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20 Pounds Of Headlines

by MARK CARTER

JULY 2002

Mainly more Love And Theft and tour reviews dominating our look at the Sept/Oct 2001 press again this month. Those hoping for a bit of variety may like to know that I will be covering the February tour during March 2004.

Here we go with the album reviews then:

Spin’s Alan Light awarded it 9 out of 10 (only 9?);”…Bob Dylan has returned to the music he has loved and pilfered for so long and – pissed off, snarling, joking, crooning once again made it something wholly new and completely his own.” Still stunned by the events of September 11th, the L.A. Weekly’s Robert Loyd could at least find solace in the music; “I think – I know – that this is a great album. It feels like a great album… It transmits the confidence of it’s maker, it swaggers more than a little.” Jon Garelick of the Providence Phoenix was pleased to see that Dylan seems determined to grow old grumpily, especially f it means he keeps turning in work of this standard; “… every one of these songs is a keeper.. Even with Dylan’s wrecked voice up front, these songs all sound well.”

Jim Derogatis gave it 3 ½ stars in his Chicago Sun-Times review. It would’ve been more but he simply couldn’t stomach moonlight or Bye And Bye; “…Whatever the intent, these tracks aren’t easy to listen to, and they detract from what is otherwise a rollicking good time.” The New York Metro’s Robert Levine simply claimed that it “pulses with a passion that would be startling from a man half Dylan’s age.” And the Washington Post’s Richard Harrington summed up with “Dylan’s 43rd album hangs in the gallery alongside the best of his work.” Joel Selvin, in the San Francisco Chronicle, titled his review “Dylan is brilliant on Love And Theft” and concluded that the album “shows the cunning old fox has still got what it takes” whilst the Houston Chronicle’s Michael D. Clark also called it “brilliant” and expressed a wish that it hadn’t already been taken for granted by the time the Grammies rolled around.

John Boonstra’s review in the Hartford Advocate insisted that, “This album takes great risks, and reaps great rewards. At 60, with a voice that is ripped and raw beyond all parody, Bob Dylan has once again made enduring music that captures the joys and terrors of the immediate moment.” Andrew R. Iliff of the Harvard Crimson was positive that the Dylan on the album sleeve is still recognisable as the one on the Blonde On blonde sleeve (if you squint) and simply claims that “he’s back”. Which implies of course, that he’s been away somewhere, and he hasn’t.

The New York Observers Mac Randall was impressed at how much mileage Dylan still wrung out of the remnants of his voice but was less impressed with grail Marcus’ recent “barely penetrable” New York Times review; “…Sometimes a goofy song is just a goofy song. And when they’re as engaging as Mr Dylan’s, no further significance is necessary.” Elizabeth Kannenberg of the Boston College Heights informed that the album “continues Dylan’s millennial resurgence with musical depth and clarity.” And Liam Farrell of the Notre Dame Observer reckoned that it was one of his best albums and that, “musically and lyrically (it) is fantastic”. Kent Wolgamott of the Lincoln Journal Star was confident that “he’s made another disc that’s likely to be regarded as a classic someday” and the Hartford Courant’s Roger Catlin wished that “amid the ephemeral pop of 21st-Century music, surely there’s a place for Love And Theft, the latest gem in a 40 – year recording career with no equal.”

In the UK’s Uncut, Ian Penman advised his readers to stick with the album until all it’s riches were revealed and that, in the great scheme of things, may prove itself to be a “fuller, deeper” work than Time Out Of Mind; “..In the dust thrown up by Love And Theft, Time Out Of Mind already feels a bit polite. A bit pious, a bit “Ssshhh! This IS Bob Baring is soul”.” The New Zealand Herald’s Graham Reid claimed that it was “a musically more engaging album than most of the previous 42” and the Japan Time’s Philip Brasor described it as a “much, much better” album than Time Out Of Mind because “the tunes are sharper, the singing stronger, the playing and production cleaner… Most important, it’s funny.”

