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Posts Tagged ‘the band’

Dylan Plugs It In

Posted by purplemary54 on July 25, 2015

Today is the 50th anniversary of Dylan going electric at the Newport Folk Festival.  Many of his fans felt betrayed that he would become just another Rock & Roll star.  But Dylan himself has said that before Woody Guthrie, he wanted to be like Elvis.  Going electric wasn’t a betrayal of some folkie ideal; Dylan didn’t owe anything to anyone or any movement.  The only person he had to be loyal to artistically was himself.  Plugging in an electric guitar was a declaration of his freedom and independence as an artist, and he’s never really looked back since then.  Bob Dylan is many things to many people, but the one thing he will always be is himself.  There’s no escaping that.

Sometime in 1966, Dylan was touring England.  Half these shows each night were acoustic, and the other half was electric with Dylan backed up by some group called The Hawks (they’d later change that name to something a little less specific).  After they’d finished the scathing “Ballad of a Thin Man,” a disgruntled fan called out “Judas!”  The moment was electric, even without the Marshall amps.  There was genuine violence in the air in that moment.  Not to make light of any actual terror and violence, but it was like a gun had been fired.  Dylan’s response is to tear into “Like a Rolling Stone” with a vengeance, and it is brilliant.

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My Top Five Bands: Number 2

Posted by purplemary54 on June 16, 2015

I need to start this post with a minor clarification.  Yes, I am posting my five favorite bands this week, but after the Beatles at number one, the number ranking is kind of irrelevant.  I love all these groups, but their relative positions on any list will shift and change with my moods.  Which means stuff moves around a lot on this list.

Of course, the Band hold a place in my heart that’s almost as dear as the one the Beatles hold.  For a few years, from around 1967 to around 1975, they were magical.  It was like they could do no wrong.  (Of course they did do some wrong; Cahoots was released in 71, and it’s virtually unlistenable.)  Because of all the years they’d spent backing up first Ronnie Hawkins and then Bob Dylan, they were probably the finest live act ever to grace a stage.  They were sharp and tight and practically telepathic with each other.  Between Rock of Ages and The Last Waltz, they are responsible for some of the most electric and iconic live recordings this side of The Allman Brothers.

“Rag Mama Rag” sounds kind of ragged and chaotic, but if you listen carefully you can hear the perfect syncopation between the piano and drums and fiddle; the addition of the horns by the Tower of Power just makes it that much looser and more of a party (which makes sense, since this performance was recorded on New Year’s Eve).  The Band excelled in making music that seemed simple and unstudied, but really they were masters at making it all look sloppy.

Unfortunately, like all magic, the Band couldn’t last.  Robbie Robertson got too big for his britches (as undeniably talented as he is, he really could’ve been a better human being).  The rest of the guys were either too passive or too wasted.  Bad blood, addiction, and exhaustion took their toll and the Band fell apart.  I’m leaving a lot out, obviously, but that’s the gist of it.  Even when the majority of them played together in later years (after the official break-up in 1976), the feeling was never the same.  There was just that one shining moment, and then poof . . . it was all gone.

There are more obvious songs I could’ve chosen for this post, but I picked “Rag Mama Rag” and “Look Out Cleveland” partly because they’re favorites and partly because they’re not the songs the Band is best known for.  Dylan helped make the Band famous, but they stand just fine on their own merits.

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“The Genetic Method”

Posted by purplemary54 on December 31, 2014

“The Genetic Method” is a weird, instrumental tour de force by Garth Hudson in the Band.  This was probably the point in the concert when the rest of the Band went offstage for a quick smoke/drink/hit of whatever drugs they were doing.  This live bit was generally paired with the equally weird “Chest Fever” in concerts.  It’s not as rocking as I feel right now, but it is the perfect song for tonight.  It hits that perfect moment at about 5:57 in the clip.

Happy New Year, everybody!  May this year be better than the last.

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My Brain Has Already Fritzed Out

Posted by purplemary54 on November 4, 2014

My copy of Bob Dylan and the Band’s Basement Tapes Complete arrived today.  I’m currently ripping disc 4 onto my computer.  I’m also in the middle of listening to track 5 on disc 1, “Belshazzar.”  I am almost apoplectic with glee right now.  (Yeah, that might be physically impossible, but I’m working on accomplishing it.)

