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Wednesday, 8 April 2009

New Dylan Tracks Are 'Knocked Out Loaded'



Well, it may be unfair to assume that Bob was tight ("loaded") when he recorded these new tracks, but they certainly sound like he cooked them up and knocked them out in the studio without much thought or deliberation. Beyond Here Lies Nothing might as well be entitled "Here Lies Nothing," and for all its (highly derivative) musical charm, I Feel A Change Coming On isn't even as interesting lyrically as the slightly underrated Under Your Spell from one of Bob's least successful albums. The refrain is quite catchy, but most of the rest of the lyrics are trite. Also, I'm a bit fed up with Bob telling us who he's listening to or reading all the time. This is a lazy way of filling in a couple of lines. Still, if that's what he likes, here's a suggestion for his next album:

I'm listening to Britney Spears
I almost forgot the taste of fears

The second line is a near quotation from Macbeth (V.v) , which gives you the impression that something clever is being said, a bit like "I'm listening to Billy Joe Shaver and reading James Joyce/Some people say I've got the blood of the land in my voice," but you see how easy it is? I could write dozens of couplets like this, and I'm sure you could too, but it's a cheap trick.

Also, the refrain seems a bit exploitative, tapping into the expectations generated by Obama's "change we can believe in" slogan, while refraining from commenting on those expectations. Again the comparison is with a Knocked Out Loaded song, one of Dylan's very worse, the execrable Got My Mind Made Up:

Well I'm going off to Libya
There's guy I gotta see
He's been living there three years now
In an oil refinery

Lines so bad, and at the same time, so deliberately evocative of an interest he has no intention of satisfying, and therefore exploitative, that I have always taken the easy way out and blamed poor Tom Petty for them!

Musically, I Feel A Change Comin' On is somewhat reminiscent of Handy Dandy, a much better song.

For the benefit of anyone who has problems with streaming audio files, I include below mp3s of these two pre-release songs. If you do download them, please delete them if you don't like them or if you do not buy Together Through Life when it's released.

Also, if you have time and inclination, please click on some of the Google links!

Beyond Here Lies Nothing (pre-release from bobdylan.com, 192 kb/s)

I Feel A Change Comin' On (mp3, 192 kb/s captured via soundcard from streaming mp3)

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

I guess you didn't like it then.
Too bad

Anonymous said...

Let's see, Bob has written hundreds of songs, and you expect every single one of them to be a gem, with no trite lines, no banal references, nothing that might be improved?

I wish you could write that well. Give the guy a break!

kevin cramsey said...

Your critique is on the mark. These two songs are both knock-offs. Bob being musically and lyrically lazy. I'm beginning to suspect that the accordian is being used as a "beard" to conceal the fact that the melodies are copies of other songs ("Change . . . ") or just the same standard blues signatuers we've heard thousands and thousands of times ("Beyond Here . . ") "Change Comin' On" also suffers from some really rough vocals, even for Bob. He sounds off-key on a couple of lines, too, which is unusual for him. I'm beginng to have concerns about the forthcoming CD, especially if these are considered the strongest tracks (If not, why put them out first?)

Stan said...

You're tired of him telling you who he's listening to/reading? Already? Jeeze... you tire way too easily.

Anonymous said...

just as Ain't talkin' from Modern Times was a prophetic song from revelations concerning the Devil since the garden and the Heavenly aid to come this song is obviously about the coming wedding of the bride
"Well Im looking the world over
looking far off into the east
And I see my baby coming
she's walking with the village priest"

raggedclown said...

While I appreciate all comments, I'm not going to respond to anonymous ones, sorry.

Kevin, if the album contains one excellent song, I'll be happy. That's all we can expect these days. If it's of the standard of "Every Grain of Sand", I'll be overjoyed.

Stan, it seems as though every album now must have this lazy name-dropping as a substitution for anything to say (not "Love and Theft", though, because Bob actually had something to say on that brilliant album!)

Nick Foley said...

I agree, these two songs are rubbish. But after three albums worth of brilliant songs (ok, maybe 2.5...ahem, modern times), we were due for a flub!

Anonymous said...

Lets see; "Like a rolling stone" "The times they are a changing" "The answer is blowin' in the wind" or "They'll stone when you're sitting at the bar, stone you when you're playing your guitar".....etc 43 years later! Your critizism's are old news. Dylan's words and music will be around long after we're gone,and they'll still be trying to figure him out. No one else comes close to his songwriting.

