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20 Pounds Of Headlines

by MARK CARTER

NOVEMBER 2002

Here we are – or will be by the time you read this – almost at the end of 2002 and, amazingly, I’m still dredging up Love And Theft reviews. So let’s get them out of the way first.

Put together the words “Mojo” and “Andy Gill” and you know you’re going to get nothing less than a full-scale recommendation to rush out and buy it, even if you’re down to your last fifteen quid and you have to starve for the next week; “…a more than adequate companion to Time Out Of Mind… an album virtually bereft of fluff and filler.” Nicely illustrated with a caricature of Bob as a lonesome gunslinger, this is/was well worth checking out.

Just to prove how well honed my detective skills at sniffing out daily press material are, my local newspaper The Eastern Daily Press reviewed the album on the day of it’s release, and it took someone who lives hundreds of miles away from me to send it to me some four months later. Anyway, the surprisingly well-informed Tim Lenton reckons that “the new-millennium Bob steps back from the brink with another superb album less than four months after his 60th birthday.”

Over in America, James Beaty of the McAlester News-Capital concludes that “on Love And Theft, Dylan proves his musical mojo is still working in overdrive.” Whilst Shaun De Waal of the Daily Mail and Guardian, despite fearing the worst when Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum kicks in, decides that “Love And Theft is not another Under The Red Sky. Things get better after the first song.” Steve Walsh, writing for www.figgle.com , is just as impressed’ “…With more layers than an Anna Nichole Smith wedding cake, Love And Theft is one of Dylan’s most richly rewarding releases. And another astonishing chapter in popular music’s greatest creative renaissance.”

January 2002 produced the traditional “Best Of The Year” lists in various magazines and papers both here and in America and, not surprisingly, Love And Theft featured pretty highly in most – if not all – of them. Uncut placed it at number 3 (“…the sound of a 60 year old legend getting a kick out of playing with his own mythology”) and also selected Howard Sounes’ Down The Highway as the number one book of 2001. (“…Perhaps what’s most notable about Down The Highway is that you come away from it with a love of Dylan’s music, of course, but also an empathy, even a liking for the man behind it”). Amazingly, Mojo only placed it at number 2 (“another gem”), reckoning that the Super Furry Animals’ Rings Around The World was a better album (and perhaps it was – I haven’t heard it).

In America, the L.A. Times’ Robert Hilburn had no hesitation in awarding it the Top Album Of The Year status (“…The lyrics serve as a wondrous, deceptively casual jigsaw puzzle of wit and wisdom that sometimes teases but more often jabs”) and New York Newsday’s Glenn Gamboa also put it at number one (“a classic”).

Michael D. Clark of the Houston Chronicle gave it his number 2 slot (“… The recording academy has been guilty of awarding high honours to rock ‘n roll vets who aren’t necessarily deserving. Dylan’s album-of-the-year Grammy nomination for Love And Theft is not one of those times”) and the Chicago Tribune’s Greg Kot put it in at number 1 (“… a raucous tour of 20th Century musical America that sounds perfectly apt for this post-Sept 11 world”).

Ben Taylor of the Nashville Scene included it in his general roundup of the best releases, claiming, “…Much as I admire the despondent, existential hobo vibe of Time Out Of Mind, the new album is more satisfying.. If a codger like him can still get his rocks off after 40 years in the biz, there’s hope for us all in this world.”

Jay Lustig of the New Jersey Star-Ledger had no qualms about awarding it the top spot, if only because “the best track, the rockabilly rave-up Summer Days, was just about the last thing you would expect from Dylan at 60: the feel-good song of the year”.

In a somewhat moving article on www.sfgate.com, Dave Ford had Dylan in mind when he penned his year-end thoughts on a devastated America, especially as to how he cried twice during Dylan’s San Francisco show during October. The first time was during Sugar Baby and the second time was during Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, “with it’s gospel style backing vocals and the 60-year-old Dylan’s growled affirmation, as the songs narrator, that death is nigh… At first I thought it was cheap nostalgia, but that seemed wrong… I was pining for the innocence – however delusional – of pre-terrorist America…the night of the Dylan show I felt something for this country deeper than I’ve ever dared believe – or feared – possible; plain old acute pain for a place that, as it turns out, I really love.”

The St. Paul Star Tribune’s Jon Bream summed up one of Dylan’s most amazing years on December 30th, claiming that Love And Theft sold over 500,000 copies during the first week of it’s release and that, at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center on October 25th he drew his biggest crowd in years – some 14,032 lucky souls; “…He proved that he and his music – both new and old – still truly matter.”