Just switched to “I Forgot to Remember to Forget.”  A lot of the tracks are covers of old Folk and Country classics, which might be why Robbie Robertson weeded them out on the truncated 1975 release.  He probably wanted to showcase as much of the original stuff as possible, not to mention showcase the Band’s contributions as much as Dylan’s.  I get that.  But his curating led to all this amazing music being kept out of circulation.  Well, legal circulation, anyway.  The bootlegs of these recordings have been bouncing around almost since they were recorded.  But this is the first official release of everything, with all the commensurate bells and whistles.

Among those bells and whistles are some amazing pictures and essays packaged in hardcover.  They did their best to make this set worth the price tag.  (Amazon ended up charging me about $30 less than the original list price, but it’s still more than a hundred bucks for everything.)  Frankly, I’m so happy right now I could just spit.  It might be enough to keep my mind off of politics tonight.

I’m not including a clip.  I searched YouTube, but every title that matched one of these terrific tracks was “not available in your country.”  I’m sure it’s available for streaming somewhere, so if you can’t pony up the bucks, you should probably be able to listen to it.  I’d look it up, but I just want to get back to the music.

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“You Ain’t Going Nowhere”

Posted by purplemary54 on August 27, 2014

Glory be  to all music fans today!  We have reached the promised land!  I read in my new issue of Rolling Stone today that Bob Dylan will be releasing the complete recordings from his sessions with the Band in Woodstock in the late 60s.  Known as the Basement Tapes, they have long been one of the most sought after Dylan/Band bootlegs.  These sessions were the crucible that helped form the musical identity of the Band, and are believed to contain some of the greatest, loosest, most freewheeling music ever.

After I finished keening incoherently*, I ran to the computer and pre-ordered my copy at Amazon.  For anyone so inclined and with the bucks, the set is called The Basement Tapes Complete: Bootleg Series, Volume 11.  It’s part of a long running series of Dylan recordings that have previously only been available as bootlegs.  He’s basically been raiding the vaults in between making new music that sounds as vital as anything else he’s ever done.  (Except for that damn Christmas album he released a few years ago.  What the hell was he thinking?)

Back in 1975, a handful of the songs from those sessions was released as The Basement Tapes, compiled and produced by Robbie Robertson.  If you’ve ever heard any of those songs you know what treasures there must be in this new release.  “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” was one of the songs on the ’75 release, and it’s one I’ve always enjoyed.  I’m seriously looking forward to hearing the complete thing, fully restored and remastered.  Really, I never thought this day would ever come.  Now I just have to hold on until November 4th.

 

 

*Seriously.  It came out like a high-pitched moan.  I may also have rocked back and forth like a traumatized Bart Simpson and trembled a little.

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“Chest Fever”

Posted by purplemary54 on September 30, 2012

I’m having a little trouble settling my brain tonight.  This song doesn’t help much.

It’s a confounding tune, all swirling organ and hard-edged guitar.  The lyrics are cryptic: It’s probably about a romantic relationship, but there is no other context to ground you.  “I know she’s a tracker” is not exactly a clear statement about anything.  It’s a song about disappearances and reappearances (which is sort of fitting, since I’m still absorbing last night’s episode of Doctor Who).  It’s a song about nothing and everything.  A mystery.

I like mysteries, even the unsolved ones.  In some ways, an unsolved mystery is better.  I don’t really want to know what actually crashed at Roswell, or who Jack the Ripper really was, or where Jimmy Hoffa is buried.  Part of the fascination with these cases is the lack of a clear answer.  You can project any ending you want on an unsolved mystery.  In my universe, D.B. Cooper got away with the money.  Butch and Sundance made it out of Bolivia and came back to the U.S.  My favorite part of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Trilogy is when it’s explained that 42 is the answer to the question, but that you can’t know both the answer and the question at the same time because then everything will be destroyed and replaced with something completely different, if it hasn’t happened already.  Got that?  Good.

This is what happens inside my head some days.  I’d apologize, but I’m not sure if I’m sorry or not.  It’s hard to settle on anything.

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