everything you ever wanted to know about nothing at all...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Most of the time, I'm halfway content

Darn this digital age we live in, no longer do I have to wait until an album is in my hands. No longer do I have that annoying packaging to work through before I can pop a cd into the player to hear it proper. Now, you can usually hear songs from a new album long before it's released. I've always resisted this so that I can hear it in it's intended sequence from start to finish.

For Bob Dylan's latest "Bootleg Series, Vol 8, Tell Tale Signs", though they are making the album available for preview on NPR.ORG. If it weren't NPR & if it weren't available in full, I probably would wait until it comes out next week. So, as we speak & for the first time, I'm sitting down by the computer for a listen. Here's my thoughts so far, we'll see how far I get.

The two disc set is a collection of studio outtakes, soundtrack releases & live performances between the years of 1989-2006. The live performances don't excite me because I've heard many of them before, same goes for the songs released for various soundtracks. The meat of this collection comes from the studio outtakes. 1989 is often seen as a return to form for Dylan as far as studio albums go, many of the albums from the 80's were abysmal. Most of Dylan's albums had outtakes that surfaced as bootleg recordings (also 99% of his concerts). After 1989, however, he clamped down on the recordings so that his recordings wouldn't be heard against his wishes. The ironic thing about this is that during the eighties many of his best works were left off his albums. For many of the albums released post 1989, rumors swirled about outtakes of certain songs but nobody could hear them like they did in the past, until now.

Many of these songs are hard to evaluate without comparing them to their official album versions.

Mississippi-As I mentioned during the last blog, this version is older than the album version that was released. This version swings slowly, much more laid back then the album version. This is everything I'd love to imagine about Dylan performing in the studio, confident in his song, simple without any frills a producer can add.

Most of the Time, Oh Mercy Outtake-The album version of this song proves that if Dylan had started his career in 1989 when Oh Mercy was released, he'd still make it. The original album version doesn't rest on Dylan's legend nor does it try to sound like a Dylan song. The version featured here sounds much like a Bob Dylan song, complete with acoustic guitars & harmonicas. Again, a much more laid back performance, not without it's own merits, although I still think the original fits the feeling of the lyrics more.

Dignity, Oh Mercy Outtake-This one sounds just like a studio demo, unlike the first two songs on the album which could stand by themselves as fully realized, completely finished songs. It's fun to hear him work out the lyrics & melody to this song, playing it solo on piano. Without the band backing him on this one, however, it's stripped of it's power.

Someday Baby, Modern Times Outtake-It's well known that this song's melody "borrows" (some call it the folk process, others call it theft) from a Muddy Waters version of a song by the same name. Muddy "borrowed" the melody from someone way down the line & of course the copyright rules have expired. Dylan adds some new lyrics of his own & copyrights the song as his own. A lot of people have a problem with this, & probably for good reason, but it's a practice that many blues, folk & rock & roll artists have done for years. This song is a blatant example as it sounds so much like the original. The version here sounds much different than Muddy's version, it's as if Dylan was pushing the envelope of what he could get away with, as he has for years.

Red River Shore, Time Out of Mind Outtake-Musicians & producers who worked on "Time Out of Mind" have raved for years about this song. Us goofy fans have drooled over the possibility of this song being released & here it is. On first listen, it has all the earmarks of a masterpiece, but we'll have to wait & see.

Tell Ol' Bill, North Country Soundtrack alternate version-I've heard this version before, this is one of the rare occasions since 1989 that outtakes have surfaced. It's a minor song, to my ears. The official version swings along nicely, this one's a bit more sinister.

Born in Time, Oh Mercy Outtake-This is another example of a song coming out of a session for one album & being released later on 1990's Under the Red Sky. He should've stuck with the original. This version has much more grit & fire to it, the album version is weak in comparison.

Can't Wait, Time Out of Mind Outtake-This version smokes the album version. Bob Dylan has command of his vocals & the band follows closely behind. It sounds like a three piece band, piano, minor guitar frills & minimal drumming. It doesn't fit the swampy sound of Time Out of Mind, it's much more straightforward. To boot, it's almost a completely new set of lyrics which gives us use for both versions. One of the highlights so far, Dylan's voice soars higher than anything that came after it.

