Dylan cartoon IS IT ROLLING BOB?

by Chris Cooper


I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am still stupid enough to collect the miscellany of items that get released with “Bob Dylan” attached somewhere.

Once upon a time I used to tell myself that they were necessary for a fuller understanding of his music. I would like to say that, that is true, and that I still believe it to be so. 

To be honest though this is no longer the case. So please don’t ask me to give you a fuller explanation about why I do it. Maybe it’s simply, that I can, you know how it is, less overheads and greater disposable income. Maybe it is that I genuinely have no discriminatory powers and view it all as equal? No, I know it’s not that. In recent times my interests in music have strayed far an wide from Dylan’s door. I never knew back then, but nowadays I can recognize the desire to find that one record, that one sound, that was going to be IT. That was going to make sense of what I did and why the world was the way it was, and make me, make us all enlightened and happy. Yes, I was a hippy wasn’t I? Well you decide whether I grew up or just grew old, but either way it all sounds quite naive by today’s standards,  Sometimes it feels like I have spent that much time searching for something, that eventually I lost sight of what I was looking for and the searching became the sole reason for the search. Hey! Lets  not get too deep here. 

I just would like to think that now it’s a habit, an excuse to re-pin my colours to the mast of the good ship Dylan. So when I got news of the reggae Dylan album I was mildly curious at least. Could be interesting couldn’t it?  Maybe it would present Bob’s music in a newer light. After all the Gospel album “Gotta Serve Somebody” a few years back was certainly a good album, and one that I can truthfully say I still play periodically. So I had a start.

Well if you want to sell a splinter interest record to Dylan collectors, how do you go about making them see it as being not just “curious” but leaning more towards “desirable”. Well I can think of two obvious ways. (1) No matter how small, get Bob on some part of the album, something that is unique to your product. (2) Produce it in a limited run, a good dodge is with bonus material that will be only available for a short time. Now those clever people at Ras Records have hit on both counts, because this platter has both a bonus disc with NEW Dylan on it, as well as one track on the main record that also features Dylan uniquely.  So there we have it. You have to get a copy. Well I had to anyway. 

This makes me feel much better about reviewing this for you. After all as I have just given you conclusive proof that you Dylan collection cannot be complete without this, it does not matter if I praise or decry the actual disc itself. Actually it was a lot of fun acquiring this, as it proved to be harder than expected. We all see the internet as a great boon, shrinking the world and making it easier to get things, and whilst I have to say that is true, to me there is a trade off. Making things easy to get denies us of the satisfaction of achieving the goal. So I still like to haunt the shops, and annoy sales assistants with requests for stuff they have never heard of.  It has taken 2 weeks to get this baby by this method, and I must say I felt a nice warm feeling when I flashed the debit card and walked out with my prize. Actually it was Dizzy that spotted this, so you see a double bonus here, as getting her involved means that we share more quality time, and gives HER the same sense of achievement. You see, progress is not always beneficial. 

Now the record comes in a snazzy mock up of the front cover of "Bringing It All Back Home", there will be a scan of it elsewhere so no need to go on. The main disc has 14 tracks, all by different reggae artists (most I have never heard of). The obvious songs of course are here, “Times” “Just Like A Woman” and “Maggies Farm” for instance, but some odd ones too. “Subterranean Homesick Blues “ by Sizzla works pretty well. An the version of Hattie Carrol by Black Uhuru (one I do know) is really quite effective. But the stand out (of course) is Dylan’s own cover of “I And I”. At first that seems an odd choice, yet when you hear this it is surprising how little the tune has had to be altered to fit. It’s as well though that it did, as what we actually have here is the original vocal track with a remixed sound. Against my better judgment I like this track. I only hope bob is cantankerous enough to fit this into his stage show. The liner notes tell us Bob gave his full co-operation to this venture, to quote Roger Steffens “It’s rare that a Bob Dylan remix has  been sanctioned, it’s like when Michelangelo worked on the Sistine Chapel, what an amazing opportunity”

It really does  feel completely different, but if you A/B this with the original (an if you don’t know what that means then you probably wouldn’t have read this far) then you find that there are not that many changes. This is an excellent remix. 

Then we have the “bonus” disc, this is essentially extended “dub” mixes of some of the songs on the album, and yes our man features here also. This has much more echo and some lines repeated. Now, as I type this I am playing a Bob-show, namely Shuberts excellent recording of Brockton August 8th. If you listen to “Highway 61 Revisited” you hear Bob slip into the echo and the start of repetition just as you hear it on the  Reggae dub. Is this the sign of things to come? Probably not, bit as he says, sacrifice is the code of the road….

Till Next Time

Is It Rolling Bob?