Nick Foley said...

Obviously Bob Dylan's songs will outlive him and all of us. They constitute some of the greatest American contributions to the worldwide musical and literary canon. That being said, even Bob has his off moments, and these two new songs clearly sprung from one of his worst off moments ever.

Anonymous said...

it generally takes me sometime to for a bob song to sink in--or stay out of my mind. and i think "under your spell" is a good song. but your couplet, friend, sucks and i wish you would not write dozens more. bob's verse, which i like on the page and when he sings it, has more verve. and it's a nice tribute eo a very underrated writer/perfomer, billy joe shaver.

and bob has made a career out of reponding to anon. i imagine he expects to be known as anon one day too.

Daryl said...

Blood of the LAMB in my voice. That's why he's listening to Shaver. If you read James Joyce, maybe you will have a better appreciation for what he's doing. It's a clue, but then again, having to read a book is too much to ask isn't it?

Anonymous said...

I have hardly heard these new tracks yet so I won't comment on their quality - but I will say this: If hearing the Dylan reference to Billy Joe Shaver makes a few new people notice and listen to this extremely talented country legend then it is clearly a great thing.

Are the lines bad songwriting? I'm not so sure - if you have ever read both Joyce and Billy Joe Shaver (as I have) you must surely be intrigued by this couplet. Name-dropping it may be - but it is interesting name-dropping.

Anonymous said...

not that "a Thin Man" needs defending "call me any name you like I will never deny it"

but from one anonymous git to another

"I feel a Change Coming On" is more than listenable. and grows on you, i've found. certainly not his finest hour but far from the joke that you're calling it.

geranium_kisses@yahoo.com
hudson roper

there i'm not so anonymous now.

p.s.

eliot, i think maybe the ragged clown should reread uncle bobby's interview with bill flanagan re together through life.
paying special attention to the final question and answer.

Anonymous said...

Knocked Out Loaded? Are you serious? It's music guys. It's entertainment. Bob's has always had fun with spinning words around so much that you don't know whether they are deep and insightful or he just found something that rhymed with the previous line and threw it together while he was taking a crap. That's the mystique of it.

People hold their expectations too high when they dissect his lyrics, as if he's supposed to be giving the listener some sort of direction or purpose in a line. When all the while, he could be just toying with people who study his words too much. If you find some of his songs inspiring, wonderful. But to expect them all to be masterpieces, is ridiculous. No wonder he leads such a reclusive and private life. He's got vultures pickin' through whatever he throws out.

He's said it in several interviews that his focus is on the overall sound of the record. If it comes out sounding like a good record should to his ears, then he did his job. He doesn't spend a lot of time in the studio because he knows those songs will evolve over time as brings them into his live set.

As for stealing phrases from other musicians or writers and stealing the music, go listen to any of the old blues albums. Every style of blues has a song structure that rarely changes, chicago blues, delta blues, etc...
You almost have to admire the beauty of it. You can throw several couplets together that don't relate to eachother in any way, in no particular order, and you have your song structure. It's like pulling numbers out of a hat and then adding them up. Everytime you'll get something different and unexpected. Sometimes the numbers aren't as pretty as others.

You people have too high expectations for man who doesn't considered what he does as nothing more than a job. He doesn't claim to have answers in his songs. He doesn't claim to be master poet or magician. What he does do is entertain. He entertains himself with music and lyrics that he enjoys playing night after night. And, with luck, he's been entertaining audiences for over forty years. He doesn't have anything to prove anymore, and he probably never did.

We should all just be content that he's still touring and releasing records at his age. Every album he puts out, the fanatics automatically expect that the next one is going to be better. Well, I guess that depends on who the listener is. I think he takes his music in different directions not for his audiences, but to challenge himself. He done just about every music style under the sun. Bob's gone through some great periods where he has recorded some of his best music, but he's also had some low points in his career. The mere fact that he's still doin' what he loves nearly half a century now is poetry in itself.

Anyways, the damn album hasn't even came out yet. Don't start tearing it apart and anylyzing it until you've heard the damn thing. It's only two songs that were released. With Love and Theft, our first glimpses were "Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum" and "Po' Boy." Those hardly represented that entire album, just as "Lovesick" didn't represent all of Time Out Of Mind.

