Copy
View this email in your browser

Bob Dylan
born May 24, 1941

 

Enigmatic Negation
listen to audio narration here  

Twenty years ago it seemed lik a lot of Dylan followers kept defending him beyond reason. I gave up after one too many zombie shows where he literally turned his back on the audience and acted so preoccupied it felt chilling, patronizing. So the shock of Love and Theft went beyond the bizarre moment of its release date (September 11, 2001). His vocal commitment, combined with his renewed humor, spelled out a weirdly acontextual return. And perhaps more.   

AFTER BOB DYLAN'S live performance and acceptance speech for "Things Have Changed" from New Zealand last year, comedian Steve Martin noted the satellite marvel the Oscar ceremony had just witnessed: "There's an 18 hour time difference between here and there, which for Bob is normal." It got the kind of laugh Dylan has earned over the past couple of decades: nervous titters that traced how big his songs loom in our culture, and just how phoned in his recordings have sounded since he Bible-thumped his way into the late '70s.
Dylan's Oscar came on the heels of his Album of the Year Grammy for Time Out of Mind, his induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Congressional Medal of Honor [sic], a command performance for the Pope, his cure for AIDS, and his globally televised healing of the lepers from the Isle of the Damned. None of this had much to do with his current work: critics had been praising his "comeback" of the '90s for two acoustic cover albums: Good As I Been To You (1992) and World Gone Wrong (1993), but until Time Out of Mind (1997), his last recording of new material was Under the Red Sky (1990), little of which showed up during concerts.


Why knock off a good piece of work in the midst of such mediocrity? How are we to consider the past two decades in light of better work he had in him the entire time? 

And Time Out of Mind wasn't so much a great piece of work as another rescue job by Daniel Lanois, the U2 producer who made Dylan's embittered, self-pitying laments sound listenable (like he had on 1989's Oh Mercy). Quite a few critics who praised Time upon its release admit they don't listen to it much anymore. And the first thing Dylan spent his Grammy respectability on was in releasing his live tapes from 1966, long traded and bootlegged, finally issued as an aesthetic trump card: "Now that I've finally turned in something half respectable, let's go back and listen to the stuff everybody's really interested in," Dylan seemed to be saying.
He'd been saying as much in his live shows for years. Except for odd curios like 1988's "Silvio" (from Down in the Groove), Dylan's concerts have centered around his mid-'60s work, pillars like "All Along the Watchtower," "Maggie's Farm," "Love Minus Zero (No Limit)," "Don't Think Twice It's All Right," "Ballad of a Thin Man," "It Takes A Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry," and "Like a Rolling Stone."
So Love and Theft comes out of a big aesthetic nowhere, and prompts some simple questions: why now? Why knock off a good piece of work in the midst of such mediocrity? How are we to consider the past two decades in light of better work he had in him the entire time? Apparently named for a 1993 study of black minstrelsy by Virginia social historian Eric Lott, Love and Theft is only tangentially about white exploitation of black culture. His new music is jaunty, the style is pre-rock'n'roll blues, and there's more humor here than in most of his recent work since the Traveling Wilburys...


keep reading Enigmatic Negation

James Campion goes long...


Twitter
Twitter
Facebook
Facebook
Website
Website
YouTube
YouTube
Instagram
Instagram
Email
Email
pass it on...
Copyright © 2022 timrileyauthor, All rights reserved.
You're a subscriber of timrileyauthor or you've been sent this email from a subscriber

Our mailing address is:
tim_riley@emerson.edu

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.






This email was sent to <<Email Address>>
why did I get this?    unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences
Tim Riley Author · 108 Fairhaven Rd · Concord, MA 01742-3518 · USA

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp