Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Dylan grunts, critics moan in ecstasy

America's greatest living songwriter released Modern Times, his 31st studio album, on Tuesday, and it's already getting obscenely good reviews. At this point, the guy could fart into an analog tape recorder and the critics would eat it up. Lucky for us, Dylan's voice hasn't gotten to that point yet.

In the last year or so I have absolutely fallen in love with Dylan's recent output. 1993's all solo World Gone Wrong, 1997's brilliant (read: up there with some of his 1960's output) Time Out of Mind and 2001's critically-lauded Love And Theft are all genuinely great examples of someone who has mastered the songwriting craft coasting along on cruise control. Dylan has nothing left to prove. His effect on modern pop music is matched only by a handful of bands and is certainly unmatched by any single man. He perfected folk music with 1964's The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan before single-handedly making rock music more literate and influencing artists in just about every genre of music with Highway 61 Revisited and his output after that. At this point his new albums are merely epilogues of one of the most important careers in the history of American pop music.

With neither the desire nor expectation that he break any new ground, Dylan sticks to the tried-and-true formula on Modern Times. Old standards are tweaked and new tunes are written just like the old ones, with one of the best country-and-western backing bands in the business behind him. Some of the hyperbole tossed around already is kind of silly, but without a doubt this is an album that will appear (and belongs) on many a year-end list. That Dylan on auto-pilot commands such praise is telling - this man is a legend.

Check out the delivery on "Nettie Moore." Unbelievable. Some old and new Dylan follows:

Bob Dylan- Rollin' And Tumblin' from Modern Times

Bob Dylan- Nettie Moore from Modern Times

"Girl From The North Country" from Canadian TV (1964)

"Only A Pawn In Their Game" (live at a Washington, DC civil rights march in 1963)

"One Too Many Mornings" w/Johnny Cash (1969)

"Tangled Up In Blue" (1975)

Awesome version of "Like A Rolling Stone" (1966)

I wonder how often Bob checks his myspace.


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