due to the short length? Maybe it’s because people are fascinated by songs about death and Heaven? Whatever the reason, it’ll surely be played when Dylan kicks the proverbial bucket. Either that or “Brownsville Girl,” with the line, “I don’t have any regrets, they can talk about me plenty when I’m gone.”

Very few outtakes from Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid exist, but one of the songs, “Goodbye Holly” is a keeper. It’s included on Peco’s Blues and is just Dylan and another person singing what could be considered a drinking song.

“Guitars will play your grand finale
Down in some Tularosa alley.”
-“Billy 1”

Sunday, March 18, 2007


On May 1, 1970, Bob Dylan got together with George Harrison, Charlie Daniels, Billy Mundi and Bob Johnson (yes, that Bob Johnson) and recorded a bunch of songs; sadly, only of these, "If Not for You" from The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1-3, has seen an official release, which is a shame because it's such a great session.

On Almost Went to See Elvis (good name, huh?), a bootleg of that May day, it begins with the quintessential version of "Song to Woody." Sung with the same sincerity as the version appearing on Bob Dylan, the song sounds even better with a backing band and Dylan's "new" voice. No fan should go without it.

The next track, an instrumental of "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright," isn't anything special but does have a great bass solo by Charlie Daniels. One of the main reasons I like this boot is because Dylan doesn't completely take over; he's clearly in awe of Harrison and Daniels in the same way he was with Johnny Cash a year earlier.

"Yesterday," a song that The Beatles wrote and recorded in 1965, is an odd song for Dylan to sing but he does a really good job with it. For some reason, he puts added emphasis to the line, "Why, why...she...had to go, I don't knowwww/She wouldn't say." Harrison's guitar playing really shines on this track; to quote The Eagles, it's got a "peaceful, easy feeling" to it. And that's the last time I'll ever quote The Eagles.

Changing the lyrics every so slightly, "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" doesn't have the same longing and emotional impact of the ones on Highway 61 Revisited and The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4, but it's still rather good. After the final line of "I'm going back to New York City/I do believe I've had enough," Dylan and Daniels repeat each other with a chorus of "Hey, hey, hey," etc. Then the song begins again with, "When you're lost in Juarez..."

A rocking version of "Da Doo Run Run" is the only non-Dylan or Beatles song played during the session and it's just plain fun. Just a bunch of guys toying around and playing their instruments--harmonica included.

The boot ends with two version of "One Too Many Mornings"--one instrumental and the other with lyrics. The instrumental is rather boring and I think Dylan realizes this because he says, "Let's just stop there." Then the band cracks into the much better version. Somewhere between the studio version on The Times They Are A-Changin' and the electric one featured in '66 in terms of intensity, it's a nice way to end an album.

If you ever get a chance to download or buy this bootleg, you should do so. It's essential listening for any Dylan (or Beatles or George Harrison or Charlie Daniels Band) fan.

Twelve Best...Dylan Albums in the 1970s (#12)

Over the next week or so, I plan to write about a decade that many gloss over when it comes to the career of Bob Dylan—the 1970s. The most famous album of his from that decade is, of course, Blood on the Tracks but there are many others worth talking about. But there’s also some real junk in there.

Also, I won’t be including Bob Dylan Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 and The Basement Tapes because one isn’t an actual album while the other was recorded in the 1967, so that’d be a little unfair.

To the list!

#12. Dylan

-I’m not being terribly original in putting this dreadful album as the worst thing Dylan released in the 1970s but man, it’s really horrible. There’s a reason it’s not currently in print and relatively tough to find. Thanks to my Discussing Dylan professor, the wonderful Robert Levinson, I got Dylan and was thoroughly mortified and…well, bored.

The story behind Dylan is quite well known amongst fans at this point: Put together by Columbia in order to get back at Bob for switching to Asylum Records, they culled together outtakes from Self Portrait and released it on November 19, 1973—very shortly before Planet Waves was to be released. The result of the album is basic junk that makes one wonder why Dylan would want to ever return to Columbia—except for that whole getting money thing.