Well, for those who are still reading this, thanks for listening to my long rant. It's 4:30AM and I'm goin' to bed.

later.

Ed said...

Wow, don't you dare criticize Bob Dylan. If you do, tons of knee-jerk apologists for mediocrity will hate on you.

Anonymous said...

Open your ears, dude,

It's blood of the lamb-not the land-
Also, it's great music about love from one of the
last masters-why so critical?

Got my Mind Made Up was the song we always played before tearing it up on Saturday night-maybe you
should listen to it again...

When you gonna wake up?

Anonymous said...

You have made some valid points here and clearly described them. I agree with you, his writing is sloppy and self indulgent sometimes, particularly for someone who is so revered as a lyricist. I guess that's his private joke, his trying to appear that he's not taking himself too seriously, or flying in the face of the expectations of fans and critics. When I think of the Ballad of Hollis Brown or The Highlands, I guess I can say - Ya win some, you lose some. Long live the old man!

Bud Kinch said...

I found these two songs a joy to hear, they sound great to my ears, lyrics are a cut above the rest, no one else writes like that, I was surprised to read the various criticisms above. I'm not the kind to blindly defend certain artists I hold in high regard regardless of the quality of their output, but I thank Christ for Bob Dylan, I believe he is one of the few masters, and that he possesses a profound and supernatural musical wisdom. I cherish nearly all his recent recordings. People who undermine his new songs as sounding samey and whatnot clearly don't understand the musical forms... as was stated already by another poster, country, blues, folk - the music always repeats itself and sounds alike in ways, with various structures that provide canvas for songs of real deep earthly beauty. Ever heard a Howlin' Wolf album, Hank Williams, Woody Guthrie? If you want avant-garde sonic innovations you came to the wrong place. Peace be with ya.

Anonymous said...

There's no reason to object to "Got My Mind Made Up" since it's a nonesense song more concerned with rhythm than lyrics. But you quote the bad lyrics while ignoring the good ones:

Don't ever try to change me
I've been in this thing too long

and the best:

If you don't want to see me
Look the other way

"Knocked Out Loaded" had nice arrangements and was nowhere near as trite as "Modern Times".

Forcing expectations on Bob is ridiculous. He'll do as he pleases and it's why we can't get enough of him. As Jack Nicholson said when presenting him with a lifetime achievement Grammy in the '90's: "This guy's a hoot."

mitdemradzurarbeit said...

from "i feel achange coming on":

"dreams never worked for me anyway
even when they did come true"

how is a song containing a line like this not a great song?

Anonymous said...

The new songs sound like bad covers. Maybe Dylan's back on the booze. His voice sounds like shit. He's becoming mediocre and overrated.

raggedclown said...

Daryl, I suggested myself that Bob was singing "blood of the lamb in my voice" on Watchtower as a joke. But he isn't. The image would be rather grotesque, although strained conceits are certainly possible in religious language. Bob may still consider himself saved by the blood of the Lamb, but do "some people" really say he's got the blood of the lamb in his voice? It's more likely to be the blood shed in the American Civil War, an event that Bob has told us in Chronicles lies behind everything he has ever written. In his new interview with Bill Flanagan, he talks about this influence again:

"[The Southern air] isfilled with rambling ghosts and disturbed
spirits. They’re all screaming and forlorning. It’s like they are caught in some weird web - some purgatory between heaven and hell and they can’t rest. They can’t live, and they can’t die. It’s like they were cut off in their prime, wanting to tell somebody something. It’s all over the place. There are war fields
everywhere … a lot of times even in people’s backyards."

MG said...

he sings "some people tell me I've got the blood of the lamb in my voice" try to write a line like that, you twit.

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Markus said...

Well, we're all entitled to our own idiosyncratic opinions, and as someone who probably spent a solid six months of my waking life from age 16 to 24 listening to Dylan in the eighties I must say that Knocked Out Loaded is the last album of his that I really loved. It spoke DIRECTLY to me. Objectively, idiosyncrasity (SIC) aside, "Brownsville Girl" IS an UNDENIABLE masterpiece. Beyond that, "Maybe Someday" was written by him for me and my first girlfriend. I just KNOW that HAD to be the case. You get it. It touched my soul, much more than Oh Mercy or any of the other over-hyped stuff that came later.