Onto other late 2001 / early 2002 matters. Mikal Gilmore’s excellent interview was reprinted in the December issue of the German edition of Rolling Stone. This featured a few extra Ken Regan shots, including a couple of full-page ones, and is well worth checking out for those alone.

Total Guitar interviewed Ron Wood, who recollects his recent(ish) recording session in Ireland; “…He came for 3 days and every day had 20 new songs. He’s say “What do we do, Woody?” and I’d say “Let’s go and record them”…We did 12 songs out of the endless amount he had every day ….There’s some beautiful stuff in there, they’re definitely worthy of being released. A lot of it was groundwork for his last album (Time Out Of Mind, so I guess the sessions possibly took place during 1995 or 1996).”

During December, Goldmine’s C. Brian Jasper was recommending the Sun Records tribute Good Rockin’ Tonight, especially Dylan’s “eclectic” Red Cadillac And A Black Moustache, which “shines brilliantly and would have landed perfectly on his excellent new album Love And Theft” whilst Ice was recommending something of the naughtier side of the industry, namely the superb, so-good-it-almost-hurts 9-CD bootleg box set from Scorpio called The Genuine Never-Ending Tour Covers 1988-2000. It’s hugely expensive but beautifully packaged and presented and is what Dylan and Sony should be releasing but aren’t (I realise that trying to get copyright permission from a hundred or so writers would prove to be a nightmare but Bob could always attribute them all to “trad arr. Dylan”. Ho,ho).

Gadfly’s David McNair and Jayson Whitehead interviewed Eric Lott about his book Love And Theft and discovered that he is not miffed at all about Bob “borrowing” his title, despite the fact that Bob does not deny a connection. “Dylan knows how embedded in his culture he is, “he says, “But I don’t guess he thinks of himself or other musicians as only thieving. In a USA Today interview in August he made mention of minstrel shows and other “low” entertainment forms as precedents for the feel he was after on Love And Theft – he may think of himself as being in the burlesque vein on minstrelsy, but not so implicated in it’s crimes.” The New York Times approached Lott to interview Dylan about his album but Dylan declined; “…I’d guess it had something to do with imaging a tedious sit-down with a scholarsquirrel who’d be asking all sorts of boring shit about the connections between my book and his CD. Who’s going to look forward to something like that?” Lott also jokingly remarks that he’s going to title his next book Time Out Of Mind.

Januarys Record Buyer And Music Collector belatedly reviewed the Various Artists tribute album Forever Young and was not exactly bowled over; “…Whether or not this album will appeal to Dylan fans is difficult to predict – yes, it was his 60th birthday, but if you want to hear Bob Dylan songs, why not listen to the man himself?” and Nigel Williamson, in January’s Uncut, was awarding three stars to John Gibbens’ book The Nightingales Code; “…he’s certainly not as bonkers as AJ Webberman but neither is he as lucid as Michael Gray, author of the magisterial Song And Dance Man, which remains the best academic analysis of Dylan’s work yet published.”

Mojo revealed that John Cordwell, the other 1966 Manchester concert-goer who insists he was the “Judas!” heckler, recently died. Despite Keith Butler’s seemingly bona fide credentials for being the Biblical loud-mouth, Andy Kershaw and C.P. Lee seem swayed by Cordwell’s claims, even going so far as to re-enact the shout. Cordwell insists that he was not so much upset by Dylan’s electric set as the crappy sound system; “It was a wall of mush…It seemed throwaway and cavalier compared with the intensity of the acoustic set. I hear it now and think it’s brilliant, but that wasn’t what we heard.”

Finally the 17-1-02 edition of Rolling Stones mourned the passing of George Harrison with an issue largely devoted to him. There were the usual Dylan references and a reproduction of Dylan’s own tribute; “He was a giant, a great, great soul, with all the humanity, all the wisdom, the spirituality, the common sense of a man and compassion for people. He inspired love and he had the strength of a hundred men. He was like the sun, the flowers and the moon, and we will miss him enormously. The world is a profoundly emptier place without him.” Tom Petty reflected at length on his days in the Wilburys; “…George was so reverent of Bob. At the end Of the first day, he said’ “ We know that you’re Bob Dylan and everything, but we’re going to treat you and talk to you like we would anybody else”. And Bob went; “Well, great. Believe it or not, I’m in awe of you guys, and it’s the same for me”.” In the same issue, the Random Notes section featured a brief piece on Dylan’s November 2001 show a Madison Square Gardens, including his rare onstage dedication. Nice colour pic, presumably from the gig, also included.

And that wraps it up for another month. Happy Halloween/Christmas/New Year or whatever it is while you read this. (I have no idea – I’m typing this up in March)

THANKS AS ALWAYS , TO GRAHAM ASHTON FOR HELP ABOVE AND BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY.


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