The best track on the album is “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” which Bob took from “the Gypsy,” Elvis Presley. The song is terrifically schmaltzy but there is some tenderness behind the schmaltz, which makes it stand out from the other songs. The other listenable tracks would include “Lily of the West,” “The Ballad of Ira Hayes” and “Spanish is the Loving Tongue.”

Unless you’re a completist, there’s no reason to have Dylan in your collection.

Me and Kayley FitzGee

Once upon a now, there was a girl who went to The New School by the name of Kayley FitzMaurice. One day, she and I began talking about Mr. Robert Zimmerman and from there, we started sharing our music. I gave her my Velvet Underground and Band albums while she gave me the Newsies soundtrack. Then, on a cold March night, she sent me a link of her singing "Me and Bobby McGee," which will soon include her version of one of my favorite songs, "Visions of Johanna."

The point of the story? You should hear her sing here and like Bob Dylan.

The End.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Early in the Morning, I'm Callin' YouTube, Vol. I

Five Best...YouTube Clips o' the Week

#5. Hoyt Axton and Linda Ronstadt singing "Lion in the Winter"

-While looking for clips from Disney's Robin Hood last night, I stumbled upon this very nice duet.

#4. Homer and his sugar

-Contains one of my favorite Homer speeches and the great line, "They're protecting themselves somehow."

#3. "Hey, this picture doesn't look like you."

-One of the funniest Marx Brothers skits ever.

#2. The Pogues and The Dubliners performing "The Irish Rover"

-After all, it is St. Patrick's Day

#1. Van Morrison and The Chieftains singing "Raglan Road"

-See comment above.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Good Kind of Vain

Here's a live version of The Clash's great "Train in Vain." The song was played during Bob Dylan's last Theme Time Radio Hour about "Trains." It made me picture Dylan listening to London Calling, which amuses me endlessly.

Doll'ing It Up

Five Best...Songs from the New York Dolls' New York Dolls

#5. "Looking for a Kiss"

#4. "Trash"

#3. "Pills"

#2. "Personality Crisis"

#1. "Frankenstein"

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Sultans of Suck or Brothers in Awesome?

Whenever I listen to Dire Straits—a band that formed in 1977 with Mark Knopfler on lead guitar and vocals, David Knopfler on rhythm guitar, John Illsley on bass and Pick Withers on drums—I’m left with a feeling of confusion: I can’t decide if they rock or if they’re actually quite lame.

The singles released are great—this includes “Tunnel of Love,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Money for Nothing,” “Sultans of Swing,” “Walk of Life” and “Brothers in Arms”—but when listening to the other material on albums like Making Movies, Dire Straits or Brothers in Arms, I’m left feeling rather bored. Just like most Frank Zappa albums, there’s a couple of great songs and the rest is just unintentional filler.

The band has sold well over 100 million albums (including going 15 times platinum for their debut album, Dire Straits) but the amount of albums sold doesn’t necessarily mean the music produced is great. After all, Thriller and The Eagles’ Greatest Hits are still the highest selling albums of all-time.

(A tangent: The only American artists to claim to have sold over 250 million albums are Chubby Checkers, Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Madonna and Michael Jackson. The most vomit-inducing on the 250,000,000+ list for all countries are ABBA and The Bee Gees. Here's the link.)

I’m a big fan of Mark Knopfler (his guitar work on Dylan’s Slow Train Coming and Infidels and production efforts on the latter are quite good) and anyone named Pick Withers deserves a spot in the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Names, but I just can’t fully get into a full album of theirs. Or, for that matter, a complete album of REM. But I’ll save Stipe and Co. for another time.

Five Best…Dire Straits’ Songs

#5. “Walk of Life”

#4. “Brothers in Arms”

#3. “Sultans of Swing”

#2. “Romeo and Juliet”

#1. “Tunnel of Love”

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Gettin' huffy with Buffy


A few days ago, I made reference to Buffy the Vampire Slayer being “one of the best shows to appear on television” and my fabulous Unkie Ken retorted back by saying, “How long have you been watching television?” So, Kenny, this post is for you.

