A final WordPress test and we’ll put 2005 to rest.
I’ve never watched the 2005 film North Country, in which Charlize Theron plays a coal miner in Minnesota who leads a battle against sexual harassment. I actually have a copy of the film on DVD, bought in a bargain bin a few years ago, but it never made it to the top of the To View list. Maybe I should correct that.
The song uses a lot of Dylan on the soundtrack – “Girl of the North Country” (of course, but a Leo Kottke version), and then songs that can be given a really insidious feeling in a movie with this subject: “Lay Lady Lay”, “Sweetheart Like You” and “Do Right To Me Baby (Do Unto Others)”. I’m very curious now to see how these are used.
Dylan did contribute a new composition to the soundtrack as well: “Tell Ol’ Bill”. The song uses a lot of metaphorical language that sounds like it will work well in a film with these themes (“The woods are dark, the town is too”, and so on). The instrumentation is pretty simple and the whole thing foregrounds Dylan’s voice and the lyrics. It really sounds, in retrospect, like a tease for Modern Times – it wouldn’t sound out of place at all on that 2006 album, and I mean that as a compliment.
Okay, let’s see if this works:
Another quick test post here.
On 16 July 2005 Bob Dylan performed at the Amazon.com tenth anniversary party. The event was hosted by Bill Maher, featured Dylan and Norah Jones, and some clips from the Lord of the Rings movie and probably the sacrificing of live goats to Jeff Bezos (last part still uncomfirmed at press time). No tickets were put up for sale, you had to be pal of Jeff to get in. Dylan performed a short nine song set and the show was broadcast on the internet. I didn’t find the whole show on video, but I did listen to a bootleg. It’s fine – it’s pretty typical of what he was doing at the time.
It did strike me that someone said to me this summer – only half joking, I believe – that “Dylan will perform anywhere for $100,000”. I sort of looked at this person quizzically and he re-affirmed it as if he knew it to be true. Cut him a check for $100,000 and he’ll show up at your party. I don’t know what Amazon paid him, but there he is.
The final song of his set brought out Norah Jones. Now if you’ve been following this blog for a while you know how this goes – talented female singer who isn’t Joan Baez tries to harmonize with Dylan, horrors ensue. And, if you watch the first verse of this only, you’ll see that script play out. BUT! Give her immense credit – Ms Jones sees that something is happening here and she might know what it is, and she adjusts. She adjusts! Suddenly this likely impromptu (you can see Dylan speaking to her, probably for the first time ever, on stage) get-together sounds, if not great, at least pretty damn tolerable. Good even!
Check it out:
By the way, I googled Norah Jones a couple of minutes ago because she is someone that I know is really famous but I was never really sure why – I’ve never listened to her music and couldn’t tell you any of her songs. Turns out that she sold 26 million copies of her first album, Come Away With Me, in 2002. Ay caramba! That might be more than Dylan has sold in his entire career. I’m still not really sure that I know who she is, but she impresses me here.
This one is mostly just a test to see if I’ve got WordPress cooperating with me again. Been having some issues this week.
I posted this version of Bob Dylan performing the Clash’s “London Calling” in London at the Brixton Academy in November 2005. He did the song twice in the five nights that he performed there – both times it is about this length, just a fragment and not the whole thing. Too bad – what we get is great just for the fact that it exists, but it could have been a whole lot better.
This one inordinately pleases my inner seventeen-year-old who was transitioning from Dylan to the Clash and other punk bands. I always saw a pretty direct – if slightly winding – link between Dylan and the politically engaged music that the Clash was doing, but this just makes it also so palpable.
Okay, going to see if this posts correctly. Enjoy!
Some good days, some bad days. That’s Dylan in 2004. He can make you think that all of the talent is lost on one occasion and then, on another, he can remind you that he can still find the top range of his game.
In between touring in 2004, Dylan made a few notable appearances, playing a few songs for benefits and friends. Let’s take a look, in order from worst to best.
1. May 5. Dylan performs “You Win Again” with Willie Nelson. This will later air on one of Nelson’s television specials, Willie Nelson and Friends: Outlaws and Angels. Nelson seems in much better form here than Dylan, who, at best, seems to know the words to the song. He can’t reach some of the notes that Nelson can, and, to his credit, he doesn’t even try. This is a pretty hardcore Dylan croak on this one, and the two don’t harmonize well at all. A disappointment to be sure. Nelson toured with Dylan this summer through all of August and a little bit of September, and they played a few things together on stage (with Nelson’s sons on occasion as well). There’s a great friendship in there, but you don’t get much sense of it from this clip. Dylan starts at about 3:15 of this clip. You might want to turn it off before Kid Rock takes the stage after him.
2. 28 March. Dylan and his band play one song at the Apollo Theater for the television special, Apollo at 70: A Hot Night in Harlem, which is broadcast in June on NBC. They do a cover of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come”. This is better, but it’s still not essential by any means. It’s terribly shot, for one thing, almost annoyingly so. It is mostly interesting for Dylan being in this role of elder statesman at the Apollo. Dylan has been doing this elder statesman thing for a few years now, but this would not have been one of the places that I’d have thought to find him.
3. June 7. This one seems even less likely. Back once again at The Apollo (I’m not sure that Dylan had even played that venue before 2004, and here he’s played it twice in four months), Dylan performed with The Wynton Marsalis Septet at the third annual Jazz at Lincoln Center fundraiser (you can see pictures of rich people in the society pages here). This wasn’t broadcast, but some kind soul has put the audio on YouTube along with a picture from the event, and, bizarrely, a picture from 1981 of Dylan playing the saxophone (badly)). I went into these trepidatioulsy, but I’m going to give them full-throated support – you should listen to both of them. First is “It Takes a Lot To Laugh, It Takes a Train To Cry”:
I didn’t like that at first, but by the end, by the harmonica part, I really enjoyed it. Now try “Don’t Think Twice (It’s Alright)”:
These are great. Dylan, more than any other performer in the history of rock music, constantly reinvents his own compositions – often quite radically – and here he finds new ways to perform two songs that are among his most familiarly tried-and-true. His voice seems totally in control, as if he has suddenly remembered that it is his most important instrument. Dylan has had some bad outings with jazz in the past, but this is really fantastic. He actually gets me to hear these songs entirely afresh, and that’s something.
I know I can’t say much about it due to chronology issues here, but now that it has been revealed that Dylan’s next album will be entirely Frank Sinatra covers, I’m hoping that it will just a little bit of this sound.
So, a couple of duds, a couple of hits. That’s pretty good.