Everything is Broken, Oh Mercy Outtake-No amount of improvements can make this song more than a clunker to my ears.

Dreamin' of You, Time Out of Mind Outtakes-What fascinates me about this collection is the number of discarded songs from Time Out of Mind that are built around lyrics that were used for other songs. This song would've fit well on Time Out of Mind if it weren't the fact that it shares many of it's lyrics with the officially released (& superior) Standin' in the Doorway. I hate to say it, but this song is more dynamic than anything from Time Out of Mind, listen to Dylan's guitar fills!

Huck's Tune, Lucy You Soundtrack-I've heard this song before. This song shares a lyrical trick with many of Dylan's later songs that a seemingly beautiful song throws a couple of absurdist lyrics in it to show he's not getting soft. "all the merry little elves can go hang themselves"

Marchin' to the City, Time Out of Mind Outtake-This song shares many of the same lyrics with the officially released Till I Fell in Love with You, although believe it or not, this song sounds like a gospel song. This one could be special.

Highwater (for Charley Patton), Live version from Love & Theft-This is the quintessential live version of this song, his voice is full of fire & grit & all the while Freddy Koella's guitar teases him to push it a bit further. I've heard this one many times before.

Stay tuned for disc two, or pray for it to be over so you don't have to hear about it anymore, whichever you choose.

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Girl from the Red River Shore

Can't Wait

Romulus-Sufjan Stevens, Greetings from Michigan

Men of Good Fortune-Lou Reed, Berlin

Amazing Grace-Sufjan Stevens

Happy Tuesday, friends...


Sunday, September 28, 2008

We've no less days

Christie took me to see a documentary about Hospice where she works last night. It was quite interesting to me, I always love a good documentary. It was part infomercial for Hospice, part snapshot of hospice workers, & most importantly part snapshots of lives that ended with hospice care. The documentary shows what I hope I've always known, which is that every life has an interesting story. There's nothing particularly noteworthy about the lives highlighted in the movie except that they are genuine & sincere. The main character of the documentary was a regular guy, albeit very funny, but the most moving scene came when the dying man's stepdaughter drove him in his four wheeler out to the pond just to sit & soak it in. Having had two grandparents die in the care of hospice workers, the documentary hit home for me. Those workers took care of all kinds of little details for my grandparents that I can't even imagine & for that I'm incredibly grateful.

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Blind Willie McTell-Bob Dylan, Brixton Academy 2003

The song that may have killed my ipod, I was at work today for a couple of hours & my ipod was plugged into it's dock & playing incredibly loud when all of a sudden it stopped & it still isn't working. I suppose if it has to be blown, this is as good a song as any to accompany it's demise.

Keep an eye on Other's Gain-Bonnie "Prince" Billy

Amazing Grace-hymn

Fish & Whistle-John Prine

People Puttin' People Down-John Prine

Happy Sunday, friends...


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Everybody moving, if they ain't already there...

It's been quite the year for my pal Ryan. He found out he's going to be a pappy, he bought himself his first house & now he's going to be a married man. He called me last night & gave me the big news. I couldn't be happier for him, Holly he is a real peach & the perfect gal for him.

Just to give you an idea of how good a friend Ryan is, I called him after I proposed to Christie & told him that she turned me down & he said "oh man, I'll be right over". What a jerk I can be. I can't wait to see them in a few weeks.

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Mississippi-Bob Dylan, Tell Tale Signs

Here's a sneak preview of the upcoming Bootleg Series release, it's an outtake from 1997's Time Out of Mind. The song was left off the album & reappeared on 2001's Love & Theft in a vastly different arrangement. I've only heard this one a few times, but I still say that the Love & Theft version is superior. It's a great song either way, & each arrangement evokes different meanings. "All my powers of expression & thoughts so sublime could never do you justice in reason or rhyme."

Someday Some Morning Sometime-Billy Bragg & Wilco, Mermaid Ave Vol I

It was a perfect morning for a walk with the doggie.

For the widows in Paradise, for the fatherless in Ypsilanti-Sufjan Stevens, Greetings from Michigan

A Change is Gonna Come-Sam Cooke

The Bends-Radiohead, The Bends

Girl in the War-Josh Ritter

Happy Saturday, friends. I hope it's as lovely where you are as it is here.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

These are not my tunes but there mine to use...

Well friends, fall is here & that means new seasons of all the top rated television shows. For me, it means I'll hopefully be avoiding the television as soon as the election is over. I don't know why, but television series don't do it for me anymore. Either the shows are getting worse or my taste isn't evolving.

I often think about oldies radio stations & how a great many of the people that listen to them have been listening to the same group of songs since they were originally released so many years ago. Every now & then, if I'm in the Detroit area, I'll turn the radio to 89x, which was a new station when I was a teenager, & they are playing the same songs they did back in the early '90s. Now, I like Pearl Jam & Nirvana as much as the next guy, but I don't think I could listen to them & bands like them exclusively for the rest of my life.

As my wife watches the season premiers of "Ugly Betty" & "Grey's Anatomy", I'm sitting here at the computer listening to some songs I haven't listened to in a long time.

Child's Song by Tom Rush

A song about a teenager leaving home, most likely prematurely, & not necessarily on the best terms. Rush in this song doesn't allow you to see things from the parents perspective, if he did it would make the song too complicated & the message would get lost. If you could find one lyric in the song that would capture it's essence it would have to be "ain't no use in shedding no more tears, mama, ain't no use in shouting at me pa, I love you but that hasn't helped at all".

Dress Blues by Jason Isbell

I still haven't bought Jason Isbell's album because it bothers me that he had to leave one of the finest rock bands around, The Drive By Truckers. This song makes me want to change my mind. It has the simplicity of a great country song, if I had my way this would be the kind of country music played on the radio. I'm not sure if the song is anti-war, it merely paints a picture & lets you draw your own conclusions.

What can you see from your window?
I can't see anything from mine.
Flags on the side of the highway
and scripture on grocery store signs.
Maybe eighteen was too early.
Maybe thirty or forty is too.
Did you get your chance to make peace with the man
before he sent down his angels for you?

Mamas and grandmamas love you
'cause that's all they know how to do.
You never planned on the bombs in the sand
or sleeping in your dress blues.

Your wife said this all would be funny
when you came back home in a week.
You'd turn twenty-two and we'd celebrate you
in a bar or a tent by the creek.
Your baby would just about be here.
Your very last tour would be up
but you won't be back. They're all dressing in black
drinking sweet tea in styrofoam cups.

Mamas and grandmamas love you.
American boys hate to lose.
You never planned on the bombs in the sand
or sleeping in your dress blues.

Now the high school gymnasium's ready,
full of flowers and old legionnaires.
Nobody showed up to protest,
just sniffle and stare.
But there's red, white, and blue in the rafters
and there's silent old men from the corps.
What did they say when they shipped you away
to fight somebody's Hollywood war?

Nobody here could forget you.
You showed us what we had to lose.
You never planned on the bombs in the sand
or sleeping in your dress blues.

No, no you never planned on the bombs in the sand
or sleeping in your dress blues.

After the War-Dan Bern

In contrast with Dress Blues, you can throw subtlety out the window with this song about a veteran of the Iraq war forced into a wheelchair for the rest of his life. My only hope with this song is that Bern took an actual veteran's perspective & turned it into a song rather than taking liberty with how he thinks a disable veteran must feel. Every great song has that one lyric that grabs you & keeps you coming back to it. There's something that strikes me about "I hope the blisters on my fingers turn into callouses before too long".

Keep Your Light Trimmed & Burning-Blind Willie Johnson

Every now & then if I know someone's coming from a distance to where I am, I'll throw out the phrase, "I'll keep my lamp trimmed & burning for you". People probably think I'm crazy, which I probably am. Nobody sings the gospel like Blind Willie Johnson, his voice is fire & brimstone & his background singers sing like the gospel.
Upon this Tidal Wave of Young Blood-Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

I can't think of any song that makes me want to go out & conquer the world quite like this one. It's the voice of dissent, of youthful rage that needs a place to be heard.

Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie-Joanna Newsom

I don't know a single soul who likes Joanna Newsom's voice. I know there must be someone out there otherwise she wouldn't have sold any copies of her three albums. It starts me to wondering if my ears are filled with tin. But then I give a listen to the way she sings, "that's why I love this town, just look around" & then I realize it's the rest of you who are missing out :).

Nature Boy-Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

Christie & I often have arguments about music because our tastes are so different. I tell her that if the (country) radio stations she listens to played some of my music as much as the stuff they usually play & passed it off as a "hit" that she would like it just as much. I'm probably wrong about this, but every now & then I'll play a song like this over & over again & she starts singing along. Believe it or not, Christie likes a song by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. At other times, though, I'll play a song that I think she'd love & she tells me she hates it, so what do I know?

Nick Cave is an interesting character, one whom I think if I ever met him, I wouldn't like him. I'm pretty sure he's an atheist, at the very least he isn't a Christian. Either way, he seems enamored with the language of the bible. On his latest album, he has a song called Dig Lazarus Dig in which he takes the story of Lazarus & puts it in America & posits the idea that Lazarus didn't really want to be raised from the dead. Maybe his fascination with the bible will sink in some day, if not, I believe you can learn alot about yourself from someone whose beliefs are the opposite of your own.

I realize that none of this has anything to do with the song Nature Boy, but you're just going to have to take my word for it, it's a great song.

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

One By One-Billy Bragg & Wilco, Mermaid Ave

Blood in my Eyes-Bob Dylan, World Gone Wrong

Subterranean Homesick Blues-Bob Dylan, Bringing it All Back Home

Inflammatory Writ-Joanna Newsom, Bridges & Balloons

I Got Mine-the Black Keys, Attack & Release

Happy Thursday, friends...


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Leave the wine glass out & drink a toast to never...

Christie complained that I haven't blogged in a while, & as a result of sitting around & doing not much of anything all weekend I've got nothing to say. Normally, I wouldn't be proud of this fact, but the most productive thing I got accomplished all weekend was hang my dartboard in the garage & updated my ipod. I played some video games, watched a couple movies, went to church, did some reading, listened to some vinyl, played with the dog. The worst thing is, I don't feel guilty about it at all.

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

After Hours-the Velvet Underground

September of my Years-Frank Sinatra

Tangled Up in Blue-Bob Dylan, Modena 1987

Rock of Ages-Bob Dylan, Santa Cruz 2000

If Dogs Run Free-Bob Dylan, 2001

Happy lazy Sunday, friends...

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Another Man Done Gone...

Happy Sunday, friends. There's nothing much to add today. I got up early this morning to watch Man in the Sand, the documentary about the long lost Woody Guthrie lyrics put to music by social activist & singer/songwriter Billy Bragg & the band Wilco. It was quite moving, especially the first hand accounts from Guthrie's daughter Nora.

The documentary is a perfect example of how, as hard as it seems, you can't look at a person's life & condemn it based on certain behaviors. Woody Guthrie's life has been romanticized by some, demonized by others. He was a womanizer & considered to be a communist by many but also stood up for anybody who was having troubles. I guess we're all that way, there's something about all of us to like & probably something just as easy not to like about everyone. Why focus on one & not the other?

The pastor gave a pretty good sermon today about following the bible as a blueprint in the face of many hardships & challenges. That's a pretty good metaphor for how I'd like to relate to people, as though maybe there's some sort of struggle I don't know about so I hope I can just look for the good in people.

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Another Man Done Gone-Wilco, Mermaid Ave Vol. I

At My Window Sad & Lonely-Wilco, Mermaid Ave Vol. I

All You Fascists-Billy Bragg, Mermaid Ave Vol. I

The Unwelcome Guest-Billy Bragg, Mermaid Ave Vol. I

Dignity-Bob Dylan, MTV Unplugged

Happy Sunday, friends...


Friday, September 05, 2008

I was free as the sun shining on our faces...