It’s not often where a show gets as many fan nicknames as Buffy does—Buffyology and Buffyverse being the main two—while also having countless books, video games, spin-offs, magazine, action figures and also the new comic book coming out which covers the eighth season.

But the real awe doesn’t come until you realize that there are academic studies on Buffy. At Brunel University in West London, students can take a course on the show while in 2004, there was a conference held in Nashville about the possibility of academic classes on Buffy. The co-hosts of the conference, Lavery and Rhonda Wilcox, heard roughly 180 proposals from Buffyologists ranging from “Slayer Slang,” “Postmodern Reflections on the Culture of Consumption” and “Buffy and the new American Buddhism.”

A creation of Joss Whedon, Buffy the Vampire Slayer debuted on the now-defunct WB network on March 10, 1997 and ran until May 20, 2003, when the seventh season ended. Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar as the title character and with a cast of Nicholas Brendon and Alyson Hannigan as her two best friends, Xander and Willow, and Anthony Stewart Head as Buffy’s “watcher,” Giles, the show revolves around Buffy saving the world from vampires, demons and other beasties because the town they live in, Sunnydale, happens to live on top of a portal to Hell, or Hellmouth.

One thing that made the show so endearing is the quality of the supporting characters. People like Buffy’s vampire love interest Angel and vampire bad-ass Spike are just great characters. Not to mention folks like Anya, Jenny, Cordelia, Faith, Oz and, of course, the Buffy Rat.

Immediately, the reviews were overwhelmingly positive with words like “standout,” “smart” and “witty” being used to describe the first season. And the first season is only a shell of what the show would become.

As the number of episodes increased, so did the acclaim the show received and although getting between 4-6 million viewers was quite good for The WB, it would almost certainly mean an automatic cancellation on one of the Big Four networks.

Along the way, the show caused surprisingly little controversy for a show about a teenage girl killing vampires—except from Jesus types who believed the show promoted witchcraft. But they’re also saying something about Harry Potter so, who cares?

When the show got cancelled in 2003, it wasn’t exactly a surprise to anyone but luckily for people like me, the DVDs were released between 2002-2004, making sure that Buffy will never fade away into obscurity.

In a Washington Post story from 2005, writer Richard Harrington refers to Buffy as “one of the best, most influential, genre-defining television series in decades.” But that’s nothing compared to getting a glowing review from National Public Radio. In 2003, NPR ran a piece about “Buffy studies” on All Things Considered that can be found here.

A nice point is made in the article when it says, “From its name on down, Buffy sounds a little silly -- but Buffy's fans say the show stretches the boundaries of the medium, and challenges clichés.”

Since Bela Lugosi’s Dracula in 1931, it is possible to not have a clichéd vampire movie or television show? For Buffy to somehow transcend past that and become something great goes to show how wonderful it actually is.

To go back to the “Buffy studies” aspect, there are books or articles written in the following fields: musicology, homosexuality, feminism, theology, religion, psychology, anthropology, demonology, ecology, existentialism, and many more. It should also be pointed out that Whedon is actually an atheist.

Upon reading everything I’ve just written, Star Trek might keep popping up in your mind for it has also had academic debate, books, spin-off’s, etc. In fact, on, they write, “Only time will tell whether the 'Buffyverse' achieves the same longevity as, say, Star Trek, but the ongoing wealth of spin-off novels, comic books, and other merchandise make it seem like a pretty good bet.” In another ten years or so, although I don’t believe Buffy will have the same cultural impact as Star Trek, it’ll be pretty darn close.

And all this from a show about a teenage girl from California…killing…vampires. For a show with that kind of premise to be so successful, it takes a very clever mind. For that, Joss Whedon, I’m glad you didn’t end Buffy with that terrible movie in 1992 and decided, five years later, to begin a great seven-year run.

Now, repeat after me: "Grrr, Arghhh."

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

In print

I promise Buffy tomorrow!

Here's my list that appears in today's issue of The New School newspaper, Inprint:

Five Best...Facebook Groups

5. “The sixth avenue puppies are consistently the highlight of my day”

Those puppies are just so adorable; it almost makes you forget about the Man in White asking for a blowjob. Almost.

