Yet still you do, this month I have to comment on Robert Forryans’s opening paragraphs in FW 208 in which he spends two paragraphs not responding to my comments in FW 207 ! Thanks Robert. You comments about “newer” members in the group are a reasonable approximation. Yes, certainly later members were considered to some extent for their ability to make regular contributions. Actually after the first 5 members that has pretty much always been the way. I have not researched this thoroughly but as far as memory serves virtually evry Dylan fanzine editor / main contributor has at one time or another been a Freewheeler, or at least had original material in FW. Even the late John Bauldie had an original piece in FW.

It is though fair comment to say that the more personal side has long been eroded in our group. I am as guilty as any for doing that. We all have to decide if it is a natural consequence of our moving into the public eye (a discussion long ago explored) or simply a sign that we are all developing a degree of apathy that senescence brings, I will leave that to you all.

But FW is about more than good writers. It is also more than an area for soul searching so lets put that too one side and look forward for awhile.

I got the “Gods And Generals” cd the other day. I must admit my initial rush was prompted by the offer of a free DVD with it. I am glad to see that the case has room to hold both, I wish the Live 1975 could also as being a tidy guy I like to keep these things together.

Well first off I quite like the packaging, and the overall soundtrack is certainly pretty nice. Mostly instrumentals as you might expect. Dylan appears to share the songster limelight with Mary Fahl who opens the cd with “Going Home”. Mary has a nice voice, sort of somewhere between Enya and Emmylou Harris so she fits in there well with the soundtrack. The fact that they seem to be the main support is further reinforced by the fact that they have placed Bob’s song as far away as possible, that is, at the end.

At 8:12 it is easily the longest track on the CD. This is in stark contrast to the DVD but more on that later. Here Dylan has written a song that seems to explore the American Civil War in some detail. It has a menacing feel to it, suggesting that something awful will happen at any moment. It highlights what a good band Dylan has at present.

Lets take a look at the lyrics:

I cross the green mountain, I sit by the stream
heaven blazing in my head, I dreamt a monstrous dream
something came up out of the sea
swept thru' the land of the rich and the free.

I look into the eyes of my merciful friend
and then I ask myself: is this the end?
memories linger, sad yet sweet
and I think of the souls in heaven who we'll meet.

altars are burning with flames far and wide
the foe has crossed over from the other side
they tip their caps from the top of the hill
you can feel them come more brave blood to spill
along the dim Atlantic line
the ravaged land lies for miles behind
the light's coming forward and the streets are b road
all must yield to the avenging god.

the world is old, the world is gray
lessons of life can't be learned in a day
I watch and I wait and I listen while I stand
to the music that comes from a far better land.

close the eyes of our captain, peace may he know
his long night is done, the great leader is laid low
he was ready to fall, he was quick to defend
killed outright he was by his own men.

it's the last day's last hour of the last happy year
I feel that the unknown world is so near
pride will vanish and glory will rot
but virtue lives and cannot be forgot.

the bells of evening have rung
there's blasphemy on every tongue
let them say that I walked in fair nature's light
and that I was loyal to truth and to right.

serve god and be cheerful, look upward beyond
beyond the darkness of masks, the surprises of dawn
in the deep green grasses and the blood-stained wood
they never dreamed of surrendering, they fell where they stood.

stars fell over Alabama, I saw each star
you're walking in dreams whoever you are
chilled are the skies, keen is the frost
the ground’s froze hard and the morning is lost.

a letter to mother came today
gunshot wound to the breast is what it did say
but he'll be better soon, he's in a hospital bed
but he'll never be better, he's already dead.

I'm 10 miles outside the city and I'm lifted away
in an ancient light that is not of day
they were calm they were blunt ,we knew them all too well
we loved each other more than we ever dared to tell.

It is hard to imagine the metre of the song from the lyrics, Bob seems to be talking his way through it, with the band producing a deep “southern sounding” background. It is certainly very atmospheric.

NOW the DVD is a bit of a curates egg, Yes you get to see Bob In that amazing wig which looks no more correct in the video than it did at Newport last year. Garnier and Campbell also make brief appearances at the start. No you don’t get 8 but 3 minutes as the song has been greatly edited for the video. Looking at this it is hard to see it appearing in the film, I assume the video has been cut for promoting something. Maybe a single? And if so what would be the flipside?? Time will tell… Its even more curious when you watch the various clips of the film, most of which seem to feature groups of soldiers bursting constantly into song! Dylan does not feature in any of this, nor of course the video of “Going Home” also on the DVD (which is I must say quite typical film soundtrack fodder.

So what do I make of it. I have been driving around with the audio disc playing the last couple of days and it is certainly a pleasant album. I have to say that Dylan’s contribution whilst not detracting does not really add to the film. The clips I have seen seem OK but I am no film buff. Certainly the news that it will be out on video at more else the same time as release can be seen as a vote of no confidence I fear. Of course it might also be an attempt to stop the obvious pirating that would otherwise go on as all us fanatics lust after our own personal copy.

I cannot see that cutting almost 5 minutes out of the song has seriously changed it’s content and that I think is something I am sorry to have to say..

Sure I will get it, but I don’t expect great things. It does not come over as being as dire as “Hearts Of Fire” was, but let’s wait and see. But I guess you’ve already ordered your cd/dvd pack???

So not bad, but could have been better.

Till Next Time.

Gods and Generals