Michael Gray writes and circulates stuff
Hi Michael,Yes it is a long time and it seems the same is true of when I last posted a question to you on a blog. So here is one that has been perplexing me. I am using this video to pretend we are discussing current Bob....so, here’s my question:Given Dylan's song-writing modus operandi has been set in stone for many years now (a mis- mash of lifts from songs, poems and prose set to an old melody) why did he need a co-writer for Duquesne Whistle? What does Hunter actually do? It makes no sense. Does he give Hunter bits of paper with his stolen lines on them and say – “here, put these together”? Doesn’t seem worth it, does it?All the best,Homer
I imagine there'll be some polite and civilised disagreement with this assessment, Homer: including, perhaps, from those who can see the good points to Hunter-Dylan collaborations like 'Ugliest Girl in the World'.
And what good points would these be one wonders?However, I was not really after a debate about any artistic merits in the collaborations (like UFOs and Yetis and life after death I will hang fire on those discussions until there is something to actually discuss) my point is that whatever one thinks of the songs themselves - why is there a need for two "authors" when the music and lyrics are already to hand? As an aside whatever the answer is, it is not even to do with ordering the quotes as as we know the verses are switched around by professional digital equipment in the studio - Dylan's delight in discovering this process during the making of "Modern Times" is well documented. It is a veritable leveraging of synergies (as our corporate rulers would say), this process...the machines capability for switching the order around adds "tension" and "suspense" and "wrongfoots the listeners' expectation" donchaknow.
I suspect the song was written during the TTL sessions and recut with the current band configuration for the latest album. Just a hunch as it appears this is the only collaboration on Tempest. As to why he needed on Hunter on those sessions, beats me. This Dream of You, the only track he wrote by himself, is superior in the writing dept. to anything else on the album imho. Does D Whistle consist of mostly stolen lines? Must have missed that. Simple lines in any event but a warm performance of a track that is addictive with a dog rough vocal but superb band work and immaculate production. Despite the vocal, this track has buckets of charm but I'm hoping meatier material awaits. Regards,Judas
I think the reaction to Dylan songs has changed. Used to be a line like 'the mother of Our Lord' would prompt a feeding frenzy of speculation as to Bob's possible conversion to Catholicism. Now, there's a hunt through Google to see where he nicked it from.Even though this has been his MO since day one, and something he admitted to way back when. People have grown tired of Bob. I don't know what they expect from him, to be honest. Sometimes I'm tired of him myself, and I don't know I expect from him either.He seems to have a volume of some obscure poets lyrics lying around and he transplants lines from different poems into a song and makes something new. This appears to be a lazy way of working. Or, if the snippet of Scarlet Town is anything to go by, it's quite an effective way of working. But the procedure is distracting attention away from the result. Now he isn't trusted. Duquesne Whistle prompts a stampede of pseudo-science to see where he stole the tune from. Did he steal it from himself?How redundant is he? Or, since he would know all this speculation and detective work is going to happen, is he having a huge laugh at our expense?The procedure is distracting from the work, which is a pity. We don't listen to his records now with any sense of innocence, and just base our views on what we hear. In terms of understanding his work practices, Song and Dance Man III was as thorough as it gets - and very admiring of Bob, too. It didn't call him a plagiarist or or display cynicism towards his methods for albums such as TOOM or Empire Burlesque. I'm writing this from memory. UTRS was an album with more to it than meets the ear - when we became aware of his sources. He was considered literary by some, and working validly within an established tradition, just like he always had before.So what's changed? The main critique seems to be of his methods, though obviously the quality is more or less, depending on the album. I think we're jaded by him, he seems to have outstayed his welcome, or his impenetrable facade has blocked us out. I don't know. I labour with this, when it comes to Bob, but I still believe he can retrieve the old genius and write songs nobody else would even dare. I give him the benefit of the doubt, while steering clear of large swathes of his recent stuff.Regarding Robert Hunter, a big sigh that he's only on one song. Nothing against the chap personally, but why would Dylan need a make-weight to help with lyrics? That's where his genius is most often recognised. I know Sussmayer finished off Mozart's Requiem - but Wolfgang was dead by then. He wouldn't have allowed a anybody near his work when he was alive. His work meant to much to him. It's a bad example, maybe, but you know what I mean...