4. “Nuke the Whales”

To quote Nelson Muntz, “Gotta nuke something.”

3. “Dick Van Dyke is just short for Penis Van Lesbian”

The creator of this group, William Hillier of the University of Leeds, is basically a comedic genius. He also started “Anti-Stupid People Who Hang The Loo Roll The Wrong Way Round.”

2. “I’d Let Tobias Fünke Be My Analrapist”

Not exactly what it looks like… On Arrested Development, David Cross’ character, Tobias, is a failed psychologist and one day gets the idea to be a combination analyst and therapist—hence, analrapist.

1. “I don’t know Billy D. Williams, I fucks with Lando Calrissian”

In the group description it says: “For all those who don't know shit about Billy D. Williams. The person we do know is that sly ass, pimped up, Cloud City ruling, space mother fucker Lando Calrissian, who betrayed Hans Solo but then made up for it by blowing up the Second Deathstar [sic].” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Not gay

One of the best Daily Show skits has been completely taken off YouTube but through the wonder of a Google search, it can still be found on other websites. The skit revolves around Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart discussing rumors of Prince Charles being homosexual but not actually be able to mention that word.

Here's the video.

Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame

Here's a website that shows what years prominent artists can be inducted into the Rock Hall. In case you were wondering, Wilco is 2020 and The Shins are 2026.

The Right Profile

I promised a Buffy column today but while taking my shower this morning, I began thinking about how I’ve never posted a profile about myself. Considering half the point of a blog is getting to “know” a person, it seems a little unfair to the readers who don’t happen to be relatives of mine or go to the same college as me. So, here’s a little about me and, when applicable, it’ll be in Five Best form:

Name: Josh Kurp

Age: 19

Hometown: Selkirk, New York

College: Eugene Lang at The New School

Current Residence: New York City

Favorite artists/ bands:

#1. Bob Dylan
#2. The Beatles
#3. The Velvet Underground
#4. The Band
#5. Tom Waits

Favorite movies:

#1. The Last Waltz
#2. Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
#3. Star Wars (the original trilogy)
#4. Chinatown
#5. Either Monkey Business, Duck Soup or A Night at the Opera by the Marx Brothers.

Favorite television shows:

#1. The Simpsons
#2. The Office (both BBC and NBC)
#3. South Park
#4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
#5. Mystery Science Theater 3000

Favorite books:

#1. The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow
#2. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
#3. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
#4. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
#5. Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth

Favorite sport teams:

#1. New York Mets
#2. Carolina Panthers

And only those two.

Granted, there's more to knowing a person than just by their tastes in the arts and entertainment but due to the fact that this blog mostly deals with the aforementioned arts and entertainment, it'll have to do for now.

But if you have anything to ask, feel free to e-mail at or instant message me at lwaltz41.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

I WAS a Newsie! Sort of.

"Headlines don't sell papes, Newsies sell papes."
-Christian Bale

One of the many great quotes from Disney's 1992 film, Newsies.

Well, maybe not great but it is at least a um...quote.

While watching the movie, I'm thinking to myself about whether the production team knew Christian Bale would become such a great actor and that Robert Duvall is just terrible in the movie. In one short scene, he switched his accent from New Yorker to someone from the deep south to Russian. It's no wonder he got nominated for a Razzie for this role but sadly lost to Tom Selleck in Christopher Columbus: The Discovery. The movie was actually nominated for Worst Picture too but also lost to Shining Through. The only award it won that night was for the song "High Times, Hard Times" which was composed by Alan Menken, who also did the composing for some of Disney's best films like Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid.

Here's one of the film's "better" songs, "King of New York." And yes, that is Bill Pullman.

It's All In The Song

Much more about Buffy tomorrow.

