Monday, August 26, 2013

Here is the news - Bob Dylan can put across a song

I got up early this morning and ordered Another Self Portrait (1969-1971): The Bootleg Series Vol. 10 by Bob Dylan from Amazon. I have Prime so it will arrive tomorrow morning. Meanwhile, I can rip the CD straightaway and listen to it with the first cup of tea, quietly so as not to wake the sleeping house.

All this seems a hilariously digital way to listen to a record made more than forty years ago, when I was a teenager, a record that even at the time seemed to be tapping into an even earlier world. One of the lines in the first song "I went to see the gypsy" goes "I went down to the lobby/To make a small call out", which strikes me as black and white somehow.

I remember "Self Portrait" coming out. It was met with puzzlement, partly because it was a double and, thanks to its inclusion of live tracks from the Isle of Wight, seemed neither one thing nor the other. Critics complained that he wasn't writing those acid, wordy songs any more. They were comparatively delighted with the follow-up "New Morning" because it seemed less straightforward. They couldn't abide the sound of apparent content. But critics think that the world sees and hears things the way that they do, which they don't. A few people liked it. Most people shrugged and bought Elton John instead.

I'm enjoying listening to it. I'm not a student of Dylan bootlegs and therefore my enjoyment isn't ruined by thinking "why didn't they release the other version of this?" I just like the way Bob Dylan sings.  I always have. Forget the stuff about being an artist, let alone a visionary. He's never had much of a voice but he's a singer of genius. As the guitarist David Bromberg says in this promotional clip, "the man could put across a song like no-one else can - it just comes through". In the end that may be the truest thing you can say about Bob Dylan. He can put across a song. It's no small thing.


  1. I agree, love his voice, I played Self Portrait a couple of days ago and really liked it.

  2. A few months back I listened to his whole catalog as was constantly delighted by how he could plop exactly the right word on the head of exactly the right beat to make the song work as best as it possibly could.

    I thought it was in the writing (and re-writing), but writing or delivery, the result was usually perfect.