Ok, so all this got started with Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour on XM. I’ve caught several of the shows and they’re a revelation. Actually, the host is the eye-opener. The shows were packed with delightfully obscure songs, but best of all there’s the approachability of Dylan himself. He’s funny. He’s real. He’s cool (the way his fans always considered him) and somehow warm (the way I never had). Okay, so that’s oxymoronic but that’s his gift, or part of it. And now I know. You see, Dylan always seemed a distant icon from an era that wasn’t ‘mine’. The show opened my ears.
The Scorcese documentary opened my eyes (and it reminded me that Joan Baez has never been a fave and she still isn’t). I’m still sarcastic about the old-school folkie thing. Christopher Guest’s “A Mighty Wind” only began to scratch the surface of all that can be mocked in this genre (it could’ve been a lot more wicked about the silly politics, etc…but I digress).
The film underscored how I’m most interested in Dylan’s electric career, less so in the harp-blowin’ solo acoustic era. To me, the full effect of a band really opens up Dylan’s impact …and as a fan of electric blues and edgier R&B, I was struck by how cutting edge Mike Bloomfield was and how great Al Kooper always is.
Of course, I was never totally deaf to Dylan over the decades. In fact, I’ve been thinking about how some of his work reached my ears at various times: I remember being about 14 and buying The Ballad of Hurricane as a single. I remember how Rolling Stone just deified him back in the day. I remember being moved by his religious conversion and by the faith-filled “Slow Train”…and I remember more recently enjoying some roots-rockin’ tracks of his over the last five years.
With the advice of Dylanologist pals, I’m diving in, streaming the new album at AOL (sorry, it’s not available any more) and planning to buy it. From there, I’ve been advised to hit “Blood on the Tracks” and “Highway 61 Revisited.”
And speaking of Rolling Stone, I just bought my first issue in years for the Dylan cover story. Other than the great interview and transcribed excerpts from the XM show, I wasn’t affected by much else in the mag. It’s funny how the opposite is true for XM – every time I twirl the dial I find something to love, loathe or laugh about.
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