As for today's list:

Five Best...Bands Named After Songs

#5. Mean Mr. Mustard (after The Beatles song from Abbey Road)

#4. Paint It Black (after The Stones' song)

#3. Raindogs (after the Tom Waits' song and album)

#2. Radiohead (mentioned in the Talking Heads song "True Stories")

#1. The Rolling Stones (after the Muddy Waters song "Rollin' Stone")

On tonight's Simpsons, Selma and Grandpa began to date (and eventually marry) and during a montage of the things they do together (which includes looking at a poster of the Woody Allen movie Manhattan), the song played is Joe Jackson's great "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" It's a radio hit that I never tire of hearing.

Later in the episode, Selma says, "I guess The Beatles were wrong: love isn't all you need." To which Grandpa responses, "I didn't realize you liked The Beatles because that would have caused some problems down the line."

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Richard and Buffy

Five Best...Richard Thompson albums

#5. you? me? us?

#4. Amnesia

#3. Mock Tudor

#2. Rumor and Sigh

#1. Shoot Out the Lights

Also, today is the 10-year anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer debuting on the WB. I'm currently only in the third season on DVD but can't wait to finish watching the rest of the show. It's truly one of the best shows ever to appear on television.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Best of the Basement

Upon a brief inspection of today's lists, many Dylan fans will notice that I haven't posted anything that didn't appear on the officially released Basement Tapes from 1975. The album was, of course, put together by Robbie Robertson in an attempt to put out some great music/make some cash. Of the eight songs that did not feature Dylan—“Orange Juice Blues,” “Yazoo Street Scandal,” “Katie’s Been Gone,” “Bessie Smith,” “Ain’t No More Cane,” “Ruben Remus,” “Don’t Ya Tell Henry” and “Long Distance Operator”—only four were from the sessions held at the infamous Big Pink in Woodstock, New York.

But the thing that always gets me (and many other fans too, Greil Marcus included) is Robbie leaving out some of the best material from the actual sessions. This includes “Quinn the Mighty Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn),” “I’m Not There (1956),” “Ferdinand the Imposter,” “See You Later Allen Ginsberg,” “Get Your Rocks Off” and one of the best cuts Dylan ever recorded, “Sign on the Cross.”

Robbie, you're an awesome musician and great lyricist but you should let the professionals pick the best material for an album. After all, "Don't Do It" got left off of The Last Waltz.

The Band's in the Basement...

Five Best...The Band sung songs from The Basement Tapes

#5. "Ain't No More Cane"

#4. "Long Distance Operator"

#3. "Bessie Smith"

#2. "Don't Ya Tell, Henry"

#1. "Katie's Been Gone"

Bobby's in the Basement...

Five Best...Bob Dylan sung songs from The Basement Tapes

#5. "Nothing Was Delivered"

#4. "Million Dollar Bash"

#3. "Clothesline Saga"

#2. "Odds and Ends"

#1. "Please, Mrs. Henry"

Thursday, March 8, 2007

"That's All Right, I Still Got My Guitar"

Five Best...Jimi Hendrix Albums

#5. Live at Berkley

#4. Axis: Bold as Love

#3. Band of Gypsys

#2. Are You Experienced?

#1. Electric Ladyland

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

I'd Like To Thank God

Five Best...Bob Dylan Overtly Religious Songs

#5. "Property of Jesus"

#4. "Foot of Pride"

#3. "Jokerman"

#2. "Precious Angel"

#1. "Every Grain of Sand"

One cut that could have made the list, "Tryin' To Get To Heaven" from Time Out of Mind, only got left out because it doesn't have the same religious theme that these five cuts do. In fact, its only true Christian overtone is the final line of every verse, "Tryin' to get to Heaven before they close the door."

If I could have a #5a, it'd be "Saving Grace" from Saved but it just barely missed the list.

Many people find it easy to pick on Dylan's "Jesus phase" but upon a close listen to Slow Train Coming, Saved and Shot of Love, you'd actually find some great material. Of course there is some junk like "Man Gave Names To All the Animals" but there's also junk on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan like "Down the Highway." I would invite anyone who immediately trashes those three albums (I leave out Infidels because that's actually an album that people give accolades to) to give them another listen or two and remember that God isn't exactly a theme that Dylan used only for those brief 4 or 5 years. After all, on Bob Dylan, he records a version of "Gospel Plow" and nearly every line of John Wesley Harding has something religious in it.

