Together Through Life

"He not busy being born is busy dying", the master says in "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)". And the master is busy and produces album after album, makes tour after tour.

I’m always happy when I can make connections. Of any kind.

In Bob Dylan’s latest album Together Through Life it’s the reference to James Joyce. (For those who don't know: this blog was created long ago in honour of James Joyce) “I’m listening to Billy Joe Shaver/And I’m reading James Joyce … Some people they tell me I got the blood of the land in my voice” he sings in “ I Feel a Change Comin’ On".

The blood of the land, indeed. For a European person this album is soo American. The texts written by BD himself and none other than the lyricist Robert Hunter as a co-writer cover universal themes like hardship, struggle, love, murder, death in decidedly American settings. The texts are strange, wise, funny, apocalyptic, sentimental, psychedelic, ironic, and sometimes they sound as if they have been sung with a smile on the face of the singer.

But the best is still to come. The music. It has been described as blues pop with Tex/Mex, Latin-American and Creole elements. Very prominent: David Hidalgo on the accordion and Mike Campbell on the guitar. Beautiful arrangements.

Willi Winkler, a renowned German author (of, amongst other books, a Dylan biography), critic and translator (he translated books by Updike, Burgess and Bellow) and who writes for the German daily “The Sueddeutsche” sees “Together Trough Life” as the best, most beautiful and greatest the master has ever delivered to his audience.

Well, let’s listen for ourselves.

The album sure is impressive. Very different from Modern Times.

My favourites? I’ve not decided yet. Maybe” I Feel A Change Comin’ On”, “This Dream of You” (a hell of an almost Viennese type of waltz), or “Beyond Here Lies Nothing”.

There’s a website where you can create an interactive lyrical portrait based on the song “Beyond Here Lies Nothing”.

The video below gives a good overview. It has 30 seconds from each song. The playlist:
1) Beyond Here Lies Nothin 2. Life Is Hard 3. My Wife's Home Town 4. If You Ever Go To Houston 5. Forgetful Heart 6. Jolene 7. This Dream Of You 8. Shake Shake Mama 9. I Feel A Change Comin On 10. Its All Good

"This Dream of You"


Lydia said...

Thank you, Francessa! Once again, I must say that I think your music reviews are really fabulous.

I listened to the samples and the other full song and - wow - I can tell this is going to be a favorite album of mine for sure.

What a great post.

YogaforCynics said...

Being a hardcore Dylan nerd, I bought the album on Tuesday, and have listened to it a bunch of times since. Can't decide what I think of it at this point--though I love the general sound, particularly with David Hidalgo's accordion and guitar. Then, I kinda think that's a good thing, since Dylan albums often take a long time to grow on me--in particular, I didn't particularly like Love & Theft for a long time, and really couldn't understand what everybody liked so much about it (in retrospect, that could have been partly because of the fact that it came out on 9/11/2001...and I was in fact about to drive to the CD store to buy it when I heard that planes had crashed into the World Trade Center)...but, still, listened to it now and then until, five years or so after I bought it, I began realizing just how great it was, and now I'd say it's probably second only to Blonde on Blonde in my esteem.

Anyway, what's interesting about this and these last three albums is that, as you point out, they're so American...particularly as Bob continues to develop the strange-old-Southern-guy-who-appears-to-have-been-born-some-time-in-the-19th-Century persona that first appeared on Love & Theft...so that he seems to be embodying more and more of American history and culture all the time...even if also now and then picking up some Joyce....

francessa said...

Thanks so much, Lydia! The album actually gets even better the more I listen to it.

Dr. J., I had a problem with Love & Theft, too, but didn't realize it appeared on 9/11. And there was also a similar growing-on-myself-effect. The reason might be that I think Love & Theft marks a break between the old and the new Dylan and I just had to adjust myself.

Thanks for the information.

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