Onto a few website reviews, beginning with slate.msn.com’s Marc Wiengarten’s less than wonderful offering, which begins by expressing amazement at Greil Marcs’ and Rolling Stone’s highly positive reception before concluding that “Like previous pallid Dylan efforts – Infidels, Oh Mercy, Slow Train Coming (“Bollocks,” says I, “Great big bollocks with knobs on”) – that were hailed as classics upon release but have now been relegated to the dust heap of rock history, Love And Theft has only the surface elements of something special. “ In total disagreement, www.nj.com’s Jay Lustig boldly proclaimed that, “this album, like few others he has released since his 60’s heyday, not only introduces a strong new batch of songs but also duplicates the visceral impact of his concerts.” Finally, sonicnet.com’s Billy Altman declared that “the truth of the matter is that it’s been a good three decades since Dylan has sounded as footloose and, er, freewheeling as he does on much of Love And Theft.”

Onto concert reviews and before we get started, there was a variation on those “Bob dresses like a tramp.” Stories that we all know and love (sic) This particular story was unsurprisingly syndicated to several newspapers, turning up not only in America, but the UK and Germany too, as well as several other territories, I’m sure. Basically, when he arrived backstage at the Jackson County Exposition Centre in Central Point, Oregon, Dylan was asked by an overly zealous security (understandable in the wake of September 11th) to produce his pass. On being told that he didn’t have one because he was Bob Dylan, the two guards laughed at this little lickspittle with the silly moustache and told him to get on his bike, or words to that effect. An angry, foot stomping Dylan insisted on seeing Chris Borovansky, the showground manager, who would vouch for him, and then insisted that the two guards were sacked on the spot. A more sympathetic Borovansky instead sent them to another job, delicately saying; “we prefer the term ‘relocated’.” Ah well, more fuel for my cartoons.

Sacramento earned a few glowing write – ups; Joel Selvin calling it “a concert with many highlights” in the San Francisco Chronicle and Jim Harrington on www.insidebayarea.com, declaring that it was a powerful evening of superbly crafted songs that did more for the healing process than any singers sermon ever could.” Rob Evans of the Live Daily News felt that the Love And Theft material was amongst the best of the shows and again had a certain date on his mind as he watched the show; “Dylan didn’t speak directly of the attacks of September 11th – in fact, he didn’t speak directly to the capacity crowd at all – but his music left no question that recent headlines were on his mind.”

Brad Kava of the San Jose Mercury News was impressed enough with San Jose Compaq Center show; “.. While this wasn’t his best or most musically exciting performance, there were some lyrical gems. Folk songs that came to life given the context of the times.” The ever reliable Robert Hilburn was excited by what he saw at Santa Barbara for the LA Times; “…Because critics so respect Dylan’s work, they have shown remarkable tolerance for his unevenness in concert, so it’s easy to see how fans suspect them of crying wolf in praising his latest shows. But there’s no need to be wary this time. In a pop world that has long used his work as a standard, Dylan once again lives up to it himself.”

Sfgate.com carried a brief but positive review of the October 13th show at San Francisco’s Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, praising the tunes that speak for themselves “in sparkling arrangements that favoured rhythmic lightness over weighty darkness, airy optimism over piercing anger.” Then there was George Varga’s glowing report in the San Diego Union – Tribune of the San Diego RIMAC Arena show, in which he claimed that Dylan’s bum guitar notes only added to the magic; “His fearless appetite for aural adventure is the reason he can repaint his masterpieces so well, night after night.”

Briefly onto other matters. An interview with Howard Sounes by Angela Akomah for BBC on line revealed nothing we hadn’t heard before. He was pretty sure that Dylan wouldn’t find Down The Highway interesting but that every Dylan fan would. The UK’s Making Music reviewed the tatty looking re-print of Scaduto’s biography thus; “… It’s fascinating, beautifully written and a must for any student of Music history. Fun, too.” Finally, Novembers Issue of Q featured Love And Theft at number three in their album charts, having already gone Gold after a mere three weeks on the charts. It sold 26,000 copies in it’s first week, in comparison to Time Out Of Mind which only managed 15,000 in week one. Mind you, that album didn’t have limited edition digipacking and bonus discs: Bugger it; they’re both great albums so it doesn’t really matter what one sold the most copies, does it?

And that concludes the voting for this month. Next month; Bob Dylan in sex scandal exclusive. Oh alright then, more album and tour reviews really.

THANKS THIS MONTH GO TO: Graham A (natch!), Graham W. Tony S.


 

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