Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Five Best...Songs from I'm Not There

#5. "As I Went Out Morning" by Mira Billotte

One of the more "obscure" songs on the soundtrack, it's also one of the few women on it. Although I've never heard of Mira Billotte, I'm damn surprised at how good she is. Just like how it appears on John Wesley Harding, the song is commanded by the bass line and drumming, making the guitar almost pointless, while Billotte clearly knows how to maneuver her way through a Bob Dylan song--something that many people have tried and failed at.

#4. "Simple Twist of Fate" by Jeff Tweedy

It's not a surprise that I'm a huge fan of Wilco, and this became the first song I listened to after buying the album (I already possessed a copy of Dylan's "I'm Not There," so it wasn't a big deal for me.) Tweedy does an impressive job of sounding like Dylan in his straining vocals, and the backing musicians make the sadness of "Simple Twist of Fate" come into the foreground.

#3. "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" by Ramblin' Jack Elliott

I've never been a big fan of Ramblin' because I could just easily listen to Woody Guthrie, and get basically the same song but better. But here, when he's impersonating Dylan, I might have to change my mind. Unlike the Highway 61 version, this one goes acoustic; something that I didn't think would work, but in the execution, you realize how much Ramblin' respects "Tom Thumb's Blues," and does it justice...and then some.

#2. "Ballad of a Thin Man" by Stephen Malkmus

The original "Ballad" is not a favorite of mine; in fact, I normally skip it while listening to Highway 61 Revisited. But as for the version on The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4, I'm left in awe at how good Dylan sings and plays the piano, and how amazing of an organ player Garth Hudson is. Thankfully, Malkmus covers the live version, not the studio one, and he just totally owns the track.

#1. "Goin' to Acapulco" by Jim James

It's haunting how much James sounds like Dylan on this Basement Tapes track. The voice is a little more echo-ing and slightly more nasal, but he sings with the same style that made Dylan's vocals from those sessions so great. The addition of the horns as a key instrument makes the song sound contemporary and from another decade at the same time--no small feat.

Honorable Mentions
"Stuck Inside a Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again" by Cat Power
"Pressing On" by John Doe
"When the Ship Comes In" by Marcus Carl Franklin
"I'm Not There" by Sonic Youth

At 9:15 p.m. tonight, I'll be in the Film Forum finally seeing I'm Not There. I bought tickets for my girlfriend, Nadia, and I months ago, and my excitement is reaching a point that only a movie like The Simpsons Movie could attain.

When I first heard about I'm Not There, I was understandably questionable. I mean, do we need something that contains the words "Dylan" and "surreal?" But as the movie premiere has gotten closer and people I respect have told me that they loved the movie (Greil Marcus, for instance), I'm expecting something wonderful for 2 hours and 15 minutes tonight.

Other Bob Stuff:
Cover story from the Village Voice
Review from the New York Times
My current Facebook picture