Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hurricane-related Bob Dylan songs and albums

1) "All Along the Watchtower." One of Dylan's best and most chill-inducing songs.  "Two riders were approaching / And the wind began to howl."  If only all weathermen  could deliver their forecasts with such apocalyptic flair. But then ...

2) "Subterranean Homesick Blues." You don't need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows.

3) "Shelter From the Storm." I divide Dylan's career in three, with the 1975 album Blood on the Tracks marking the climax of the more introspective middle period, just before he veered off into overblown story songs (See #9) or, as Lester Bangs said of one song from the period, "repellent romanticist bullshit."   "Shelter From the Storm" is the highlight of one of Dylan's best, most mature, most affecting records.

4) Before the Flood. Spectacular 1974 double live album with The Band backing Dylan. Its version of "Like a Rolling Stone" may be the most exuberant rock and roll song ever recorded, a worthy companion to the song's 1965 original version.

5) "Idiot Wind." More appropriate to the ritual pre- and post-storm television and newspaper overkill than to the storm itself.

6) "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall." An obvious choice, but a fine song nonetheless.

7) "Blowin' in the Wind." See comment for #6. This ranks lower because the action in its title is not quite as violent as a hurricane ought to be. Of course, neither was Irene once it got to where I was.

8) "Buckets of Rain."

9) "Hurricane." Nicely arranged in its original appearance on the 1976 album Desire, but full of strained rhymes and ungainly allusions ("We want to put his ass in stir / We want to pin this triple MUR / der on him. He ain't no Gentleman Jim."), and it falsifies history. Carter was not the "number-one contender for the middleweight crown" at the time of the triple murder that sent him to prison, apparently wrongly convicted. He was on his way downhill as a boxer at the time. He lost three of four fights against contenders in 1965, the year before the killings.

Any further contenders for this list?

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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13 Comments:

Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Rainy Day Women #12 and 35." Will this never end?

August 30, 2011  
Anonymous Linkmeister said...

Guy's just too prolific.

"Before the Flood" really is a spectacular album.

August 30, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Prolific, and with a tendency to approach then retreat from apocalyptic themes. Mo wonder storms appear frequently in his work.

August 30, 2011  
Anonymous Michael Walters said...

"High Water (for Charley Patton)" - one of my favourites of his more recent stuff.

August 30, 2011  
Blogger Loren Eaton said...

If only all weathermen could deliver their forecasts with such apocalyptic flair.

We actually get a good bit of apocalyptic flair down here in Florida whenever one of those spiraling doom clouds rolls in our direction.

August 30, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks, Michael. I'll try to give it a listen. My Dylan knowledge is barely sporadic for anything after 1976.

August 30, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Loren, maybe Southern Baptism from neighboring states lends Florida's TV meteorologists an apocalyptic zing. Here, they just get giddy and breathless when a storm approaches.

August 30, 2011  
Anonymous solo said...

I'm not much of a Dylan fan. I do remember wearing out a cassette of Blood on the Tracks back in the 70s. It even has a good crime song on there: Lily, Rosmary and the Jack of Hearts, but it's not one that would fit onto your occasional 'noir' songs posts.

There have been many great cover versions of Dylan songs which would lead me to think he's a first class songwriter, but a second class performer. That voice, that guitar playing, that harmonica playing? Millions have done it better.

I think his songs will live on long after he is forgotten.

And those songs do turn up in surprising places. Like Detroit singer Mitch Ryder's funky version of like a rolling stone. Ryder's surname was as real as Dylan's surname, but that didn't stop Winona Horowitz from borrowing it.

The question of Dylan as poet does come up from time to time. Having no time for poetry myself, I can't really have an opinion, but what about you, Peter? You think Dylan deserves to be ranked alongside the best 19th and 20th century poets?

August 30, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I have mentioned "Lilly, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts" in at least one of my crime-sing discussions. It's more like a crime caper/melodrama than noir.

On Dylan as a songwriter vs. Dylan as a performer, I'm sure people have compiled lists of best Dylan covers. Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower" would rank high.

Is he a poet? I don't know, but he has some up with some striking images.

August 30, 2011  
Anonymous Linkmeister said...

Dylan himself said Hendrix's cover of "Watchtower" was better than his original, and when he (Dylan) played it live from then on he played Hendrix's arrangement.

August 30, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I didn't know Dylan had expressed that preference. I like the starkness of Dylan's own version. He's no great musician or singer, and he made effective use of simpllicity there.

August 30, 2011  
Blogger Kevin Burton Smith said...

Here's some timely advice from Mr. D. himself. That great scene in NO DIRECTION HOME where he's being booed for going electric: he turns to the band (THE BAND!) and says "Play it fuckin' loud!"

It's one of the great moments in rock'n'roll, defiance personified, and then they unleash as fiery and unapologetically apocalyptic version of "Like a Rolling Stone" as there is. How does it feel, indeed...

May 24, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Aye, and sadly the interval between between comments on this post has seen the death of Levon Helm, whom I once saw perform at some club out in Pointe-Claire or somewhere like that once.

Oh, man, I would love to say that great and transformative moment in American culture. I should rent or download No Direction Home.

May 24, 2012  

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