Two Riders Approaching

by The Two Riders

First off, welcome to all of our new members. Some of you we know well and some not at all. Judging by your contributions in the last issue it’s going to be an interesting ride. Also a big thanks to John and Chris for getting the WebMag going. Should be good.

Paula, why not call the new cat Rosie or Magdelena or Johanna?

I was able to empathise completely with Chris Cooper’s plight as he described the difficulties of managing to keep up with Dylan collecting and finding time for other musical interests (never mind life!). Like Chris, I have to copy, copy, copy.  For each Dylan concert (yes, another completist) I have to do a minimum of three copies.  Now in a given year that’s about 100 shows, two CDs per show, requiring 600 CD-Rs to be burnt.  I know it is madness but there it is. Each concert has to be carefully listened to so that a report can be given. That’s about two hours per show, giving 400 listening hours per touring year, which is about 15 full days of listening! Yes, perhaps this is madness – 100 versions of Rainy Day Women – please help me…….

On top of that I have a voracious appetite for lots of other music. I’m one of the recipients of the John Coltrane 12-CD set Chris talked about in the last issue (thanks, Chris, still listening to it, it’s great) and I regularly buy many CDs in a given month. It’s hard to get the time to listen to these things.

As an example, this is the list of purchases in the last month or so:

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Electric Soft Parade – Holes in The Wall
Several Van Der Graaf Generator re-releases
Several Bert Jansch re-releases
Fairport Convention – Heyday extended
Trees – The Garden of Jane Delawney remastered
Vexx Red – Start With A Strong and Persistent Desire
A – Hi-Fi Serious
And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – Source Codes & Tags
Clinic – Walking With Thee
Gomez – In Our Gun
Boards Of Canada – Goegaddi
Flaming Stars – Six John Peel Sessions
Flaming Stars – A Walk On The Wired Side
White Stripes – De Stijl
Trojan Roots Box Set
Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – BBC Sessions
Delgados – BBC Sessions
Cooper Temple Clause – See This Through And Leave
The Strokes – Is This It

So where does the time come from to play these? It sometimes makes you wonder why you should stay on such a crazy rollercoaster but, hey, that’s what collectors do.

Listening to the 12-CD Coltrane set brings into sharp focus the improvisational genius of the man. Someone who can play “My Favourite Things” every night and make it a voyage of discovery each time is worth cherishing. Of course, improvisation is the lingua franca of jazz but Coltrane is a giant within any music. Rock music has thrown up fewer true improvisers than jazz, the best are excellent (e.g. Hendrix, Zappa, Greeny, Garcia etc and listen to A=MH2 by Clark-Hutchinson)but most rock bands tend towards repetition within a constricted structure.  For example, listen to the live recordings on Cream’s Wheels Of Fire (not Toad, though). Although I love that stuff it feels less than impressive in improvisation terms.  The guitar repeats itself endlessly, with little subtlety as though extreme length itself is enough to suggest greatness. I’m afraid not.  That’s what gets me about some of Dylan’s recent performances of songs. I have used the term “elastic limit” previously. By this I mean that a given performance of a song needs to sustain a certain level of tension, a balance between music and words, periods of release and energy all carefully contained within the framework of the performance. If something is repeated too often with little real improvisation then that balance or equilibrium is lost, the song decays and exceeds the elastic limit which means it cannot convincingly regain that tension. Try listening to some of the versions of Tangled Up In Blue or Rainy Day Women where instrumental verse after verse is wheeled out with little musical imagination. The song is lost!  Chris Cooper once wrote that he believed that Dylan began to approach improvisation on Silvio a couple of years back.  He was absolutely correct but most people hated Silvio!  That was an exception and the message might be, Bob – keep it tight.  Not that he would pay attention to me or anyone else.  What do you think?????

Would someone out there do me a favour?  I read the review of the New York City show (19th November 2001) in Isis and I couldn’t recognise it. The view I gave in FW198 was that this show was unexpectedly flat but the Isis boys were suggesting this show was a highspot. Maybe my recording was poorer but I just didn’t get it. Could someone listen to this show and tell me?  Bear in mind you need to listen in the context of the other shows on the tour.

Restless Farewell for now.

Mike and John