New York — Bob Dylan is back with a new album, the possibility of a television special and a rumored tour. At press time, the TV special and tour were only rumors – the latter vehemently denied by the persons closest to Dylan – but the album is a reality and should be in music stores by October 26th, according to a Columbia Records spokesman.
For some reason, New York music news seems to break first in London. Andrew Bailey, head of Rolling Stone's London office, received an advance copy of the new Dylan album – called New Day – and describes it as "solid Dylan music, electric once again."
The album is dominated by piano and organ, and may signal the return of keyboards as prime instruments in rock and roll. There is solid rock, rural funk and some venturing into jazz on New Day.
Sidemen on the album are David Bromberg, electric guitar and dobro; Ron Cornelius, electric guitar; Charlie Daniels and Harvey Brooks, electric bass; Buzzy Seitin (of the Butterfield Blues Band), electric guitar; Al Kooper, electric guitar, piano, organ, and French horn, and Russ Kunkel and Billie Mundi (the latter a former Mother) on drums. In addition, Maeretha Stewart, Albertine Robinson and Hilda Harris provide back-up singing.
The album jacket notes that the record was cut in Nashville, but there is evidence that some recording was done in New York. A brief description of the individual tracks by Bailey follows:
"If Not For You" – it begins with a country guitar and Al Kooper on organ and the drummer pounding away, pushing everyone. Dylan is singing in his John Wesley Harding voice, edged with haunting "Visions of Johanna" sounds, rasping when he pushes on the choruses. A simple love song, with Dylan playing harmonica at the breaks. "I'd be lost if not for you . . . and you know it's true . . ." the first impression is that Dylan's trying again.
"Day of the Locusts" – one of the most interesting cuts on the album. The story is about Dylan accepting his honorary degree from Princeton University one hot day last June.
The title is the same as that of a novel by Nathaniel West (in which Los Angeles is consumed by flame.) Weird whirring sound opens it. "Oh the benches were stained with tears and perspiration." Deadly hesitating Band type drumming, with Al Kooper's icy, final organ similar to "Queen Jane" days. "Outside the gates, the trucks were loadin'./The weather was hot, nearly 90 degrees./The man standin' next to me, his head was explodin'. / I was prayin' the pieces wouldn't fall on me." The only song with a political tinge, from references to judges in chamber where the "darkness was everywhere" and it "smelled like a tomb." An aching refrain – "the locusts sang off in the distance/The locusts sang, such a sweet melody/The locusts sang, off in the distance/The locusts sang, they were singin' for me." It lets you know Dylan is back in town.
"Time Passes Slowly" – country style piano, like Richard Manuel's of the Band. Dylan's voice is the "Copper Kettle," pop, country and green idiom. "Time passes slowly – when you're lost in a dream." Strange breaks in the middle, the focus is thrown away while Dylan sings, "ain't no reason to go . . ." He lists some places, concluding with ". . .anywhere."
"Went To See the Gypsy" – Dylan's warm, lush voice from Self Portrait, but under control and precise. About a gypsy in the big hotel and a pretty dancing girl. A rock and roll organ in the background you can dance to. An electric jam comes on strong.
"Winterlude" – "Blue Moon, I saw you standing alone." Dylan using his Bing Crosby-on-belladonna voice. Chorus is "Winterlude – this dude thinks you're fine." It's a Viennese waltz, with an electric mandolin plinking away. "Winterlude, winterlude, my little apple/Winterlude, the corn in the fields,/Winterlude, let's go down to the chapel/And cook up a meal." Wholesome Hans Brinker flashes throughout.
"If Dogs Run Free" – A walking jazz piano doodling around opens it up, then settles into making Errol Garner circles in the background. Dylan's black voice, country simple as in "Hezekiah Jones." "If dogs run free, why aren't we." Scoo-bee-doo-a, in comes Maeretha Stewart, scat-singing like Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. This whole thing is happening in a night club somewhere. The piano is flowing water in the background, sounding like Nicky Hopkins at his best. "To each his own, it's all unknown," "In harmony with the cosmic sea/true love needs no company" – ends with Maeretha Stewart wailing and Dylan growling darkly, "yeah, baby." Side Two:
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