And this is all coming from someone who essentially despises religion.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Timmy, #1 in the Hood, lives with his friendly family, The Simpsons

Five Best...Current Cartoons

#5. The Fairly Oddparents

#4. Aqua Teen Hunger Force

#3. Family Guy

#2. South Park

#1. The Simpsons

Much more about The Simpsons and South Park in further postings.

(Notice my clever use of all the show's theme songs in the title)

Just Like Bryan Ferry's Blues

In June, Bryan Ferry's album of Dylan covers, Dylanesque, will be released. One of the tracks to be included is "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues." It's actually pretty good. And we all know that Dylan would appreciate the black female backup-singers.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Five Best...The Band Albums (#1)

#1. The Band

Commonly referred to as “The Brown Album," The Band’s sophomore effort, The Band, is every bit as good as their first album. And, considering I have it listed at the top of this list, that much better too.

Released a month after the Summer of Love had ended, The Band is everything that concept never could be: good, authentic and unpretentious. Surprisingly, it hit #9 on the Billboard charts (and, for some reason, shot up to #10 in 2000 on Billboard’s Internet Albums chart) and its most well-known sung, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” is commonly (and sadly) associated with the horrific Joan Baez version.

The album begins with “Across the Great Divide,” which also happens to be the name of sub-par Band retrospective that came out in the late 90s. Everything that needs to be known about the album is heard in its horn, piano and guitar-filled of “Standin’ by your window in pain…” A great start to a great album.

“Rag Mama Rag” and, although it appears later on the album, “Up on Cripple Creek” are very similar in their swampy sound. The noises that Garth gets out of his instruments on “Up on Cripple Creek” should be held in a time capsule for future generations to admire. Levon’s “he he” is pretty good too.

Much time has been spent on writing and discussing “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and, although I’m slightly tired of hearing it, it’s rightly so. The song could work both in a music and history class, with its details of the Civil War. Although Baez did change it from “there goes Robert E. Lee” to “there goes the Robert E. Lee,” referring to the boat.

“When You Awake” and “Whispering Pines” are the slow songs on the album and while they aren’t great, they’re not bad either. It just seems like a lot of The Band’s emotion had been stripped while recording “Up on Cripple Creek,” among others. But I will make this bold proclamation: The Band is one of the few albums that doesn’t have a single bad song on it. That’s very, very rare.

The next four tracks get largely overshadowed by the “hits” from the album but they’re arguably the heart and soul of it. Book ended around “Rockin’ Chair” and “Look Out Cleveland” are “Jemima Surrender” and “Jawbone,” and on all but “Rockin’ Chair,” (which instead features “Ragtime Willie”) Robbie finally gets a shot to prove his guitar expertise. One of the reasons I’m so fond of The Last Waltz is because Robbie really shines playing his guitar and for that same reason, these three are some of my favorite Band tracks. That, and it’s fun singing “Look Out Cleveland” whenever I travel to Ohio or Houston, Texas.

The album ends with “The Unfaithful Servant” and a song many call the best thing The Band ever recorded, “King Harvest (Has Surely Come).” For me, I enjoy the song but it sounds like it’s missing something. It’s also an odd song to end an album. But for all my complaining, Levon’s vocals really shine on some of Robbie’s best lyrics.

“Temptation stands just behind the door,
So what you wanna go and open it for?”
-From “Jawbone”

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Five Best...Saul Bellow novels

5. The Victim

4. Seize the Day

3. Herzog

2. Henderson the Rain King

1. The Adventures of Augie March

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Too Nice to Blog

(As appeared in a previous issue of Inprint)

Five Best…Songs with Another Artist in the Title

5- “Jello Biafra”
Wesley Willis
Greatest Hits, Vol. 2

Comment: Ever wonder what a 350-pound schizophrenic singing about the ex-lead singer of the Dead Kennedy’s sounds like? Well, wonder no longer!

4- “Howlin’ Wolf”
Muddy Waters
In Concert

Comment: A tribute from one great bluesman to another, Muddy sings, “I get so bad sometime/ I be jumping from limb to limb.”

