Saturday, 3 April 2010

My Bob Dylan phase

My blog has become a bit formal over the past few months; I've only really had time to post relatively polished book reviews, but I orignally wanted the blog to have a slightly looser feel, with shorter more impressionistic bits and pieces sitting along the longer reviews . . . I'll see what I can do!

Anyway, I'm going through a bit of a Bob Dylan phase at the minute. I've been reading the first instalment of his autobiography: Bob Dylan: Chronicles, Volume One (2004), and buying some of his very early albums, the ones from the early '60s. The autobiography is a bit of a quirky read, jumps around all over the place, and actually tells you very little about the narratival flow of Dylan's actual life, its as enigmatic as you'd expect from him I suppose!

Its broken up into five largish sections; the first two concentrate on his early career, struggling to make it as a folk singer in Greenwich Village in New York, befriending a dying Woody Guthrie, singing his songs and trying to find an authentic voice. The middle two sections then focus on the recording of two of Dylan's albums: New Morning, a country(ish) album that saw Dylan come back to something like his best  form in 1994 and Oh Mercy, his 2004 outing recorded in New Orleans. The last chapter goes right back to Dylan's childhood in 1950s Minnesota, and charts, among other things, his discovery of music and songwriting and some of his earliest friends in the American folk music community.

As I said above its a bit of an eccentric, even eclectic read, certainly not a typical autobiography, but it does evoke aspects of the ealry '60s American counterculture quite well, and particuarly Dylan's somewhat ambivalent attitude to his status as a spokesman for radical political ideas. I've been listening to Dylan's first album while reading this, its a very different sounding Dylan than the more familiar voice from the mid-'60s. Here a twenty-year old Dylan, in an album that sold atrociously when it first came out, sings a host of covers, mainly of older folk and country songs, with a few of his own self-penned items very much in the same vein as the songs of his mentor Woody Guthrie. Its fascinating listenning really, a bit like the early Sun Records recordings made by Johnny Cash or Elvis Presley really. For me the two standout tracks are: 'Baby, Let me Follow you Down' and: 'See that my Grave is Kept Clean'!

Just got to expand the CD collection now with the rest of the '60s albums. Why doesn't Aber have a better record shop?!!!

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