Love the video, by the way! Thanks for that. I would love to see Bob make an album with a backing chorus again, I think it adds texture and music to his own voice. He sings quite well here, too, to my ears. Backing singers add something to his pauses between words.Thanks again!
His vocal since he started on the grand piano recently has been surprisingly smooth. He generally turns to rasp mode when he's standing out front on the prowl. Agree that the backing singers add a lovely layer to this. JudasPS Late review on BBC2 tonight previewing Tempest. I suspect lots of snooty put downs by critics competing with one another to start the backlash will be the order of the day but I'll dutifully watch just in case something informed might be unearthed.
Good luck with that, I will cheat and catch up on it after reading your report, Judas. A touch parasitical of me, I know… but you’ve relieved me of a chore as my expectations are that it will be as you predict.Homer
I know Sussmayer finished off Mozart's Requiem - but Wolfgang was dead by then.What a great line, I wish that I had written that! The difference between the “plagiarism” of earlier in his career and the last 15 years or so is that now it is just verbatim. He used to tweak it a little, surprise us by juxtaposing, changing context, slightly altering etc. Also, to his enormous credit Dylan has spent most of his life changing style radically from album to album be the preceding one a “success” or not. Now in his later years he, perhaps understandably, seems to have settled into giving us pretty much the same kind of fare album after album. Homer
@Kieran I like to think that I still listen with that sense of innocence, but it could be that I just don't care where he stole the lyrics from. If the final product is good, that's all I need, and if I care about anything, it's how the song sounds live.
Michael,May I be the first to comment on the leaks from the new album? Lyrically and musically so cohesive, so beautiful. As if the last three albums have been fine-tuned into something for the ages. it may even be the best album since Street Legal . . . I should calm down, I've only heard four tracks.
It is hard to stay calm after listening to Pay in Blood though, isn't it?PS you are right re the security code; Michael I think lots of people will just give up. It took me three different pairs of glasses to get in.
BTW the security code to get on this blog literally drove me to fucking insanity. Is it for real?
I love it when people use "literally" to mean the opposite; but I thank you for making the point. I had thought that it was nothing I could control - that it was just Blogger being a Bugger - but since your telling me how awful it is, I've re-examined "Settings" and found I can switch it off. So: mea culpa for all the annoyance but you should all be free of it now - which I'm literally over the moon to be able to report.
Well, to comment on my own first posting - if as seems likely, D Whistle is just a leftover used as an intro (as the Lennon tribute is used as an outro) then I guess it is not an important questions as to why Hunter is needed.I'm still curious but I think I'll just listen to Scarlet Town again and forget all about it for a while....
I have to eat humble pie Homer, Late Review gushed in a way that frankly makes Allan Jones and all the other rave previews/reviews sound like Michael! Frankly, it can't be that good but the sense of excitement from all of them (bar Maureen Lipman who clearly liked it loads as well despite finding it all very "blokeish" and joking that "Tempest" went on for about 3 years) was palpable with assertions from one that it was up with BOB and BOTT and is "a work of art". Anyway, I'm holding off listening to the latest 3 tracks to leak. I want the disc in my trembling hand, ready to listen fresh to 7.8 (ish) Dylan tracks that will be entirely fresh to my ears. They do seem to be going down very well with the community at large though from what I can gather...Judas
Hey Kieran,How long did it take you to get from playing the first of the three leaked tracks to the second? it took me ages to stop playing "Pay In Blood" and move on to the next one.Interesting that these three are such an improvement on the first two released. Odd marketing strategy!