3- “Bob”
Weird Al Yankovic
Poodle Hat

Comment: Weird Al finally settles the long standing debate if a whole song can be done in palindromes (example lyric: “Go hang a salami/ I’m a lasagna hog.”)

2- “Oh Yoko”
John Lennon

Comment: We here at Five Best only consider Yoko an “artist” in the most technical definition of the word but this song almost makes you see what John saw in her.

1- “Jackie Wilson Said (I’m in Heaven When You Smile)”
Van Morrison
Saint Dominic’s Preview

Comment: Van The Man proving once and for all that white people can get funky.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Five Best...The Band Albums (#2)

#2. Music from Big Pink

-Not only is it a great Band album, it’s also one of the best debut albums of all-time. But that list is for another time. Released in July of 1968, Music from Big Pink would never reach the chart sales it should have (it’d only peak at #30) but its influence would be felt from artists ranging from Eric Clapton to My Morning Jacket.

The album begins with possibly its finest song, “Tears of Rage.” This track, co-written by Richard Manuel and Bob Dylan, was originally a Basement Tapes-era song but this version would supply the emotional output that one never could reach. Manuel’s voice is perfect for the song when he sings lines like, “We’re so alone/And life is brief.”

“To Kingdom Come” and “In a Station” are both slightly forgettable but the album wouldn’t be the same without them. After all, not every track can be as good as “Tears of Rage” or “The Weight.”

I can’t quite put my finger on why I like “Caledonia Mission” so much but I guess The Band’s “magic might be real.” This song also some of the best vocal work on the album.

Beginning with the next track, the rest of the album is simply magnificent.

There’s a reason why “The Weight” is The Band’s most well known song; Levon and Rick sound perfect while the piano work of Manuel is actually quite inspired. It’s also some of Robbie’s finest lyrics.

The next track, “We Can Talk,” is one of my favorite Band songs and also features one of my favorite misheard lyrics. When Levon sings, “But did ya ever milk the cow?,” I always thought it was, “Did Nietzsche ever milk the cow?” Frankly, I like mine better. I’m also quite fond of, “I’m afraid if you ever got a pat on your back/ It would likely burst your lungs” and “But I’d rather be burned in Canada/Than to freeze here in the South.”

It seems like you can’t consider yourself a true musician until you’ve done a version of “Long Black Veil.” Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Joan Baez, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Burl Ives, The Kingston Trio, The Chieftains, Lefty Frizzell, Mickey Nesmith (!), Dave Matthews Band, The Stanley Brothers, Jerry Garcia and, of course, The Band have performed this song by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin.

Want to scare the bejesus of some poor kid next Halloween? Play Garth’s opening organ solo on “Chest Fever.” I can remember the first time I heard it and how mesmerized and terrified of it I was. And now, it’s one of my favorites.

“Lonesome Suzie” is a good song and necessary for the album but there’s something about that doesn’t do it for me. Maybe it’s a little too whiny? My loss, I suppose.

The album ends with two songs that Dylan had a hand in writing, “This Wheel’s on Fire” and “I Shall Be Released.” In each of these cases, I feel they’re better at The Last Waltz but they’re still both classics, especially “This Wheel’s on Fire.” I mean, try saying the phrase “If my memory serves me well” without adding, “Wheel’s on fire, rolling down the road!” And yes, it is “your memory” instead of “my memory,” but those are just semantics. As for “I Shall Be Released,” it’s a song I respect more for what it is than how much I actually like it.

It’s sad that The Band could only capture an album as great as this one more time but at least we have this musical document to listen to. I know for me, it’s an album that I feel comfortable listening to; as if it’s all mine and no one else has ever discovered its majesty. But that doesn’t mean I won’t spread its gospel around.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Layla and Other Assorted Great Songs

Very busy day so I'm just going to make a quick post:

Five Best...Songs from Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs

5- Have You Ever Loved a Woman?

4- Anyday

3- Layla

2- Bell Bottom Blues

1- Keep On Growing