I find music criticism tiresome and fascinating at the same time. Very few album or concert reviews hold my interest for very long, most are incredibly lazy and rely on preconceived notions on the artist they are reviewing, or even worse, other reviews they've already read. When Bob Dylan's "Another Self Portrait" came out this year, every review mentioned how the album this collection's outtakes come from were panned by the press and include Greil Marcus' review of "Self Portrait" where he begins with "what is this sh*t?". Many failed to even talk about the songs included on the album.
I used to have high dreams of being a rock critic, but soon realized I didn't have the avenues to crack into this field, and it also seemed like a hard way to make a living. As music is my favorite subject, I still love reading about it almost as much as I love listening to it, even though very few critics hold my interest for very long. My ol' pal Kevin Davis ( http://kevinpauldavis.blogspot.com/) is one of the few good ones.
As I don't have as much time to dedicate to my hobby as I used to, I prefer to look at the music I listen to as benchmarks of my life. If you can't relate the music you listen to to your own experience, you might as well listen to w-lite or the light rock station of your choice. When I think of "Another Self Portrait" I think of the chills I got listening to the new version of "Sign on the Window", a song I've always loved, but now it has a beautiful piano intro to the tune of "Danny Boy" and the rest of the song has a string arrangement that gave me chills listening to it for the first time while mowing the lawn. It's hard to get chills mowing the lawn. There are lots of gems on this collection, and it's true that the albums that these outtakes come from are far inferior to this collection, it makes me wonder how much different the arc of his career would've been if these songs had been released, but then again, I wouldn't be appreciating them for what they are now, little treasures found in an attic to be enjoyed later. What I'll remember most about this album comes from my daughter. One day, we're sitting on the couch & my daughter starts singing, "Annie's going to sing her song called take me back again!". Now, I know what the three of you who read this blog are thinking, that I sit around & teach my daughter Bob Dylan songs all day. That's really not the case, at least not this time. I was extremely proud. My pride however has led to me having to listen to that song ad nauseum, everytime we get in the car she always wants to hear the "Annie song".
Speaking of Bob Dylan, I saw him in concert once again in 2013 at Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo. One of the most exciting things about seeing Dylan in concert is the ever changing setlists, you never know what he's going to play on a given night. That's gone now, he plays the same set every night. The trade-off is that he puts in a more focused, consistent performance. On this night, he performed one of the best versions of Beyond Here Lies Nothing that I've heard, he had the crowd whipped up into a frenzy that I've never witnessed at a Dylan concert. I also got to hear songs from "Tempest" for the first time, including Pay in Blood, where he changes the lyric to say "my conscience is clear, how about you?", and a jawdropping performance of "What Good Am I?".
My favorite musical moment of 2013 happened at the Ladies' Literary Club in Grand Rapids (it's not really a ladies' literary club) where we saw Kishi Bashi. Some performers have something about them that you can't explain, their music has a way of getting under your skin. I don't understand his lyrics in the least bit (many of them are in Japanese). His music is pure joy. I was there with my best concert going pal, and we sat towards the back (there's not a bad seat in the house and it was a sold out show). On the steps leading up to the theater, a lady rocked her newborn child so that they could listen to the show for free. It made me wish I lived in the neighborhood, so I could walk with Lilly down to these steps to listen to whatever show was going on. It's a good reminder that music should hang in the air for anyone to enjoy, whether they have a ticket or not. It also made me wonder what happens if you were to unexpectedly drop the average person who isn't an avid music searcher like my friend & myself into the ladies literary club when Kishi Bashi is in the midst of one of these crazy performances what they would think of it. So this is an open invitation to the three or four readers of this blog, the next time Kishi Bashi comes to Grand Rapids, I'd love to buy anyone who wants to go a ticket.
This is totally unrelated to music, but that song reminds me of when we went to Traverse City & I took Lillian to Old Mission Peninsula & told her we were going to the edge of the world.
iYo Yo Yo, From Jamaica, South Africa, With Love from Stephen McGee Films on Vimeo.
Here's hoping you had a great music year, too.
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