The air conditioner is off, the windows are open & I've got a sweatshirt on. This is when I like Grand Haven the most, most of the tourists are gone, things have cooled down a bit but things are just as beautiful as ever. After dinner, we picked up the dog, stopped by to wish Gloria a happy 60th birthday & then went for the ol' pier walk. It's nights like this that I realize how lucky I am to live where I do, not that I'm bragging (okay, maybe I am). Every Friday night should be like this.

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Spirit on the Water-Bob Dylan, Modern Times

Slow Down-Alejandro Escovedo, Real Animal

Thank You Too!-My Morning Jacket, Evil Urges

Romulus-Sufjan Stevens, Greetings from Michigan

I Am Still What I Meant to Be-Will Oldham, Joya

Greetings from Grand Haven, friends...


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Gotta stand up close to the teacher if you ever wanna learn anything...

It's been seven long years since I had to go back to school, & I think I've almost completely forgotten what it's like to have new classmates, new teachers & new subjects. Come to think of it, the last good friend I ever made in a classroom was one of my best, Ryan. We shared an American History class my freshman year in college. The professor, ironically, was Japanese & could not pronounce my name very well. It was also my first college class. I sat by these two football players who hit on this other gal & cracked bad jokes the entire time. I figured this didn't bode well for my college career. Luckily, it got better, thanks to friends like Ryan.

Nowadays, the new school year hardly registers on my calendar, & except for the few minutes it takes for me to get from my house to my car & my car to the store & the weekends Summer hardly registers. There's all sorts of summer activities I missed out on this year, through no one's fault but my own. I've only played golf about five or six times, no tennis. I don't think I've hopped on my bike once & I haven't hit the hiking trails either. I have seen the ocean for the first time (okay, that was in the spring) & swam in it numerous times, traveled to Indianapolis, Detroit & Charlevoix, & walked my dog, though.

We've been hearing alot about Alaska, lately. In the past few weeks I've heard of two groups of people I know of that have rented RV's & driven around Alaska. A customer of mine recently moved to Holland from a town north of Fairbanks. He was a cop, & he said there was a ton of crime for a small town of 3000. Then there's that Vice Presidential candidate. Why am I mentioning all of this, you ask? Well, it's an excuse to play a clip from Northern Exposure. Sicely is my idealized vision of Alaska; a small town surrounded by wilderness filled with quirky characters that all know each other & where the arts flourish.

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

The End of the Innocence-Bruce Hornsby

This song has been in heavy rotation lately.

Remember when the days were long
And rolled beneath a deep blue sky
Didnt have a care in the world
With mommy and daddy standin by
But happily ever after fails
And weve been poisoned by these fairy tales
The lawyer dwell on small details
Since daddy had to fly

But I know a place where we can go
Thats still untouched by men
Well sit and watch the clouds roll by
And the tall grass wave in th4e wind
You can lay your head back on the ground
And let your hair fall all around me
Offer up your best defense
But this is the end
This is the ned of the innocence

Obeautiful, for spacious skies
But now those skies are threatening
Theyre beating plowshares into swords
For this tired old man that we elected king
Armchair warriors often fail
And weve been poisoned by these fairy tales
The lawyers clean up all details
Since daddy had to lie

Bt I know a place where we can go
And was a away this sin
Well sit and watch the clouds roll by
And the tall grass wave in the wind
Just lay your head back on the ground
And let your hair spill all around me
Offer up your best defense
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocnece

Who knows how long this will last
Now weve come so far, so fast
But, somewhere back there in the dust
That same small town in each of us
I need to remember this
So baby give me just one kiss
And let me take a long last look
Before we say goodbye

Just lay your head back on the ground
And let your hair fall all around me
Offer up your best defense
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence

Passenger Side-Wilco, AM

Blue is the Color of a Broken Heart-Old '97s

I Hear a Voice Calling (It Must be my Lord)-Bob Dylan, Toronto 2002

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds-The Beatles, Sargent Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band

Happy Tuesday, friends...

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Grand Haven, Michigan
the sun shines on a dog's ass every now & then...