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Saturday, May 6, 2017

Bob Dylan: Triplicate


1) I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plans; 2) September Of My Years; 3) I Could Have Told You; 4) Once Upon A Time; 5) Stormy Weather; 6) This Nearly Was Mine; 7) That Old Feeling; 8) It Gets Lonely Early; 9) My One And Only Love; 10) Trade Winds; 11) Braggin'; 12) As Time Goes By; 13) Imagination; 14) How Deep Is The Ocean; 15) P.S. I Love You; 16) The Best Is Yet To Come; 17) But Beautiful; 18) Here's That Rainy Day; 19) Where Is The One; 20) There's A Flaw In My Flue; 21) Day In, Day Out; 22) I Couldn't Sleep A Wink Last Night; 23) Sentimental Journey; 24) Somewhere Along The Way; 25) When The World Was Young; 26) These Foolish Things; 27) You Go To My Head; 28) Stardust; 29) It's Funny To Everyone But Me; 30) Why Was I Born.

Because he can. In fact, I am not altogether sure why he decided to stop at three CDs, containing ten songs each. It could just as well have been five CDs with twenty songs each — clearly, the main shocking idea of this package is how much is being offered, and is there anyone out there who doubts that the old man could have filled five, ten, twenty, fifty discs with this kind of mate­rial, and in a matter of several months at that? He's got plenty of money to afford studio time, he's got a dedicated and professional band that would probably back him through the entirety of Dolly Parton's catalog, had he opted for that one, he's clearly enjoying it all so far, and I don't think he cares all that much about whether he is going to make or lose money on this. In fact, he can use his entire Nobel Prize to cover the deficit, if it becomes really necessary.

I did not waste time describing the individual peculiarities of the songs in the case of Fallen Angels, and the «triplication» of the number of recorded tunes does not make such a description any more necessary — as you can probably predict, the playing, the production, the general vibe remains precisely the same. He does seem to be running out of Sinatra-related tunes, but even so, I do believe that the absolute majority of these thirty had been recorded by Frank one way or another, even if we probably prefer to associate ʽAs Time Goes Byʼ with Casablanca and ʽStormy Weatherʼ with Billie Holiday. There seems to be no special mini-concept that would govern the distribution of songs across the three CDs, except that each tends to begin with some­thing a little bit more uptempo, upbeat, and cheerful (all three opening songs feature lively brass riffs, for instance), before quickly descending into the world of slow tempos, midnight brooding, and sentimental nostalgizing. And — goes without saying — sitting through the entire package in one go is hardly possible unless you use it for background purposes only. (It's not that long: since the songs are not dragged out — even if, in some cases, Bob claims to have reinstated original openings to the songs that were lost in most of the classic interpretations — the whole thing barely runs over an hour and a half and could, if necessary, fit on two discs easily).

The only comment worth making here is, perhaps, the realization that Bob is genuinely awed by this material. If anything, he may have recorded so much of this stuff in the effort to have us con­vinced — if not by the quality of it, then at least by sheer quantity — that he is acknowledging the sheer power of Tin Pan Alley, and that he has devised a way, for himself, to make these songs reveal their «Dylanesque» properties, ones that neither us nor him would probably suspect half a century ago. The trick is to sing them in a way that suggests neither cheerfulness (for the cheerful songs) nor sadness (for the sad ones): the trick is to create a combination of instruments and voice that makes them sound psychologically deep and emotionally realistic. Pretty much everything here is reduced to one single denominator — much like with Billie Holiday, who also used to bring everything down to earth with one and the same manner of delivery, except hers was a deli­cate, fragile, humble, deeply personal and moving delivery that made you want to give her a hug of friendly consolation in between each of the tracks; old man Zimmerman here is not asking for your empathy, he sounds more like he's giving you thirty similar pieces of life advice from the depths of his seventy years of experience. Even a relative trifle like ʽSentimental Journeyʼ is sung by him as if he were impairing some kind of deep-meaning parable to you, something that could have hardly been contained in the original song.

So, if there's any moral to this at all, kids, it is that previously unknown depth of feeling may be found anywhere — which, allegedly, paves the way to future albums, in which an 80-year old Dylan discovers the Taoist wisdom of songs from Teletubbies (Over The Hills And Far Away),  a 90-year old Dylan cracks the neurocognitive code of Coca-Cola jingles (Things Go Better), and a 100-year old Dylan explores the nirvana-related properties of the IBM 5150 PC speaker (Beep Beep Doo Doo). And if you think this is a bad joke, well, I'm not altogether sure that this is a joke at all. Unless the title of the last song here (ʽWhy Was I Bornʼ) is meant as an implicit reminder of his own mortality and a brief musical testament (and I do not think it is), there is still no telling what the man might have in store for us in the coming years. Oh, and I actually enjoyed the record, though, honestly, I have a faint hope that he's finally through with this project and that he is not going to pull an Ella Fitzgerald on us.


  1. I have every album. I bought the last two but haven't shelled out $50 Australian for this yet. I am sure it is as good as the last two albums but it just doesn't seem essential, or even necessary. I think your review is spot on, from the tracks i have heard. Now, i would love to hear him do some gospel songs ...

  2. Interesting that Bob Dylan and Chuck Berry are both releasing versions of "You Go To My Head" this calendar year.

    Too bad John Lennon isn't around to give us his Bing Crosby tribute album. According to Elliot Mintz: "Yoko gave him this old-fashioned jukebox [for his 38th birthday] and John stocked it with Bing Crosby records. People kind of expected him to have rock 'n' roll records in there, but it was almost totally Crosby stuff. There were 3 songs which John played over and over. I still remember them. They were Crosby with a jazz quartet from the 50's, I think. He would banter and talk in the songs and John thought that was just the end. The songs were Whispering, I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter and Dream a Little Dream of Me. Yeah, those were the songs, I can still see John listening to them." I wonder if Lennon's bantering and spoken segments on the Double Fantasy/Milk and Honey songs were inspired by this.

    We'd probably also have Janis Joplin's Billie Holiday album and Jimi Hendrix's Elmore James album by now.

  3. Judas sold Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver. Just sayin.