Hi Anon, like friend Judas above I'm gonna try resist until it hits the store in Dublin on Friday. But I'm thinking that the reviews might not be so wrong after all. Some I suspected of being mere corporate cronyism, but so far, there have been no dissenting voices.The BBC review last night particularly surprised and impressed me. So I'll try wait! Get that feeling of putting it fresh and new on the player...
I'll stop posting excitedly after this one, but I haven't felt this excited listening to new Dylan original material since 2001. it reminds me of "Love and Theft" in so many ways (the same way of writing, singing, the musical styles borrowed) that you get the feeling that the cohesion Kieran alludes to above is bound to be there throughout the album.I realise that one should avoid listening to tracks and wait on the whole album, but I was not taking the chance that something could have happened to me in the next week and I never got to hear it.I am now reaping the benefits of having such a crazy mind.Homer
It would be fine to be proved wrong, but I suspect the critic Paul Morley’s claim on the BBC last night that the album was as good as Blonde on Blonde and Blood on the Tracks will make Clint Eastwood’s speech to the Republicans look like a model of judiciousness. Ramblling Gambling Gordon
We don't know yet, Gordon, but imagine if the same thing had been said about L&T. I think it would have been prophetic...
Well, it seems like the RNC is trying to steal the presidency again. But all I have to say is"...Be easy baby, there ain't nothin' worth stealin. in here"After all these years it seems silly to talk about the reconstruction of an artistic process. Art and poetry is always about representation of the divine presence of creation itself. No one thought it was strange when Andy Warhol stole a can of soup. I like Bob's way of combining poetry with music. His Compositions are impeccable. Saw him a few nites ago in Johnstown PA and I haven't danced for two hours straight in alot of years. you just couldn't stop they sounded so tight.Hope you guys can find something better to do with your life than bitch. I thought that was reserved for the female species. Angie
Can anyone tell me where you get the other two leaks. I've only heard ERK, and DW. As far as the plagierism issue goes I'll just quote from Madame Butterfly"...be easy baby, there ain't nothin' worth stealin' in here." Saw the legend a few nites ago in Johnstown, standin' and dancin'3rd row the entire set, ya just can't stop the band is so tight.His voice sounded great, he was calm cool, animated, and the younger guys were sweating and rockin out! You just can't touch it. Waste of time to argue about the process, it is what it is. Just love the results. Need to here Scarlet Town, where can I get it.
Sorry guys for the redundant post, wasn't sure the first one made it. I guess I could wait a week to get the whole album at one sitting. We can't all be a part of the lucky few chosen ones who got that first listen. I like to listen to Dylan's albums straight through as they were intended. Not so thrilled with thesingle release process. Need to sit down with any new CD and listen to it straight through 3 times in a row. Right Now I'm listening to a live CD of Paco De Lucia. saw him this april.Anyone else love this guy's work?
I'm waiting till I have the whole album - and until I've played it on real audio equipment. a number of times. At least. I don't like all this marketing-ploy drip-feed. I want to hear the entire work and then live with it before judging. So I've resisted the "at least five audio tracks" URLs - especially after the earlier teasers, which didn't tease me at all.
I have heard the whole album. The best tracks; "Long And Wasted Years", Soon After Midnight" and "Roll On john" are masterpeieces. I'm not so sure about "Tempest" - I like it, but as such a long song it misses the dynamics as "Highlands" and "'Cross the green mountain" had. "Tin angel" is good as well, but is more like "Scarlet town". I'm sure most of you will be impressed when you'll hear the whole album. The best one since TOOM, defenitely.
Duquense Whistle is a good song--a real Dylan song. I liked the "teaser". I'm teased. I also enjoyed Early Roman Kings. However, as my Dad, who loves Dylan almost as much as I do, said to me, it seems like he's done this (ERK) before. Despite my Dad's review, I'm starting to think that we are going to have a major album from Dylan. We could be disappointed, but I hear from one reviewer that the album is Dylan's "weirdest", that can't be bad. I've "pre-ordered" it. I hope it arrives on time.
hi michael nothing much to add on the songs, apart from am I the only person to find the DW video hilariously funny ?I cant take seriously Rolling Stone's 'shockingly violent' tag as the baseball ball bat is obviouslyrubber and the blood ketchup. The whole send up of romance or is it stalking is neat, but the best part is Dylan's posse, a 'basement tapes' crew with extras from Desolation row thrown in. And if Bob, at 72, is entangled with the young lady in the wig and pneumatic thighs then I want some of whatever he is taking.
This last para reminds me of the well-known (in the UK) TV interview with Debbie McGhee in which she was asked: "So Debbie, what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?"
I'd steer clear of the leaks, though I didn't. My only comment is that the band seems held down, to serve songs that are too long. He could use an editor!
Don’t worry over two tracks not “teasing you at all”, Michael. If you had only heard Honest With Me and the Tweedles you would not have been excitedly awaiting “L&T” and; “Political Wold” and “Everything is Broken” would not have whetted one’s appetite for Oh Mercy and “Dirt Road Blues” and “Til I Fell in Love with You” would have been so traumatising, you’d never have recovered.I have gone from being merely curious – at best – to being like a kid at Xmas. I’ve no doubts we have a real Dylan album on our hands and since we felt exactly the same re the last 4 (or 5) albums, I have to feel reasonably and not too presumptuously that you will think the wait worth it. I haven’t heard the title track, mind you and 14 minutes may be a stretch…..though maybe not, it’ll be fun to find out.Homer
Homer: I'm suitably hopeful now. Just to clarify: when you say "I’ve no doubts we have a real Dylan album on our hands and since we felt exactly the same re the last 4 (or 5) albums..." you mean we felt the same as each other about them - not that we felt they were also "real Dylan albums". (You know that, but others could read it the wrong way.)So yes, I'm hopeful, but I'm still waiting for the whole album to arrive.
Thanks for the clarification, Michael. My fault entirely for writing in "e-mail style" to your blog. Nonetheless, I am blushing at the poor, unintentionally ambiguous phrasing.However, guess what? The title track didn't disappoint. It might even be too short, I bet you there's a longer version somewhere.God bless Bob, every time I think I can (re)claim a life away from him he brings out a stone cold masterpiece. I wouldn't have it any other way.
I don't know how much "help" he had with the lyrics, but it really is a breath of fresh air to see Bob writing long narrative songs again. There's been a lot of positive reaction on Expecting Rain, but not enough praise has been sung for Tin Angel and Tempest. Such songs demand the sort of discipline that has been sorely lacking in recent releases, and Bob really rises to the challenge. We haven't seen him do this sort of writing since the early days (some have mentioned Desire, which of course has long ballads, but I think these songs sound much older). Imagine Bob writing his own versions of the songs on Good As I Been To You, only longer, and you'll get the picture. It is far too early to judge how good this album is, but it seems pretty obvious after just a few listens that it is his best album for at least a decade.
I keep reading reviews of the new album. I've only heard DW and ERK. I'm waiting until the album comes out. One criticism I have with all of the reviews is comparing the latest songs to Dylan's masterworks. What I want from this album (as I do from every new Dylan album) is that I want to be able to think and feel that the new album would be exciting even if the singer/songwriter's name wae Joe Blow. Several of his recent albums stand on their own terms and are wonderful because of their own artistry. I understand that a new Dylan album can never come without expectations and baggage. My hope for this album is that it will create new Dylan fans on its own. I love the Dylan history, and I love the placement of albums in a hierarchy, but each album, if it is truly great, must stand on its own.
MichaelWas reading a book on Chekhov today and came across the following quote from him:“I think human beings must have faith or must look for faith, otherwise our life is empty, empty. To live and not to know why the cranes fly, why children are born, why there are stars in the sky. You must know why you are alive, or else everything is nonsense, just blowing in the wind.” I don't know whether this had any connection with Dylan's song, but the coincidence was interesting.I know Bob has mentioned Chekhov as an influence on 'Blood on the Tracks'